A Journal, with Pictures


Jordan Revealed

by on Jan.26, 2019, under Happenings

January 13, 2019

We flew from Cairo to the Jordanian capital of Amman which was an extension of the Wendy Pangburn’s (PI) YPO Egypt trip. Twenty-eight of the original group plus a couple who joined us made our group thirty in total experiencing the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We were met by our two excellent Jordanian guides, Zak Salameh and Majdi Saleem. Amman is a clean, more modern city with more orderly traffic than Cairo with one-sixth the population. Our first stop was the Citadel which is at the center of the city on one of the hills upon which Amman was built. The Citadel is important because it has a history of being occupied by many great civilizations. There is evidence from pottery excavated of use during the Neolithic period (12000 years ago). Monuments show the historical names of Amman including Philidelphia. The prominent structures include the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church and the Domed Umayyad Palace.

January 13, 2019

We then traveled by bus to our hotel the Kempinski Ishtar Resort on the shore of the Dead Sea. The hotel complex is amazing and we enjoyed a little downtime although the windy cool conditions precluded a float on the famed Dead Sea. We worked out in the hotel gym which shocked our bodies back to reality before of course more cocktails and dinner.

January 14, 2019

After breakfast, we boarded our bus with the first stop being the site on the Jordan river where according to the bible Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Al-Maghats ruins are located on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River that includes ruins of churches, baptism ponds, as well as pilgrim and hermit dwellings. Thirty yards across the river is Israel and a baptism location which was in use at the time of our visit. There is also a new church on the site for worshipers on the Jordan side of the river.

We then traveled to Mount Nebo the highest point in this part of the ancient kingdom of Moab. In the Bible, Mount Nebo is the mountain where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. This is also the place where Moses died and was buried. The Franciscans have excavated the site and in 1993 completed the Memorial Church of Moses. They have incorporated mosaics from the ancient basilica that occupied the site. There is a cave stone used to close cave dwellings from biblical times on display on the approach to the church.

From Mount Nebo we continued the short distance to the City of Madaba, known as the “mosaice city”. The city is on the site of a very ancient settlement. In 1881 settlers discovered mosaics buried beneath the rubble. The most famous is the unique partial map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We visited the church prior to having a fun lunch at a Jordanian restaurant.

After lunch, we traveled to the ancient city of Petra and checked into our unique hotel which was originally built by the Bedouins. The next morning we got an unauthorized 5:00 AM wake up call with the call to prayer from the nearby mosque.


January 15, 2019

After breakfast, we visited one of the new Seven Wonders of the world. Petra is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock faces by the Nabataeans, who settled there more than 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans, prospered taking advantage of the location at an important junction for the silk, spice and key commodities trade routes that linked China, India, and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. The entrance to the city is through the “Siq” a narrow gorge, which is flanked on either side by soaring cliffs. The Siq has tombs and temples carved on the cliff sides as well as an amphitheater and advanced water control and distribution system. With sea trade supplanting overland transport Petra faded, but it was rediscovered in 1812 and has become Jordan’s number one tourist attraction. The film “The Last Crusade” with Indiana Jones that was filmed in Petra didn’t hurt tourism, but the place exceeds its hype. Petra is truly a wonderful wonder.

Faces of Petra


January 16, 2019

After breakfast, we left Petra and headed south towards Aqaba, a city on the Jordan/Saudi Arabia border location of the world-famous Wadi Rum. It is an amazing desert landscape made up of monolithic rock formations that rise up from the desert floor to heights of 5740 feet. It was made famous by being the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hussein and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia ) headquartered during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. This where the movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed as well as the recent film “The Martian”. We explored by four-wheel vehicle and saw the narrow gauge train like the one that Lawrence targeted and viewed the unique landscape. We had tea in a Bedouin tent and lunch cooked in the traditional Bedouin style under the sand.

After lunch, which got a little gritty when a sand storm started, we began our drive back to Amman. The sand storm intensified, then turns into a thunderstorm, then a hail storm and finally as we entered Amman a snow storm. We checked into the Four Seasons and showered the sand out of our hair, had dinner and then after a little weather based uncertainty took four-wheel vehicles to the airport to catch our one AM flight back to the United States through Paris. What an incredible adventure!


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Egypt Revealed

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Happenings

We traveled to Eygpt as part of a trip sponsored by the YPO group and organized by Wendy Pangburn principle of Pangburn International (PI). The people on the trip and the PI team were absolutely great, with outstanding guides (Egyptologist), lecturers and information resources. This was not just a fabulous sightseeing experience it was an in-depth educational opportunity. We arrived a day early, and checked into the famous Mena House Hotel. The next day (normal arrival day) we had a bonus excursion to the village of Saqqara. There we saw the oldest stone structures in Egypt, the Step Pyramids 2700 BC, the tomb of Pharaoh Zoser, the Saqqara temple complex and a local rug weaving school. That evening at the opening reception and dinner the keynote speaker was Dr. Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian minister of Antiquities and world-renowned archaeologist.

January 6, 2019

January 7, 2019

The next day we visited the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and got a preview tour of the new Grand Egyptian Museum. We started at the largest pyramid the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu built between 2560 and 2580 BC. It is 481 feet high and the base is 756 feet square. It is constructed of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite. There are three other smaller pyramids in the complex, tombs of son and grandson of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure as well as pharaoh’s wives.

We then visited the Khufu ship which is an intact full-size vessel (143 feet long 19.6 feet wide) from ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid. The ship now is preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum.

Next Stop the Sphinx

The new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) under construction will be 5,000,2000 square feet, housing 125,000 artifacts. We did a preview tour of the construction and some of the exhibits under development.

Finally we toured the current Egyptian Museum

The first day ended with dinner Nile riverside with Professor Salima Ikram and students from American University in Cairo. Quite a first day.

January 8, 2019

We checked out of our hotel and go by bus through the chaotic Cairo traffic to the airport. On our way, we pass by miles of blighted buildings, evidence of a weak economy and/or failed government programs. We boarded our chartered Jet for the short flight to Luxor (Thebes in ancient times) on the Nile. We boarded our home for the next few days, the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer. After lunch, we explored the Temple complex of Karnak. The complex covers over 200 acres and was in constant expansion and use for over 2000 years. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. We visited the main restored area, that is connected by the avenue of the Sphinx. Other parts of the avenue are being excavated that connects to a secondary complex that we visited as the sun sets. The complex is across the Nile from the Tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens.

January 9, 2019

We crossed the Nile in local boats for our visit to the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. Specifically, we will visit King Tuts and Rameses VI Tomb as well as Queen Nefertari’s Tomb. We passed by Queen Nefertari’s Temple and the Colossi of Memnon. Whereas the Pharaohs in the north built pyramids to house their tombs in the south, they dug the burial chambers into the sandstone mountains. There are 62 tombs identified in the Valley of the Kings, numbered in the sequence of discovery. For more information about the Tombs go to http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/ The most famous is number 62 King Tuts, which contained a trove of artifacts, primarily because it was overlooked by tomb robbers. King Tut was historically a minor king since he lived only to age 19. In the afternoon we cruised south on the Nile to the next stop which is the city of Esna.

January 10, 2019

On our cruise to Esna, we got a good view of the Nile river valley, two things that strike you is how narrow the fertile area is adjacent the river and that every village has a mosque with a minaret usually broadcasting. In Esna, we focused on the Greco-Roman Temple of Khnum. The Temple was completed around 250 AD and features 24 beautifully decorated pillars and the walls covered with reliefs. On the western exterior façade, we saw reliefs showing the god Horus (god of Victory) as well as Khnum (god of creation). The surrounding site is being dug out and there are markets catering to tourists around the excavated temple site.

In the evening its dress like an Egyptian night, and after cocktails and dinner our boat crew introduces us to Egyptian dancing. FUN!!

January 11, 2019

Overnight we cruised to the city of Kom Ombo and in the morning visited the Temple with the same name. This Temple is for the worship of two gods, Sobek: the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon god. This is a classic temple design of the Greco Roman period but made up of two parallel temples. The design starts with huge entrance structures, opening into pillared courtyards, leading to the ceremonial chamber at the back of the complex.

We then had lunch as we sail to Aswan our last stop. After lunch, we go by bus to the Philae Temple, which was rescued from underwater. After a cofferdam was built it was dismantled (40,000 pieces) and moved then reassembled on nearby Agilkia island. We then experienced a sail on the traditional Egyptian sailing boat called a felucca. After the sail we had tea at the famous Cataract Hotel at sunset before returning to the Nile Adventurer. That evening we heard from Ambassador Karim Haggag regarding Egypt’s perspective of the U.S.

January 12, 2019

We left our floating hotel and boarded our chartered Jet to Abu Simbel, the site of the Abu Simbel Temples. The Temples were built by Ramses II one of the longest reining Pharaohs in 13 century BC. The walls depict the pharaoh in his various exploits and next door is the temple dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari. The temples were originally carved out of the mountainside. The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, to an artificial mountain high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir to save it from submersion in Lake Nasser, once the dam was complete.

We re-boarded our jet and flew to Cairo for our last night in Egypt. On the way in from the airport we had a special treat, a private tour of Abdeen Palace. The palace was built in 1863 by order of King Ismail. It was the scene of the bloodless Coup staged by the military that ousted the last Egyptian king Farouq I in 1952. The refurbished 500 room palace has been visited by heads of state and is not open to the public. Our group was the first, non-government group to receive a tour.

After the tour, we had our last dinner in Egypt at the U.S. Embassy. The next day some returned home or continued elsewhere on their own and we join the part of the group that continues on to Jordan.

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Florence/Tuscany 2018

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

Since we decided to got to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Associations European Migration in Rome we added a week in Tuscany. We arrived in Florance on Friday after a long flight with two stops, so the rest of the day was relaxing and do a little sightseeing then dinner at the hotel.  We stayed at a fantastic small boutique hotel right on the Piazza S. Maria Novella, and a short walk to the incredible Piazza Duomo (Religious Center). We had visited Florence before so we didn’t have to see the must-see tourist sights, so the plan was to soak in more of the culture and of course, partake of the great Tuscan food and wine. On Saturday we started the process with a “Culinary Tour of Florence”. Our delightful guide Barbra introduced us to everything from local truffle sandwiches, to finally Gelato, with lots of interesting things in between including tripe and local wines, olive oil, pastry, cheese, and on and on. We passed a steak restaurant where the minimum thickness is four fingers (three and a half inches) and rare is the only choice.  We continued our tour through the Medici seat of government and viewed the famous statues in the Piazza Signoria then over the famous Ponte Vecchio, once a meat market known for its smell and finally on to our gelato.  One interesting site is the Medici Justice statue, no blindfold, and a sword. The plaque essentially says “I’m Cosmos Medici and justice is in my eyes and I have the sword to carry it out”. We spent the afternoon walking off the morning calories doing more sightseeing including the Medici chapel/museum. The evening we dined at Il Cibreo a very special Florentine restaurant.

Our next day adventure started with a “Florentine Cooking Class” with our chef/teacher Laura of www.cookinginflorence.com. This turned out to be great fun and we learned and prepared brochette, Pici pasta, chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, and Terra Ma Sue. Then we added a little Tuscan wine, music by Boclli and we ate the whole thing for lunch. Delicious, educational and great fun.

A little more walking off the calories, then a tour “off the beaten path” by golf cart. Our guide, who was a delightful character, entertained us with little-known historical facts and hidden treasures of Florence.  One piece of Medici gossip was the fact that one married a Hapsburg daughter and they made sure everyone knew by decorating the city hall with Viennese scenes. We finished the golf cart tour high above Florence with a breathtaking view of the city, from S. Miniato al Monte. We then boarded a boat on the Arno for a sunset cruise. We finished the day with dinner at the 100-year-old family run restaurant, Bucas Mario, featuring traditional Florentine recipes.

The next day our driver guide Simon picked us up at the hotel and drove us into Tuscany. We first toured the lovely medieval hill-town of San Gimignano. We explored this walled town with perfectly preserved towers and building with a wonderful view of the countryside. We then drive to a winery for a relaxed lunch and wine tasting, (and buying) experience. After lunch, we meet our local guide in the beautiful city of Siena who takes us on a walking tour of this fabled medieval city, including the remarkable shell-shaped Piazza del Campo-home of the famous Palio horse race and Unique Gothic-Romanesque Duomo. Finally, we drive out into the countryside to our hotel/castle, Castello di Casole, where we will stay while in Tuscany. Our hotel turns out to be a real gem on a hill overlooking the beautiful countryside of Tuscany.

On Tuesday Simon picked us up at the hotel for a day of learning about Chianti wine. We Began with an excursion to Panzano, then a visit to a historic abbey cellar. We then had another light Tuscan lunch accompanied by Italian wines.

Wednesday our great driver/guide picked us up again and we were off to the town of Montalcino. Montalcino is important in that it is the capital of the legendary Brunello wine region. We explore the winding streets and medieval walls and fortress with a great view of the Tuscan hills. Brunello is made from Chianti grapes, but they produce a very different wine in this region. We then visit a local winery for a tour, tasting, and lunch. We add some Brunello to our cellar to accompany the Chianti we purchased earlier. After lunch we decide to visit one last village in Tuscany, Pienza, finishing our Tuscany exploration with a celebratory Gelato before heading back to our hotel for our last night dinner of real pizza and Tuscan wine.

Tuscany was wonderful, Culture, Food and Wine and wonderful places and people. Tomorrow we drive to Rome to meet flying friends and visit a great city. It will be hard to beat the unique ambiance and character of Tuscany. If it’s not obvious by now, we love Italy, Italian food, and Italian wine.


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by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

On Thursday, we were driven from Castello di Casole to Rome. It’s a beautiful drive and we arrived in time for lunch. Our hotel was the Marriott Park near the International Airport since the majority of those attending the European Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association “Migration” planned to fly in. I said planned because only five of the planes ended up having parking spots in Rome and the rest of the planes were spread all over Italy. Turns out we could have stayed downtown which would have been much more convenient. It was a fun three days, starting with a group dinner at the hotel, then the next day was a bus tour of Rome, lunch, then an afternoon to explore the city on foot. We took this opportunity to visit one of our favorite places the Piazza Navona, for a cool beverage and watching the daily spectacle. Friday evening was the Gala Dinner, then Saturday there were excellent seminars in the morning and after lunch an optional walking tour of the city and dinner. It was great to see old friends and make new ones while visiting one of the great cities of the world.

Sunday we flew back to the United States in what turned out to be a very long day due to flight delays. We finally got home and started the mandatory diet after a great ten days of food, wine, and culture, plus spending time with flying friends. It was a great experience.


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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

We embarked to China on May 5th, 2017 for a three week tour of China. The trip was organized by our friend Tony Huffman who employed Imperial Tours of China that turned out to be a great experience. We had a China host, Lotus Qi, who accompanied us for the entire three weeks and in each city a guide and in some cases special guides for a particular area. We stayed at great hotels, and had a private car and driver  in each location. I do not comment in each city about the food, but we ate at the best restaurants, mostly Chinese, but also international cuisine. We laughed at “another light Chinese lunch”, because every meal was a feast, orchestrated by our Chinese Foodie, Lotus. We had the best Pizza we ever had in China (Truffle Pizza) and the best French Toast. We ate our way through China. We also witnessed what has been called the “Chinese Economic Miracle”, which has produced an infrastructure now world class and the largest middle class in the world. I will save my comments of what I have learned about the Chinese system of Governing and the “Economic Miracle” for a separate blog that I will post later and just focus on the sights of China for now.

We arrived in Beijing and were met by Lotus and taken to the Peninsula Hotel. As we were descending into the area the first thing that struck us was the huge  number of high rise apartment buildings and how modern the Airport and other infrastructure was. Beijing is a city of twenty two million covering about one hundred square miles. We had a good flight, but having done this many many times, I concluded I’m getting old, won’t go work out right way. Our first day was spent touring Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City and doing a tour of the Hutong district of Beijing.

Across the street from Tian’anmen Square is the Forbidden City the Imperial Palace of the Emperors of China. This complex served as the home and seat of power for 24 emperors, their courts and harems from 1420 to 1924.


Of course we had a lunch of Peking Duck, which was great, but I said I would not obsess about the food but it was special having Peking Duck in Peking. We then did a tour of the Hutong, means alley ways, which was an exclusive neighborhood before the revolution.

On our second day in China, which was a Sunday, we visited The Temple of Heaven. This structure was build in 1420, using no nails, and was where the Emperor would visit twice a year for three days to meditate on the affairs of God and man. On the way to the Temple we visited an exercise park paid for by the Welfare Lottery, that’s right, no entitlements in China. We also witnessed mothers in the park soliciting wives for their sons, since the one child policy has produced a thirty million man surplus. Another example of unintended consequences when governments meddle in the peoples business.


After the Temple of Heaven we visited Beijing’s Art District that was created from a Cold War arms factory. This area was very lively and an impressive use of Factory 798.

On our last day in Beijing we visited the Summer Palace and then traveled out to the Great Wall. The Summer Palace was rebuilt in 1888 by the Empress Dowager Cixi and consists of 3000 buildings, gardens and ponds, around the man made Kunning Lake.

The Great Wall was built to protect China from predatory nomads, and is an impressive structure with questionable effectiveness. This again demonstrates that a government project is hard to stop once started. We saw the wall and were surprised to learn that a private luncheon was catered for us, on top of the wall.


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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

Xi’an is a modern city  of eight million people including a million students attending fifty universities. It is an agriculture center with both the Yellow and Yangtze  rivers flowing through the area. It is most know for the Terracotta Warriors, the 8,000 man army that Emperor Qin had built to serve him in the after life. The Qin dynasty (259 BC) was pivotal, as he was credited with unifying China into a single nation.  The Tomb and Warriors were discovered in 1976 and now have become a major tourist attraction in China. Xi’an was the place where the Silk Road began and today there remains a significant Muslim population. In addition to the Terracotta Warriors there is Shaanxi History Museum, that features the Tang Dynasty murals. The city itself is interesting in that the four mile wall around the historic central city remains intact.

We had another cultural experience in Xi’an, learning to make dumplings. We love Chinese dumpling, and now know that the Chinese should make the dumplings, but they are yummy. We also toured one of the few City Walls to survive the cultural revolution.

We toured the Muslim market and Mosque, a historic carryover from the trade silk road trade route that terminated in Xi’an.

The Mosque is in the Market area and when we visited there was a Muslim funeral service in progress.

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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

We visited Lhasa in Tibet, which is at twelve thousand feet. Our hotel was the Shangri La in Old Lhasa. New Lhasa has been built by the Chinese since their occupation. As with the rest of China, they have rebuilt the infrastructure around old Tibet and in this case moved in a lot of Chinese. What Tibet is all about is Buddhism with  ninety percent of the population practicing the faith, and they practice it hard.  We mainly visited monasteries, the Dali Lama’s Palaces, with some time spent in the market. Our guide was intent on converting us to Buddhism, but I flunked catechism so there was no hope. Our first visit was to was to the Jokhang Monastery then the Barkhor Sera Monastery and finally the debating gardens, where the monks debate philosophy daily. They seem to enjoy it. For me Tibet was mostly about the interesting images of the pilgrims and monks.

Our lunch on the first day was served on the mountainside overlooking New Lhasa.

Our second day was spent touring the Summer and Winter Palace of the Dali Lama (Currently exiled in India), so it’s for pilgrims and tourist. The Portala Palace (Winter Palace) sits on a hill over looking Old Lhasa, the summer palace is in Old Lhasa. The Buddhist scriptures are are too voluminous to read, so the faithful spin prayer wheels to absorb the meaning. The Temples and Palace are lit by Yak butter candles and there are contributions of money at virtually every stop made by the pilgrims. The summer palace grounds are used for family picnics and we were amused to see one family carrying a case of Budweiser beer of course made in China. The Chinese including the Tibetans are addicted to smart phones and we noted even the monks were head down communicating. The Chinese equivalent to Twitter or Facebook is called Wechat and has nine hundred million users.


On our last day in Tibet we visited the Ganden Monastery which was my penalty for flunking the first two day of Buddhism. It is at fourteen thousand four hundred feet above sea level and involved lots of hiking including a hike on a pilgrims trail (What am I doing this for?). On our way back we past through New Lhasa (very modern) and then in old Lhasa visited a typical Tibetan market area.

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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

Chengdu is a modern city although it has been inhabited for over 4000 years. It is the capital of Sichuan Province and is an area of agricultural abundance and wealth inhabited by 14.4 million. Chengdu is famous for the Giant Panda Institute, which we visited while staying at the  beautiful Temple House Hotel. Our first stop was at a Tauist (also known as Dauism) Temple on the way to the hotel. Dauism is a indigenous religion to China and we were treated to an explanation by one of the Monks, who took us into his living quarters, equipped with computer and TV as well as liqueur cabinet. Seemed like a sensible religion to us.

The second day we visited the famous Giant Panda Institute. As our guide said if they weren’t cute they would be long ago extinct. They eat non-nutritious bamboo which means they eat seventeen hours a day. They are not so good at reproduction, one of the problems being very bad eye sight.



Another is being fertile two to three days a year.  The  Panda Institute has kept them from extinction with 1800 world wide and 400 in captivity. To feed the Panda’s the Chines grow, cut and truck bamboo from the highlands every day. Each Panda consumes 40 to 80 pounds per day. They are cute.

While in Chengdu we visited the Sanxingdu Museum which exhibits the relics from a Bronze age civilization discovered near the city. Sanxingdu means three mounds, where in 1929 farmers discovered artifacts, and was rediscovered in 1986 which led to the excavation.  This advanced culture existed around 12 Century BC and the exhibit displays some remarkable pieces.

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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

Guilin is famous for the beautiful limestone formations that create the topography around the Banyan Tree Resort where we stay during our visit. We are actually outside of Guilin in the country near the village of Yangshou. During our stay we visit a village and learn about Tofu making from a delightful Chinese woman, visiting homes and seeing how the rural people of China live. Grand parents take care of working children’s children, so we got to meet a real China doll. We saw fields being plowed with water buffalo and cottage industry of mat making. The homes were new, constructed by the owners, the people we met were very friendly and welcoming. Despite China’s economic miracle 800 to 900 of the 1.35 billion Chinese still are peasants.

We then enjoyed the incredible scenery surrounding the Li River by rafting on a bamboo raft.

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by on Jun.30, 2017, under Happenings

Hangzhou was the capital of China during the Song dynasty which was a time of explosive innovation in the sciences and arts. It retains this special feeling with the city surrounding beautiful West Lake, where our hotel, the Four Seasons, was located. We start our first day learning about taichi, from a master, we then take a private gondola ride on the lake, while being serenaded by Guzheng (ancient Chines instrument)  player in another boat.

We toured a tea plantation and learned about tea growing and making. We toured the gardens of a wealthy Chines industrialist now a public tourist destination. We visited a Buddhist temple and saw a limestone rock face decorated with more than 3000 Buddhist effigies.

The Chinese have become the largest group of tourist on earth, both with China and abroad. In China they have shared bikes, millions of  bikes that you pay a initial fee ($15), then with your smart phone you locate the nearest bike, scan the code on the bike and use the bike and check out by smart phone and pay a small fee for use leaving the bike for the next user.

Finally, we were treated to a private lesson on the “Five Disciplines”, tea, incense, flower arrangement, music and calligraphy, those things a Hangzhou gentlemen were expected to excel in.

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