April 28
Greetings from China!

This has been our best trip ever to China. The main purpose was to vist the big festival in Weifang. But along the way, we stopped in Shanghai, QuFu, and Beijing.

Loading photos to our web site from overseas would have been expensive. (We have to make international calls to connect.) But if you can be patient, I'll post all of this as soon as I get back. Remember you can click on any image to make it larger. Here we go...

Weifang 2000

Weifang is hot, dirty, dusty, and smelly. The food tastes bad and you can't drink the water. No one speaks English. So in many ways, it is much like Wildwood, New Jersey...

Naw, we're just kidding. Weifang is wonderful and the festival there is legendary. Imagine flying kites for half-a-million people! Imagine an opening ceremony that concludes with an hour of fireworks! Imagine a kite museum the size of your high school! It's almost too much to imagine...

Opening Parade

Our team consisted of (left-to-right)Adam Grow, Marcia Bujold, Peter Crane, Jim Gruver, Linda Underwood, Kevin and Cinda Shannon, Charlie Dunton, Patrick Chen, Barbara Hall, Michael Kellough, Kathie Nixie and me (the photographer).

Team GKPI

We landed in Shanghai on the evening of the 17th and drove straight to the Peace Hotel, right on the historic "Bund" riverfront. This is the traditional European center of Shanghai. Our hotel -- the "newer" wing -- was built in 1900 right at the time of the Boxer Rebellion.

The Bund at Night

Everyone woke early and walked across the street to see the locals exercising in the park. Some "shadow boxed", some did aerobic stretching, and some even danced to swing music. Click here to see a short movie #1 or movie #2 or movie #3 of the morning scene.

Morning Tai Chi Morning Tai Chi

Our one day in Shanghai included a tour of the Yuyuan Garden, the Bund, a Huangpu River Boat Tour, and the fantastic Shanghai Acrobatic Show. Here are a few scenes of the garden.

Yuyuan Garden Yuyuan Garden Yuyuan Garden

The following morning (Day 3 in China) we flew to Weifang, checked into our hotel, and prepared for the huge festival opening ceremonies. Pageantry is as important as kite flying at this event and Weifang has developed the festival into a major economic development project that attracts visibility and potential investors to the area. During the opening ceremonies, we usually parade into the central stadium "Olympic style", country by country, as over 50,000 spectators cheer. We then witness enormous floor demonstrations, similar perhaps to half-time shows at our sporting events, except that thousands of students take part, dressed in colorful costumes.

Usually the best parts are the "backstage" moments right before the parade begins.

AKA Team AKA Team AKA Team

Parade Preparation Parade Preparation Parade Preparation

Parade Preparation Parade Preparation

Field Show

This year was the Year of the Dragon. Enormous helium-filed dragons were paraded onto the field. Then, amazingly, they were turned loose to drift into the night sky. Can you imagine one of these puppies landing in your back yard??

Dragon Show

Dragon Show Dragon Show Dragon Show

And then there is the fireworks display -- unlike anything you have ever seen. It began with the release of *hundreds* of paper balloons, inflated with flaming fire-pots. Then it concluded with a enormouse, ear-pounding show that went on forever. Click here to see a short movieof the firework show.

Fire Balloons Fire Balloons Fireworks

The next morning (Day 4 in China) we left early for the kite field. The flying area is supported by a huge covered stage and viewing area for VIP's. The field is tightly controlled by a ring of soldiers, but still, it is more crowded and jumbled than any place you may have ever flown or imagined flying. We piled our gear in one place and then drew a "perimeter circle" around it. Whenever anyone stepped over the line, we blew whistles and asked them to step back. It was fun for everyone, but still a bit claustrophobic. Click here to see a short movie of how it feels to be totally surrounded by the Chinese.

Kite Pavillion Flying Area Flying Area

Flying Area Flying Area

Actual flying in Weifang is only one day. We arrived back in our hotel and rushed out to visit a few of the city's dozens of kite stores. Where to begin? How to choose? The quality varies tremendously, and variety is incredible. But everything we buy has to be carried home...

Kite Store Kite Store Kite Store

Finally (Day 5 in China) we get to the famous Kite Museum. It is a big building with a dozen display rooms. Most contain cases filled with Chinese kites. But others have exhibits donated by guests who attended earlier festivals. It is fun to see pictures of ourselves from years before and the kites we contributed. This year, we present the Museum with an AKA banner used in the kite parade.

Kite Museum Kite Museum Kite Musuem

Not all of the displays translate well into English...

Museum Sign

We also visit the Kite Workshop of my old friend, Pan Bo Hua. Mr. Pan makes dragons and other kites for export. We spend hours inspecting and bartering for the best prices. Late that night, Pan brings HUGE boxes to the hotel for us.

Pan Workshop Pan Workshop Pan Workshop

Our last day in Weifang (Day 6 in China), we take a morning trip to the kite village. Here we tour the commercial factory where so many of Weifang's bird kites are produced At the entry to the village is a large butterfly kite. Very large. And the amazing part is that is structured so it will actually fly...

Village Entrance

Kite Factory Kite Factory Kite Factory

Kite Factory Kite Factory Kite Factory

So here is a quick test: We ask the guide where the toilet is. She points to this. Which door do you use??

BTW - I did take a photo inside, but it was too harsh to be printed here... .

Which Door?

The next morning, we head for the train station. Our destination is Qu Fu, birthplace of Confucius. Weifang has been a blur of banquets, tours, parades, ceremonies, and fun. The baggage handlers struggle to get all of our acquisitions aboard.

Click Here for Part 2 of our China Pictorial.

Kite Bags


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