Enter the Dragon
We did it. We took a vacation to China. It was a long two weeks, but to summarize, it was an excellent experience.
In terms of planning, our friend had already done all the leg work, so all we had to do was to commit. It was a quick commit, which surprised me. Anyways, China was always intriguing.
Our visit included Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Yangshuo, Chengdu, Yangtze River Cruise and Shanghai. Planes, trains, automobiles, boats, rickshaws and lots and lots of walking were involved. A friend’s fitbit clocked 93 miles of walking.
We witnessed a nation that has taken great care to preserve its past and is on a breakneck speed of modern development. Museums were top class and vied with Bullet Trains and MagLevs to excite the visitor. Gardens lulled us into a sense of wonder as we explored their tasteful designs. Overall, China has laid out the red carpet for visitors by making many destinations very tourist friendly. Other nations could learn a lot on the tourism aspect from China.
A first time visitor to China would be well served by hiring a guide that speaks your language. While airports, train stations and major highways have English signs, it could be disorienting to do it yourself. We had guides pretty much on every day of the trip.
China is a huge country. Over it’s history there have taken place many conflicts pitting dynasties. Two dates-1911 and 1949 keep being mentioned often. 1911-the year that dynasty rule of Qing ended and China became a Republic. 1949 was when Communist party took over and continues it’s dominance to date.
It’s important to note that China succeeded in resisting European Colonialism although the British and French waged the subterfuge Opium War in the mid 1800s.
Residential high-rise buildings dot the skyline in the cities and small towns. Everyone is concerned about the housing bubble.
Is it a coincidence that we didn’t see any homeless people in our 2 weeks while the CPC Congress was in session? I asked guides in various cities and their unanimous answer was that China does not have a pan handling and homeless issue.
The Terra Cotta Warriors complex was breathtaking. That something built in 221 BC and was undiscovered until 1974 begs the question as to how much we still don’t know about our ancients?
Beijing was underwhelming, but the Great Wall was breathtaking. We marveled at the engineering and labor effort it must have taken to build it. We walked the Wall for 2 hours and in some places it was super steep.
We heard this constant refrain-the young people have left for the big towns and cities and none to continue some traditions. In parks and public places we regularly witnessed Chinese seniors playing Chinese Chess, Mahjong and watching their grandchildren.
Chinese smoke. A lot. That was the number one turn off in the trip. The running joke was that the Air Quality issue was 75% industrial and 25% human chimneys.
Chinese seem mostly indifferent to religion. Buddhism and Taoism are the leading philosophies. The temple in Ghost City dedicated to Yama (God of Death in Hinduism) was surreal.
You will fall in love with Pandas, even though they just lounge and eat juicy bamboo most of the time. They do have a Zen attitude, it seems like.
Hot pot is not to be missed in Chengdu. We managed to do a vegetarian version and it was an awesome culinary experience. 8 people sitting around the table turning red faced, fighting non cooperative noodles and sniffling a lot during a rainy evening, while consuming super spicy food is what one writes home about.
The buildings in Shanghai sport sleek designs and leave you with a sense of awe. The Yu Garden area is a buzzing shopping area and nestled in it is a 400 year old garden, that has a view for every step you take. A delightful way to spend an afternoon.
The Maglev topping 431 km/hr covers a distance of 30 Km (18.6 mi) in 7 minutes. The ride is a religious experience, if you are into that sort of thing.
Something tells me this will not be our only trip to China.
Some pictures from the trip below.