Beijing -> Xi’an -> Lanzhou -> Jiayuguan -> Dunhuang
This was the route that took me ever more west on my first trip to China. From Dunhuang I flew back to the coast, I had run out of time but I also felt that heading more west would require more Chinese-language skills – or a travel partner. Of which I had neither.
Yet West-China, and especially Xinjiang, has since then been high on my travel-in-China wish list. Chengdu & Chongqing aren’t quite thát west, but nevertheless it’s good to see this part of China: cities with double digit growth, that are part of China’s policy to further develop the western provinces, and that are seeing increased foreign investment as well. The result is fast development and a rising standard of living that is visible clearly on the streets. The Netherlands has followed this trend by opening a Netherlands Business Support Office in Chengdu in 2012 and a Consulate-General in 2013, mainly aimed at supporting Dutch business be successful in this still unknown part of China.
Change in China
Reading up on a little background in my old and trusted travel guide, left over from that trip over 8 years ago, brings home the speed at which this region is developing. The 2005 edition puts the population for Chengdu at 4 million people. Current population? 16 million, with another million people (mostly, farmers from the surrounding countryside of the Sichuan province) coming into the city each year. Wow.
The section on Chongqing explains how to travel between the two cities: a daily train connects the cities with a 10-hour ride. My train on Friday took a little over 2 hours between one city to the next. Again, wow. And the train got cheaper: a one-way ticket is now Y96.5.
I talked earlier about how the development of the railway network has contributed to easier connections between cities and increasing movement of people. This is where that is happening.