Shanghai Day #2

Today is our chance to see the sites of Shanghai by daylight and what a beautiful day it is. First, the sun is out and there’s a beautiful blue sky. Plus, it feels like its a bit warmer today too.

Before we depart for our day’s activities, our entire tour group gathers together for a group photo. Since there are 32 of us, that adds up to close to 30 separate pictures being taken. Here’s my copy.

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Our first stop of the day is at the Jade Buddha Temple. This is where locals come to pray and/or give thanks for past prayers that have been answered. There are multiple buddha statues within the temple’s property but the most revered figure at this site is the Jade Buddha.

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As our tour of the city continues, I am truly amazed by the number of tall buildings that form Shanghai’s skyline. We have the opportunity to take a walk along the waterfront promenade which is in the area called the Bund, or the financial district. There they even have their own version of our Wall Street bull. They also have a beautiful wall decorated with flowers. The sites from the promenade are breathtaking.

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Our last stop of the day was the ancient garden of the city that goes back over 400 years. What is most memorable are the flowers starting to bloom, the pathways and mini bridges that cross the pond that runs throughout the garden.

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Shanghai Day #1

So we’re off to our final destination and my amazing vacation will soon be coming to an end 😦

It’s another short flight, less than two hours long. We were looking forward to continued good weather but are disappointed because its overcast and chilly upon our arrival. Just like the snow we had in Beijing we take it all in stride and won’t let it dampen our spirits. Hopefully, the clouds will lift in time for our Shanghai by Night cruise, scheduled for that evening.

So Shanghai is another big city like Beijing. Total population is estimated to be between 20 and 25 million people. Of the three cities that we’ve now been to, this one appears to be most like NYC. There are tall skyscrapers that form their skyline, not to mention all of the high rise apartment buildings that I’ve become accustomed to seeing throughout the trip. Believe it or not, I’ve seen more high rise apartment buildings, already existing or under construction, in these three cities than I’ve ever seen, even for someone coming from the largest city I the USA, lol.

Upon our arrival at the hotel we are given some free time to relax before we head out or our dinner cruise. I’m pleasantly surprised to walk into the largest room of my trip. I’m even more surprised when I plop down on the bed to rest a bit to find that it’s literally hard as a rock, lol. I know the locals talk about how good it is for your back but goodness gracious, lol.

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So it’s finally time to depart for the cruise and it looks like except for the fact that its a bit cold, we’ll have a nice view of the city. Here are some of the highlights.

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It was freezing cold on that boat but the sights were well worth it.

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Xi’an Day #2

Day #2 in Xi’an starts off with a nice and unexpected visit to a local park. This is our opportunity to see how the locals live. We observe some of the older people doing Tai Chi, there are others playing badminton, couples dancing, some playing the Chinese version of hackisack (sp?). Our group even has the opportunity to join in a folk dance being performed by some of the locals.

Once our visit to the park has concluded, we set off to visit a lacquer shop. The pieces on display for purchase are very beautiful but much too big and too costly to purchase. Behind the scenes, our guide Patrick is demonstrating his calligraphy skills by taking requests from members of our tour group to make rice paper signs with the names of friends, grand kids, godchildren, etc.

Afterwards, we’re finally on our way to the Terracotta Warrior museum. When we arrive, it’s a large facility with multiple buildings, each one representing the order of its discovery. Pit #1 is the largest with a total of about 6000 warriors exhibited. Some appear to be in perfect shape while some are in total need of repair or reconstruction. However, the site in and of itself is amazing to see, especially considering that they are as many as 2000 years old. The other buildings have similar items displayed.

Now what is most unbelievable about this site is the story of the man that made the initial discovery. As I previously mentioned, it was a farmer that unearthed these statues on his property. So of course the government and their archeologists swooped down on the property upon this discovery and have taken it over as their own. I think the farmer’s surname is Yang…….how much do you think that Mr. Yang got for his property? Our guide told us 30 eggs, yes EGGS! Supposedly back in 1974 when this discovery was made that was considered a windfall since people were poor and hungry. Now at the age of about 74, Mr. Yang is a full time employee of the museum and spends his days autographing books about the discovery. He will also let you take his picture for 20 yuan, lol. I did buy the book and let him autograph it and look forward to reading more about the discovery.

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Xi’an Day #1

Day #1 started out with a morning flight from Beijing to Xi’an. The flight was only about 2 hours long so we arrived just after midday. Xi’an is a smaller city than Beijing, only about 9 million people versus 20+ million, so the charm of the city is slightly more evident. It’s just funny how in china a city of this size is considered small when it could probably rival NYC, give or take a few million people. But the whole country is estimated to have over 1.3 billion, so I guess I can understand, lol.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll mention it now. A lot of our meals were included in the price of the trip and I can honestly say that everything we’ve eaten has been very good, especially considering, as was the case today, that our meal was in an airport restaurant. White rIce is almost always the staple item but we always get a variety of dishes to go with it (chicken, pork, beef and and/or fish). Bok choi has become a favorite in addition to cabbage, steamed or sautéed, spicy or not, still yummy. One day we had spicy green beans that were out of this world and another day there was a spicy cauliflower. There’s always soup and hot tea with every meal. In most restaurants they serve the food lazy Susan style and you just spin the glass to get what you want.

Our first stop after lunch was the XXX museum. This is kind of a sneak preview of what we’ll see tomorrow when we visit the Terracotta Warriors museum, which I’m really excited to see. Our guide Patrick and our local guide Jenny have told us the story of how way back in 1974 a farmer was digging on his land and came across this find. They date back about 2000 years and represent the emperors own personal army with horses for the after life. It seems that ancient Chinese people would often bury with them anything they felt they needed for their life after death, so in this case, the emperor built an entire army. What is supposed to be so amazing about the statues is how life like and personal each statue is, down to the details in their face. I can’t wait to see it for myself, especially after the sneak preview at the museum.

After our visit at the museum, we stop by the Muslim quarters, which is a tiny neighborhood in Xi’an inhabited by Muslim Chinese people. The Main Street is made up of various shops and stores selling everything from dried fruits and nuts, souvenir type items, books, clothes
and even prepared food. I even saw quail eggs being cooked on a food cart. As has become the norm, you have people approaching you to buy this or that, sometimes following you down the street trying to get you to buy something.

For dinner this evening some of us have purchased the optional dumpling dinner. We had the opportunity to taste about 17 different types of dumplings. Some were pork, some were chicken, some seafood. They even had a dumpling shaped and colored like a walnut. Since I don’t really like nuts I didn’t taste that one but I heard it was great.

Time is starting to really fly by….stay tuned for my next post.

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Beijing – Day #3

The days are starting to fly by and we’re so busy everyday that I’ve fallen behind in my posts but it must be said that this has been one of my best vacations ever and I’m glad that I made the journey.

So day 3 started with a drive by the 2008 Olympic site. We stopped only briefly just to get a few snapshots of the Birds Nest, as the main venue was known. It looked pretty cool from the distance we were able to snap some quick pictures but it would have been nice to get a closer look.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is always a stop at a local jewelry store or other business where the goods are known to originate and today’s stop was at a jade factory. It’s always interesting to hear the presentation but the hard sell, especially in China, can be a bit annoying. The things that I’ve learned in my time here so far is that Chinese merchants don’t take no for an answer, will follow you wherever you are to get you to look or buy something and haggling is ok, lol. Anyone that knows me though knows that if I don’t like it, I don’t want it so don’t push me and certainly don’t follow me. I actually did consider buying a jade bracelet on this stop but couldn’t find one that fit and was in the coloring that I liked.

The next stop was probably the most amazing of the trip, at least so far, primarily for its significance…….the Great Wall of China. This site to some is considered one of the 7 wonders of the world, so to be there was amazing. Now my intention was not to walk the entire area of the Great Wall that we were visiting but certainly to walk a to the area that most often appears in pictures. However, due to the snow that Beijing had received the previous day, the steps which are already uneven were in some places covered in snow and/or ice. So I chickened out of trekking to the area I wanted to and opted instead to just go as far as I could and take my pictures. It was still amazing just being there.

Our last stop for the day was to the Beijing Zoo to see the pandas. I was honestly a little disappointed because I thought they were going to be so cute looking but instead they just looked dirty.

For dinner we were on our own this evening. Me and four of my tour mates decided to try a local restaurant near our hotel. What a meal! Our meal was less than $20 for all of us and it was delicious.

So tomorrow we leave for our next stop which is Xi’an. Here we’ll get to visit the Terracotta Warrior museum.

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Sorry for the delay!

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in a while but wireless access has been limited and some days we’ve just been going all day and I’ve just crashed in the evenings.

I have lots of pictures to share and plan on catching up on my posts today while we travel to our next destination Xi’an.

Stay tuned.

Beijing – Day #2

So today I woke up to a huge surprise……snow in Beijing! I thought it might put a damper on the full day of sightseeing that we had planned but it ended up being a great day and by the end of the day it had all melted away.

On today’s agenda was Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, a pearl factory and the Summer Palace.

Tiananmen Square is a huge public plaza surrounded by various government buildings and monuments and the site of the well known student protests that could place over 20 years ago.

The Forbidden City is a HUGE Chinese palace where emperors resided and commoners were forbidden to enter unless requested to do so. The entire site is made up of as many as 800 buildings and 9000 rooms, which would be impossible to see during one visit. As it was, we passed through multiple outer court areas on the site before we ever actually reached the residence area.

What was surprisingly very interesting about this stop was the number of Chinese tourists that were also visiting. Our guide mentioned that it is very common to have Chinese people that live in more remote areas come in to Beijing as tourists, just like us. He also mentioned that since some live in such remote areas not to be surprised if they stop any one of us to take a picture. Boy was he right, lol. Me and a few of my travel companions might as well have been Brad and Angie, the way they were coming up to us and asking to have their pictures taken with us.

Every one of these tours always includes some kind of jewelry shopping stop, especially when the jewel originates from that location. In this case, today included a stop at a pearl factory. I didn’t buy anything but found it interesting how many pearls can be found in one oyster. In my picture the pearls were still pretty small but the oyster produced a whole bunch.

The Summer Palace like the Forbidden City is a huge property overlooking a lake. It was the summer home to the Chinese emperors.

That evening we had our official welcome dinner which was at a peking duck restaurant. You would think that the peking duck was enough but all of the extras that came along with the meal was just over the top.

It was a jam packed day but a great introduction to Beijing.

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