Getting to China
Getting restless and looking for new lands to visit? Lo and behold, China! China provides a unique trip due to the cultural differences Americans don’t typically experience. We traveled to China in early June and were glad it wasn’t later in the summer because of the heat. A river cruise on the Yangtze via Viking Cruises was our choice. The trip included 6 days on land and 6 days on the Yangtze River. www.vikingrivercruises.com
China is the most populated country in the world with 1.4 billion people, four times as many people as the United States, and 20% of the world population. The Chinese are experts in people moving. A good example was the airport in Beijing. There must have been 25 security lines with little delay. While we are seen as the consumers of the world, China is seen as the producers. Factories are producing as fast as we can buy it.
Safety in China
Safety was not a concern during our visit to this exotic country. In the evenings we would walk in the areas that we were staying and felt very safe. One person on our tour, a 95 year old gentleman, walked out of our hotel one evening and then got confused and couldn’t find his way back. He was located and escorted back by a kindly policeman.
Our tour began in Shanghai, and we were amazed by the futuristic, innovative, creative architecture. Our hotel room was on the 82nd floor. We had a spectacular view of the city. The front desk was on the 50th floor and dining was on the 95th floor. Breakfast was above the clouds.
Shanghai is one of the largest cities in China (pop 24.5mil) and one of the worlds most important ports. It began as a tiny fishing village 5000 years ago and is now a world financial center. Don’t miss the old city and Yuyuan garden tour while you’re there. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) artifacts are plentiful in the garden.
Next stop was Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where we were to board our ship on the Yangtze River. Wuhan is one of the most ancient and populated metropolitan cities in China. While in Wuhan we visited the Wuhan Museum that holds over 100,000 artifacts. After visiting the museum, we headed to the river to board our ship for the Yangtze River cruise.
The highlight of the trip is the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam. We didn’t realize the importance of the Yangtze to the Peoples Republic of China. A large percentage of commerce is generated along the river delta. We could see barges going up and down the river, many of them loaded with coal. One downside of the dam was that it flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people. Some of the displaced people return to their farms and still farm them.
The river is lined with factories with smokestacks belching out black smoke. The air is dirty as can be seen in the photos. The Three Gorges Dam is massive. It is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world as far as installed capacity.
The cruise stopped at Yueyang where Viking Cruises sponsors a school. The school was a delight to visit and the children were very excited to practice their English on us and show us their projects.
Lost in translation
Some things are lost in translation. We saw some rather curious signs along our journey.
Chongqing and the Panda Bears
Chongqing is an interesting city. Our guide told us that during WWII, the Flying Tigers were based there on an island in the river. We arrived on a rainy day to visit the zoo and its panda bears. It was a short walk through the zoo to visit the panda enclosure. And there they were. Sometimes the giant panda is referred to as a living fossil, since the bear is thought to have been is existence about 19 million years.
Xi’an and The Terra-cotta Soldiers
The custom in China for centuries was that when the emperor died, all his family and possessions were buried with him. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first Emperor China. His burial site also included the Terracotta Army, to protect the emperor in his afterlife. Thousands of clay soldiers were discovered in 1984 by local farmers. We met the principle farmer at the museum and he signed our guide book. Each soldier has a unique facial expression. A very fascinating museum to visit outside the city of Xi’an.
Beijing & The Great Wall
Beijing is a fascinating city and the capital of the People’s Republic of China. The city is the third most populous city in the world with a population of almost 22,000,000. What struck me was the city has 6 ring roads and is immense. The sites we visited included the Great Wall, the valley of the Ming Emperors, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty. In the evening we ate Beijing (formerly Peking) duck and it was outstanding. Another evening we attend the Beijing Opera. One could spend a month here and not see it all.
Go now to China
Recently we’ve seen some great prices for travel to China. From low round-trip airfare (in the $400 – $500 range) to tours ranging less than $100 per day now is the time to go. A China visa fee is US$230 per person.
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