People

Ah The Famous Great Wall....

No I am not talking about the bricks and mortar thing built on the northern border to keep out the invading hordes on horseback, but the the virtual wall built to keep resident citizens from accessing Google, or Yahoo, or Facebook or YouTube (or more than two thousand other websites).

It took me a couple of days to figure out how to beat it but it hasn't been easy, especially since I am changing hotels daily and on the road dawn to dusk visiting far flung sites with a bunch of friends and colleagues from the hort trade. (I have also absorbed quite a bit of Chinese culture and cultural history!)

It has only been two days in country, but a lot of has happened, and a lot of ground covered...and I'll try to catch up on it after dinner tonight. I did manage to get my photos from the camera to the laptop and that should add a little fun to it -- especially the Lek shi farmers market this morning -- just a block from our hotel, the four star Xin Peng!

 

 


Departure Dinner

It's been just under a week, but it seems I have my chops back (sticks that is). Spent the last couple of hours at the big family dinner for my friend Rongna Liang, who was the inspiration -- and the sparkplug -- for this whole trip.

Check out this spread:

Goodbye Chengdu

Its all what I have come to know as the social round table. That is the most striking difference I have noticed about China versus the US: they are very social people while we are very isolated people (this is aside from the fact that it seems they will eat just about anything).

This dinner was a little more sedate than some of those put on by my hosts: no pickled duck tongue, or chiffonaded pig stomach, nor either thin sliced pig snout or ear crisps, just your basic hotter than hell veggies and meats with soups and white rice.

After dinner I had to negotiate a cab ride to the airport (46 Yuan, or $7.50) where I am staying in a runway-side hotel for the night. Not even unpacking...just a hit and run.

 

 


Out In The Country Again

Sudden change of plans this morning. I was up late last night and early this morning prepping for a 9 am presentation to the Academy and was closing down on it at 7:30 when I went over to the main building for breakfast.

As I was leaving the breakfast room, the desk man (who speaks no English) flagged me down with the telephone and it was my host, Mr. Ma, the editor of the Southwest China Forestry Journal.

He informed me that the president of the Academy wanted him to take me to visit one of their rural stations about 100 km ESE of Kunming, and that we would leave after lunch. Goodbye window shrine!! The room, while not central to Kunming, had been peaceful and quiet...

Presentation and lunch at the Academy done we walked down to the East Section of the Kunming Botanical Garden (famous for their camelias)...stopped at the PO so I could get some Chinese stamps for my old friend Monica Hathaway, and Ma could sweet talk the Postmistress into getting us comps for the garden. I didn't have my camera with me or I would post some shots.

We launched around 3pm, through rush hour (why that was not considered I cannot understand).

We drove out past the famous "Stone Forest" which I had assumed to be right in Kunming from all I'd read but it was actually 75 km away in the town of Shilin. I got a few pix of the karst near the Expressway, and hope we might stop back, but time was (apparently) short even after having whiled away the mid-day.

  Phalli Valley

We made a stop along the way (apparently for my benefit) at an ancient Chinese warlord's mountain fortress about 10-15k SW of the main expressway and walked around there for an hour or so. I may post a photo gallery of it at some point as it was reminiscent of Canyon de Chelly. Here is one pic.

Mountain Fortress 1

We arrived in Lu Liang, which bills itself for crafts (on the highway signs) but is clearly a stone cutter's town. Amazing stuff glimpsed from the expressway, but impossible to photograph that way.

All around the town were hundreds of acres of high tunnels. Not like ours; these are intense and a total way of life for the farmers that tend them.

High Tunnels Yunnan 1

We arrived around 6:30 pm (I had gotten up at 5:00 am) and went immediately to dinner. As we pulled through the gate to what I thought was going to be the hotel, the two gate guards in olive camo fatigues stood and saluted.

We decamped and walked across a courtyard full of vehicles with roof light, through a portal, and across a classic urban enclosed space, with a basketball court and cadets playing two on two. We entered a spartan dining hall where more cadets were stocking the tables.

As the guest (the first American) I was given the first-feng-shui position, back to the wall, facing the door we had come in. I had to sit while everyone else prepared...and could do nothing for myself.

The Chinese have a ritual toasting ceremony that I will have to describe at some point (but I am too tired now at 10:30pm). I will leave it with a picture of the table (notice the turntable for grazing the dishes and the little toasting glasses and carafes of liquor).

Dinner-Lu_Liang