Our China Tour in 2006

Gene and Norma Maas

Wednesday, May 3 Xian

Our first stop today was a lacquerware factory where some very beautiful and exquisite furniture was being made and sold. Next we stopped to see and walk on the 14th-century Xian city wall. Nine miles of the Ming dynasty wall still surrounds the center of the city. The wall is very formidable, 40 feet wide, and perhaps nearly as high.



At todayís lunch we were treated to a dumpling banquet, an array of a dozen or more kinds of dumplings stuffed with various kinds of meat or vegetables. The meal ended with soup heated on our table over a flaming fire pot.

After lunch we were taken to see the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, originally built in the 8th century.  Earthquake damage in the 16th century was repaired in the late 1970ís but it was damaged again in the 1990ís. One could see where pieces of concrete, particularly on the corners, had broken off.  On the site is the Morning Bell of the Pagoda, a sacred bell that was cast in the year 1192.  It is a huge bell, 12 ft high and 8 ft in diameter, and weighs nearly nine tons.

At 6 pm we were back on a plane headed to the semi-tropical mountainous region of Guilin.


Thursday, May 4 Guilin

The area around Guilin is famous for its extraordinary limestone formations that have been eroded over millions of years into a dreamlike landscape of pointed spires, vertical cliffs, and rounded peaks all covered in lush green vegetation.





The best way to view this amazing landscape is by boat on the Li River. So, after breakfast, we took the bus to Da Xu where we boarded a local river craft for a four-hour cruise down the river to Yangshuo. Besides the spectacular scenery, we saw fishermen astride bamboo rafts, small houseboats, and water buffalo grazing or lounging in the river.

Being that it was still the Labor Day week, there were lots of local vacationers floating down the river on simple rafts equipped with a couple of seats and an umbrella. During the entire trip we only saw one speed boat like you would see everywhere in the US. We even got to see a demonstration of cormorant fishing where fishermen use the birds to catch fish in the river. However, in this demo, they would throw fish into the water for the cormorants to retrieve. Then the birds hop back on the narrow bamboo boats and are forced to release the fish that they canít swallow because their necks are tied with a leash.

Before boarding the bus for our return trip to Guilin, they provided us with time once again to spend our money in the local flea market. It was nearly a disaster for me but turned out to be one of those "what are the odds" stories. By this point in our trip, Norma and I had acquired more things than would fit in our suitcases so we decided to buy a small carry-on case. At first the clerk said she wouldnít take a credit card but then relented when I agreed to pay an extra 5 Yuan, a mere 65 cents. But we had to walk a block or so away to a proprietor who could handle plastic money. When I returned I asked Norma to watch the suitcase while I checked out some tee shirts. I found several I liked but decided to pay cash in order to avoid another trip down the street to pay for it. About ten minutes later we were told to board one of the golf carts nearby that would take us to the bus. Just as we were about to leave, James came up to me holding two credit cards and said, "Donít lose these again". I was completely dumbfounded because I knew I had put them back in my wallet after the suitcase transaction. I still could hardly believe it when I saw my name on the cards. Apparently, when I paid for the tee shirts, I tipped my wallet over and the cards had fallen out. Now the flea market was extremely crowded but it turned out that a member of another Grand Circle tour group found the cards and handed them to his tour director. He knew they didnít belong to anyone in his group so he checked with James. Iím still wondering what the odds are, that among the hundreds of people milling around there, that the cards were found by an American tourist who was able to get them back to me before we left the area.

Gene Maas
5 Jun 2006






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