Yan’an in China’s northwest gains its fame for being near to the end point for Mao Zedong’s Long March, with the town serving as the Communist capital in the revolution.
For me it was definitely one of the more interesting stops on the tours I led in China, resulting in what was generally a very bizarre and, dare I say, unique experience for most who visited.
In Yan’an foreigners were very few back in 2001, so we attracted quite a lot of attention. Most in my groups found the curious looks and stares quite intimidating especially since it was generally unrelenting – stop on the street and you would be quickly surrounded by a crowd of up to 50 people, a lunch stop would see the masses gather around the window of the restaurant. While unnerving for most it was also absolutely harmless and something I was quite used to after living in Wuhan for a year in 1997.
The cave dwellings in the area are distinctly different to those around Luoyang in Henan province, while the harsh landscape is barren and brown. The summer heat is brutal but perhaps the winter cold is even more so, this part of China is raw and tough but really does add another layer of diversity to a nation of contrasts.
Not much in the way of transport infrastructure apart from buses – a long bus ride from Xian but the round-flat bread, stuffed with pork you can pick up on the side of the road on the way were some of the best I have ever had.