China, for all it has to offer beyond the pollution and problems one tends to hear about so much, is not a very popular tourist destination.
The places we go because family is there are particularly unpopular – and thus, chances to show a China as it really is, as hardly anyone gets to see it, with less of the glamour Instagram demands, but even more honesty and authenticity…
Travel to Be Seen?
In all the complaints about places overrun by tourists, another side often goes overlooked:
We want to go places we can tell others we have visited ourselves, places that will interest and fascinate.
Places also that others will search for and find us to have been (and to have written about, especially as a travel blogger).
Authenticity is a major buzzword, but Instagram is for aspirational lifestyles and only the most beautiful of photos on best-curated feeds. Not for China as it is.
Travel to Nowhere, Hunan
In those regards, I had gone nowhere.
This summer, more so than ever before.
Instagram has, like most international social media platforms, become blocked in China, after all.
And rural Hunan is a place where migrant workers come from, where rice fields are still strong and tourism is getting supported, but only for local trip takers.
It is a region where, outside of the “mountains of Pandora” (as in, the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie Avatar) of Zhangjiajie, nothing is likely to attract international tourism.
The food may be interestingly spicy, if that is your thing, but people would still think of Sichuan first when it comes to that, not of Hunan – and Hunan would still be a region where they do eat dog, if I may mention that…
Then again, rural Hunan could easily be considered one of the most pivotal places in all of China.
It may seem far off from the places where the movers and shakers of Chinese history lived and worked – and it is.
But, it is these parts of China where traditional culture has been strong and, at the same time, where leaders and revolutionaries, loyal soldiers and workers, equally came from.
From the Hunan Army and its generals quenching the Taiping Rebellion and saving the Qing Dynasty to Mao Zedong establishing the People’s Republic of China, it took Hunan.
It was also Hunan, after the Taiping, that was infamously strongly anti-foreigner in sentiment.
Calls of “laowai” and curious stares are still strong, not many Westerners are to be seen in the countryside of Hunan – but there would be a lot to be seen.
A few small impressions, right here:
Enjoy, and pray tell: Do you only go places one must have gone? Or where nobody goes?
How about seeing where you live through other eyes?