Am in Dali, Yunnan, which for years was a favorite spot for backpackers, Chinese and foreign. The out of the way city boasts mountains for trekking, fresh weather, ethnic minorities with links to Tibet, and inexpensive crafts and food. Almost 30 years of backpackers have shaped the development of tourism in the area and many of the shops sell hippy clothes, while the cafes serve better bread and muesli than are available in Shenzhen.
Nevertheless, consistent low-end tourism has brought the area enough capital to inspire dreams of attracting higher-end tourists. Yesterday, for example, I took the Cangshan Mountain Cable Car and then walked through the mountains to Xima Pool. The trip is over 5.8 meters long with a rise of almost 2 meters. Built with French technology, the cable car symbolizes the initiative to transform Yunnan into a world class tourist destination. In fact, the Kunming Airport, which opened June 28, 2012 exemplifies the scale of ambition — according to an architect friend, it is large enough to handle 30-40 million people a year, which is larger than Shanghai’s airport.
I’m not sure how much infrastructure debt Yunnan has incurred, but Cangshan has not been diminished.