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Rosemarie and her husband Martin ride a rickshaw in Beijing

Touring China

by Rosemarie Delson
 


Our tour begins in Beijing. The group has 38 people, most of them are retired and have gone on trips with this organization several times. Today we visited the Heavenly Temple and the Summer Palace. Beautiful gardens with lots of locals as well as tourists. Still the crowds are not any worse than in any other popular places around the world.

We've been told that Beijing has a population of about 20 million. Ninety percent of the old housing has been removed in the last 25 years and replaced by high-rise buildings. Most of the bike riders have been replaced by cars, expensive looking ones. Lots of German cars. So Beijing is starting to look like any big city.

Trees and flowering plants everywhere and everything is so clean, but not the air, which is smoggy, like we have heard. The city is located in a large valley with mountains on three sides. We just got a bit of a glimpse of distance mountain ranges because the smog is really bad, like it used to be in LA in the sixties.

Lunch was a feast, Peking duck, eggplant, fish and so many more wonderful dishes.

Next we are off to the Great Wall. Our group leader gives us lot of information. I just have to tune out. The bus gets stuck in traffic. Breakfast is somewhat of a zoo. We line up at 6:30 am. The staff cannot keep up with the plates, cups or keep the tables cleared. The food is varied and good. And we all overeat.

Along our way we visit an enamelware factory and watch different craftspeople go through many steps of creating the pieces. The guide spoke beautiful English and explained the process nicely.

Yesterday we had our walk on the Great Wall. I found it exciting. It was a very steep walk with lots of uneven steps. They did have railings to hold on and that helped a lot. It was not as crowded as the Forbidden City, but plenty of people. There are many entry places to start. The one where our bus stopped was developed beautifully like a ski resort with good looking stone buildings and great landscaping. In the afternoon we went to the tombs of the Ming Dynasty. A huge complex with beautiful statues and Buildings. Lots of restoration is in the works.



Wushan


Wushan: This is small city of only 1 million, that's what the guide told us. It was newly created to relocate the people who lost their homes after this huge dam was built and reservoir got filled. It is located in a beautiful spot. Two rivers are joining, surrounded by high mountains. The mountains are all limestone with lots of caves. The Ha people used to place the coffins into caves high in the cliffs (20,000 years+). The guide told us that he and other climbers have been up into the mountains and came across a village where some of the old women still had their feet bound.



The Yangtze River


This morning we went on small boats up an arm of the Yangtze River. They employ people to sing and play some traditional flute music for the tourists along the route. We also saw some monkeys, beautiful cliffs and a small canyon. A village has been recreated with people dressing in up in old style customs, singing, performing a wedding ceremony. Somewhat Disney-like, but I loved it.



Terracotta Soldiers


In Xian we visit the Mausoleum of the terracotta soldiers. It is a huge complex built by the government with large parking lots, shops for visitors, large walkways, gates, two check points, large forest area, many buildings over every digging pit, big plazas, four-star Happy Rooms (restrooms). A whole town has been developed around this discovery. Fellow travelers, who have visited 13 years ago, are amazed. I am impressed by the efforts to preserve and make it possible for huge crowds to view it. It has been done in a thoughtful manner and in good quality.



At the market, some moments are just priceless!


 


Hong Kong is amazing. The top sightseeing spots are very, very crowded. Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald are everywhere. And you can get free wifi at those places.

If you like to shop, it still is the place to go. Here at the airport you would think you are at a mall, top brand name stores on every level, right next to the gates. Sort of like in Las Vegas where you can gamble until you board the plane.

This has been a very good trip. We did not get sick and the schedule went like clockwork. The people on our tour were fun and good company.


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