first of all to Fontane and Brett for the terrific organisation, and
exciting itinerary planning for this holiday of holidays.
There were many highlights in the
wonderful, varied, busy tour. For me the biggest thrill was to see the
other side of the Himalayas, albeit from a distance, and compare the
scenery, people, villages and towns, and especially roads and bridges(!)
with those on the southern side of that mountain range, in Nepal where I
have had many happy times over the years. Alike, but different — SO
Variety, however, seemed to be the
main theme of the tour. We saw the ‘outback’, we saw the cities,
villages, tourist attractions, off-the-beaten track attractions,
sophisticated cities, historical cities, industrial cities, once-small
towns now expanding because of better roads (and the mind tries to
balance the good and the bad about these roads!), small farming
settlements, and the beautiful mountain scenery, monasteries, temples
and palaces of Wudang Mountain.
What was not varied was development.
Someone mentioned that the national bird of China was the crane, but
that the national machine was also, obviously, the crane! From the
largest city to the smallest village, development of new roads, houses,
factories, offices was obvious everywhere. This is a country on the
move, and it was fascinating to see, and to ponder on whether China can
continue in this way, to the benefit of more of its people.
The week in Yunnan was certainly my
main highlight, but I was surprised to be so moved by the terracotta
warriors in Xian. This archaeological site really must be one of the
wonders of the world. Contrasting the modern city of Shanghai, with the
fascinating Forbidden City, new buildings and historical power of
Beijing also provided great interest.
Qigong with masters on Wudang
Mountain, and in Beijing, added to the pleasures. But I think it was
the lessons with Brett, held almost every day in beautiful settings, by
lakes, temples, in parks surrounded by Chinese people doing their own
relaxing, or under the impressive glaciers of a mountain range, that I
enjoyed even more.
In China, all my small physical
problems seemed to disappear. The meals we had were lovely, with varied
dishes from various parts of China, and suited my body perfectly; and
doing lots of walking, and climbing up and down stairs only improved my
health, and helped me lose weight!
Golden Prayer Wheel - 24 metres tall,
Gui Shan (Tortoise Hill) Park, Shangri-La
Good companionship went a long way in
making the tour a complete pleasure, and new friends were made.
And last, but only for extra emphasis,
the care, guidance, and sheer hard work put in by our national guide,
Vincent Wu, was a very, very big highlight of our travels. Our local
guides also were caring and careful, and my thanks especially to "Rocky"
in Yunnan, and our driver Li who kept a cool head under difficult
The whole trip was one big adventure
and highlight but moments of connections stand out. There were
many including the two below.
Standing at a temple door watching the
Buddhist monks. A mother came to the door with her baby girl in a cloth
sling on her back. The mother talked to me with hands, facial
expressions and smiles. The baby turned her head around and smiled at
me. Then the mother signed for me to take off the baby’s hat. Mother
then walked inside the temple door and prostrated right down to the
floor lying flat – three times. Baby weaved up and down with her in
perfect flowing arcs. I watched amazed as baby showed no fear or
distress as she weaved in large arcs. In fact her little bare feet
twinkled at me from the bottom of the sling. She turned her head and
fixed her gaze on me and smiled again. What a special blessing. Mother
and child then vanished within the temple. When they re-emerged, mother
signed for me to place the bonnet on the child’s head. The child smiled
again and the mother sent signals of thank-you and then they were both
Sumseling Monastery (the Little Potala Palace),
Some of us had a spontaneous get
together with the guides, drivers and locals one evening. They poured
us local homemade wine from a plastic container. We laughed and had
conversations as only people can when speaking from different languages
and cultures. The party ended as we all had to go and sleep and be
ready for the continuation of our journey and for the joy of further
For me my travel to
China is a landmark or reference point in my mind of great giving and
receiving. Of the many places we travelled, people we met and
experiences we had, both good and bad – together they were all combined
into yet another layer of understanding the Tai Chi that I have been
practising and has evolved the last couple of years. It has allowed me
to understand on an experiential level how that feels from the inside of
where it originated, as well as a better understanding of the people who
played a large part in the forming of our art. All of these experiences
formulated for me a new found level of commitment
and dedication of my personal Tai Chi training.
I am grateful for the
group that I travelled with on this journey. They are part of my family
and I see them quite intimately in my heart. I look forward travelling
to China with this great reference point that Brett and
Fontane have graciously shared with all of us.
As a child I got some stamps of China
with drawings of tall mountains
and deep valleys. I saw them on our trip and enjoyed that very
much. As so often happens, though, it wasn’t the views, or the
monasteries, or the spectacle of the Terracotta Warriors or even the
craziness of the roads that left a lasting image. It was the life
and joy in the big parks, full of people enjoying themselves doing what
gives them the most fun – dancing, singing, whip cracking, sport.
People looking, participating, joining in. One big, noisy,
interactive community. And us in the middle of all that, doing our
Tai Chi, without any feeling of self-consciousness, because everyone
around watched, accepted and learned from us.
Cruise on the Huangpu
river in Shanghai. Gobsmacking spectacle. After a long flight the
eclectic scenes of Shanghai were amazing. Crowded streets, the people,
the size of the place, the bustle, and the fact that it all worked was a
revelation. The river cruise that evening was a sight to behold. The
beer was excellent. The public parks were amazing. People ballroom
dancing, doing Tai Chi, exercising, cracking whips, flying kites, doing
martial arts, kicking bean bags, showing pet birds, meditating,
community singing, orchestras, calligraphy, painting. An experience in
Li Jiang. Another
to miss" visit. Beautiful hotel, fascinating village, great shopping.
The local ethnic group’s (the Naxi) culture was fascinating, their food
delicious, their friendliness a comfort and their dancing entertaining.
The village is a remake of the old one destroyed in an earthquake but it
is so well done you can’t tell the old from the new. The creek that
runs through the village is a centrepiece and strolling along the
walkways, past the bars and the kiosks makes time pass quite quickly.
Breathtaking scenery at
Deqin. The Snow Mountains, how beautiful. The changing face of the
mountains over a 2 hour period after dawn was riveting. I saw my first glacier(s). The whole area is a picture postcard and well worth the
trip on roads which will take your breath away. Brett unfortunately had
his back to this panorama conducting the Tai Chi class while the group
(and I) saw the whole thing!!.
Typical scenery around
Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is a view from the road near the guest house
where we stayed. A rural Chinese guest house with magnificent food and
hospitality. I dispute the fact that it is only 2 star!!! Had a ball!
Warriors. Impressed by the size of the site! There are literally
thousands of these warriors! The museum attached to site is definitely
worth a look with artefacts thousands of years old on display. The
history and the cultural significance of the site is immense and the
literature and guidance provided to the traveller is excellent.
Mount Wudang. Again the
history and culture of this area is fascinating! This is a photo of
Nan Yan Palace. The fact that these people actually built this palace
at this site is amazing. The path to the site is a little strenuous but
well worth the effort!! The scenery, unforgettable.
The Temple of Heaven
constructed during the Ming dynasty. A magnificent example of Ming
architecture beautifully decorated with intricate patterns. The whole
structure built without a nail! This temple is situated in the Tian Tan
complex which has many other historical attractions which are also
The Great Wall. One of
the ‘must see’ historical features of mainland China. The scale of the
wall is amazing. Access to the wall is easy (more stairs) or by cable