Sunday, June 06, 2010

Whirlwind Tour on a shoe string and in contracted space

[This post also appears in Wify's As I Draw Them ... to present the same blog but appearing on two different-colored backgrounds]

Residents of the Sunshine State enjoy certain privileges that come with the territory. One is the bestowal of the Bright Futures Scholarships that pay for college tuition, academic record permitting. Yet another one is the discount fares of theme park tickets, such as the “Buy for less than a day, Come back for a year” deal offered by Busch Gardens Tampa, which we took up earlier in the year. And we never looked back. But we are always game if other good things come along, doing our small part to stimulate the economy because we can.

The more recent offer that we snatched up is the Disneyworld tickets that charged $99 for a 4-day pass (presumably one day for each park since there are four associated theme parks), which expired on May 25. That made for several consecutive weekends of day trips to Orlando where we left our footprints behind on each of the theme parks. Brisk, and sun-soaked but otherwise fun-filled sojourns, with a tinge of nostalgia at three of them (the Animal Kingdom having come into being only after our prior flurry of visits during our Gainesville days in the first half of the 1990s).

We debated on which was to be the first on our list, and settled on the Epcot Center because Wify had been wanting to visit the Flower and Garden Festival since last year. And we were not disappointed, which could be an understatement. Here's why, pictorially told. That WT and CE are enjoying their summer breaks right now (WT actually graduated in early May but his commencement that we attended on May 2 will be the subject of another blog) meant that we were destined to be featured prominently in the pictorial tale.

The iconic silver globe, the Spaceship Earth, has come to be synonymous with the Epcot Center, its rough surface texture and its enormous size becoming evident in close proximity. It houses a ride that is both easy on my heart and titillates the mind at the same time, offering glimpses of space travel as the Mother Ship courses through the vast universe that is as expansive as the mind could imagine.

That's why we were there as the draping sign beckons, surrounded by a luxuriant display of greenery dotted with multi-hued flowers.

Topiaries at their best featuring clockwise from top left: Timon and Pumba of the Lion King fame; Mickey and Minnie; Peter Pan and Captain Hook; and the tea pot gang of the Beauty and the Beast fame.

Seven of the eleven World Showcase pavilions that skirt the bank of the central lake arranged in three at the top row and four at the bottom row. These are facades and edifices that are distinctive and unique to each country, supposedly anyway. How about a Geography pop quiz? Answers are provided at the end to gage how insular you are.

Yes, the American Adventure where visitors are treated to a melodious display of American folk songs rendered a cappella harmonized by the seamless voice meshing of the members and enhanced by the sound acoustics offered by the high dome directly above them.

This should be obvious: the torii (top row) and the Pagoda (bottom row) are a dead giveaway. A torii, literally meaning bird perch, is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine. The Goju-No-To, or "Five Storey Pagoda," traditionally represents the five elements from which Buddhists believe all things in the universe are produced. In ascending order, the elements are earth, water, fire, wind and sky. So says a plaque erected in front of the pagoda.

Equally ubiquitous in China are the arch portal (here it says the Sun-Facing Gate), the cuddly pandas, especially the flurry kind here that Wify is enamored to, and the Lotus flower.

Scenes of China, as revealed in the 360 degree panoramic theatrical display where the patrons stand for ease of the 360 degree viewing pleasure. I think the contents may have stayed essentially the same since we saw the same show more than fifteen years ago, narrated by the famous Tang Dynasty poet, Li Bai, his role obviously played by an actor. From the scenic (Su Chow), the desert (Gobi), the rural (Yunan) to the Urban (Shanghai), going clockwise from the top left.

From top left going clockwise: Here's Li Bai in a traditional Chinese garb gesticulating from the top of the Great Wall of China, purportedly shown up as a twisting dragon in satellite images; next the mythical dragon where Chinese are descendants from, at least according to the name of a popular Chinese song; the Beijing opera show involving actors with painted faces in various stances; and the ever-popular Tai Chi practitioners, soaking up the morning essence perched on a hillside (deduced from the misty environ).

Wify likes Chinese calligraphy. So here are the shots taken within the Gift Shop after exiting the 360 degree theater. These are the three auspicious Chinese characters meaning Blessings, Wealth, and Longevity from right to left.

More Chinese calligraphy, Love (right) and Forbearance (left) flanking the bamboo/panda painting depicting summer joy.

Wify's favorite pastime: shots of Chinese brush painting of birds/flowers (top left), Chinese crane (bottom left); Girl in traditional Chinese dress, and the awe-inspiring roar of the tiger, all found in the same gift shop.

The mountain and water painting, contrasted with real mountain (Yellow mountain?) and water (Gui-Ling).

From left: the famous historical find of the Terra Cotta Warriors of the Qing Dynasty (circa 210 B.C.) discovered in 1974 near Xian, China (top) and the craftsmen restoring the artifacts (middle). A sitting Buddha evincing compassion and wisdom; concluding (bottom left) with the popular Chinese saying that has "seeing is believing" as its closest English equivalent.

That was truly a whirlwind tour, covering some of the major continents within a span of a few hours, so much so that we ran out of time to visit the other offerings at the Future World. However, there will be other time ...

[Answers to the country pavilions, from top left going clockwise: France, UK, Canada, Germany, Norway, Italy and Mexico.]