We’re back from a week long trip in China and I really gotta say, it’s not what I expected. Awesome, just unexpected. We visited Xi’an and Beijing, in that order, and had guided tours arranged through a local travel agency here. Having only a week (5 days really when travel is factored in), we tried to cram in as much as possible and consequently, our tours weren’t at photographically ideal times. They were still immensely enjoyable, but I’d really have liked to visit the Great Wall at dusk and the Xi’an city wall at dawn. That wasn’t really in the cards this trip though, so c’est la vie. We intend to return to see Guilin and I’d like to take the time to make excursions at more well lit times. I think we can manage to get ourselves around Beijing without a tour guide now too…also we have friends there, so that makes everything easier!!

My friend Jason and I were housemates at University and he now works in Beijing and was able to bring his wife Lori and daughter Ella with him to the far east. They were great hosts and showed us a great time while we were there. With any luck, they’ll still be around when we are able to make our return journey!

Outside of the surly cabbies and insistent hawkers, we had only great experiences with the people we encountered in our journeys. The people who were our guides and drivers were fantastic and even random people in restaurants offered to help us out with language difficulties unsolicited. In short, the people are largely lovely! Almost more often than not, we were as big an attraction as the exhibit or scene that we were visiting. In the provincial museum in Xi’an, I got more stares with my red beard than many of the artifacts there and I’m sure Toni and I found ourselves the subject of as many photos as we took there. Good times!

I was really expecting more of a grey feeling of communism over everything, but with a few glaring and notable exceptions, we noticed that things were very much capitalist. There is a huge disparity of wealth and some of the villages that we could barely see through the trees as we whizzed by on the highway looked bombed out and abandoned. Our guide in Xi’an even mentioned that most of the new construction that is going up on the edges of town is totally empty. Weird little things like that made an impression visually, but we were never really in a position to make images of them. Possibly by design, maybe not, who knows. We did get the feeling at times that we were being watched more than usual…did I mention the cameras? Tiananmen Square alone had upwards of eight to ten cameras on each of probably one hundred lamp poles pointing each and every direction. Freaky stuff. It’s definitely that Big Brother stuff that gets in one’s head. I think that’s the most troubling part of China. The people don’t have the freedom of action the way we in the west do. Things are changing bit by bit, and I’m sure they’ll be a little different when we visit next, but it’d be nice to see more of the freedoms we enjoy elsewhere.

And, off my soapbox!

I’m just getting into editing the photos I took and it’ll be a little while before posting, but I’ll be working diligently and will post as I come across shots I love!

Stay tuned!