May 3, 2007
2007 China Tour - Part 2

(Continued from last week...)

The Panda Bear says ….. "Hey! I didn't do anything wrong!! Go look in the dictionary!!"

So the police get a dictionary and look up "Panda".

"A large bear indiginous to Asia. Characterized by black and white markings."

"Eats shoots and leaves....."

Panda

Shanghai

The pace of change in China is astounding.

When I’d first come to Shanghai in 1990, the opposite bank of the river was all but empty. Now it is crowded with gleaming new skyscrapers and two of the four tallest buildings in the world.

Construction cranes are everywhere. And everywhere, you now see trees, shrubs and flowers – all newly planted – where before there were only dusty windblown streets.

The onslaught of progress provides a fascinating backdrop to the cultural traditions, architecture, crafts, and history which we had also come to see.

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. (See last week's Update.)

After the festival, we visited two more cities - Chongqing and Yichang - cruised the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, and wrapped up with an extended visit to Shanghai.

Gorge Cruise Gorge Cruise Gorge Cruise

The Gorges were remarkable. River depth and rapids had previously made this stretch of river dangerous to navigate. But the great dam at Yichang is raising water levels 120 feet. A million people are being re-located and billions spent on the project. Unfortunately, there are environmental and historical costs as well. But the result will provide 20% of the nations power needs and eliminate annual flooding. Makes for a neat ride too!

I’d often seen painted landscapes of the region and thought them whimsical. But the cliffs, mists, and wind-blown trees were real. It was easy to see why these vistas had inspired the Chinese for a millineum.

Ghost City Ghost City Ghost City Ghost City

Midway through the cruise, we stopped to visit the “Ghost City”. I had expected a deserted village, much like our western “Ghost Towns” waiting for the water to rise. Instead, we rode gondolas to a mountain top to explore a religious center where prayers could be offered to the God-Ghosts. Statues represented the various deities – like this one who punished disobedient children. If we passed a variety of tests and were lucky, we would not be eaten and could return to the boat.

Boat Boat Boat

Now, I’ve never really gotten into the cruise thing. I thought I’d be bored on a boat with nothing to do but sit, watch scenery, learn mahjong, or take taichi lessons. Heck – they didn’t even have internet! But it turned out to be kinda fun. The guy carving stone chops (name stamps) in the lobby did a booming business. And I managed to catch up on email to send as soon as we docked.

Garden Garden Garden

One of my favorite stops in the teeming city of Shanghai is the Yuyuan Classical Garden. Plants, ponds, rock sculpture, and buildings are walled off from the surrounding neighborhood. Outside, a crowded “China Town" is swarmed with tourists shopping at Starbucks, DairyQueen, and a hundred trinket stores. Inside it is peaceful, quiet, and each feature is mirrored in the water below.

Acrobats Acrobats Acrobats

We finished up the trip with a farewell banquet and a visit to the renowned Chinese Acrobats. The next morning, travelers boarded the magnetic fast train to Pudong Airport and a long flight home. Susie and I headed out to visit one of our factories.

Shude

A big thanks to all the 2007 “troopers” – Jim Martin, Wayne Brooks, Darryl Waters, Mike and Sheila Hale, Jerry and Sandy McGuire, George Emmons, Scott Shevlin, Bill and Marylu Sonntag, and Mike and Lisa Yang.

It was a great group this year.

And a special thanks for the best organizer, guide, and friend, Mr. Shude who kept us out of trouble and on track for two weeks in China.

Did we have fun?? Absolutely!

It was a kite tour, and while we didn’t fly kites every single day, we did try. In fact, we were nearly arrested at the temple of Heaven for lofting an aerial photography rig. But that’s another story.

Suffice it to say that there isn’t a snuff bottle, cloisonné painting, antique vase, or toothpick holder featuring kites that we didn’t buy!

For lots more photos and a first-timers perspective, check Jim Martin's site.

Great Friends!

Friday I'm heading up to a new event in Portland with an old name -- the Northwest Sport Kite Championships. I'll be packing several new things we brought home and plan to post photos next week.

Check back after Mother’s day Weekend for photos from the Weifang kite Museum.

Did you know that once a "Clownfish" (Amphiprion percula) selects a host, it never strays far?? Sounds like the perfect addition to any kite bag.

Our inflatable Clown is 10 feet long and loaded with extra details. Check out the spined dorsal fin, rounded eyes, and deflation zipper. Attach it to your flying line by connecting the top stabilizer, and then attaching the front bridles.

Clowns are found in nature (and also in Disney films) in varieties of red and orange, but we’ll make them any color you like for $240.

Clown

And between now and May 10, we'll take 20% off any of our fish socks, drogues, or kites. Just mention the "Fishy Update Special".

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