China - A Planner's Journey


What is China really like? That is a question I have asked myself for years. My interest in this country began with the mulling over of my father's "digging to China" comment upon observing my new hole in the back yard. It continued with a college course in Asian history. One book with a strong and lasting impressionon on me was Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow, his account of the rise of Mao Tse-tung and the victory of the Communists in China's civil war.

In the Spring of 2007 I was finally presented with an opportunity I could not pass up, a 17 day tour of China with a bunch of Northern California urban planners. The chance to see this country with my own eyes and actually talk with people involved in its development was irresistible. The trip began with a flight leaving San Francisco at 1:30 in the morning on Cathay Pacific Airlines in the year 2007.

Trip Purpose

Sponsor of the China trip was the Northern Section of the California chapter of the American Planning Association (APA). The purpose of the trip was to educate California planners on today's China, with emphasis on planning and development activity therein, and to initiate communication with our Chinese peers. Our consummate Chinese tour guide was named Dragon, the English translation of his Chinese surname - Long.

Barry Miller, a fellow traveler, created a blog of our China experiences in real trip time. Our approach being different, viewing both his and mine will give a more complete prose and visual picture of this journey of 17 planners, family and friends to China in May 2007.

All photographs are by H Graem unless otherwise noted. The text is based on a daily journal kept during the trip. Any factual corrections would be appreciated. Comments can be sent to this address.

The Route

Below is a map showing our route in China. Hong Kong was our starting point. We arrived on different dates, but our official China starting date was May 9, 2007. The second day we took a ferry across the bay to spend a day exploring Macao. On the third day we took a ferry to Shenzen on the northern reaches of the bay. From there we flew to Guilin in Guangxi province. A 30 kilometer bus ride south of Guilin brought us to our hotel in Yangshuo that evening. On the 7th day, following a bus tour of Guilin, we departed for a flight to Shanghai where we arrived in the early afternoon. Trains were our transportation to Suzhou and Nanjing on the 9th and 10th days. On the 12th day we departed Nanjing by air to Xian. From Xian we traveled via a 'soft sleeper' train carriage for our last city, Beijing. I left for home in California on May 25, 2007.

Views from the Road

These are scenes from the road, rail, water and air as we made our way across China. They convey a sense of the variety of this immense country. The photos are chronological, providing a record of the places we passed through during our travels. Note the last slide, proof positive that the sun does shine in Beijing. To bad this was the day we left for home in California.

Click on the box to the right to generate a series of views taken on the move across China

H Graem © 2007