After a few weeks exploring the region, Rough Guides travel writer and photographer David Abram shares some of his favourite images of Yunnan Province, China.
Little more than a decade ago, the province of Yunnan in southwest China was one of those infrequently visited parts of Asia anyone who had been there spoke about in hushed tones – exquisitely remote, breathtakingly beautiful and somewhere the modern era had seemingly bypassed.
Ten years of double-digit growth have brought sweeping changes to the region, and lots more visitors. But as with most of the country, you don’t have to venture far off the beaten track to discover vestiges of the old world.
In November 2015, as the first snows were falling on the ridges dividing the Mekong and Yangzte Rivers, I travelled to the far north of Yunnan, beyond the iconic Jade Dragon Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge, following a loop from the regional capital, Shangri La, to the border of the Tibet and back via the Lacang (Mekong) Valley.
At the end of the circuit, I made a detour south for a taste of the Ming era in a quiet valley near Lijiang called Shaxi, whose white-walled villages resembled scenes from willow-pattern plates.
My gateway to China was Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Although one of the country’s fastest growing mega cities, I will forever remember it for the wonderfully atmospheric Taoist mountain of Qing Cheng Shan on its outskirts, where ancient shrines draped with scarlet ribbons huddle in the mist beneath the dripping pine trees, and priests in blue tunics and white spats tend giant bronze incense braziers – the China of one’s imagination.