Yunnan gets connected
With October 1st holiday bearing down like one of those huge blue trucks filled with bricks/ sugar cane/ peasants gone out of control on a Yunnan mountain road, I can’t help but notice all the new travel options coming our way.
Xishuangbanna-Thailand speedboat: Jump on the ferry at Jinghong, check out the golden triangle, hop off a couple days later in Chiang Rai. Check out press here and a fantastic, detailed description of how to get it done from treehouse here. As a side note, I think MeiMei’s cafe in Jinghong may be gone or in a new location. Anyone have an update on this?
Singapore-Kunming train(s): Both Chinese and international (Asian) newspapers have been going nuts with this one over the last few months. I’m still not sure what the exact route will be, and maybe no one is — initially there were three proposed routes but now it seems like they’re just going to build all of them? The train will definitely pass through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, and may possibly have lines running through Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and/or Laos. Yunnan already has a track from Kunming to the Vietnam border at Hekou, and there is a proposed route entering from Ruili on the Myanmar border.
Yunnan-Tibet railway: A road already runs from Kunming through northwest Yunnan and into Tibet. With permits, this is a legal overland that many tourists undertake. Rumours about railway construction abound, but until I read it in the Chinese press, I can’t confirm.
Kunming-Thailand highway: Chiang Rai - Northern Laos - Customs at Mohan, Xishuangbanna - Jinghong - Kunming. The Jinghong to Kunming leg is done, Jinghong to the border is still a work in progress. This is the first highway linking Laos, Thailand, and China, which may seem a bit surprising, but I can personally vouch for the fact that until very recently, all the roads between Yunnan’s southern border and Kunming were borderline impassable much of the time. As it is, Jinghong still takes 12 hours by bus, and Ruili requires something like 20 hrs (most buses pass through Dali on the way).
Kunming-Vietnam power lines: Infrastructural links between Yunnan and South-east Asia are not limited to planes, trains, and automobiles, as reported by China Daily here.
Construction of the line, the largest cross-border power line to be built by China, started in February this year. It is part of a US$500 million power supply contract signed in October 2005 between the China Southern Power Grid and Electricity of Viet Nam. The contract stipulates that the Chinese firm will supply electricity to the six provinces in northern Viet Nam for at least 10 years
Given the perennial rolling blackouts across China, not to mention continued construction of ecologically questionable hydropower stations under the banner of a desperate need for increased power resources domestically, one has to wonder why Yunnan is selling their power across international borders.
Coolest link I’ve seen in a while — check out the long term railway building plan for all of China here. The map and all labels are in Chinese. I can’t find a key with any kind of time lines on any of these routes, nor can I really determine the original source of this map (Does it actually come from the Chinese gov’t? If so, which bureau? These things make a difference in terms of likelihood of the lines getting built.)
Many of these projects were brought to you by the Asian Development Bank. Know thyself, know thy funders.