In Chi Feng, I asked out tour guide what the population of the city was.Before I tell you her answer, let me describe it a little. I didn’t take any photos here because I was too busy corralling kids.
So, there is clearly new industry happening in this city. There are swathes of big, modern, high-rise apartment complexes shooting up like mushrooms all over the city. These complexes dwarf older style 2 to 3 storey buildings that house businesses and possibly homes on the top floors.
There are two types of streets in the city. Big, six lane thoroughfares, presided over by women in spanky, sexy uniforms. Two women are stationed at each intersection, one on a little dais, the other walking around the dais. They are the traffic signals. They are uber precise in their movements and they had absolutely no effect on the traffic that I could see.
The other type of road is unpaved, narrow but still used by every imaginable vehicle including pedal power, and found only between the older style buildings:
The city had a feel of a big country town, like a regional centre, it certainly did not have that cosmopolitan feel of what I understand a city to be. So, imagine my surprise when she told me that the population was about 5 million (conservative). 1 million more than the biggest city in Australia. And just about one quarter of the size of Beijing.
What is happening seems to be this: mining has struck it big in Inner Mongolia and the towns are being turned into epicentres of this industry. Workers are being imported from other parts of the country, farmers from the region are being turned into miners. The old grassland farming industry made up of single family farms or little village farms are being turned into corporate farming and the extraneous workforce sent into mining. So, where this type of housing used to the be the norm:
This type of housing is taking over:
Not fabulous photos, but you get the id ea. I did feel like I was in the Emirates again, perhaps in Ras al Khaymah, because of the speed of building, the style of building, the pretty details like the pig dragon in fairy lights all along the side of the road, the wide unpopulated roads, the sudden infrastructure and the sudden lack of infrastructure…