Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gura Brothers' Trip to China November '07

To view individually, at your own pace - for larger versions and/or with captions @

Almost a decade back, when our mom passed away, my brother Abbey and I entered into an agreement to travel together at least once a year. Since then we’ve been to Mexico, Belize, Curacao, Prague, Puerto Rico and other spots where our eyes open to new sights and possibilities and we get to spend quality time together sharing them and making sense out of our family history and life in general.

A couple of years ago we mutually selected a trip to Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong which was pretty great. Abbey’s eyes took on that same glow they got when he discovered sailing, an indication of enthusiasm bordering on love. And so, when he pushed for the escorted tour to China we recently completed, I realized that resisting this would be like attempting to deny a force of nature. This was fortunate as it was a very good experience, indeed.

18 days is a fair amount of travel. However, China is thousands of miles across with a culture and history of intense human activity that stretches back thousands of years. It has a population of over a Billion and roughly one in every 6 people alive on the planet today is Chinese… Consequently, whatever you see in these photos at best represents the momentary apprehension of a single facet of a very, very complex reality. There's nothing to be done about that realization other than keep it present in your mind as you inevitably try to figure out what you are experiencing and what it means and do so carrying much preconceived China ‘baggage’ into and out of the experience. Understanding China is hard work and this was a 'pleasure cruise' we were on, not a serious investigation. Still, I think we saw the real China, or part of it, and sorting through my photos and putting them together in an ‘album’ helped digest the experience and make some sense of it.

Our itinerary was as follows: Beijing, Xian, Chongqing (Chung King), Shanghai, Guilin, Guangjou and Hong Kong... And lots of little suburbs and lesser known towns and hamlets in between.

Our list of featured “sights” included (and there were so many I really won’t recall all of them):
· The Temple of Heaven (Beijing)
· Tiananmen Square
· The Forbidden City
· The Great Wall
· The Terra Cotta Warriors (Xian)
· Ming Tombs
· Xian City Wall (last intact example of what was once a way of life and survival, or so our guide explained)
· Panda Zoo (Chongqing )
· General Stillwell’s World War II HQ
· 3 Day Yangtze River Cruise including “The Dam” and 3 Gorges (sorry, don’t remember the name of the individual gorges. And by the way, one could spend months just exploring these gorges and their historic sites… :(
· The Bund/Pudong Waterfront (Shanghai) +
· Reed Flute Cave (Guilin)
· Li River Cruise through Karst Country
· Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial – Chen Family Temple/Academy – 2 Buddhist Temples (Guanjou)
· Victoria Peak, Aberdeen Harbor, Stanly Waterfront, etc. Hong Kong

And of course many restaurants, a Tang Dynasty ‘show’, a GREAT acrobat show in Shanghai - a jade, a silk, a carpet, a laquerware, and other ‘factories’ where tourists are encouraged to purchase high priced items created especially for them to purchase :) :) :) and endless fleeting vignettes of PEOPLE on the streets and alleyways, their bicycles and cars, in shops and stores, in front of housing projects, farms, sidewalks, views of billboards, hillsides, bus stops, … all of which gave an impression/understanding of China that will remain burned into the wet matter of my grateful and thoroughly impressed brain for a good time to come!

I took some 1,050 photos (give or take a few) and spent quite a few hours editing and selecting the group down to the 145 presented here. These aren’t necessarily the best or most arty of the lot, but they do work together to help me relate what I experienced. I hope you enjoy looking at them as I hope they raise questions for you about China and perhaps spur you to take your own trip. I hope to get back there myself!


PS – I’ve embedded some links in the above for those who might like to get a bit of background info about any of the many names and places attached to them I’ve mentioned.

PSS – You can go directly to the Picasa Web Album (from which this slide show is taken) @ This will enable you to download any pics you may want and view it as you like (i.e. with or without captions, slide show speed, individual photos, etc.)