12 A new beginning with Yunnan

By Kartika Putra

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Waking on a hard bed and squat toilet was comforting in its humble, Spartan nature. It confirmed in my mind that we were on the road. Mist and darkness surrounded the train as we passed through mountains and mountain tunnels and mountains again. Groups of single men alighted at mining towns which gave way to terraced paddies, yellow-flowered, pine caressed hills, and curving rivers that banked up against dams. And then the mist and clouds disappeared and we were bathed in sunshine and blue skies. We had reached the Yunnan province.

There are 26 different ethnic minorities represented in the province, the most prominent being the Yi and the Bai ethnic groups, but there are numerous other groups in the province including the Dai and the Naxi, with their unique Dongba culture that has been recognised by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. Without knowing exactly what they would find in Yunnan, it appeared the girls were heading to right place.

Kunming was a refreshing change from the dark skies of Guizhou. The streets were wide and lined with trees, the skies were blue and clear and full of sunshine. The people were noticeably different from the dominant Han ethnicity of the rest of China. The first ethnicity we noticed was the Bai people, distinguishable by their white clothing and elaborate headdresses.

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