China: "I Am OK"

Chongqing, China
July 15, 2010

Hello Everyone,

Just to let you know I am OK.

The weather has been warm, humid and misty, with a little rain.  The heavy rainfall and flooding is south of my route through central China

So far I have been to Shanghai, Chengdu, Leshan and Chongqing.  I leave this evening for a three-night four-day cruise through the three gorges of the Yangtze River.

At the moment I am considering staying out here in the west to visit mountain areas and minority villages.

In Leshan I visited the tallest Buddha mountain sculpture in the world. 71m. ...233 ft.  And yesterday, in Dazu, I visited a UNESCO Heritage Site with 1000 year old mountain sculptures. Many still retain their original colors.

Slowly, I am getting a little adventurous with the food.  Even to my well-traveled eyes and palate, the menu items are challenging and different.  Very different.  Fruits and vegetables and concoctions I have never seen.  But I did manage a fish lunch at a small town along the river.  I pointed to the picture of the fish in my Point at The Pictures book, and in a few minutes a whole broiled fish arrived, covered with spices and herbs. 

Finally, for the first time in four trips, (counting Hong Kong and Taiwan) I have discovered that Mainland China is indeed huge.  Numbers we read about are only abstract. You have to be here.  Cities of 4-5 million are common and there are hordes of people everywhere. (400,000 to 500,000 people visit the Shanghai Expo every day!  95% are Chinese.) 

In many places out here I am the only Westerner. And when folks see me riding on the back of motorcycle, everyone either stares or grins or just laughs. I am a "curiosity.") 

Yet, despite the numbers, the streets are clean, and public transportation is efficient.  Buses, trains and planes depart and arrive on schedule. 

Folks are friendly and helpful, even though, except for Shanghai, English is virtually non-existent.  I have learned to have someone write everything in Chinese: names of hotels and names of bus and train stations so I don't have a problem with taxi drivers.  And in China, there's no tipping.  Even better. 

I am so proud....several Chinese have given me an A+ on my proficiency with chop-sticks!!



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