As most of you know, we have been traveling through China for the past 20 days. Internet has been spotty & even when I had it, I couldn’t get into my blog. I sent out a couple of e.mail entries, but couldn’t include everyone on them. If you didn’t get those, I apologize; if you’re really curious about what I had to say, drop me an e.mail & I’ll try to forward them after we return (which is Sunday night).
I’d like to thank all of you who inquired about my blog – both before we had even left from home as well as while we were traveling.
At this point, we are leaving for the airport in 2 hours (if the typhoon doesn’t hit!), so this blog will basically hit the highlights of our trip. Overall impressions of both China and traveling via a tour were in my second e.mail.
Like all the cities in China, it is huge with 20 million people. Everywhere we went in China, there were hordes & hordes of people. NYC feels small & empty in comparison.
I loved being on the Great Wall of China. It stretches 5,500 miles across the country. It was one of history’s most time consuming projects. Construction began in the 5th century BCE & wasn’t finished until the 16th century CE. So now I’ve encountered the next problem with my blog. I can’t seem to connect with my photos to include them with the blog. Don’t know if this is another China problem (think not) or me not being fully conversant with my new iPad (probably). Sorry.
Other highlights in Beijing were: riding through the back alleys in a rickshaw (the guy worked really hard), going to Tiananmen Square & walking through the Forbidden City where 34 emperors lived.
The Terra Cotta Warriors were definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip. They were created to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang who ascended the throne in 246 BCE. They were discovered by a fortuitous accident in 1974 by some farmers. They rest in 3 massive pits. The largest pit has 1000 figures in battle formation. They were based on real soldiers & every face is different. I am so sorry I can’t include a photo. The figures are life size.
We also visited a typical farming village and visited a local family. The owner was an artist & I bought a painting of the Great Wall from him. (This tour facility seems to be big on visiting local families; we did it in 4 different cities.)
In Xian we also went to a jade factory where I got a lavender jade bracelet. I had never heard of lavender jade before; it’s quite rare. (In Beijing we went to a pearl factory, but I didn’t buy anything there.)
I recommend skipping Lhasa if you are ever traveling to China. It is 12,000 feet above sea level & that’s where the problems begin. Altitude sickness is not pleasant. We started taking medication 2 days before we got there (as instructed) & yet we needed oxygen in the room regardless. Another symptom is nausea; that stayed with me even after we left Lhasa for several days.
While our hotel accommodations in all of the other cities were lovely, in Lhasa the hotel was much more primitive, the food not good & the staff barely spoke English.
We visited Jokhang – the holiest temple in the Tibetan world. Pilgrims come from all over & prostrate themselves in front of the temple. Inside they carry liquid butter as an offering which is lit. It was fascinating to see, but when you’re feeling lousy, it puts a damper on everything. Near the temple, there was a really cool bazaar where I picked up a few local baubles.
The next day we went to Potala Palace. It was built for the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century & served as a home to all subsequent Dalai Lamas. Of course, the current one is not in China at all; he’s in India. The palace has 1000 rooms; some are political (where he would have met with other world leaders) & some are religious (similar to what we saw the day before in the temple but much more opulent. We only saw a handful of the 1000 rooms. To get to the inside of the palace, you have to climb over 300 steps; it was tough going. Remember, we weren’t breathing well to begin with. Then you spend an hour walking through the rooms & then you have to walk back down. At the top Marty told me he had to take a bathroom break. I started down without him. Eventually, we were all at the bottom except Marty & one other guy (John). The time was going by & everyone was getting nervous. Eventually Marty called Frank (our tour guide); Marty was the only person on our tour with a local phone. Apparently, Marty fell & then both of his knees gave out. Luckily, John was taking his time snapping photos on the way down & he was able to help him. 2 local young men lifted Marty up and basically helped him down the remainder of the steps. Frank had a local police car take us back to the hotel. After a long nap, Marty’s knees were fine & he was OK for the rest of the trip. It was pretty scary for a while. Meanwhile, I was still experiencing nausea.
The next day we flew to Chongqing which is the largest municipality in China with 30 million people. From the plane we went directly to a zoo where we saw pandas. The next day the group went to Dazu to see rock carvings & statutes that date back a 1000 years. It was a 2 hour bus ride in
each direction. I clearly wasn’t up for that. We stayed in the hotel room till it was time to go to dinner with the group. After dinner we boarded our boat for a 3 day cruise up the Yangtse River. The cabins were incredibly tiny, but Marty was able to upgrade us to a much larger one.
We spent the next 2 1/2 days on the boat. This was much more relaxing than the prior days.the views were gorgeous; so sorry about the lack of photos. There are 3 large gorges & several lesser ones. The ship had a good naturalist who told you what you were seeing. We also got off the sip several times for excursions. My favorite was to one of the lesser gorges. First we took a ferry for an hour & then we transferred to little sampans that held about 10 people. Lots of fun. On the last dat of the cruise we toured the 3 Gorges Dam which is the largest dam in the world. The ship held 200 people of which about 175 were Chinese. Our tour group had its own private dining room & Western food (a nice break from all of the Chinese food but not especially good).
Our last stop was Shanghai which used to be called the Paris of the East. Lots of wide boulevards but also lots & lots of VERY tall skyscrapers. It’s the financial hub of China & has 20 million people. To cross these wide boulevards, they have built bridges that go over the streets; very clever. They had some in Beijing too. We spent time just walking around, taking in the people, the stores & hustle bustle. We went to a silk factory where they explained to us how the silk is made. We actually bought a silk duvet and silk lining for our bed as well as a silk blouse. Yesterday afternoon we were on our own. Marty & I went to a terrific little museum ( Jewish Refuge Museum) that was in an old synagogue. It was devoted to the saving of the Jews during WW II. Apparently Dr. Lu (consulate general from China to Austria) issued visas to the Jews without needing any papers. He saved more lives than Schindler. Shanghai took in whoever wanted to come (including friends of my mother). It was a terrific way to end this fascinating journey we have been on (& we even took the subway back to our hotel).
Thus ends another terrific trip. Thanks for traveling with mr, so to speak. If you are really curious about the photos, I can try to e.mail them from home.
Till the next trip, hugs & kisses,