China: Provinces

Fenghuang: "The Siege"


Hunan Province


July 1, 2010

Dear Fellow Tourists and Travelers,

Here's what the guidebook says about Fenghuang Ancient City, a popular tourist destination:

"In a round-the-clock siege from domestic tourists - the Taiping Rebellion of the modern age - this riveting town of ancient city walls, disintegrating towers, rickety houses on stilts overlooking the river and hoary temples can easily fill a couple of days.  Home to a lively population of the Miao and Tujia minorities, Fenghuang's architectural legacy shows distressing signs of neglect, so get to see it before it crumbles away under a combined onslaught of disrepair and overdevelopment aimed at luring marauding tour groups." *

Do you see what I have to put up with here?  I must tolerate "distress," "disintegrating," "rickety,"  "disrepair," and "overdevelopment."  Then I must navigate "siege," and "marauding tour groups."  And finally, I have to endure such guide-book prose, opaque and contradictory, that my head is throbbing!  Will this place be "riveting" or "crumbling"?  And what, in the name of all that's holy, is a "hoary temple"?

Jishou; Hunan Province: "It All Sounds So Good."

Golden Leader International Hotel
Hunan Province
People's Republic of China

July 2, 2010
8:00 am

My Dear Comrades,

Yesterday, July 1, was the 89th Anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in China.  That must  explain why, after more than twenty four hours, my laundry has not yet been returned to my room.  Maybe the washers and driers took the day off to celebrate.

Hunan: "En Route To Changsha: Spaces"

"Music is the space between the notes"

Claude Debussy - French Composer (1862-1918)

"The notes I handle no better than many pianists.  But the pauses between the notes - ah, that is where the art resides."

Arthur Schnabel - Austrian Classical Pianist (1882-1951)


En Route to Changsha

Hunan Province


July 2, 2010

At 7:00am the railway station was crammed.  There were no seats so I am standing amidst several thousand other travelers.  The information board flashes the platform number for my train and a long queue moves towards the gate.  

The train was scheduled to depart at 7:15.  How will so many people be able find their proper car in such a short time?   There must have been twenty cars on this train and my luggage-laden quick-step-trot along the platform seemed endless.

The disciplined crowd moved slowly yet efficiently and everyone found his car and assigned seat.  At the appointed time the train pulled out of the station, headed north and then east.

Jiajiang: "The Quintet"

Sichuan Province

June 17, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

The one hour bus ride from Leshan to Jiajiang was uneventful.  At the Jiajiang bus station, a minibus arrived quickly for the short ride to a village and my destination for the afternoon: the banks of the Yi River and the Thousand Buddha Cliffs – a site off the tourist route.

I planned a quiet afternoon.  A break from tour groups, crowds, people.  A little peace and tranquility.  Privacy.  A “time out.”  Just the carvings.  Just the river.  Just me.  Alone. 

It was not to be.

Leshan, Sichuan Province: The Giant Buddha

Sichuan Province

June 17, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Here are a few tall stories…and finally, the tallest one of all:

Last year I had the privilege to visit the colossal statues of Abu Simbel.  Built by Ramses II in 1257 BCE, the rock hewn likenesses of the seated Pharaoh are 20m or 67ft high.  Outside Cairo, the Sphinx is 20m tall.

Earlier this year at the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I had the pleasure to visit the tallest sculpture of a Hindu god.  Built in 2006, Lord Murugan stands 42m or 137 ft tall.

As a native New Yorker, I have visited The Statue of Liberty several times.  Miss Liberty welcomes all to New York Harbor as a beacon of tolerance and a lamp of freedom.  She was built in 1886 and is 46m or 151 ft from the base to the top of her torch.

As a patriotic American, I visited Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota many years ago.  Mt Rushmore is 152m or 500 ft tall.  Dedicated in 1941, the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are 18m or 60 ft high.

Still on my “To See” list is the iconic Christ the Redeemer.  Completed in 1931, the art deco statue towers over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and stands 38m or 124 ft high.

But today, I crossed one tall item off my “To See” list.  I have visited the largest stone carved Buddha in the world. 

Chengdu: "Central Sichuan Province"

Sichuan Province

June 15, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

The Chinese media reported that at the popular east coast tourist sites, the normally large summer crowds had increased by twenty percent because of the tourist onslaught to the Shanghai Expo.  I decided to fly west to Chengdu (pop 4.1 million). 

I landed in the middle of yet another onslaught.  Who knew?  Apparently everyone but me knew that this weekend is the Dragon Boat Festival, one of the most important holidays on the calendar.