Traveling to China was one of the highlights of my professional career as a travel consultant. I had no idea what was in store for me and my son, who was my companion on this amazing trip. After a brief visit to LA, we flew over the international dateline, into the awesome city of Shanghai, and then onto Beijing, where we stayed at the Loong Palace Hotel and Resort. It is a very a plush hotel, yet we were not able to drink the water! We could shower, just couldn’t drink the water! It was such a weird feeling to be in a country with SOOO many people, SOOO many high rises, millions of cars, and industry, and not have clean water. When I got home, tap water seemed like a luxury!
This hotel has a big, open entrance with two circular, opulent staircases and a magnificent fountain in the center. They had an extravagant breakfast buffet, from extensive American cuisine, to unusual Chinese food, much of which we didn’t recognize, but enjoyed anyway. The noodle dishes were awesome- so much better than the dishes served here in the United States.
The grounds of the hotel were stunning, and we saw many people practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong there. These exercises are made up of gentle flowing movements that calm and refresh, and are beautiful to watch.
Beijing is HUGE! There are around 18 Million people crowded in that city!
We first visited a Pearl Factory- amazing beautiful pearls, and pearl cream for the skin- all of the Chinese women have beautiful skin and claim that the pearl mask is the secret- of course, I bought some.
Peking Duck was our lunch on that first day of excursions, and then we visited the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City!
The Summer Palace was once the home of The Empress Dowager Cixi, called the Dragon Lady, by locals. She was evidently a strong ruler who imprisoned her nephew at the Summer Palace for refusing to abide by her commands.
The Forbidden City was home to 24 Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and it covers 180 acres of land with 150,000 meters of floor space, boasting 90 palaces and courtyards, with 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms! We actually got to walk the path of the Emperors- pretty cool!
Tianamnen Square is just across the street and was filled with armed guards, because the Chinese officials, including the Chairman, were there in a meeting.
We enjoyed Chinese acrobats at a local theater that evening, and were amazed at the agility and courage of these kids, some as young as 5 or 6!
The next day, we enjoyed our HUGE breakfast, and then visited The Beijing Banner Jadeware City where we shopped, and saw some incredible hand carved pieces, some enormous! I fell in love with a splendid, gigantic Jade Tiger and would love to have it in my mansion (if I had one)- it was only $4,800 USD! Not bad, considering…
The Great Wall of China- probably the most impressive experience of the whole trip- was next. We climbed about a mile portion of the Wall outside of Beijing- Len and I were part of the 4 that made it to the top, out of our group of 28 or so. I was so proud of myself, and the view was stunning up there- the view really is at the top! The climb down was nothing to sneeze at, either, as my knees will attest. The climb is made up of steps, all varied heights- some are two feet high, and some 3-4 inches high- and all well worn over the centuries. We experienced a Beijing sandstorm while we were climbing.
After our climb, we visited an enamel workshop, and had a fabulous lunch. Then, we walked the Path to the Divinity toward the tombs of several Emperors.
We also took a rickshaw ride through a “Hu-Tong”, which is a traditional Chinese village within the city. There are several scattered throughout Beijing, where locals live in homes facing communal squares. We had tea in one of the homes, whose owner was a friend of our guide. We learned about the fascinating sport of cricket fighting, which is a favorite Chinese pastime. There are large amounts of money bet on these fights, and as much money is paid for prize crickets in China, as is paid for race horses here in America. I was happy to learn that the crickets do not fight to the death, only to the humiliation of the loser, who simply sulks off.
The next day, we left for Shanghai and then onto the “village” of Suzhou, where we stayed at the New City Garden Hotel. There are 5.9 Million people in the area, and 2 Million within the city. By Chinese standards, that is a village! Suzhou has lots of canals and is called the “Venice of the Orient”. We visited the Liu Garden-beautiful- and a really cool silk factory. Prices were so cheap, and we loaded up with gifts.
We next traveled to Hangzhou, and stayed at the Jia Ri Hotel. Hangzhou is known as one of the six famous ancient capitals of China. We went to the extraordinarily beautiful village if Meiwu, where the famous Longjing Tea is grown. The green tea bushes covered the surrounding hills for miles. It was once reserved only for the Emporer, but now, tourists can purchase some only here in the village, at a high price, as they don’t export it. I bought a pound for $200 American dollars!
Our next stop was Xitang, Water Town, an ancient village situated on the canals. Mission Impossible III was filmed here, and we were looking around the whole time expecting to see Tom Cruise! Xitang is stunning. We met the sweetest, OLD Chinese man here, who took to Len and me, followed us around, and talked to us as if we could understand him. He gave us his address, which was just there in the canal front, and asked us to come again. He was so proud to have his picture made with us, and he followed us back to our coach, and stood and waved until we were out of sight.
We also toured the huge city of Shanghai, which has 20 Million people! The high rises are incredible, and 30% of the worlds’ cranes are in Shanghai because of all the new construction going on. We experienced the Cheng Huang Temple, the Peoples’ Square, a huge open market, where we did lots of shopping, a silk carpet factory, and the Waterfront Bund. We had a blast that evening on an Huangpu River Boat ride.
Our last day, we toured the fashionable Pudong New Developed Area, where the Jinmao Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower are located. The Shanghai World Financial Center is also here, and is now the tallest building in The Peoples’ Republic of China. Then, we rode the Meglev, the fastest train in the world, back to the airport for our trip home. The train ride was awesome. It actually hovers above the tracks, using magnetic levitation and travels about 260 miles per hour!
China now holds a special place in my heart, for the kindness of her people, her rich and romantic history, awesome food, and great shopping! My son and I are looking forward to going again someday.
Some Chinese Folklore:
Chinese Dragon- scales of a fish, claws of a hawk, horns of a deer, tail of a lion- protect
head of a horse- success
eyes of a shrimp- clever
body of a snake- smooth
Red Lanterns, which are everywhere- are believed to ward off evil
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