I’ve wanted to go to the Weifang International Kite Festival, but it’s always taken place during the work week. Finally, it was on a weekend. Two friends and I got train tickets, but one backed out Saturday morning as it was cold and we’d had snow, yes snow, the night before. April 19th will go down as the latest date for snow that I’ve experienced.
Ed and I ventured on. Yeah, the weather might be better on Sunday, but who knew?
The sleek bullet train whisked us to Weifang in about 90 minutes. At the station we got a cab rather easily. Tip: if you come to China make or download the addresses or names of places you need to get to. If possible zoom the print or write big, because a lot of cabbies need reading glasses.
Our cab took us to the stadium outside town, but a police barricade wouldn’t let him drop us off in front. In fact we had to be dropped off a couple miles away from the site. As it was, we were cutting it close to arrive for the opening ceremony. We started to walk and lucked into an official with the right sign on her dashboard. She offered us a ride and had the right status to get past the checkpoints.
After the ceremony
Unfortunately, we were too late to make the opening ceremony, which by the dancers’ costumes looked great. We got to see them all as they trudged through the mud with their winter coats on on this fine April day.
From 11 am to 2 pm, there was free flying for anyone interested. Kites of every shape and size filled the sky, the gray sky, though that really didn’t matter. Neither did the cold. We got to talk with the American team and their Chinese translator and I learned that anything you can do on ice can be done with kites: dancing, stunts, competitions. I expected the events at two to have commentary, and there was some in Chinese, but I’d hoped an international festival would have another language as well. There were participants from 30 countries: France, Austria, the US, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and more. I do speak some French and Japanese, so it needn’t be English.
Well, I suppose the commentary wasn’t crucial. I was surprised that when the events started there wasn’t much difference from the free kite time. We watched some more and then went into the city. It took awhile to wander to the main road and find a cab. In the end we did, though it was an illegal or black cab. Our disagreement over how much we “should” be over charged was brief.
We wandered around the park in front of the train station, and then on to some kite shops. Finally we went to the city park, which was quite beautiful, a nice surprise as Weifang is in need of some spiffing up. All in all, it was a terrific day.
The one recommendation I’d make is that the festival needs better restroom facilities. Spectators for an all day event need some facilities, real ones. Not a few holes in the ground with temporary walls of corrugated steel. Quite a turn off.