Photo Gallery

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A foggy day

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Grand Assemble

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Tiananmen Square

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Temple of Heaven

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Farm Truck

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China – August 1-10/2000

An inauspicious beginning. As we approach Sydney to make the International connection to Shanghai our pilot informs us that the control tower at Sydney has had a power failure and we have been diverted to Canberra for refuelling

Once on the ground in Canberra we are refuelled and sit for 45 minutes waiting for Sydney to tell us all is fixed. Landing now 50 minutes after our connecting flight is scheduled to take off we head for the International terminal to discover that the flight has left leaving 8 passengers behind.

Spending the afternoon and evening at a local Sydney hotel is not the ideal way to start our next adventure. Instead of landing in Shanghai the evening of August 1st with a full day of sightseeing scheduled for day 2, we are now flying out of Sydney at 2200 hrs for Tokyo, transferring to JAL at 0650 and arriving a day and a half late on Aug. 2 at 1215.

As the city is rapidly being transferred to a modern city with the 16 million inhabitants (4 million are float people), the minute by minute mix between the old and the new is amazing. Major skyscraper’s dominate but the beauty is in the ‘old city’ and the 4 story apartment buildings with the washing hanging on bamboo from the windows, the narrow streets and the electrical wires that are string along the road.Each colonising country has left its mark on the architecture and the blend with local Chinese influence is fascinating. The river is as congested with boat traffic and as the city streets. The 4,000,000,000 (4 million) bicycles play dodge ball with 45,000 taxis and 1,000,000,000 autos. The rule is if you can get to the spot first it is yours.

The night-lights of the city are spectacular. Buildings are light with brilliant different coloured lights. Most of the trees are also a glow with spotlights. Being a city with no mountains or trees, the vegetation has been planted in thick groves to represent mini forests which give this air- polluted, crowded like New York City, a softer feel.

The view from the plane as you landis of   terraced rice paddies  like mosaic stained glass windows sparkling in the sun woven between the mountains.

Guilin is a magnificent city nestled in the river valley of the 465-kilometer long Li River. Small mountain peaks puncture the valley floor to keep the 650,000 city inhabitants touched by nature. The city buildings are only 6 – 8 stories high so the mountain’s can always be seen. The valley is referred to as a 100 mile long picture gallery.

With one foot in the past and the other in the future, tourism is booming. The "traffic" here is more exciting than in Shanghai. There are no lanes or centre lines to worry about. You pass even into on coming traffic. It is ‘dodge ball’ at its finest. The mix is mesmerizing.

As we cruised on the Li River we found ourselves  amongst many tourist boats. (The tour boats were not that dissimilar to the busses travelling the Ice Fields Parkway). Little villages dotted the countryside with  farmers working in their rice fields and water buffalo pulling the plough.

We saw the famous Cormorant Fishermen. The cormorants have a string around their necks to prevent them from swallowing the larger catch, they dive for fish and when they return to the boat the fish are unceremoniously regurgitiated by the fisherman and the comorants are ordered back in to continue the fishing. The training takes about 1 year and each are given names. Each fisherman has 7 or 8 birds and fish from bamboo rafts as the pole upand down the river. Truly it is a very unique place on the planet.

Xian (ch-an) –
An industrial, air polluted city only worth stopping just long enough to see the Terracotta Warriors Museum. Designated the 8th Wonder of the World  the terracotta army is  truly an awe inspiring sight.

A huge city with very wide streets, new wide highways, new bridges and overpasses and huge buildings. The blocks are twice as long as regular city blocks. Everthing is designed to intimidate the ordinary people. We went for several walks into the side neighborhoods where the scale of things is far more human  and it is possible to see, behind these monumental city blocks, how the Chinese carry on their normal daily lives. The city has 73 McDonald's, 44 KFC's and 1 Starbucks- globalization is inescapable.

We found a great little local neighborhood restaurant. The proprietor could not speak English but someone had written the menu for him, in pencil on apage torn from an excercise book   and had translated it into English. It was the best Chinese Food we had tasted. Until that moment I was beginning to think that "overseas" Chinese Food was better than "mainland" Chinese Food.

The Forbidden City was "interesting"… The Great Wall was not as spectacular as we had thought. I guess I have seen just too many pictures. Its phenominal length is it most commanding feature and of course, standing on one part of it, surrounded by tourists, is no way to get a feeling of this. The Astronauts definitely had the best view.

As China races towards modernization at warp 9, if you do nothing else, try to visit before they have completed the conversion. It is almost too late already. One can remain in the trappings of tourism and never see the mix.

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