Early start to a long day: the flight from Chicago to Beijing was 13 ½ hours long. We had sunshine in the windows during the entire trip, but lost a day… The Flight took us over Fairbanks Alaska and over Siberia. We did see Mt McKinley…
Fortunately, we had an escort meet us at the airport and provide transportation to the hotel. After a quick dinner, we called it a day – a very long day. Our first tour started at 8AM and we are off to the Great Wall.
Quick notes about Beijing:
• Beautiful new airport, larger that Dallas-Ft Worth
• Beijing is a city of 18 million +
• Driving is a nightmare -- locals have upgraded from motor bikes to cars, but didn’t learn to drive
• Stayed in a 4 star hotel, but can’t drink the water in the room
• Many Internet sites are not available from the hotel – including facebook and our blog site.
• Shopping, lots of fakes: Rolex, IPod/IPad, Canon, Hermes, money… Afraid to buy a battery!
We spent three nights in Beijing. In addition to the Great Wall, we saw the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Our Chinese guide was great! She met us in Beijing and stayed with the group until we caught a flight to Hong Kong. One of her comments surprised us. “When a Chinese girl, meets a Chinese boy, what are the three questions she asks him” – she asked our group.
• Do you have a car?
• Do you have an apartment?
• Do you have money in the bank?
Guess the Chinese people have accepted capitalism!
|4 Star Rated Facility in Forbidden City|
After 3 days in Beijing, we caught a flight to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Like Beijing, the smog was thick. On the way to the hotel, we stopped at the Yangling Museum to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and animals left in the tomb of the 4th Emperor of China. Unlike the Terra Cotta Warriors left by the 1st Emperor, these were ¼ lifesize. This museum is built between the tomb of the emperor and the tomb of his wife. Since his wife outlived the emperor, she has the larger tomb.
The area around Xian is covered with large tombs that have yet to be opened. The Chinese government is waiting for new technology that will ensure their ability to save the artifacts when they are uncovered.
The next morning, we were off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors – the life size ones! The archeologists have partially uncovered the burial mounds where the warriors were buried. Per our guide, the archeologists are expecting to find 8000 full size Terra Cotta Warriors when the dig is finished.
Xian is only 400 kilometers from the Gobi Desert and the air is full of sand and smog. Xian is the home of the Silk Road between China and the Middle-East. Unlike other regions in China, many of the people in Xian are Muslim. This is due to the Arab influence in the region. The original Muslim Mosque in Xian looks like a Buddhist Temple. Per our guide, the local Muslim population didn’t know what a Mosque should look like, so they built it with a design that they knew.
The traffic was worse than what we experienced in Beijing. Our local guide said that driving lessons or testing was not required to buy a license. In the last 10 years, the residents have moved from motor bikes to cars, but they still drive as if they were on a motor bike.
After two nights in Xian, we boarded a flight to Guilin. We landed after dark and had a 90 minute drive to our hotel.
Guilin is located in Southern China across the mountain range that separates North China from South China. In the North, the language is Mandarin, in the South, they speak Cantonese. However, the driving skills are the same… Many of the smaller trucks looked as if they had lawn mower engines!
|Three Wheel Utility Truck|
The highlight of our trip to Guilin was the river cruise. The worn sandstone hills give the region a very distinctive look. If you have seen many Chinese paintings or looked at their currency, then you have seen some of the geological formations. They are very unique.
When we get to a hotel with broadband connection, I hope to upload some the photos of the trip thru China.
We left Guilin in the evening. Our next stop was an overnight at a hotel in Hong Kong. Due to a delayed flight, we didn’t arrive in Hong Kong until after 11PM. No time to do any sightseeing until the next day.
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and loaded our bags on the bus. After our morning tour, we would board the Azamara Quest for a 14 day cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore.
Our last visit to Hong Kong was 13 years ago, so I was anxious to see the changes to the city. Parts of the city were the same, but many new buildings and many more cars. This is not the 3rd world country that I was expecting to find Outside our hotel sat two very expensive cars: a Bentley and a Maserati. However, our walk thru the dried food market area showed me that many things haven’t changed. We saw dried fish/shrimp, starfish, and Sea horses – along with everything imaginable.
|Dried Star Fish and Lizards|
That afternoon, we boarded the Azamara Quest for a 14 day cruise to Singapore…
Stay tuned for part two – and pictures.