S: Mongolia, China & Cambodia
FC: June - July 2011 | China | Mongolia | Cambodia
1: Beijing | Ulaan Baatar | Gobi Desert | Xi'an | Chengdu | Hong Kong | Yangtze River | Siem Reap | Angkor Wat | Kunming | Lijiang
2: Long Trip | Atlanta to Tokyo Tokyo to Beijing Beijing to Ulaan Baatar 21 hours in the air! 3 hours sleep! Many, many hours waiting in airports! | Amra, our Trip Leader
3: Museum Day | We climbed 205 steps to the top of Zaisan Hill where we saw the Russian Friendship Monument and a great view of the city. Beautiful mosaics depicted Russian and Mongol history. | Russian Friendship Monument
4: Gandan Monastery
5: Lion guarding the gates | Prayer Wheels | Golden Buddha
6: Central Square | We had lunch at this bar-b-q restaurant. They had a buffet where we picked out our rice, noodles, vegetables and meats. We brought our selections over to the kitchen where these two young men grilled and seasoned everything. I don't know how they knew who got what. | To help with 'digestion', the Mongolians have this custom of drinking vodka after a meal. Sure enough, we felt fine after we tried it. | Ulaan Baatar
7: Mongolian Hot Pot Dinner | Flying to the Gobi Desert | Delicious but a lot of work.
8: Three Camel Lodge | Our Ger | Electric power | Dining room ceiling | Gobi Desert
9: We drove about two hours to the camp, settled in and then walked up the hill behind the camp. We could see for miles. There weren't many landmarks and we almost got lost trying to find our way back to camp. | Our Ger | Bathroom & shower
10: Flaming Cliffs and Sand Dunes | The next day, we drove 60 km on a rutted, unpaved road to the Flaming Cliffs. Our group had three Russian built vehicles which were not very comfortable. We finally arrived only to find that the access road down into the dunes was gated. Our drivers conferred and decided to find a way down. They drove along the rim until they could drive around a second gate. Scary! We bounced around until we reached bottom and then got out and walked through the dunes. It was quite enjoyable until it started to rain. We all hopped back in and started to drive up to the rim. The sand had turned to mud and all the vehicles got stuck. Luckily they had 4-wheel drive. Finally made it.
12: After exploring the Flaming Cliffs, we drove about an hour to visit a family that raises camels. It was raining and the saddles were wet so we opted not to take a camel ride.
13: We had an early morning flight back to Ulaan Baatar - uneventful. We then had a six hour ride to our next ger camp up in the mountains. Country was still stark - almost desert-like. We did see some horses and yaks. Bathrooms were extremely rare. We finally found this pit toilet - it was disgusting but it was a toilet. | Khankhar-Uul Camp | The camp was in a beautiful setting - mountains on three sides and wide open spaces in front.
14: Our Ger | After the long drive, we reached our camp about 3:30. We had some free time after lunch and decided to climb the hill overlooking the camp. Nice views and we met the local dog and some cows. They all followed us down to our ger. | Our big yellow bus | Khankhar Uul Camp
15: Steve makes a friend
16: Erdene Zuu Monastery
17: This tortoise is a relic from the 13th century city of Khar-Khorum.
18: After lunch, we visited this nomadic family who raise horses for a living. They had solar electricity, cell phone service and cable TV. We were invited in and offered some home made yogurt. The Grandfather was a pilot during WWII and had studied to be a monk. The toddler was adorable - very shy at first but quickly warmed up when he saw his picture on some of the cameras.
19: The monastery is nestled in the mountainside cliffs looking out into the desert. Very peaceful and a nice way to end a long day. | Ovgon Monastery
20: That night we had a Mongolian barbecue dinner. Delicious but filling. Luckily, we had the traditional Mongolian digestion remedy. This time it was three drinks of vodka. It was a wonder we made it back to our ger! | The next morning the bus wouldn't start. Several people worked on it for about two hours. We all decided to take walks and enjoyed our free time. | Hustal National Park | We drove to this park to see wild horses. The roads were terrible and the drivers crazy. We did see some horses off in the distance - looked like dots moving around. Luckily, as we continued our drive to Ulaan Baatar, we saw some horses by the road side. | Picture of all of us taking pictures of the horses.
21: Our last night in Mongolia was a special treat. In addition to a great meal, we also had a traditional musical performance. Musicians, acrobats, dancers, a folk singer and a throat singer. A great way to end our visit! | Mongolian Performance
22: Roadside Monument We walked around this monument three times, clockwise, and left an offering. | Gers are built alongside houses in some areas. | Souvenir stands right outside the temple. | This camp had everything!
23: Beijing | Our flight to Beijing wasn't until 6:00 PM so we had most of the day free. Amra took us to some shops in the afternoon - bought some souvenirs. Got to the airport early - found a purple suede jacket - very reasonable. Our flight was late so we didn't get to the hotel until 11:00. Met our Trip Leader, Michael and our Local Guide, Donald. | Tiananmen Square | Donald, our local guide | Michael, our trip leader | Chairman Mao | China
24: Forbidden City | Guardians | The guardians on the roof top showed the rank of the occupant. This is the palace of the Emperor.
26: In the evening, we walked through this sidewalk market and restaurant area on the way to our welcome dinner. We had Peking duck plus about nine other courses. We liked everything! | Forbidden City Gardens | Peking Duck | Welcome Dinner
27: Cloisonne Workshop and Showroom | I never realized how complicated cloisonne was. It's an extremely long process. The pieces were beautiful but I only bought a pair of earrings.
28: The Great Wall of China
29: We drove for about 2 hours to get to a 'wild' section of the Great Wall. The wild Great Wall means that it has been only partially restored and tourists have not discovered it yet. There were only two Chinese families and our group of 16. We climbed 297 steps just to get to the Wall, then another 834 steps up to the next mountain top. Where there weren't steps, we had to climb a very steep incline. Exhausting but well worth the effort. | Partially restored section
32: The Summer Palace | Dragon Boat
33: Stone Boat Royal Dining Hall | After cruising on a dragon boat on Kunming Lake, we strolled through the gardens and enjoyed the peaceful setting. We had lunch in the gardens with waitresses in period costumes.
34: Beijing Opera School and Performance | We visited the Opera School where we observed several classes. The students have precise movements which they must master - the tilt of the head, holding a fan, position of the hands and feet in addition to singing and dancing. | That evening we attended a shortened performance of Chinese Opera. It took some getting used to - the actors half sing and half speak, in a very high-pitched voice. The costumes are very elaborate. Dinner was excellent.
35: Chinese and English translation | Musicians
36: Today we toured a Hutong, which is a small neighborhood in Beijing (only 50,000 residents). We walked several blocks taking in the sights. Several other groups were also touring but they were being driven. Much more interesting on foot. | Taking a rest
37: We had a home-hosted lunch in the Hutong. Our hostess and her niece cooked up a feast. The niece hand paints snuff bottles. Very detailed designs inside the bottle. We bought one and had our names painted inside. | Home-Hosted Lunch
38: Temple of Heaven | Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
39: Imperial Vault of Heaven surrounded by the Echo Wall
40: People and sights we saw in Beijing | Olympic Stadium | Fast food is everywhere | Backstage tour
41: Each couple had their own compartment even though it could sleep four. The berths were as hard as a board so we used the extra blankets as padding. | All aboard! | Which train is ours? | Overnight train
42: Xi'an | This was a beautiful hotel. Nice lobby, large rooms and a garden in the courtyard, complete with peacocks.
43: Wild Goose Pagoda and Park | We had free time this morning so we walked to this park. The sculptures depicted such things as musicians, wrestling and honoring elders. There were shaded pathways and even a small waterfall. We enjoyed people watching.
44: After our walk we had a Tai Chi demonstration and class. Our instructor is a Tai Chi Master and looked so graceful. Then we all got to try - we were not graceful at all. | Not quite right | Tai Chi Class and Demonstration | I almost have it right.
45: Shaanxi History Museum
46: Small Wild Goose Pagoda | This was a very peaceful park with nice gardens - very few people come to visit. These posts are not grave stones but old hitching posts. We saw this woman doing calligraphy and had her do our names in Chinese.
47: Carpet Factory | Lacquer Ware Factory | Jade Factory | We visited several factories and of course bought some things. The larger pieces were quite elaborate and expensive. | Our purchases
48: Emperor QuinShihuang's Terracotta Museum
51: The Emperor's Chariot | 6,400 life-sized terracotta warriors
52: Medicine Market | This market sells old Chinese remedies - herbs, dried antlers, turtles, snakes and lots of unidentifiable stuff.
53: Xi'an City Wall | The wall is 40 feet high and 42 feet wide. We could have walked around the entire Old City - about 8.5 miles but didn't have that much time. Bikes or rickshaws could be rented but we needed the exercise and walked a few miles. | Sentry Building | Decorative trash can
54: Dumpling Dinner and Tang Dynasty Show | We had about 20 different kinds of dumplings for dinner. We liked most of them even though we didn't know what we were eating. They were really hard to pick up with chopsticks. | Our hostess | Entertainment during dinner | The show featured costumes from the Tang Dynasty. The music, singing and dancing were all excellent.
56: Donghan Farmer's Village | We drove to the Donghan Farmer's Village for our overnight stay. We were separated into four groups and met our hostesses. After a Q&A period, we had dinner with the family. Later, we went to the square where the ladies performed a country dance. The next morning after a family breakfast, we visited the studio of one of the local painters. | Paper Cutting Our hostess cut these butteflies in about 2 minutes! | Our hostess
57: The Old Farmer's Village | We walked to the old farmer's village which is very run down but a few people still live here. | Noodle drying | Grandma showing us her heated bed
58: Chengdu | Panda Sanctuary | Swan Lake | Red Panda
59: Our flight wasn't until 8:30 PM so we went to this shopping street. It was raining lightly when we started but that quickly changed into a terrible downpour and then into a severe thunderstorm.. We took shelter where we could but were still soaked. We finally made it back to our bus which was parked in a 10-inch deep puddle! | Traffic was terrible but we finally made it to the airport, had our box dinner and then found out that all the flights were postponed. Michael arranged for a bus to take us to a local hotel where we could relax. We were on the bus for 3 hours and had gone only 6 miles. At that point we returned to the airport (in 20 minutes) and waited until 2:00 AM to take off. We arrived in Lijiang at 5:00 AM. | July 3rd - Carol's Birthday What an adventure! | Waiting in the airport | Chengdu Shopping Street
60: Our hotel was in the Old Town; we had to walk 20 minutes, in the dark to get there. We had a few hours rest and then left for a full day of touring. The Old Town was a maze - if we didn't have a guide we would have been totally lost. Lots of interesting things to see. | Hotel courtyard | Lijiang
61: Anyone for a pony ride? | To reach many restaurants, a patron had to cross these narrow bridges. | Dongba Museum | We were supposed to visit Tibet but the government closed the borders because it was the 60th anniversary of the 'Peaceful Liberation of Tibet'. Instead, we visited Lijiang and Kunming - both delightful places.
62: Black Dragon Pool | This park was a wonderful place to visit. Very quiet and peaceful. Just what we needed after only a few hours sleep.
63: Happy Anniversary!
64: Kunming | Yuan-Tong Temple
65: Green Lake Park | We arrived in Kunming in time for lunch and then visited this Buddhist temple. We were lucky to see part of the service and the monks processing from one pagoda to another. | We walked around this park for about an hour and enjoyed people watching.
66: Stone Forest
67: We spent the entire day at the Stone Forest. We walked on the paths in the center of the park where we saw some folk dancers. We then continued into the less developed areas. The paths, while paved, were narrow and steep. But we all enjoyed the exercise.
68: Yangtze River Cruise | Our cabin
69: Yangtze River ...3rd largest river in the world ...185 cities along river with 398 million people | River buoy | Fishing boat | Coal carrier | Tourist boat
70: The river was low so we had over 225 steps to climb. | Our group was visiting a family who had been relocated when the river was dammed. We decided to see the City of Ghosts instead. | We climbed the stairs, took a shuttle and then climbed the hill to Feng Du. There are many Buddhist and Taoist temples on Ming Mountain, all very ornate with many statues of Gods and Ghosts. | Ming Mountain | Feng Du
71: Feng Du The City of Ghosts | Chinese Hell | Demons
72: Chinese Fashion Show put on by the crew
73: Cruising the Three Gorges
74: Yangtze River
75: Tourist Walkway
76: Farewell Banquet | Talent Show
77: Three Gorges Dam and Locks | The dam is the largest in the world - 600 feet high and 1.4 miles long. 1.3 million people had to be relocated. | Five stage twin locks
78: Hong Kong | We arrived in the late afternoon and only had time to see some of the shopping areas. We walked through the fish and meat markets to get to this ultra modern 13-floor shopping mall. Quite a contrast! | World's longest escalator goes downhill in the morning and then changes direction after 11:00 AM. | City Tour
79: Man Mo Taoist Temple | At the temple, offerings are made by purchasing incense coils which are burned making the interior very smoky and smelly. We couldn't stay inside for very long.
80: Sampan Cruise | Aberdeen Floating Village | Jumbo Floating Restaurant | Our Captain
81: Market Walk | This market sold everything from meat, fish, vegetables and spices to souvenirs. We saw some great masks and dragons.
83: Flower Market
84: Nan Lian Gardens
85: This is a walled garden in the middle of Hong Kong complete with ponds, waterfalls, pagodas and bridges. It was very peaceful - a perfect way to end our visit to China.
86: The Nunnery | Lotus Ponds | We walked from the gardens to this nunnery - didn't see any of the nuns but the temples and lotus ponds were very impressive. The ponds had several different colors of lotus. Enjoyable walk even though it was raining.
88: Lei Yue Mun Fishing Village | As we walked along the shore of this fishing village it was quite a contrast between the small fishing boats and the high-rise buildings in the distance. We walked through narrow lanes with stores selling all kinds of exotic seafood. Each shop had a small restaurant attached to it. This was the place to find fresh seafood!
89: Farewell Dinner
90: People of China
91: Foods of China | Wedding cake | We had watermelon with almost every meal | Lazy Susan filled with food | Mongolian Hot Pot Dinner | Delicious fish
92: Siem Reap Cambodia | Chantha, our Trip Leader | This musician played every morning while we had breakfast. | Lotus Field
93: Fishing Village | Gas Station | Marketplace | Drying Fish | Spirit House Offerings to the Gods.
94: Ox Cart Ride and Home Visit | We had a ride through the village on these ox carts over very rutted dirt roads. Not very comfortable but certainly an experience. Our driver took us to his home where we met his mother who is a Buddhist nun. | Kitchen
95: Tonle Sap Boat Ride to a Floating Village
96: Floating Village | Floating market
97: School children | As we motored through the village, we were surrounded by these small boats. Most boats had a small child holding a large snake. For a fee, we could hold the snake - nobody took advantage of this offer. | Boarder
98: Pre Rup Temple | We had a chance to climb these ruins. The steps were very steep (about 15 inches high), uneven, and slippery. It was a tough climb.
99: Banteay Srei Temple | This temple was built in 967 AD and is one of the oldest temples in the country. The carvings are very intricate and depict the beauty of women. We got caught in a terrible downpour and were soaked even though we had umbrellas.
101: Angkor Wat
102: Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century and is still in excellent condition. We were able to climb up to the top tower on these steep steps for a great view. Going up wasn't too bad but when we started down it was pretty scary!
103: Angkor Wat | Seven headed snake
104: Rice Fields | We drove past many rice fields on our way to our home-hosted lunch. We stopped at one and two of our group asked if they could try their hand at rice planting. It's harder then it looks. The workers were laughing hysterically at our efforts. Cambodians riding along the road also stopped to see the crazy tourists. Everyone had a great time. | Elementary School | Students on their way home
105: Our hostesses | Home-hosted Lunch | Youthful salesmen | Not your usual toy
106: The 'Jungle'Temple
108: Angkor Thom Temple
110: At the end of the day, we returned to Angkor Wat for a wine tasting. Chantha bought some Wrestler's Wine and a few snacks. The wine was terrible but the food was very good especially the dried frog's legs.
111: That evening we went to a dinner theater. It was a fantastic buffet - they had everything. Much more then we could eat. We had a great table right in the front. The show highlighted the national dances of Cambodia. After the show, we returned to the hotel by a remok - a motorized rickshaw!
112: Killing Field Memorial | These memorials can be found all over Cambodia. They commemorate the 1.7 million victims of the 1975-79 Pol Pot genocide. Our trip leader, Chantha, lived through those times - his father was killed, his mother and sister sent to separate camps and he was sent to a third camp. He was 7 years old. Years later, he was reunited with his mother and sister. It was a very sobering experience. | Old Cemetery
113: Soldier's Cemetery | This temple had elaborately painted walls and ceiling.
114: We visited a silk farm where we saw mulberry fields, silkworms, spinning the silk and weaving the silk products. I bought a scarf and a pillow cover. | Mulberry fields | Silkworms | Feeding the silkworms | 47 day life cycle of the silkworm | Silk Farm
115: After lunch, we went to the Royal Temple and Park in Siem Reap. Very peaceful. We saw some flower sellers and street vendors selling fruit from their bicycles. We had some free time so we explored the Old Market. Bought a few things. Very picturesque - meat and fish on one side of the aisle and souvenirs on the other. | Royal Temple and Park
116: People of Cambodia
118: It was a wonderful trip but it was good to be back home.