Thursday, October 22, 2015
Using Google Earth to track [over] development in Yunnan and Sichuan
I've long suspected that there has been a lot of development in the the areas I have revisited in the footsteps of Joseph Rock - but it's always been hard to put a finger on exactly what has changed. Recently I have been browsing some of my former trekking locations using Google Earth's archive feature - this allows you to switch between satellite views from different years. You can see the changes in the split picture above.
This is just one example of the huge changes in Yunnan: compare the Fei Lai Si viewing area outside Deqin in the decade between 2002 and 2012. I first visited the place in the late 1990s - or was it early noughties:
As the top photo shows, there was already a little viewing area at Fei Lai Si and line of specially erected stupas from where the Meili Xueshan/ Kawakarpo could be viewed. There wasn't much else there - a couple of shops selling tourist trinkets and a noodle shop, if I remember rightly.
Fast forward to 2012 and Fei Lai Si had grown into a small town with scored of shops, restaurants bars and guesthouses - plus several rather grand hotels. The viewing area had been massively expanded and there was a big wall around it - with a ticket office now charging 70Y admission:
There's quite a few other examples of this kind of massive development. It's sad that some beautiful and quiet places have become over-run with tourists and spoiled by development - but that's the way of the world, I guess. This used to be a quiet road down a forested hillside - now it is lined with bars, shops and hotels: