April 26, 2007
2007 China Tour - Part 1

A Panda Bear walks into a bar.

He sits down and orders a sandwich.

After he finishes, the waiter brings the bill. The Panda Bear stands up, shoots the waiter with a gun, and walks out of the bar.

The police run after the Panda. When they catch him, the police demand an explanation.

The Panda Bear says ….. (continued next week).

Panda

A group of fifteen hardy American travelers landed in China on the 17th. This was the fifth China Tour organized by GKPI. Our plan was a whirlwind examination of the country and participation in the great Weifang International Kite Festival.

China Tour China Tour China Tour

First stop – Beijing. We flew kites in Tiananmen Square and spent hours exploring the Forbidden City. We visited the Beijing Opera and ate Peking Duck. We visited the Temple of Heaven. We wandered the Summer Palace and then climbed the Great Wall,

China Tour China Tour China Tour

And then we boarded a midnight train for Weifang and a bit of rest in sleeper cars.

An all night trip by train is part of the China experience. You rest in “soft berths” which are private sleeper cars with four bunks. You learn about Chinese toilets. And you get to watch life go by in the countryside as the sun comes up.

Weifang Opening Weifang Opening Weifang Opening

The Weifang event is as much about pageantry as it is about kite flying. There are parades, speeches, banquets, and an elaborate opening program with popular music and costumes. The stage program is held in an open stadium with thousands in attendance. It is broadcast throughout China.

Midway through the program, Modegi and I were presented with special credentials by the Mayor naming us official “Kite Ambassadors”. Sounds hokey – like when Long Beach hands out city keys that also double as bottle openers. But here in China, the document is taken quite seriously.

Weifang Fstival Weifang Festival Weifang Festival

Out on the field, thousands and thousands of people wandered the flying area. Lines snaked into the sky in random patterns. Huge framed creations launched and then turn and accelerated toward the ground. Large kites were cut free. It was impossible to fly safely but amazingly, no one was hurt.

Weifang Fstival Weifang Festival Weifang Festival Weifang Festival

Weifang Fstival Weifang Festival Weifang Festival

The main flying events lasted throughout the day Saturday. We were invited to return to the field Sunday for competitions, but choose instead to visit local kite factories and stores.

When you think of a factory, you probably don’t imagine classic old buildings lined with long tables where young women bend frames, paint sails, and then glue amazing creations together,

Weifang Factory Weifang Factory Weifang Factory Weifang Factory

Weifang Factory Weifang Factory Weifang Factory Weifang Factory

Unfortunately, our baggage is limited in China and there is little room to bring home as many of these treasures as we’d like. Sunday night, we gathered for a final banquet and a long series of farewells.

At six in the morning we were up and on the way to the airport. Our next stop is a cruise through the Three Gorges.

Check back in the next two weeks as we continue to detail our China Adventure.

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