Tuesday, July 05, 2005

China Conference and a Breath of Fresh Air

Conferencing is hard work! I have not had a chance since we arrived to really sit down and enter anything into this blog – there are just too many interesting and necessary thins to attend to.

We left at the Bangkok Airport about 3 hours before our flight departure, only to find that we went to the wrong terminal (domestic) and needed to take a shuttle bus to the International Terminal. I was unclear on this since our flight had a stop in Chaingmai,. Standing in line to check in we soon found ourselves surrounded by several other conference participants. Dallen fom Arizona State University and Brent from the University of Otago walked up behind us and as we were chatting, Ed and Linda from California State University Northridge introduced themselves (I had not met them before) in front of us. Soon others started appearing, and by the time we had made our way to the boarding gate most of the 16 participants had touched bases with me. About half were people I was meeting for the first time, while the other half were what I consider old friends. By the time we boarded a bus to go to the plane, all had arrived.

I got some pretty good shots of the central Thailand landscape and the Chao Phraya River from the airplane. Dallen and Brent sat behind my son and I on the plane. We had a hard time visualizing where we were and when we were crossing the Myanmar-Thai border with the lack of a detailed map. Dallen guessed that a river we were flying over was the border and asked a stewardess, who confirmed that he was correct by asking the captain. North of the river we finally entered some serious mountain country, which proved to be quite spectacular with clouds and rainbows floating above dense green vegetation below. Occasionally we passed through a cloud, which typically resulted in some heavy turbulence.

At the Jinghong airport we walked across the tarmac to the small airport terminal. The air was crisp, clean and clear, with great visibility. I felt invigorated. In the terminal, I disposed of some Lychee fruit from Bangkok and some pork jerky from Singapore before going through customs. It probably was not necessary to do so, though they did mention on the plane that these were not allowed. As we left the building we were greeted by music and dancing girls in traditional dress who were here specifically for our group. It turned out that we actually had 17 participants on our plane, as an American Student (Mary) who was studying Thai in Thailand, joined the flight in Chiangmai. She was a late addition and the organizers did not get my email hat she would be on the flight (which I had completely forgotten myself),

I was a bit taken aback by the conference hotel. It was a three-star hotel, which I knew from the hotel’s website. And it lived up to its star rating! I was hoping for something a little bit better. The ai conditioner just barely is able to handle the afternoon heat of Jinghong. They are having a drought and the summer rains, which cool things down, have not arrived. Instead, the afternoons are very hot – like an over. The bathrooms are in serious need of an upgrade, and some participants have told me that the beds were the most firm that they have ever slept on – which is the norm for a Chinese-oriented hotel. Few of the staff speak English, but they are most willing to be helpful. I asked a Chinese student if this was the best hotel in Jinghong and he said he did not think so. However, every time he has been here (through work with Sun Yatsen University) he has stayed at this hotel, so they must have good connections with the local governments – who is a major sponsor of this event.

More than half of the international participants arrived on the 15th, either on our flight or on later flights. It was good to catch up with old friends and meet new ones – man of which I had gotten to know by email in preparing for the conference. To my surprise, the conference provided us early arrivals with breakfast, lunch and dinner – all of which were very good. Chinese style meals.

The photo below is from our airplane approaching Jinghong. The hills are covered with rubber trees and everything is incredibly green!


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