TomTom  Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative.  Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area.  Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here!  I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.  Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative.  Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area.  Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here!  I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.

When Tom agreed to become part of our small select product review team I was both excited and grateful.  I hope you enjoy this and future reviews by Tom.  For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books.  Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: tomsds@austin.rr.com

 

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This is a running blog of Tom’s travels in China.  I’ll update this over the next 4-5 weeks of his travels as he sends in updates.  This is ordered in a “top down”  format, the latest material will be on top, the oldest on the bottom.  Please leave any comments of questions for Tom in the comment fields below.  He’ll get to them as soon as he can.

 

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Dispatches from China 7-19 Zhengzhou

By 6am I was wide awake, which is not too bad considering the time lag

Fang got up and we decided to go to the park to see if we could find her father who leads Tai Chi Practice in the morning.

The park was very much alive with all sorts of activity.  It was utilized far more than green spaces in the west.  It was very common to see groups of people doing dancing practice, Tai Chi or other light exercises.

 

The park was very much alive with all sorts of activity.  It was utilized far more than green spaces in the west.  It was very common to see groups of people doing dancing practice, Tai Chi or other light exercises.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/120th  ISO 200

 

We never did find Fangs dad but we enjoyed roaming through the park. It was quite scenic and I took plenty of pictures.

 

We never did find Fangs dad but we enjoyed roaming through the park. It was quite scenic and I took plenty of pictures.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/110th  ISO 200

 

One of the more interesting things was old men working on their calligraphy with a water brush.  They had a large broom sized brush that they would dip in water and then “write” on the sidewalk.

 

One of the more interesting things was old men working on their calligraphy with a water brush.  They had a large broom sized brush that they would dip in water and then “write” on the sidewalk.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/40th  ISO 200

 

One of the more interesting things was old men working on their calligraphy with a water brush. They had a large broom sized brush that they would dip in water and then “write” on the sidewalk.

 

Being a pedestrian is less stressful than being a driver.  At least as a pedestrian you can take your time when making those life and death decisions about crossing the road.  Drivers have it rammed upon them constantly.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/210gh  ISO 200

 

Being a pedestrian is less stressful than being a driver.  At least as a pedestrian you can take your time when making those life and death decisions about crossing the road.  Drivers have it rammed upon them constantly.

We spotted a street vendor selling some type of pancake and decided to partake.  Wasn’t all that great.

 

We spotted a street vendor selling some type of pancake and decided to partake.  Wasn’t all that great.

Fuji x100  @F16  1/30h  ISO 200

 

Our plan for the day was to go visit hospital that Wan-Ching, a friend of Fangs works for.  Then head back to the apartment.  When we got to the hospital Thomas had a follow up with a doctor about the cough he had been having.  I got to be checked out via Ultrasound as that was the Wan-Ching’s specialty.

 

Our plan for the day was to go visit hospital that Wan-Ching, a friend of Fangs works for.  Then head back to the apartment.  When we got to the hospital Thomas had a follow up with a doctor about the cough he had been having.  I got to be checked out via Ultrasound as that was the Wan-Ching’s specialty.

Fuji x100  @F4  1/30th  ISO 1000

 

I’m happy to report that there were no real concerns after the test.

After the checkup there was a change of plans.  Kang-Fung, Wan-Ching’s husband was going to play chauffeur and drive us around.

 

After the checkup there was a change of plans.  Kang-Fung, Wan-Ching’s husband was going to play chauffeur and drive us around.

Fuji x100  @F9  1/1000th  ISO 200

 

We loaded up in Microvan and hit the town.

The first place we went was a “restort” community.  It was a master planned development outside of town for the monied class.  You pretty much had to have a car (which most Chinese don’t) to live there or visit the park.  I had a lot of thoughts about the place but those will have to wait.  The park itself was very large and covered with vegetation.  It was low density, quiet and fairly well kept.

 

The first place we went was a “restort” community.  It was a master planned development outside of town for the monied class.  You pretty much had to have a car (which most Chinese don’t) to live there or visit the park.  I had a lot of thoughts about the place but those will have to wait.  The park itself was very large and covered with vegetation.  It was low density, quiet and fairly well kept.

Fuji x100  @F9  1/250th  ISO 200

 

Along one strip of the park they had some scenes in miniature.  We checked out a section that was modeled after the Forbidden City.  It was neat but kind of treacherous, those little stairs were surprisingly hard to negotiate.

 

Along one strip of the park they had some scenes in miniature.  We checked out a section that was modeled after the Forbidden City.  It was neat but kind of treacherous, those little stairs were surprisingly hard to negotiate.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/105th  ISO 200

 

After that we went to another section which looked to be a recreation of some Buddhist monument.  It was pretty cool.  They had an old lady selling incense and giving a little bit of religious advice.

 

After that we went to another section which looked to be a recreation of some Buddhist monument.  It was pretty cool.  They had an old lady selling incense and giving a little bit of religious advice.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/220th  ISO 200

 

After that we headed out in search of a Tower that dominated the scenery.

 

After that we headed out in search of a Tower that dominated the scenery.

Fuji x100  @F9  1/500th  ISO 200

 

We found it eventually, but it like the others was needing a new paint job and some other maintenance.

After the Park we headed back into town, well another edge of it.  We swung by the campus of Zhengzhou University, the big provincial Uni that both Fang and Wan-Ching went to.  The Uni had opened a new campus and it was both spacious and impressive.

 

After the Park we headed back into town, well another edge of it.  We swung by the campus of Zhengzhou University, the big provincial Uni that both Fang and Wan-Ching went to.  The Uni had opened a new campus and it was both spacious and impressive.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/1400th  ISO 200

 

We drove around a bit, they had some interesting designs on their buildings.

 

We drove around a bit, they had some interesting designs on their buildings.

Fuji x100  @F9  1/320th  ISO 200

 

After the Uni it was lunch time.  We met up with Wan-Ching and a friend of hers.  We went to this really cool restaurant that was for lack of a better description a restaurant in a small forest.

 

After the Uni it was lunch time.  We met up with Wan-Ching and a friend of hers.  We went to this really cool restaurant that was for lack of a better description a restaurant in a small forest.

Fuji x100  @F4  1/30th  ISO 1250

 

It had a deep fish pond and brewed its own beer.  Pretty cool place.  The spread we ate was excellent as well.   The picture doesn’t even show it all.

 

It had a deep fish pond and brewed its own beer.  Pretty cool place.  The spread we ate was excellent as well.   The picture doesn’t even show it all.

Fuji x100  @F4  1/30th  ISO 800

 

I thought their bacon presentation was especially interesting.

 

d16

Fuji x100  F2  1/30th  ISO 320

 

After a very filling meal we went to another park for the kids to run around in.  We chatted a while and then drove around town some more.

Driving around town was its own trip.  Last time I had been shocked by how much development had taken place.  This time I was shocked that it was still continuing at an amazing rate.  Mile after Mile everywhere we went huge buildings were rising from the plane

 

Austin has maybe a dozen 30+ story buildings, most of them very recent.  In Zheng Zhou they have more than that in one development.

Fuji x100  @F9  1/400th   ISO 200

 

Austin has maybe a dozen 30+ story buildings, most of them very recent.  In Zheng Zhou they have more than that in one development.

Not only was it impressive to see what was going up but seeing what has been put up as well.

 

Not only was it impressive to see what was going up but seeing what has been put up as well.

Fuji x100  @F6.3  1/500th  ISO 200

 

The developments seemed endless.

After being totally blown away we headed back into town.  Thomas and Emily had a doctor’s appointment for some type of treatment of their cough.  On the way back we walked through another park.

There was lots going on but among the most interesting was a Judo class.

 

There was lots going on but among the most interesting was a Judo class.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/100th  ISO 400

 

On the way back from that we went through a pedestrian underpass which was decked out like a bookstore.  Just kind of odd to see people biking through a bookstore like that.

 

On the way back from that we went through a pedestrian underpass which was decked out like a bookstore.  Just kind of odd to see people biking through a bookstore like that.

Fuji x100  @F2.8  1/30th  ISO 800

 

We made it back the apartment, had dinner and a shower.

As I write this I am struggling to stay awake.  All and all I’ve adjusted to the time better than I expected, well I hope so anyway.

Until Next Time..

 

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Notes on the Run, 7-18

When the time came I went down to the gate to board the Flight from Incheon to Zhengzhou.  For some reason there were a lot of young girls (around 8yrs old) on this flight.  They were a group and probably were coming back from some type of competition or show.  There were at least 20 of them.

 

When the time came I went down to the gate to board the Flight from Incheon to Zhengzhou.  For some reason there were a lot of young girls (around 8yrs old) on this flight.  They were a group and probably were coming back from some type of competition or show.  There were at least 20 of them.

Nikon D300  35mm F1.8  @F3.2  1/40th  ISO 1600

 

Boarding the flight was a bit more chaotic than other times but soon I was in my seat.  There was a young boy who seemed related to the troop of girls in some way and his dad.  Both of them were pretty tired as not long after we took off they both passed out.

The food was not memorable but the service was very good.  The flight staff seemed more attentive and engaged than most.  The flight to Zhengzhou took a bit over 2 hours, it actually arrived early.

I got out of the airport and headed towards customs and immigration.  The lady manning the immigration desk spoke passable English and after a few minutes I was on my way.  I picked up my luggage and headed toward the exit. Fang and both kids were there.

It was good to see them and they were happy to see me.  Thomas was especially thrilled, I had to peel him off me on a few occasions.

 

Boarding the flight was a bit more chaotic than other times but soon I was in my seat.  There was a young boy who seemed related to the troop of girls in some way and his dad.  Both of them were pretty tired as not long after we took off they both passed out.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8  @F7.1  1/40th  ISO 320

 

A relative of a friend of Fangs had brought them to the airport.  We met up with him and loaded up the car and headed out.  While I had not forgotten what a thrill Chinese traffic was it had been a while since I had the up close and personal experience.  It was a mess.

 

A relative of a friend of Fangs had brought them to the airport.  We met up with him and loaded up the car and headed out.  While I had not forgotten what a thrill Chinese traffic was it had been a while since I had the up close and personal experience.  It was a mess.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F10  1/80th ISO 400

 

Today the weather was very, very overcast.  Going home we went past towering monuments of China’s rapid development.  They were like dark shadows emerging from the smog in their grandeur.

 

Today the weather was very, very overcast.  Going home we went past towering monuments of China’s rapid development.  They were like dark shadows emerging from the smog in their grandeur.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F5.0 1/5000th ISO 500

 

We passed a large park with a large ferris wheel.

 

We passed a large park with a large ferris wheel.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F5.0 16400th ISO 500

 

We went through the “new” section of town that was still growing.  Massive blocks of housing were still rising out of the ground.

 

We went through the “new” section of town that was still growing.  Massive blocks of housing were still rising out of the ground.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F5.6  1/3200th ISO 6400

 

Cars were everywhere, sedans were the rule, though they still had a smattering of trucks and buses.  I even saw a Subaru Tribeca.

 

Cars were everywhere, sedans were the rule, though they still had a smattering of trucks and buses.  I even saw a Subaru Tribeca.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F8  1/100th ISO 400

 

In honor of the fact that I had flown through Korea, and because I’m just that kind of guy we elected for our first meal in China to be Korean food to treat our driver.  It was some good stuff.

 

In honor of the fact that I had flown through Korea, and because I’m just that kind of guy we elected for our first meal in China to be Korean food to treat our driver.  It was some good stuff.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8  @F2.5  1/800th ISO 800

 

In honor of the fact that I had flown through Korea, and because I’m just that kind of guy we elected for our first meal in China to be Korean food to treat our driver.  It was some good stuff.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F3.2 1/40th ISO 1600

 

After lunch, we got home, I played with the kids for a while and then took a 3 hour nap.

We got up and went to go eat more food. This time it was Roast Duck . Mighty tasty.

 

We got up and went to go eat more food. This time it was Roast Duck . Mighty tasty.

Nikon D300, 35mm F1.8 @F3.2 1/25th ISO 800

 

Tired and full we went back to the apartment. I took a sleeping pill to help me adjust to the time and was about by 11:30.

 

Until Next Time..

 

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Dispatches From China – 7-16 The Flight Over

Made it to the airport and through Austin Security without incident.  Went to gate 14 with some time to kill.  Saw some interesting innovation, the Best Buy Express.  A Kiosk where you could pick up your electronics at last minute.  They were not bottom of the line stuff either.

 

Made it to the airport and through Austin Security without incident.  Went to gate 14 with some time to kill.  Saw some interesting innovation, the Best Buy Express.  A Kiosk where you could pick up your electronics at last minute.  They were not bottom of the line stuff either.

 

After that I went to board the plane and said Farewell to Austin.

 

After that I went to board the plane and said Farewell to Austin.

 

Today I was travelling on American Airlines

 

Today I was travelling on American Airlines

 

After takeoff I got some good views of the south of the city,  Even got to see Barton Springs Mall from the Air (the white Cross shaped building in the lower left) as well as downtown.

 

After takeoff I got some good views of the south of the city,  Even got to see Barton Springs Mall from the Air (the white Cross shaped building in the lower left) as well as downtown.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/160th   ISO 200

 

It was a good day and we had broken clouds throughout most of the flight.  Got a lot of shots of the clouds.

 

It was a good day and we had broken clouds throughout most of the flight.  Got a lot of shots of the clouds.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/600th  ISO 200

 

There were even some interesting cloud formations.

 

There were even some interesting cloud formations.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/550th  ISO 200

 

I was impressed by the size and handling of the Fuji.  Much easier to use through the window than a loaded DSLR with zoom lens.  For the most part the fixed focal length was ok.

The only problem with is that the low battery indicator came on!  I was pretty sure I charged the thing up before packing, but for whatever reason it was low.  This was a little disconcerting.  So I switched over to the Nikon D300 with the 35mm F1.8 lens.  While not as easy to use the effective focal length of 50mm proved to be a better for out of the window shots.

I got some more cloud pictures with the D300.

 

The only problem with is that the low battery indicator came on! I was pretty sure I charged the thing up before packing, but for whatever reason it was low.  This was a little disconcerting.  So I switched over to the Nikon D300 with the 35mm F1.8 lens.  While not as easy to use the effective focal length of 50mm proved to be a better for out of the window shots.

 

There were some nice shots to be had.

 

There were some nice shots to be had.

 

In addition to the clouds you could see the ground pretty well and there were interesting formations there as well.

 

In addition to the clouds you could see the ground pretty well and there were interesting formations there as well.

Nikon D300  35mm F1.8  @F8  1/125th  ISO 200

 

Coming into LA we saw the mountains in the sunset.  It was pretty.

 

Coming into LA we saw the mountains in the sunset. It was pretty.

 

 

We descended over the city through the clouds.  The clouds were like little puffballs.

 

We descended over the city through the clouds.  The clouds were like little puffballs.

Nikon D300  35mm F1.8  @F3.5  1/100th  ISO 800

 

I remember the last time through LA it was the same, except it was night and they were glowing puffballs.

We landed in LA without incident just before dark.

 

We landed in LA without incident just before dark.

Nikon D300  35mm F1.8  @F3.5  1/320th  ISO 800

 

After arriving I made my way to the international terminal, grabbed a hot dog and started to work on documenting all this as I had 4 hours to kill.

The other parts will not be so detailed but for now I have more time than experience.

 

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Dispatches From China – 7-16-11 – Austin

Today was the day I headed out for my latest China Adventure.  My mom came over to help pack and take me to the airport.  She said she would treat me for my last meal stateside for a while.  I thought about it and being the kind of guy I am I elected to have some Thai Food.  So we went to Satay for a light meal and some yummy Thai Iced Tea.  While we were there I recognized the waitress as someone whom I had met in the bank earlier that morning.  We got to talking and she suggested we go to the local Thai temple to take some pictures.  They were having some candle festival today.

I didn’t know Austin had a Thai Temple and as luck would have it the location is out by the airport.  SO I figured we’d check the place out on the way.  After all I was loaded up and ready to take on anything China would photographically throw at me, so why not.  We got there and I reached into my bag that was brimming with camera gear and thought to myself, what should I shot this with?  There really was only one choice, the Fuji FX100.  Its one of the hottest cameras in existence and I’ve never seen any camera turn out images that smooth and sharp, even if I was limited to the 35mm fixed focal length.  I had to give it a try.

I was expecting something a bit more ornate, but this is probably the local budget version of a temple.

 

I didn’t know Austin had a Thai Temple and as luck would have it the location is out by the airport.  SO I figured we’d check the place out on the way.  After all I was loaded up and ready to take on anything China would photographically throw at me, so why not.  We got there and I reached into my bag that was brimming with camera gear and thought to myself, what should I shot this with?  There really was only one choice, the Fuji FX100.  Its one of the hottest cameras in existence and I’ve never seen any camera turn out images that smooth and sharp, even if I was limited to the 35mm fixed focal length.  I had to give it a try.

 

 

But they had it going on. There was a monk out there doing the blessing thing.

 

The Festival today involved candles.  You would take a piece of wax, put it in a large pot to melt and then take a ladle full of the hot wax and pour it into a large communal candle form.  The symbolism and simplicity of that ceremony was very easy, yet deep.

 

The Festival today involved candles.  You would take a piece of wax, put it in a large pot to melt and then take a ladle full of the hot wax and pour it into a large communal candle form.  The symbolism and simplicity of that ceremony was very easy, yet deep.

Gayle being a total stranger to all this was nervous and afraid of committing some religious or cultural Faux Paux.  She soon discovered what I had discovered years ago, that the Thai are a very laid back and friendly people.  We stood there for a few minutes watching what was going on when a Thai lady came over and helped us get involved.  She explained what we were supposed to do.  So we went with the flow.

 

Gayle being a total stranger to all this was nervous and afraid of committing some religious or cultural Faux Paux.  She soon discovered what I had discovered years ago, that the Thai are a very laid back and friendly people.  We stood there for a few minutes watching what was going on when a Thai lady came over and helped us get involved.  She explained what we were supposed to do.  So we went with the flow.

 

Gayle took the first stab at dropping the wax in and doing the ladle thing.

 

After that it was my turn. Two scoops each into the candle. In the end it would produce a very large candle that would burn for who knows how long.

 

After that it was my turn.  Two scoops each into the candle.  In the end it would produce a very large candle that would burn for who knows how long.

 

After that we chatted with the friendly Thai lady.  She encouraged us to go check out the Sanctuary and then the food that was available on the Temple Grounds.

 

After that we chatted with the friendly Thai lady.  She encouraged us to go check out the Sanctuary and then the food that was available on the Temple Grounds.

We went into the Sanctuary.  Like all things Thai it had a lot of bling going on.

 

We went into the Sanctuary.  Like all things Thai it had a lot of bling going on.

 

Lots to take in.  We didn’t have a lot of time so we headed over to the food section.  I recognized a lot of stuff but for Gayle this was a whole new experience.

 

We got some sticky rice in banana leaves and afew other tidbits.  Then we went to the main hall.  She picked up some coconut mango rice and rice noodles with coconut milk and syrup.

 

We got some sticky rice in banana leaves and afew other tidbits.  Then we went to the main hall.  She picked up some coconut mango rice and rice noodles with coconut milk and syrup.

 

After that it was time to head back to the airport. I took a parting shot of the temple.

 

After that it was time to head back to the airport.  I took a parting shot of the temple.

 

It was a unique experience, my adventure to China started off with a visit to a Thai Temple because I decided to go for some Thai food.  And to think I almost ate Mexican.

 

Now that I know where it is we will be back for some other holidays.

It was a unique experience, my adventure to China started off with a visit to a Thai Temple because I decided to go for some Thai food.  And to think I almost ate Mexican.

Till Next Time…