I just came back from the Chinese border.
Went to the Denzhong province that lies north of Bengal, lodged there, and then took a cab that took me up to 14,000 feet above sea level into one of the highest peaks in the region.
Here is the reason I found the experience interesting:
1) India and China don't actually have a proper border. Even at the pass I visited, a low-lying, crudely-lain barbed wire separated the Chinese and Indian military station. By low-lying, I mean flat on the ground.
2) The Chinese didn't even seem particularly concerned about Indians accidentally walking or slipping across the crude fence, because the hostile climate and environment of the region was sufficient to keep outsiders away from mainland China. The closest inhabited area from that Chinese station was 500 kilometers away and the subzero temperatures cut hard into your boots. Nobody bothered with rigourous patrolling.
3) Indeed, only one Chinese soldier was stationed there and was later joined by another. Actually, he seemed to be there as mostly a tourist attraction.
4) This experience reminded me of why South Asia and East Asia have had such minimal contact despite being so close to each other. The Buddhist region of Denzhong is not one bit Chinese in culture or manner, and is mostly inhabited by Nepali-speaking Bhutias and Lepchas. Despite Gangtok, the capital city of the region, being 40 kilometers from the border, there is not a hint of Chinese-ness about the area, and the people here don't even use chopsticks. I expected a gradual Chinese-isation closer to the border, but no. Not one local even knows a word of Chinese.
5) It was just a single moment when I reached the Listening Ear Pass that the lone Chinese military base suddenly appears. It's an amazing sight, because the star of Communist China and the golden pillars of the Chinese entry area are so distinct from every other dwelling seen in the area. I see Chinese characters and Chinese dwellings for the first time anywhere near the region.
Basically, it was like China suddenly appeared out of nowhere and the area in front of the non-border suddenly becomes Chinese.
This is so unlike other border regions. The Mexican-American border probably has a strong confluence of American and Mexican culture and the Franco-German border has people speaking both languages on both sides.
Believe it or not, there are places on the Mexican-US/Franco-German border that are not urban on either side.
An account which makes me wonder: would history have been much different if no such natural barrier had existed?
If someone knocked you unconscious and drove you across the Canada/U.S. border and dumped you, you would not know that you had changed from one to the other until you saw a speed limit sign (imperial vs metric) or dollar.
Or you would hear everyone saying "eh?" and eating canadian bacon.
Haha. Hardly anyone really says "eh" or eats bacon.