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More On Mao

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

We are grounded by the subway strike so have been reading more of the biography of Mao by authors Jung Chang, the author of the wonderful three-generation epic “Wild Swans,” and her British husband Jon Halliday.

What is especially interesting so far, is that this biography reveals much heretofor unknown information about Mao Tse Tung and the Cultural Revolution in China. Mao, for decades, held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world’s population and was responsible for “well over 60 million deaths in peacetime,” more than any other twentieth-century leader. He used terrorism to try to establish China as a world-wide military nuclear power and to seat himself as it’s leader. To do this he wanted to draw draw Russia and America into a world war. Russia, hoping to appease Mao, allowed him to start the Korean War…Korea’s Kim even taking his orders from Mao. Mao sent thousands and thousands of troops into Korea thinking the Americans would never know the difference between Chinese and Koreans…and he was ready to sacrifice untold millions of people. He knew the Americans wouldn’t tolerate the body bags. Stalin (“The Master”) held the line, but when Stalin died, Khrushchev pulled the plug.

The detail illustrates Mao’s premeditated cruelty unprecidented in modern history. The authors had access to the Russian archives, interviewed hundreds of key people that are still alive…Russians, Chinese, Americans and anyone else who had a role during this time.

Values in China are carried forward by the culture…not by any ethical or civic standard. I could feel reverberations of China’s past during our several months in the country.

“Taxation Without Representation”

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Taking a fast sleek train, we are visiting our country’s capitol city for a few days. “Taxation Without Representation” is written at the bottom of D.C. license plates here in the District of Columbia. Don’t know why DC’s fair citizens don’t have any representation in Congress, but we nevertheless enjoy their city.

The weather has been fantastic…sunny, clear and brisk. The trees have become a palette of fall colors. We are staying in a cute little Victorian bed and breakfast called Kalorama Guest House on Mintwood Place NW, (it’s on the web) around the corner from a slew of coffee shops (free internet at Tryst during the week) and ethnic restaurants full of thirty-somethings carrying computer bags and wearing official appearing ID tags. One overheard conversation: “…the working title of my book is The China Wars of 1871…” We think there are a lot of very highly educated people in this city but aren’t sure this is a good thing considering some of the policies coming out of this place.

But alas, our visit will be short. Tomorrow the Red Line of the clean plush subway train will take us from our neighborhood directly to Union Train Station…the most elegant we have seen anywhere in the world except maybe Victoria Station in Bombay..where we will catch our train back to Penn Station in Manhattan.

The gigantic government office buildings remind Bob and I of the utilitarian Nazi-built grey concrete buildings in the eastern sector of Berlin-what used to be East Germany. It occurs to me that at least our tax money hasn’t been spent on hegemonic architecture. But at least a few or more thousand people have jobs in this gigantic bureaucracy.

I spent two days at the National Archives digging up info on my great grandfather who spent 14 months in Confederate prisons, including Andersonville, while Bob roamed the city. We make fun of all the others walking around with cell phones glued to their ears but it’s a darn good thing we have them (cell phones and ears) or we’d still be looking for each other.

Revisionist history: Eisenhower was the first president to send “armed advisors” to Viet Nam. The last time I was in Washington I didn’t notice that the date engraved on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial…1955… was the date indicating the first death. But the pentagon has revised this date twice in the eighties, explained the park service guide…upping it to sometime in the 60’s. But once a date is engraved you just can’t mark it out with a black marker, the guide wryly remarked…

The city, full of irony, was laid out by, of all people, the same Frenchman who designed modern Paris. The J. Edgar Hoover building is exactly across the street from the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Building-the two men, of course, hating each other during their tenures. Washington was in the south at the time of the civil war and a bridge crosses the Potomac River, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, to connect the District of Columbia with Arlington Cemetery on land that was given the city by Robert E. Lee.

The Smithsonian Museums, set up by a foreign benefactor, are free and not to be missed. And the residence of the Vice-President was set up on U.S. Naval grounds in order to save taxpayer money by not having to build another palatial home.

But Bob and I looked at each other with not a little bewilderment when the hop-on- hop-off bus driver/tour guide told us that Washington D.C. had more species of trees than any other city in the world. We wondered how they figured this out.

Washington Heights

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
The "F" subway line, if you take it to the very end at the northern tip of Manhattan Island, lets you off in a Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. Everyone on the streets and in the stores were Spanish-speaking giving ... [Continue reading this entry]

Inconsistent Thai Values

Thursday, April 28th, 2005
After nearly a dozen visits and about six months time in the city, over the last several years, we have gotten to know Bangkok a little. In this city with a population of over 9 million people we can ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trekking Northern Thailand

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005
gatQye8keZlS3vpnwrOvxg-2006186163905868.gif As soon as we returned to Bangkok from Bali Bob took a train to Chiang Mai for a trek in northern Thailand near Mae Son Hong. I stayed in Bangkok to have some ... [Continue reading this entry]

Keeping Body and Soul Together

Friday, April 1st, 2005
In Bangkok we got a good deal for a month in a beautiful completely furnished apartment on a dead-end street in the upscale Saladaeng area...close to the Skytrain and the new subway that is running again after a recent accident. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Vibrant Bangkok

Friday, March 11th, 2005
Bangkok Air From Koh Samui to Bangkok again. Not a pretty city but it's vibrant. The populace, as with much of Asia, lives outdoors-almost all 10 million of them. It is increasingly cosmopolitan and this year seems ... [Continue reading this entry]

Miao Village In Guizhou

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171171225701.gif In Shanghai, exploring the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree web site, I noticed a query from a young woman from Kaili in Guizhou Province who was offering to arrange a homestay in a Miao minority ... [Continue reading this entry]

“No Foreigners Allowed”

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004
East China.gif Travelled last p.m. from Tengshau to Yangzhau--train left at 7 p.m.--reported to be a 10 hr ride--however was aroused at 2 a.m. by the train mother that it was time to get off--so ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lao Shan Mountain Climb

Sunday, October 31st, 2004
East China.gif Spent 3 days in Quin in new part of town, one in old town and one on a mountain north of town called Lao Shan--subsequently took train to Tai'an and climbed Tai ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kindred Spirits in Quindao

Saturday, October 30th, 2004
East China.gif Walking by the Foreign Language Bookstore in Quindao, just up the street from my comfy clean hotel room that a tout from the railroad station led me to...80 yuan she says..that's about ... [Continue reading this entry]

Overnight Train to Xuindao

Sunday, October 24th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171174607989.gif Xuindao is also spelled Quindao From Beijing, I take an overnight train alone to Quindao. Quindao is a weekend getaway for well-to-do Communist party cadres and the train is brand spanking shiny new. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Last Leg Through Mongolia

Thursday, October 14th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Out of the train window, just before departure from Ulaan Bataar to Beijing on the last leg of our trans-siberian train trip, we watch about 30 Mongolians...brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents and who ... [Continue reading this entry]

Message from Ulaan Bataar

Saturday, October 9th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Greetings- Have been in Mongolia for the past week--initial few days in a ger bordering on a national park--lazy, relaxing days with hiking and Mongolian pony riding (when on the horse my feet nearly reach ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lingering Images of Russia

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Siberian countryside with endless kilometers of grassland and golden pine and white birch trees... small wooden, weathered, unpainted, picturesque, single story bungalows throughout Sibera with blue painted shutters-the banya (toilet and shower) in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Grueling Border Wait

Friday, October 1st, 2004
The wait at the Russian-Mongolian border is a grueling 5-6 hour wait for customs to go through each carriage and take our passports, return to the office to fill out forms and then return with our passports. Olga takes ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Tajik and Olga

Thursday, September 30th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif The Tajik and Olga In Irkutsk, when we find our seats on the train to Ulaan Baatar, we find a good-looking 40 year old Muslim man from Tajikistan in our cabin. He has studied ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hiking Olkhon Island

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004
Urr0g6ZfQ7ttYL19duYJfg-2006170133924757.gif Back at Nikita's "resort" I spend half a day taking care of monkey business while Bob goes hiking around the island. It is the end of September but Siberia lives up to it's ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanging Out On Olkhon Island

Sunday, September 26th, 2004
Urr0g6ZfQ7ttYL19duYJfg-2006170133924757.gif After hanging out a couple days...glad to be off the train...Gregory, a former University teacher of German, drove Bob and I, three Germans and a Pole on a half-day excursion to the north of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Irkutsk…”Paris of the East”

Friday, September 24th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Off the train again, we dump our luggage at Nadia's, our homestay and look for a cafe where there just might be an English menu. We find one...not too expensive...that looks full of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Goodbye to Vladamir

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004
Vladamir makes crying motions with his fingers running down his cheeks as we prepare to leave him on the train. Astrakhan in 2--5 he writes on a piece of paper...Astrakhan in 2005 we say to him as he helps ... [Continue reading this entry]

To Irkutsk With Vladamir

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif The evening we are to leave Yekaterinburg on the train, Bob loses his change purse containing a credit card getting out of a mini-bus. Olga's son drives us in his car to the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hot Train Carriages

Monday, September 20th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Most carriages are of East German origin solidly built and warm in winter. Each carriage is staffed by an attendant whose "den" is a compartment at the end of the carriage. She ... [Continue reading this entry]

To Siberia & Lake Baikal

Saturday, September 18th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Video We boarded a Moscow train at midnight. We are headed across Russia on the trans-siberian train system. However we will be breaking up the trip by getting off in Yekaterinburg and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Free-Wheeling Moscow

Saturday, September 18th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Video 2004-09 Like in the big Central European cities we visited, there are cranes everywhere... old soviet buildings built during the Stalin era are scheduled to be razed and new one modern ones put up. ... [Continue reading this entry]

In The Metro Never To Return

Saturday, September 18th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Our homestay in Moscow is in the "burbs." Tanya works for a French men's underwear company and later admits that her son is the wholesaler and she works for him under the table. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ancestral Village In Poland

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004
Ancestral Poland.gif We take local electric trains three hours north from Warsaw to Ostroda where we book into the Park Hotel on a lovely lake that caters to German-speaking tourists many of whom are ... [Continue reading this entry]

Krakow Poland

Tuesday, August 24th, 2004
EHcDvLBEX5UlHHY96lAFi0-2006185062720933.gif We are out of the unusually hot and humid Czech Republic. After an all night train we are in cool Krakow Poland. We accept an offer by a young English speaking man ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ripped Off In Prague

Friday, August 13th, 2004
NikaFEAe66TwIiJDaeZZ7w-2006198180634090.gif My medications, that had gotten held up in Custums in Frankfurt, finally arrived in Berlin via fedex. We had planned on taking the train through Austria and Hungary but now we are ... [Continue reading this entry]

U-2 in Berlin

Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Coming up out of the U-2 line of the Zoo railway station and thinking of course of the Irish rock band we enter now-rich, Western, happening Berlin. We pore over maps trying to get our bearings ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, January 8th, 2003
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Bob and I said goodbye to Jana who would leave later in the day on a train to Shanghai and then home from Hong Kong. The next day we took a train to ... [Continue reading this entry]

New Years in Chengdu

Tuesday, December 31st, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif The sleeper train from Kunming to Chengdu takes about 18 hours and passes through more than 200 tunnels. It took 10 years to build the railroad...mostly by political prisoners...and looking through the train ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ruili China

Saturday, December 28th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Coming down out of the mountains we were happy to see Ruili lying in the green lush valley below...a larger city than I thought...a Chinese/Burma border town with a mix of Han Chinese, minorities ... [Continue reading this entry]

End of the Burma Road

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Sunday Dec 1-3 2002 Arrived at Kunming from Guilin after 23 hours on the train. We had gained considerable elevation throughout the night. We took a taxi to the Camellia Hotel where ... [Continue reading this entry]


Saturday, November 30th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Friday November 29 2002 The annual Fish Festival began today. The fish festival celebrates the Cormorant fisher birds who dive for fish from fishermen's boats they perch on but because of their small throats ... [Continue reading this entry]

To Guangzhou China

Friday, November 22nd, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Friday November 22 2002 Hong Kong to Guangshou Across the street to noodle shop for breakfast. Sat with woman who worked as a buyer for a British department store & whose English was very ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hong Kong

Wednesday, November 20th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Wednesday November 20 2002 We flew to Hong Kong from Bangkok on China Airways at 3pm...a one hour time change. We noticed the metal spoon and fork that came with our food service ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, September 25th, 2002
KtJTxGv4eiozwJxI0Lb6qM-2006216170118412.gif September 24 2002 Bob left Hanoi right away on the train for Sapa near the Chinese border to do some trekking among the colorful minority villages and then to spend three days in Halang Bay ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kalaw…British Hill Station

Thursday, August 29th, 2002
Burma.gif In a monsoon rainstorm we climbed off the train in this cool wooded hill station built during the British occupation. The locals laughed (with me) at my little paper sun umbrella I carried that ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, August 28th, 2002
Burma.gif We took a taxi back over the mountain from Tounggye to Schwenguan where we were to catch a train for the three hour ride through beautiful terraced rice fields and vegetable patches to Kalaw-a ... [Continue reading this entry]

New Delhi

Saturday, July 27th, 2002
July 27-30 The hotel arranged to have us taken to the railway station in their car for the 6am train to Delhi, so at 5am the streets are full already and workers are queued up at the tea stalls for breakfast. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Images of Egypt

Friday, April 26th, 2002
All we have to offer regarding Egypt are images.Very little understanding. We were open; wanted to understand, feeling generous and happy. Smiling. Saying hello to everyone. Thinking we were making we have only flashes of ambiguous feeling... When Americans ... [Continue reading this entry]

Stuck In A Train In Napflion

Wednesday, April 10th, 2002
pjSwKsKjPzr5gOYYAx9PKM-2006172105126681.gif Train Trip to Nafplion The next morning we walked to Syntagma Plaza to took the metro to the port at Piraeus for departure to some of the Greek islands by ferry. But we had just ... [Continue reading this entry]

St. Peter’s House

Tuesday, April 9th, 2002
The Vatican City, one of the most sacred places in Christendom, attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, April 8th, 2002
"Italy will return to the splendors of Rome, said the major. I don't like Rome, I said. It is hot and full of fleas. You don't like Rome? Yes, I love Rome. Rome is the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Serendipity Florence

Friday, April 5th, 2002
Well, we are in Florence, by serendipity, on April 5, 2002. By that I mean that we were on the train from Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera headed to Siena when we realized we would be going through Florence ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cinque Terre

Monday, April 1st, 2002
k08zEG1a840cNznVAe7p30-2006172142756225.gif Took a train to the Cinque Terre (Five Lands..or villages) area on the northern Italian Riviera. The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The ... [Continue reading this entry]

Avignon France

Thursday, March 28th, 2002
knQlFSdvbI6pWFyrlGKiaM-2006172135618873.gif Took the train from Barcelona to Avignon in the Provence area in the south of France. Stayed at Hotel Mignon on rue Joseph-Vernet. Cute little French hotel room but the smallest loo ... [Continue reading this entry]

The New Young Brits

Saturday, March 23rd, 2002
In the train, before crawling into my compartment, I stood out in the hall and had a great conversation with a bright energetic young Brit (Richard) attending Cambridge. He had been traveling by himself on college break all ... [Continue reading this entry]

Spanish Trains

Friday, March 8th, 2002
Spanish trains have compartments with room for six people. Luckily ours had two young Swiss girls that we recruited, a young guy from Japan that was studying Spanish in Salamanca for a few months but going to Portugal for ... [Continue reading this entry]