Photo Travel: Return to China 2015

gunnar chinaSixty years ago I got my first taste of Asia, and of photography. What an exciting and impressionable summer it was, before returning for my second year in “prison” at Missouri Military Academy.

Because my father was living and working in Taipei as VP of Public Relations for Civil Air Transport, Taiwan’s flagship airline, I spent the summer in Asia, at the age of 14.  While living with Dad in Taipei for a month, he arranged for CAT to fly a group of Taiwanese Boy Scouts to Japan to climb Mt. Fuji. Since I was an Eagle Scout he thought it only appropriate that I join them. Viewing the iconic mountain from a distance, and up-close, and then to actually climb it was so memorable and sparked my understanding that vastness of space brings me peace.

Back in Taipei, Dad sent me off to see as much of Asia as possible over the next two months. Since he was very busy, he arranged for me to fly to various countries alone where I was met by friends of his who were living there: Hong Kong, Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Singapore. And to record my experiences, he presented me with a Rolleiflex knock-off, my first camera.  The summer of 1956 made deeply held impressions on me that triggered my future as a photographer.

Sixty years later, I must re-visit China. While I returned to the Far East — Japan, Singapore and South Korea during the nearly two years I lived in Indonesia in the early 70’s — I’ve not been back to China. So mid-March, we fly to Shanghai for four days, then west to Wuhan to board a five day Viking Cruise up the Yangzi River to see the Three Gorges Dam and the world’s largest hydroelectric complex; disembarking at Chongqing, we fly north to Xian where China’s first emperor was secretly buried 2,200 years ago in funerary splendor with 8,000 life-size terracotta soldiers, only accidently discovered 40 years ago as a farmer was digging a well! Following five days in Beijing, we fly south to Guilin on the Li River, before flying to Hong Kong, and then home.

While the prospect of spending nearly three weeks in the world’s largest country is daunting to me, I just have to experience China again. Five days on the Yangzi, and a day on the Li River will provide opportunities to capture some landscape, but even more enlightening will be to feel China’a amazing contrasts of the incredibly “old” against the awesome “new”..

So 60 years after first glimpsing China, I am about to return…

As I plan my itinerary for this special experience, I welcome your thoughts and impressions of China. What was most inspirational? What would you steer clear of? What was most unexpected? Where are the hidden treasures? Thanks!


  1. Robert Stark

    hi Gunnar,
    Twenty years ago I spent 5 weeks in HK. Almost every weekend went hiking on the mountains around HK, there are well established trails and some very incredible views. Traveling on the ferry at dusk was often spectacular too.
    From one Eagle Scout to another.
    Best, R

  2. love reading about your earlier years and first camera and the gift of travel that your father gave you…..

    never been to China – it’s on my list

    can’t wait to see what you photograph this time!

    love and courage, Carol

  3. Murray Sease

    Happy travels Gunnar! Since I left Taipai before I turned one I haven’t any useful information to share. Pam and I were talking about it a few days ago and she has beautiful memories.

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