Prince of provinces

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-19 08:02:15

Prince of provinces

Over a six-week journey, Jeff Brown backpacks through China's hinterlands to see how rapid changes have affected people there. Photos Provided to China Daily

Covering 12,000 kilometers by train or bus, and walking hundreds more, US expatriate Jeff Brown spent 44 days traveling rough through China's hinterlands, writes Mike Peters.

Prince of provinces

Portraits from afar 

Prince of provinces

Mystery beneath 

The average expatriate in China never thinks there is enough time to see the country properly. Many foreigners have two or three weeks of holiday, and if they want to go home once a year, that leaves no time to explore distant, rural locales far from the big cities where they work.

So at first glance, Jeff Brown's adventure last year, recently published in book form as 44 Days Backpacking in China, looks like a dream come true. But Brown's idea of a vacation may strike some as pretty hard work.

In that six-week stretch, the 50-something American from Oklahoma covered 12,000 kilometers by train or bus, and walked hundreds more. He knows that most foreigners, even those that live in China like himself, have their ideas about the mainland's opening up shaped by a Beijing-Shanghai-Guangzhou perspective. So he wanted to visit the hinterlands - provinces he'd never seen - to see how rapid changes in China have affected people there.

Brown is no stranger to foreign places: He traveled to Brazil as a graduate student "seeking his fortune" and then worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia. He learned Arabic and French in the next eight years (1982-1990), working in Africa and the Middle East, and then brought his French wife, Florence, to China for seven years, where they had two sons and he learned to speak Chinese. After stints in France and the United States, the Browns came back to China in 2010.

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