Guiyang 15 - 18 May
The 14th April I joined forces with six members of Korean Art Kite Association at Incheon Airport for the two leg flight to Guiyang in Guizhou (South China). In Shanghai we had a transfer and a long wait for the domestic flight to Guiyang, and in the domestic airport I managed to
throw away my ticket! While peeling off the luggage lables from the previous flight my ticket got stuck in the lables and was thrown in a dustbin by the guy who collected the lables. It took some time before I realized that I had lost my ticket, and I guess I had some raised
adrenalin level till I had managed to explain to my korean mates what had happended and start a search in the dustbins. Luckily Mr. Kim soon found my ticket and saved my day.
At the Guiyang airport we were met by our sweet interpretors, whom we soon became very fond of: 4th grade students with English as a major who not only were nice and friendly, but also did everything they could to help us during our stay in Guiyang.
Checking in at the hotel was quite a shock: now beeing used to the heated floors in Korea, the cold and damp room felt extra chilly. Triple blankets and lay still!
At 8 o'clock next morning all kite fliers emarked buses and went to Baiyun Park Stadium. As we disembarked the buses and walked the last hundred meters, dressed up school children edged the road and cheered as we walked by. Two things emerged as significant:
Finally the parade into the stadium was about to start. Kite fliers from all participating nations and provinces in China marched in, interfoiled with those who were to perform. After presentation, speeches and letting out of doves, the second part started with singing and dancing for an hour and a half. Totally some 900 persons were involved in the performance, and the sheer mass and the coordination was impressive! There was no wind for kiteflying, so the engine driven paradivers did a good job in filling the sky.
In the afternoon kite flying was scheduled, but there was still no wind. Some kite fliers made brave attempts in running with their kites, but it was only for the show...
In the original schedule there was kite flying the next three days, but the first day came without any wind whatsoever, so we went shopping into Guiyang city. All kite players embarked buses that went in a slow convoy, escorted by police cars. This was the rule, as it showed: an escorted convoy where ever we went. I shared interpretor with the Kiwis and we shared bus with the Spaniards and their interpretor. Neither of us really felt like shopping, so we went to a nice little garden, Cuiwei Garden (created 1430 AD), where there also was a fine exihibition of textiles from the Miao people.
After lunch we had a Friendship tree planting ceremony: On a slope in the same park as the kite field a number of deep holes had been dug out in the ground, and we just put a 1.5 m plant in a hole and shoveled the soil back into the hole. There were plenty of plants for everybody, and even if it was not hard job you soon got sweaty in the rain coat.
The next item on the schedule was a visit to the Bai Yun District Kite Museum, within walking distance from the tree planting. This kite museum is a very newly built five storey pagoda, beautifully situated at the side of the park lake. The collection of kites was quite impressive.
On the walk back to the buses from the museum we lost one Kiwi couple, so the next day we got an extra guide!
Tuesday came with still no wind. Bai Yun means "white cloud" and there was reason to that! So now sight seeing in convoy: Driving through a breathtaking scenery (Guizhou is very mountaineous with peaks up to 3000 m.) we first arrived at the Huangguoashu waterfalls, the biggest in China: 81 m wide and 76 m high. At this time of the year, April, there was not so much water, but still very enjoyable. Behind the water there is long cave, so you can walk behind the water from one side to the other. At the following lunch girls and boys of the Miao people, dressed in their traditional clothes, received us at the lunch restaurant.
The Beauty of Star Bridge, Tien shing chao is a man made walk consisting of 365 footstones in a very dramatic rock and water landscape.
The final attraction on this amazing sight seeing day was a visit to the Dragon Palace, Longgong, a huge partly water filled cave system. Entering the cave by boat, the guides pointed out "dragons", "elephants", "the Monkey King" and a lot of other figures in the formations ot the stalactites.
At last! Some wind in the morning of the final day! Off to the Stadium and a few hours of longed for kite flying. It is of course alway difficult to fly kites in a stadium, where the filed is surrounded by stands on three sides, but we managed to put some kites in the air. The wind ceased at noon, but there was sunshine! At the banquet in the afternoon I was (as the leader of my team) put at the VIP table, next to the Mayor, and my chop sticks were nervous. Small plates with unknown dishes (mostly well tasting), beer, brandy and rice wine little by little made them more steady.
The closing ceremony for the kite festival was held in a great hall and broad casted live on regional TV. All kite teams got awards, and before recieving the awards we were lined up in a corridor in a certain order (according to the prices). The order of queue was checked three times half an hour before the award ceremony. Then followed a two hour Russian show with a military bias. Ten minutes would have been enough.
The next morning was the flight to Weifang, and we hugged our interpretors good bye at the airport, knowing already then that we would miss them greatly!
Weifang 20 - 22 May
This has to be stated first of all: The Weifang Kite festival was a great disappointment to me. There was too little kite flying: The time scheduled for kite flying was shorter than the Opening Ceremony!
Friday morning started with a sight seeing trip to Yang Jia Bu, a place where there is a small kite factory that makes the high quality kites of the type that Weifang is renowned for. Here there also is a an exhibition of wood block prints and other handicrafts.
In Weifang a visit to the kite museum is a must, and for sure there are many incredibly beautiful kites there, mostly from China, of course. Unfortunately there is information only in Chinese.
In the evening was this grand opening ceremony; a show that lasted for nearly three hours and included excerpts of Beijing opera and mass performances of Tai Chi.
Saturday morning, a strong cold wind was blowing as we set off for the Fuyanshan Kite Flying Field. This field is an enourmous, dusty field with lots of people on the field. The wind was too strong for my Uptions, so I let my new Double Delta out for a virgin flight. With 20 minutes left of the scheduled flying time I handed the line over to some interested spectators because I wanted to have a look around and take some pictures. When I returned 10 minutes later the Double Delta was gone: the line had been cut and the kite had blown away over the hills. I made a heroic rescue attempt, but to no avail. The kite was gone. What I gained from this was a slightly lighter luggage...
The kite fliers were hurried back to the buses at 11.00 to go for lunch, but the lunch wasn't served till 12.30. Many were frustrated.
At the awarding ceremony later the same afternoon I was given an award for Sueño de Barrilete, a kite I had not flewn but only given a written description of. So all in all the Weifang Kite festival seems to be a joke nowadays.
The third and final day of the kite festival was a sightseeing day: We started with a trip to Qingzhou and Mount Tuo, which has a Hao temple from the Yang dynasty. On the mountain there also are some 638 grottos with stone Buddha statues. And a dog house grotto where the dog was watching some kite frames?
A striking difference from Guiyang was that in Weifang you could move around freely; take a taxi downtown or go for a walk all by yourself, so when I went for a walk after the sightseeing tour I found a park nearby where ordinary Weifang people did their Sunday leisure kite flying.
Qingdao 23 - 27 May
The departure to Qingdao was another Wait o'clock event, so when we after a three hour bus ride arrived at QETDZ (Qingdao Economical and Technical Development Zone), the afternoon program was cancelled. However, suddenly we were called to go to the Golden Beach,
the kite flying field, for inspection of the field. Then the team leaders were invited to a reception with the Governor, where the QETDZ was presented. The Governor then invited the team leaders to an exquisite dinner. Of course the famous local Tsingtao beer was
served as well as local wine, and there was a lot of Kampei ('Dry glass' = bottom up).
At Wait o'clock the next morning we left for The Golden Beach and the opening ceremony. A drum orchestra was playing during the wait. There was no Sweden sign board for me to line up behind, so I was made Honorary Kiwi for the day and joined the New Zealanders. After two hours waiting (in good wind, of course!) there was a 20 min ceremony and we could start playing kites. The wind was still good, the beach was huge and it was finally a good day for kite flying! During the wait for the opening ceremony there had been ten chinese dragon kites flying, but these were now unfortunately down. With the assistance of my interpretor I flew both the Uptions and, in the afternoon, Sueño de Barrilete lying relaxed on my back on the beach whith people standing curious around me. This was a No: 1 day!
At the hotel in the evening a british team member cured aching knees with electric acupuncture and told dirty jokes.
The weather on Wednesday was still bright and warm, but the wind has dropped considerably; it was a tough job to keep a kite in the sky. After lunch there was another QETDZ seminar for the team leaders with a Power Point presentation and simultaneous interpretation to English, German and Japanese. Sigh.
In Weifang some of us had muttered that some Beijing Opera would have been nice instead of that Russion show at the closing ceremony. Maybe someone heard this, because at the closing ceremony in Qingdao there was Beijing Opera galore. As usual everybody got an award in one of three categories, but since there had been no one from the organisation present at the kite field during the actual "competition" on Wednesday, the whole thing seemed to be a lottery. Anyway, before the "winners" in one category got their awards, there was as 45 min excerpt of hight lights of Beijing Opera. Very nice.
The next day we, according to schedule, set out for 'Proper Qingdao' (i.e. the town of Qingdao in contrast to the Development Zone) in a convoy headed by police motor cycles and police cars. On the Qingdao side there was a full day program with a street show and a sightseeing in the city. At Wusi Square there was some kite flying, but it was a sad thing to see that almost all kites were of western type: deltas. I counted 16 deltas and 1 Chinese kite: an 8-star kite which didn't fly.
Now the program for the actual "6th China International Kite Festival" was finished, but since Japan (next stop) has a reputation of beeing expensive I decided to stay on a few days in Qingdao, especially as there was a direct flight from Qingdao to Tokyo. (It would probably had been better to go to Beijing, wait there and then fly to Osaka, but I didn' know that then.) I got valuable help with booking the flight ticket and changing hotel and prepare to stay four more days in the town.
At the hotel each night around 21.30 I got a phone call with a soft light voice in the other end: "Massageh?" Though I always answered "No massageh" there was a knock on the door five minutes later. The following discussion was quite enjoyable: apparently what was offered was at least two kinds of massage: one standard and one or two special, which seemed to be some kind of golfer's massage: The girls made signes that looked like a hole-in-one... I never figured out the difference between the second and the third type.
The good weather had now left Qingdao: It was misty and rainy, and the temperature had dropped. Not knowing better I took a bus to Laoshan, a mountain with many temples an hour North-East of Qingdao. To get there I entered a small bus in the city centre, and as I was the only passenger the bus driver made a few rounds around the station to get more passengers. The ticket collector kept shouting out the destination, but no more passenger. So the bus headed northwards with the ticket-collector still shouting "Laoshan" at every bus stop. With me beeing the only passenger to Laoshan, the bus stopped at a regular bus stop in the outskirts of the city, and I was told to get off and change to regular bus 304, which soon arrived. The bus fare was only 3.5 yuan, but halfway I had to pay a 50 yuan entrance fee for the Laoshan National park, and the rest of the road was worth the price: The road was clinging on to the steep rocks and cliffs with the sea directly far below. Absolutely breathtaking!
It was raining quite heavily as I reached Laoshan, and I bought a simple raincoat before I started the climb up the stairs. Dressed for the chilly weather I got soaking wet of sweat under the rain coat long before I reached the peak. From the peak there was a great view of mist.
One of my great concerns is always weight of luggage. Having received 'awards', gifts and a lot of pamphlets the weight had increased, which was not adequately compensated by the loss of the Double Delta in Weifang. When I started in Sweden I had 25 kg, which is already 5 kg over the 20 kg limit, and leaving Korea this had increased to 29 kg. In addition to this was the hand luggage with camera, lenses, video camera, iBook laptop and crystal glass gifts, weighing some 15 kg. So the solution was to send a parcel to my friend Li Ruo Xin in Beijing with stuff that I wouldn't need in Japan. The staff at the post office were extremely helpful and provided me with boxes for the parcels, wrapped them up for me and printed the address in Chinese.
I left China on the International Worker's Day and I wished I had had the opportunuty to see some massive 1st May parade, but it was time to leave for Japan and the Hamamatsu festival.