China: Provinces

Harbin, China. "Wear Everything"


January, 11 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

"Oh, my goodness!"

The airplane from Beijing descends through the clouds towards the Harbin airport. I stare at the landscape below and I think, "Oh, my goodness!" Actually, "Oh, my goodness" is not the exact phrase that comes to mind. "Holy cow" is a little closer but still not 100% accurate.

Deserted roads and snow-covered farms spread out everywhere like an Amish quilt that landed in a vat of bleach. Smoke from a tall smokestack rises in a disturbing pattern; it blows horizontally.

"Be happy where you are, Jan. What did you expect? Tropical waves washing up against white sand? Coconut palms, maybe, swaying in a light breeze? You are in Harbin for the Ice Lantern Festival. Harbin. 45 degrees North Latitude. North of Vladivostok and halfway to the North Pole. Ice, Jan, ice. Think ice."

Chongqing Province: Ciqikou & Songji - "Ancient Towns"


Chongqing Province
June 19, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Despite the light and misty rain, I donned my jacket and hat, stowed my umbrella in my messenger bag, loaded a new memory chip in my camera, hailed a taxi, and made for Ciqikou – an ancient city perched above the Jialing River – a 700 mile, 1120km northern tributary of the great Yangtze.

The ancient city has been restored and there’s mostly shops and restaurants for tourists. And since today is Saturday, the main streets are crowded with Chinese visitors from Chongqing City. Am I the only Westerner here?

Chongqing Province: "The Dazu Rock Carvings"

Dazu County
Chongqing Province

June 21, 2010

Dear Friends,

The main attraction at the Dazu Treasured Summit Hill rock grottos is the 31m (100ft) long, 5m (16 ft) high Sleeping Buddha entering Nirvana. Heaven knows how He is able to sleep! The crowds are noisy; or rather the tour guides are noisy. And there are so many of them, each trying her best to explain, educate, inform, muster and expedite using her portable microphone and loudspeaker system. They fill the air with so much "air."

The Yangtze: "Three Gorges Passage"

Hubei Province

June 25, 2010

My Dear Cruise Aficionados,

After the Nile and the Amazon, the Yangtze is the third longest river in the world.

The Yangtze or Chang Jiang is also the longest river in Asia. That really is saying something when you consider that the Yellow River #2 is 5464 km, the Mekong #3 is 4909km, and the Indus #9 and Brahmaputra #10 are each 2909km. Numbers 4-8 are rivers in Russia that run from south to north in Siberia and flow into the Arctic Ocean.

The Yangtze rises in the west from the glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau and empties into the East China Sea, covering 6300 km/3915 miles, while draining eleven provinces from Qinghai to Shanghai.

Zhangjiajie: "Avatar"

Hunan Province

James Cameron
Sierra Retreat
Malibu, California

June 28, 2010

Dear Mr. Cameron, 

Cc: Family and Friends, 

“Avatar! Avatar!”  sing out the ladies at the  Zhangjiajie National Forest Park souvenir stands. They are hawking large holograph photos of majestic karst mountains. 

I hadn’t the foggiest notion why Avatar would be an integral part of the sales routine.  My best guess was that even here, in Hunan Province, far, far west of the modern, affluent cities on the east coast of China, even here in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area the local vendors are aware of recent popular cultural events. 

Then I did a little research.  

Dehang: "Jiangxi Scenic Area"


Hunan Province


 June 30, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank heavens!  I remembered to bring along my Leki Super Micro easy-lock, collapsible walking stick.

The hilly path along the Yuquan riverbank is narrow, rocky, muddy, slippery and flooded in places.  Treacherous.  I should have rented a pair of straw shoes!    

Feeling my way along the track, with one hand holding the stick and the other my camera, there is no way I can also use my umbrella as I approach the Liusha waterfall.