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."

Harbin: "The World's Treasures"


Heilongjiang Province
January 12, 2008

My Dear Friends and Family around the World,

Now, here's a list of names from the 1920's:

Kulas, Soskin, Longovich, Kabalkin, Gofman, Makievsky, Katz, Azachovski, Trabgin, Kagan, Skidelski, Kisiliov, Kaufman, Drizin, Dobisov, Mordokovich. Russians all. One Austrian: Rosenfield.

Such names! Are they from the Lower East Side of New York? Northeast Philadelphia? The Near Westside of Chicago? Moscow?
None of the above.

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
People's Republic of China

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 (3395 mi), the Mekong #3 is 4909 km (3035 mi), and the Indus #9 and Brahmaputra #10 are each 2909 km (1808 mi). 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 on the Tibetan Plateau and empties into the East China Sea  The river flows 6300 kilometers (3915 miles) while draining eleven provinces from Qinghai to Shanghai.