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2015: The Year in Review, part II

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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 2015 in southwest China. If you haven't already read it, part one can be found here.

July

July jaunted into our lives, and we were jubilant. We entered the latter half of the year in high spirits, learning everything there is to know about Dai domiciles, while also getting to know a local watch repairman. In scientific news, the month opened with the dual discoveries of an ugly ancient worm and a terrifying new strain of HIV lurking on the Yunnan-Myanmar border. Speaking of Myanmar, the border town of Ruili started defending itself, while neighboring Laos' rail agreement with China made some incremental progress. Kunming University had an interesting sales idea and a woman died from avian flu in the mountains of northwest Yunnan. Moving along, we learned about a Sichuan minority language and were alerted to the environmental hazards of rubber plantations. As China's economy shifted, Beijing took proactive measures just as Kunming began to invest in really, really big electric vehicles. As the month reached its midpoint, we only had one thing to say to y'all — Hip-hop grannies! Thanks to the Dangsters for an awesome video. Returning to the world of the mundane, investors came to the fore, as first metals and then solar cells turned out to be lucrative investments. In the province's north, craft beer became an industry in Shangri-la, while the rest of Yunnan could have used some booze to escape the heat. As the month came to an end, Kunming's old history faced a new beginning. Politically, Beijing got into a Burmese tizzy, but made a good showing during a Yunnanese rescue. In the wonderful world of livestock, we learned about bullfighting. On another ungulate note, Alpacas were sold publicly for ambiguous, and possibly subversive, reasons.

August

August arrived, and the province continued to forge ahead. Things started of with the notable construction of Asia's longest sustained bridge span. Almost as if to counter this progress, Yunnan became involved in a Viagra-booze debacle. Events swung towards the positive again, as steps were taken to drive away poverty in Zhaotong, one of the poorest areas in the country. Leaving Yunnan for a moment, we went on a climbing trip in Henan. Upon our return, we discovered a pretty damn amazing Scottish perennial pioneer and took another look at bullfighting, this time in the Stone Forest.. Later, as Myanmar took on water, Wenshan came to an expensive high-tech agreement. We geared up for an upcoming music festival and took a closer look at the new and improved Kunming Museum. On the western front, we had a quick chat with the US ambassador to China and then enjoyed a somewhat longer conversation with newly published author Colin Flahive. Democracy seemingly took a hit in Myanmar while capitalism clearly flourished in the form of a mind-bogglingly large Xishuangbanna project. A pesky proprietor protest took place in Luosiwan, but the tension eased considerably as we moved to other areas of Kunming and took a more detailed look at the Dulong and Mosuo minorities. Mirroring the beginning of the month, with both good and bad news, Yunnanese poverty levels took a promising turn, while an Anning petrochemical plant was hit with perhaps predictable environmental violation fines.

September

Before we knew it, September was sprung upon us, and summer was at an end. We started the month examining Yunnan's history with a look back at Queen Elizabeth's little-known 1986 stopover in the Spring City. A commemoration ceremony celebrating the province's role in the Second World War took place and some of the western heroes of the war returned to Yunnan for the first time in 70 years. Back in the present, the Chinese government invented a few new rules and regulations, while the tourism federation discouraged a price hike. On the local front, we prepared for the Tuborg Greenest Music Festival and the Yunnan PSB splurged on a fancy new helicopter. A first-timer experienced Lijiang,Kunming thinkers discouraged deforestation, evil endangered species traffickers were caught with some expensive loot and Pandas — surprisingly — were able to help out the other members of the animal kingdom. The midpoint of September brought with it a hodgepodge of stories. In Kunming entertainment news, people partied hard at Tuborg Greenfest and then we had a nice long chat with the leader of Kunming's craft beer movement. Moving onto history and culture, we took a demystifying look at Xinjiang sport of Buzkashi while also remembering the venerable Tea Horse Road. China celebrated mid-autumn festival so president Xi Jinping took a trip overseas to the United States. Back in Yunnan, a local boy celebrated his fifth birthday in a rather odd home and real estate monster Wanda opened a rather expensive vacation destination.

October

The month opened with its usual bang. Vacations for everyone! To that end, naturally, we discussed the celebration of National Day and promptly left the country for Ha Long Bay. Others went to retreats in monasteries and we at GoKunming took a short break from which we had to catch up upon our return. After recovering from the holiday, we resumed business as usual. First, a certain sort of unfortunately common 'mismanagement' was reported to be stalling projects throughout the country, while China simultaneously unveiled a massive Yangtze River project. We took some time to fall in love with the Chinese train system all over again and an orange mogul adapted to the twenty-first century. We entered into a stretch of 'progress'. First, India and China's relationship went steady, Yunnan increased its environmental questionability and another domestic airport readied itself for visitors. Finally, the provincial government unveiled some expensive plans for the border zone with Laos. Kunming welcomed a Nobel Peace Prize winner, approved the country's first major tourism police force and fawned over shiny new Bengal tiger cubs. About the same time, GoKunming took a trip to the provincial museum and learned about the history of Weishan. World War Two pilots were returned home home after decades and new information was brought to light regarding the genetic ancestry of the southern Chinese people.

November

November arrived in an ominous manner, as an earthquake hit Baoshan and really old landmines were cleared in Honghe. Meanwhile, GoKunming flew to Chiang Mai while others flew for charity in northeast Yunnan. China remembered the western front and Kunming prepared for the China International Travel Mart — which ended up as a huge success. This was followed up with a series of unique occurrences, including a singular election in Myanmar, the discovery of an ancient elephant fossil and the cultivation of marketable skills in the countryside. Red Bull issued a challenge, so we went fishing in southern Sichuan. Xinqi had a thing or two to teach the country about forest management and we had the rare opportunity to converse with a major banker. The Kunming community engaged spectacularly in charity, raising tens of thousands for kids with heart defects. Salvador's Coffee House took its employees on a trip to Thailand, while Yunnan spent a boatload to be in an all-American parade. As Laos launched a satellite with China's permission, GoKunming wrapped up the month by learning about the Hui minority and then exploring a remote region of the province.

December

As soon as it began, the year was seemingly at an end. December brought with it foreshadowings of the upcoming new year, a couple trips abroad, and a few updated perspectives. Things started off on several high notes as a Chinese trekking team dominated, a local couple commemorated their long, long-term union, and Kunming got itself riled up for the Spring City Cup. As light was shed on heretofore unknown areas of our city, we hiked into the Tibetan foothills, going to the mountains of Shangri-La, and then in quick succession explored some ruins in southern India and the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, back on the home front, a former Kunming governor got into a spot of bother but the city's poor were provided with new health opportunities. The halfway point of the month arrived with an unfortunate bang, when a noodle shop exploded. Luckily, everyone survived. Once the smoke settled, we spoke to an artist who wished to stick with his passion until the end. With progress in mind, Kunming and Bangkok got a bit closer, beautiful minority culture was preserved and a 13 year-old murder conviction was reversed after reviewing the evidence. As time begant o run out on 2015, we started up our annual awards voting while the Christmas season's cheer wasn't shared by all, as an apparent Chinese ponzi schemer did a dissapearing act. With the help of an old friend, a generally angry river was crossed, fossils of great evolutionary significance were thoroughly examined after twenty years on a shelf and we started to look back on the year that was. Looking to end on a few positive notes, we reported on Dianchi Lake's slow return towards normality, announced a festive and prize-packed awards show, visited a familiar rural divining rod and finally, ultimately, at long last, ended up right where we started.

A busy 2015 to be sure. And a year that went by waaay too quickly. Nonetheless, we are quite excited to see what 2016 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!

Top and bottom images: Jim Goodman
July image: Fangjia
August image: Yereth Jansen
September and October images: Jordan Steinberg
November image: Patrick Scally
December image: Robin Luo

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