October 11 to November 1
This tour has now been completed.
The tour incorporated activity based around NZCFS projects in Shaanxi and Gansu, and included visits to Tibetan communities in four provinces. A very good group of 15 included a very welcome participant from Ottawa China Friendship Society enjoyed 21 days in China.
NZCFS Projects activity highlights included:
• Meeting with Shaanxi Women’s Federation in Xi’an, and visiting the health and cooperative projects in Fengxian with the Feng County Women’s Federation.
• The NZCFS Cooperative Project visited was a Musk Deer raising cooperative, and tour group members were very intrigued to learn about raising these flighty animals, and the products extracted. Unfortunately, this animal was too nervous to allow us to see it.
• The rural women’s Health Project showed the tour group the changes that had been made in women’s awareness of illness prevention. The cosmos flowers planted in the village were a nice surprise, showing a new pride in the community environment.
• Dining with our two Kathleen Hall scholars and their friends in Lanzhou is always a delight to the tour group. The human face of these young people, and their enthusiasm was easily observed.
• The two scholars also joined the group for activity on Sunday morning, which included visiting Rewi Alley Square. Here, a highlight was spontaneous interaction with groups of old people enjoying their Sunday morning in the square. Many remember Rewi Alley, and the two scholars were introduced to a little Rewi Alley history.
• Visiting a NZ Red Pear project in Yunnan gave us a NZ expert’s insights into rural economic development and life in China.
Tibetan Communities. The itinerary included:
• First to Tibetan community in Gansu, Xiahe, where we visited the Labrang monastery and acclimatised at 2900 masl
• Four nights in Lhasa, with 3 very different monastery visits: Potala Palace Museum; the fascinating debating monks at Sera monastery which had everybody adopting their vigourous question posing hand-clap and stomp; the very busy Jokhang temple,strewn with prostrating pilgrims, rich in burnt butter aromas.
• Landscapes: vast high plateau scenery, passes up to 5200masl, mountains, lakes, yaks, villages on the two day trip to Xigase and Gyantse; stopped at the 4900 masl pass to Namtso lake by snow fall and ice.
• One final practising monastery in Shangrila, Yunnan, restored faith that some monks actually do work, with massive building extension.
In a post Tibet discussion while on the bus south, everybody gave their impressions of Tibet. General statements from “the Tibetan people are liberated”, and “ an emerging middle class”; many pilgrims practising their Tibetan Buddhism, pilgrims spending weeks prostrating their way to Lhasa, sucking up the loess dust; through to comments about the military presence in central Lhasa (although it was observed it is a presence only).
Other tour site highlights:
• Shangrila, a very pleasant natural wonderland
• Tiger leaping gorge
• Lijiang, a fascinating UNESCO preserved old town that has become a major tourist destination. Still worth stopping overnight.
• Dali, more laid back, pleasant last stop for a rest.
It was pleasing to have no health problems other than a little tiredness or upset stomachs from altitude. Even at 3700 up to 5200 masl, everybody managed the altitude well.
The tour was very well supported by arrangements from Mianyang International Holiday Travel Company, and our Chinese assistant/companion Wang Fang was a delight and a great help to the daily organisation.
The itinerary is included here: NZCFSOct2011TourFlyer.pdf