|“This summer I traveled to
Asia and Europe with a tour group. Living in Canada, as I do, I had to
fly to Vancouver which was exciting as the five hour trip from Montreal
took us over the Great Lakes, prairies and snow capped Rockies. What a
thrill especially when you could still see snow on the mountaintops.
We had only a short stop in Vancouver but I had been
there before and my mind was on our next stop; China. It was a long and
boring flight to Beijing but again, the excitement was intense. Once
there, we were met by Terry, our guide and whisked to our 5 star hotel.
Our Local Tour Guide
Author & Tour Manager
The hotels in China ( 4 and 5 star) are
modern, inviting, clean, and comfortable and as good as any I’ve stayed
in on other holidays. Even the food services were excellent with fresh
and inviting food. Little was I aware of how long it would be before I
had North American style food again. That doesn’t include the breakfasts
were to my liking. Cereals, hot rolls, yogurts, pancakes, juices, fruit
and often eggs made to order by a chef in a tall chef’s hat. The buffet
would satisfy anyone’s taste and appetite.
||We spent five glorious nights in Beijing.
I was particularly impressed with Tian-An-Min Square. It was larger than
I thought and crowded with families taking pictures. Many Chinese people
greeted us in English and asked to have a picture taken with us. I did
see a sad family taking a picture with their young son in his new
military uniform. The parents and their son were not smiling.
We visited the Forbidden City and I
learned that the entrance, adorned by Mao Tse Tung’s portrait had
two huge lion statues to greet us. We were told that the male had
his paw on a ball which could also be interpreted as the world while
the female was reaching out to a baby cup. This interested all of
us. Inside, we saw where the emperors once lived. Now it is open for
everyone to enjoy. It was enormous, crowded and worth while. So too
was the Temple of Heaven which showed what ancient China was like.
We toured the Olympic site and were impressed by the
advanced state of construction with two years to go. Another day we
visited a Jade factory, silk factory and had lunch in a typical family
house in the large HUTONG quarters around the Forbidden City. We
traveled by rickshaw and met ordinary people who opened their homes to
us. (See my article on Hutongs)
Over the next few days we visited the summer palace,
the Peking Opera, which was like no opera I had ever seen, and, of
course, The Great Wall.
We drove north to Badalong. There we were able to walk
along a small section of the wall and get an idea of the history, effort
to build it and what it was like to walk on the only man made structure
big enough to see from outer space. It is 3,728 miles long. We had our
picture taken there and were given certificates to prove that we walked
on the Great Wall of China. It was cold and windy but worth the effort.
It is a memory I will never forget.
We left Beijing after a typical Peking Duck dinner and
flew to Xi’An. There we were met by Eddie, our local guide. Up until
they discovered the hundreds of Terra Cotta Warriors buried underground,
I had never heard of Xi’An. Eddie explained that this was the ancient
capital of China and the seat of power of seven different dynasties. It
is in central China and has over eight million people.
|The warriors were discovered in 1974 when some
farmers were digging a well. Today these armies of men, (totaling
8,000 life sized statues, each with a distinctive feature) horses
and carriages are one of the world’s most incredible sights that you
must see for yourself. It is well worth visiting as are the museums
that explain the concept of a buried army and offer a souvenir
soldier to take home as a souvenir.
The walled city of Xi’An offered us a chance to see
the Wild Goose Pagoda and walk along the city wall. Some people rented
bicycles and drove along the top of the wall. Xi’An has a noisy and
bustling downtown and our New World Hotel was sitting in the middle of
the shopping district. The sights, sounds and smells were exotic. And on
the streets people sold souvenirs and trinkets to the growing number of
tourists. I bought a box of seven paint brushes in a silk lined box for
$3 US. Others bought knock-off Rolex watches for as little as $1-3 US.
We joked that they came with a guarantee of 24 hours. One man suggested
that if it broke you could always bring it back. Sure, if you wanted
another 15 hour plane ride. But mine still ticks away over a month
|On the last night in Xi’An we attended a Tang
Dynasty Dumpling Dinner show. The food was excellent. The theatre
was humongous and the show beyond my greatest expectations. The men
and women were attractively dressed and exceptionally talented. The
music was infectious and the show worthy of any theatre in the
We left Xi’An the next morning.
Tang Dynasty Show
Our flight to Guilin farther south was delayed because
there was a typhoon in the area but that soon past and we arrived at our
destination in the early afternoon. Here, we were met by a new guide
whose anglicized name was Alice.
Here we visited The Elephant Trunk Hill and Piled Silk
Hill but it was very hot and mostly I chose to sit under a shade tree
with an ice cream.
The Park Hotel was surrounded by water and looked like
a giant pagoda. It was quiet and comfortable and also afforded
interesting walks surrounded by nature. I was anxious for the next day
to come. We would spend the day sailing on the Li River.
Coming Next: Shanghai… Hong
Kong & Macao