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Christine Carrillo When traveling to the Orient...

November 10, 2002

Christine Carrillo

When traveling to the Orient, many Americans envision a world far

different from the Western culture they've become accustomed to. They

anticipate experiencing relative culture shock as a result of the

differing political and religious views but, try as they might, can

never truly anticipate what will arise.

Don and Ann Knipp were no different.

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The couple, now entering their 70s, graduated from Newport Harbor

High School and have been longtime residents of Costa Mesa.

"We were kind of trepidatious about going to China," said Ann, who

planned most of the trip herself. "I was a little worried we were

going to be too old for it."

After surviving the 12-hour flight to Tokyo and then the nearly

three-hour flight to Beijing, the Knipps finally began their journey,

which took place from Oct. 7 through Oct. 19 and was inspired by

Don's passion for horticulture.

Don, who is professionally known as Mr. Fertilizer, continues to

work with the California Assn. of Nurserymen despite his

semi-retirement and heard about a Camellia Society convention that

was scheduled for 2003 in China.

While Don and his wife, who prefers not to be called Mrs.

Fertilizer, thought that the convention would be a perfect reason to

travel to the Far East, they were quickly persuaded to move up the

date when they read that the Yangtze River was expected flood by 2003

and dramatically alter adjacent cities along its banks.

"Everybody in the world read the same thing we did because there

were so many people," Don said. "But it's a once in a lifetime trip

... we're both history buffs and we wanted to see what China was all

about."

Traveling through the country in a tour group consisting of about

25 people, the Knipps got to see and experience everything they had

only heard about. From Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in

Beijing to the terra cotta soldiers in Xian and eventually the YuYan

Gardens in Shanghai, the Knipps managed to leave China with a broad

understanding of the country's history and a new appreciation of

their own.

From witnessing the results of the country's population control,

which allows only one child per family, to the great worth of the

American dollar, the couple also came across differences of a much

lighter nature.

"Almost everyone travels by bicycle and ... all of the women were

gorgeous, that really made an impression on me," Don said. "This trip

was mostly educational, that's what it was all about."

The Knipps' education incorporated cultural aspects they never

could have imagined.

"I couldn't believe the holes in the kids' pants," Ann said. "We

had heard about it but we just couldn't believe it when we saw it ...

you don't stop and think that they don't have diapers over there."

* Have you, or someone you know, gone on an interesting vacation

recently? Tell us your adventures. Drop us a line to TRAVEL TALES,

330 W. Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; e-mail

jennifer.mahal@latimes.com; or fax to (949) 646-4170.

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