[My brother Joe lives in Guam and travels all over that part of the world whenever he gets vacation. Right now he’s off to China, and he’s letting me post some of the travelogue notes he’s sending out. Pretty interesting stuff.]

Post 3, China:

“Facts: There are more school children in China than the population of the entire US. Yunnan Province is almost the population of the US. There is exactly one roll of toilet paper in the Peoples Republic of China, and though I haven’t sighted it yet some could argue that it is the greatest sought after tourist attraction. Almost half of the population of China are cultural minorities (other than Han Chinese).

I arrived to a few days ago and its been a magic carpet ride. The city of Kunming is at 1780M altitude and a very cool 16 C, (awesome after Bangkok’s 37C inferno). Immigration was very formal, SARS exam and all… No forex’s open so I hit a cash machine on the way out the door and got loads of Yuan, no problem.

Many people speak decent Chinglish around the bigger hotels and hostels. The city is immaculately clean. I walked for hours yesterday and found exactly two pieces of trash on the street (which were gone by the time I got my camera to take a picture…). That was about the number of white people I saw too. 😉

The food is awesome of course–half of it I can’t figure out what is in it, but it tastes great. There is a beer that you mix from a plant you can pick, lots of mountain food and tasty mixes of grains rolled in pastes with exotic oils that they barbeque on grills. Oh yeah, they are crazy about the barbecued goat cheese, too.

People are extremely pleasant. Smiles everywhere, and the few children that are here are awestruck by anglo-looking people. I met two women at a restaurant my first night who work for a shipping company that has a few American clients. We’ve been hanging out and will be going to a lake tomorrow and Saturday where a town was flooded in an earthquake and is 30 meters below. Shirley is a diver, so we will dive it while Whitney relaxes.

Somewhere here is the house of Zheng He, the eunuch admiral that headed the Dongle expedition of 1421 when the Chinese developed latitude reckoning and mapped the entire world 300 years before the Europeans. His maps are what Magellan, Cook, and Columbus used to sail the “unknown.” A rudder from a flagship was recently found in Nanjing and it was 40M high. Almost bigger than the biggest ship in the western hemisphere. The Chinese imperial fleet that sailed that year were 1000 ships of teak, double planked, with cannons on the bow, capable of crushing the combined naval forces of the world at the time. So whatever happened to China then? The answer will soon be revealed after meditation at the largest Buddha in the world at Leshan in Sichuan Sunday, and Tibet on Tuesday.”