China: Provinces

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.

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.