The end of the year is a special time in which editors and writers around the world recycle content from the previous twelve months and repackage it as new. We at GoKunming are not above this practice, so here's the second installment of our two-part look at the people and events that shaped 2014 in southwest China. If you haven't already read it, part one can be found here.
The midway point of the year was marked by the beginning of a convoluted legal process and quickly followed by the specter of an old, and quite serious, problem. Education for many small children got much more expensive, prompting us, oddly enough, to go to church. A wild red panda faced a very public, and cute, scolding. Bad news broke out of Myanmar, revealing just how much Chinese demand for hardwoods is reshaping Burmese forests. There was fungus amongst us. While we read up on all things mushrooms, tragedy struck in the form of huge twin mudslides. A trip to a sad little museum that is locked up tight most of the time left us a bit listless. Despite our languid mood, China was crazy for flying robots, and Yunnan couldn't get enough of pavement or the promise of free imported beer. Lots was going on underground. A construction crew spent nearly three days in the worst hotel ever and paleontologists dug up a very old brain. Hotpot anyone? Our trip to see Torch Festival was quite rudely interrupted by a mean-spirited and deadly interloper. With great help from our friends, we raised much needed money for a very worthy cause. Then, in quick succession, a bunch of bad stuff happened — Myanmar got tired of trains, a very naughty entrepreneur took advantage of a market with no known standards, fast food burgers were embroiled in scandal and the fish, it appeared, were no better. Lijiang looked to extend its circus-like tourism atmosphere northward. Jim Goodman took us crossbow shooting and in unrelated events, a billionaire lost his shirt.
A horrible 6.5 magnitude earthquake leveled parts of northeast Yunnan and the Kunming community quickly banded together to raise money for the victims. Thank you to everyone who helped out to make something positive out of an otherwise terrible situation. Thailand pondered how to address its aging rail infrastructure and China offered up some massive loans. The victims of the Ludian earthquake attempted to restore order to their lives and hopefully a 23,000 yuan check helped at least a little bit. Green Lake turned into a giant board game while the international chess match between China and Vietnam continued to heat up. Optimus Prime attempted to help out in Ludian and overstuffed pork was on the menu damn near everywhere. Monks in Jinning feared the spread of commercialization and in the world of fracking, at least, Beijing tended to agree. Then things got legal. Foreign students, their visas, and what constitutes attending a Chinese language school were all addressed by the PSB at the same time a Kunming court showed a smidgeon of jurisprudential restraint in regards to a very bad official. After attempting to wrap our heads around all the legalese, we needed to go horseback riding with some immensely talented Tibetans. Speaking of talent, researchers working in the province used theirs to disentangle some DNA as well as look into just how bad burning coal in the house can be for rural women. Not to be outdone, an Englishman with a talented mouth showed his stuff on stage. Vietnam and China had some sort of reconciliation after a tempestuous summer. As often happens, our thoughts turned to Shaxi, this time focusing on the careful restoration of an ancient house of worship.
Not everything, but certainly a good many, started to look like déjà vu all over again. One such instance came at the beginning of the month as another high-ranking provincial boss fell under suspicion of corruption. Not a common theme for most of the past five years was encouraging water storage levels around Kunming. Luckily, in 2014 that was not the case. We took a look back at the birth of China's environmental movement and then looked at the harvest season roots of Mid-Autumn Festival. A trip to the museum proved to be immensely rewarding while the dogs of Baoshan were penalized for simply existing. As a wordsmith from far far away blew through town, Southeast Asia sounded the alarm against activity at a Chinese dam. Tourism got more hands-on. Three train station attackers received the ultimate penalty for their deeds. A young man was wandering around painting the town red. Then the déjà vu set in...again. China and India once more began talking about gigantic overland trade conduits and the second typhoon of the year slammed into Yunnan and then died. Dizzy from the repeats, we hiked up a beautiful mountain with a seemingly funny name just outside of Kunming. Our heads cleared, the repetition started up again. A seemingly useless no-car day was held where no one drives and strawberries got their groove on. Something that had never happened before, and quite honestly need not happen a second time, occurred on the city's subway. Ending on a sad note, the month closed with a deadly school stampede.
October began, as it tends to, with a countrywide celebration, and we looked at National Day through the lens of a few Spring City landmarks. A bizarre story broke out of Myanmar when first alpinists went missing on the country's tallest mountain and then rescuers followed suit. Not wanting to follow suit, we hiked up a much less demanding mountain and spent the afternoon at the fantastic Xuning Temple. Kunming really wanted to go green while a property mega-company only wanted to slink away and hide from its past misdeeds. Remember our mention of Yunnan party boss Qin Guangrong (秦光荣) in the first part of our Year in Review? Well, his green agenda didn't keep him from very unexpectedly losing his job. Western-managed healthcare services arrived in Kunming, we went looking for women who still live with bound feet, and China got serious about the possibility of Ebola. Despite a cross-border sanctuary protecting elephants from hunters, one of the animals was killed and butchered for its tusks in Xishuangbanna. Water made the news again, this time because of geothermal springs and sunken archeological sites in Fuxian Lake often referred to as 'China's Atlantis'. In international news with Yunnan twist, a local version of stinky stinky tofu applied to the United Nations while a Mini-Tyson traveled to Monaco for a beating. Want to travel to southern parts of the province and eat endangered or rare animals? Too bad. Instead, we recommend visiting one of Yunnan's ancient salt towns or, better yet, trudging across the Gobi desert. Or, if you are really patient, you can wait until 2016 and ride a bullet train east.
Two of GoKunming's good friends decided a bike ride towards Tibet was a good idea and the indomitable Nic Cage saw the release of his six-thousandth movie inch toward reality. People were prank calling the Chinese from Vietnam and we were cooking up a fantastic soup. Scientists foresaw a time in the near future when the Tibetan Plateau would cease to look the way it does today. Yunnan's economy slowed down, but that was ok according to Beijing as long as there will always be immodestly enormous car shows. Cycling to Tibet turned into a motorcycle trip that ended up...well, pretty much nowhere. China and the United States did the impossible, China and India continued to discuss the probable and Kunming set out a strange welcome matt for Siberian birds. We went black and white with the help of a very interesting Frenchman. Yunnan women were mad as hell and not taking it anymore. While we ventured to the Salween River for that perfect one-in-a-million view a local man handled missing out on a billion yuan rather well. The Golden Triangle and its two most sinister exports — heroin and disease — continued to bedevil Yunnan. A talk with a man obsessed with industrial-scale cow stomachs opened our eyes to the possibilities of methane. Also showing us the light, was Jim Goodman, who revealed just how interesting Menglian County truly is. Lepers, an unlikely love story and a mountaintop wedding led us to the last month of the year.
What better way to begin December than with a rugby tournament? None, as far as we're concerned. Especially when the second annual Spring City Cup was dominated by the hometown Flying Tigers. Awards season started with some user input and then a new tradition, and one we hope will last a long, long time, got underway. Science! Yunnan got its newest railway. Next stop, Vietnam. Earthquakes struck the province two at a time, but luckily the damage was very slight indeed. Colin Flahive reflected on his own driving habits, those of the people around him, and the effectiveness of communicating in sign language while operating a motorcycle. The United Nations was not happy. Students from the United States discovered life in the Chinese countryside and enjoyed nearly everything but the toilets. Kunming and Beijing couldn't agree on what cigarettes to buy or where to smoke them. Our venture into the world of event planning turned out quite well, if we don't say so ourselves. Having your say became the theme of the day. Two stories — one involving unbelievably nasty cowboys and the other covering fresh Burmese border violence — showed us not everyone was in the holiday spirit. We decided a nice Dai-style pineapple rice would soothe the soul, but Beijing disagreed, and instead started handing out loads of cash to many of its neighbors. The Public Security Bureau weighed in as well, perhaps unintentionally playing Scrooge. Not to be outdone by Charles Dickens, Lijiang had a story of its own to tell — one you probably hadn't heard before.
A busy 2014 to be sure. We are quite excited to see what 2015 has in store for Kunming, Yunnan and the rest China. From everyone at GoKunming, we wish you a happy, healthy and wholly interesting new year!