S: Memories of China, 2010
FC: Memories of China October, 2010
1: BEIJING | We arrived in Beijing to find a huge, modern, beautiful, and bustling city....not the third world city we expected. | We stayed at the luxurious Sofitel Hotel in downtown Beijing for our entire five night stay in Beijing. Note the photo of the swimming pool located on the fourth floor of the hotel.
3: We arrived in Beijing on Sunday and spent the remainder of that day, as well as Monday, recovering from the long flight. We began our third day in China by visiting The Forbidden City. It was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Quing Dynasty. It now houses the Palace Museum.
5: Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square meters.
6: Above we are with our good friends from Pittsburgh, Jack and Jackie Bennett. We met J&J on our tour of Ireland in 2009. During a visit with us this past summer they inspired us to go to China in 2010.
7: Note the 4 star bathroom!
9: Tiananmen Tower & Square, Beijing - Initially built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D. - 1644 A.D.) the square was the front door to the Forbidden City. Until 1911, when the last feudal kingdom was over, no one could enter the Tower except for the Royal Family and aristocrats. The square covers 100 acres making it the largest open-urban square in the world.
11: Next stop on our tour of Beijing was The Temple of Heaven. This is a complex of Taoist buildings visited by the emperors of the Ming and Quing Dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvests.
12: Temple of Heaven
13: Our third day in Beijing ended with a typical Chinese dinner followed by an evening at an opera which featured musicians, a singer (using the term "singer" very liberally here!), and an impressive fight dance.
15: Day 4 in Beijing began with a visit to the Great Wall of China on a beautiful sunny day! It should be noted that at the same time we were exploring one portion of the Great Wall, China's President Hu Jintao and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev were climbing a portion of the wall closed off to all other visitors at that time. This resulted in huge crowds where we climbed. Oh well, we climbed enough to get some good exercise!
16: Upper left - security for presidents of China & Russia at the Great Wall Upper right - Tao, our tour director, teaches us a little Chinese language. Bottom photo - fellow traveler Dave (from England) shot this photo.
17: After exploring the Great Wall for over two hours, we went to visit the Cloisenne Factory, or the YuLong Friendship Store. We were shown the manufacturing process (manual labor) and given an opportunity to shop in their beautiful store. Their Cloisenne and jade products were spectacular in their beauty. If it had not been for weight restrictions at airports, we could have spent a small fortune.
18: Following our tour, shopping, and lunch at the Cloisonne Factory, we visited the Ming Tombs, the burial place of 13 emperors in a complex that spreads over some 15 square miles. Visitors approach the tombs through The Great Red Gate (photo on opposite page). Like the Forbidden City, the Tombs have yellow roof tiles, symbolic color of the imperial family.
20: This turtle is found inside the Great Red Gate ( photo on preceding page).
21: After passing through the ceremonial entrance gates, we walked through the Sacred Way which is guarded by 36 statues .
25: We finished up the day by visiting "The Birds Nest" (Beijing National Stadium), site of the 2008 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. We also saw the Olympic swimming venue (The Cube), the Olympic Ring Tower, and fashionably dressed people. We finished up day 2 with a Peking Duck feast!
26: We started our 5th day in Beijing by visiting a factory / retail outlet for silk rugs. We were able to watch a lady carefully weave an intricate design from a detailed pattern. We were also shown how to determine the quality of a rug and then given an opportunity to do some shopping in the retail store. The rugs were very tempting but again weight limits on luggage kept us from buying anything. Whew!
27: We left the silk rug store to visit the Summer Palace. As its name implies, the Summer Palace was used as a summer residence by China's imperial rulers - as a retreat from the Forbidden City. This place is a virtual museum of traditional Chinese gardening using rocks, plants, pavilions, ponds, cobble paths, and other garden styles. Above photo is the Tower of Buddhist Fragrance overlooking Kunming Lake.
28: To the left is a photo of the Marble Boat the Empress Dowager CiXi built during her reign in 1889. We then walked through the covered walkway to view more of the beautiful gardens. The Summer Palace was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990. | The dragon boat we used to cross Kunming Lake to view the Marble Boat. | The Blue Iris stone is the largest stone decoration in any Chinese garden | One of many beautiful decorations in the gardens.
29: Photos are of the covered walkway around the lake of the Summer Palace. Erected in the mid 18th century, it is famous for its length (728 meters) and its rich painted decorations (more than 14,000 paintings). Its purpose was to protect the emperor's mother from the elements as she walked through the gardens.
30: Because it was the day before the start of the National Holiday, a week long holiday period, there were many visitors at the Summer Palace, including many children.
31: Later in the day we visited a city park built around a beautiful small lake. After a relaxing walk along the lake front, we were taken on a boat ride around the lake in a small sampan boat.
32: We ended the day with a rickshaw ride through the Hutongs for a home-hosted dinner. | Here we enjoyed a delicious traditional Chinese dinner and met our host's family.
33: On our 6th day in China we flew from Beijing to the ancient city of Xi'an. This city served as capital city to some of China's most important dynasties, including Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tang dynasties. It is also the Eastern terminus of the famous Silk Road, a fact which accounts for the city's long history of prosperity and exceptional cultural production. We were greeted with a Royal Welcome Ceremony at the city gate when we arrived in Xi'an. | Xi'an
34: The Bell Tower of Xi'an marks the geographical center of the city.
35: Top Left - Pagoda on Xi'an City Wall Top Right - Delicious dumpling dinner to end the day! | Xi'an Sofitel Hotel
36: On day 7 of our China adventure we visited the Terracotta Army Museum just outside the city of Xi'an. The museum consists of four buildings. | The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the Emperor Qin (Qin Shi Huang) in 209-210 B.C. Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Shi Huang Di in the afterlife. Emperor Qin was the first to not be buried with live subjects. The Terracotta Dynasty was also important for its introduction of a currency and calligraphy.
38: The Terracotta Army was discovered by accident in 1974 at Xi'an, China, when local farmers digging a well broke into a pit containing 6,000 life-size terracotta figures. Discoveries have continued to be made and today the remains of nearly 8,000 terracotta figures have been recovered. | The figures vary in height (184 to 197 cm, or roughly from 6.0ft to 6.5 ft tall) according to their role, the tallest being the Generals.
39: Excavation work continues today to recover & repair as many of the Terracotta Warriors as possible.
40: Photo below shows one of the farmers that found the terracotta figures while digging a well. He now adds to his income signing autographs and posing for photos. Bottom Photo - note detail of warrior | The giant marionettes (largest in the world) were used in the performance "Warrior and Little Girl" at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. They were created by the Johnson & Johnson Corporation and the Terracotta Army Museum in a celebration of science and technology cooperation in cultural relics preservation.
41: In the afternoon we visited a factory / retail outlet for jade products. These goods were amazing! | Prices ranged from $100 to over $300K for some items.
42: After a great dinner in the evening we were entertained by the Tang Dynasty show. This show was spectacular with its colorful costumes, scenery, music, and performances by a huge cast! What a way to end a great day!
43: Our 8th day in China was spent flying from Xi'an to Shanghai and then going by tour bus to Suzhou. While waiting to check-in at the Xi'an Airport, a man came to me, tapped me on my cap, and then began cutting on some paper. Next thing I knew he had cut a pretty good silhouette of me. Marilyn also agreed to let him do her as long as he only gave her one chin! See the results above... | SUZHOU
44: We stayed at the Shangrila Hotel in Suzhou, a spectacular hotel! I was surprised by the size and beauty of Suzhou. After a little rest, a traditional Chinese dinner (we were really longing for cheese burgers by now!), we were taken to the Garden of The Master of the Nets where we were entertained by a variety of different musicians, dancers, and singers.
45: We began our 9th day in China by visiting the "Humble Administrator's Garden" in Suzhou. This is the largest and most beautiful of the classical gardens in Suzhou, a city famous for its gardens. It is listed as a World Cultural Heritage site and has also been designated as a Special Tourist Attraction of China.
46: Though the crowds were huge in the "Humble Administrator's Garden", it did allow us many opportunities to see many proud parents and grandparents showing off their cute children! | As beautiful as the gardens were, we left earlier than we had planned due to the huge crowds of people at this site taking advantage of their National Holiday.
47: From the "Humble Administrator's Garden" we went to the waterside city of Tongli not far from Suzhou. Tongli is known as Little Venice. Here we took a boat ride through the town. This was a great opportunity for more people watching! | I thought the above photo showed an interesting contrast in Chinese life today. | The birds above are used for fishing. We ended the day by returning to the hotel and calling it a day.
48: Day 10 in China was one of our busiest of the entire trip. Today we were in Shanghai and started off with a visit to a silk factory / store. Here we learned the comforter production process from the cocoon through the finished product (resulted in me convincing Marilyn to purchase a comforter). | SHANGHAI
49: Next stop was the Bund, Shanghai's famed waterfront promenade. Built along the Huangpu River, the Bund features beautiful architecture and an active street life. The tallest structure in the photo is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
50: Due to 2 hour waits to go to top of Oriental Pearl TV Tower, we chose instead to ride the Bullet Train (fastest train in the world) from Shanghai to the airport and back. Top speed was 431 kph, or 259 mph. What a thrill, particularly when we passed the other train also traveling at top speed! Definitely one of the most exciting highlights of the trip! China is currently building a bullet train railway from Beijing to Shanghai making it the largest project in the world today. The train will be able to cover the entire distance in 5 hours! That's the equivalent of going from N.Y. City to Chicago in 5 hours!
51: From the fastest train on Earth to perhaps the most crowded place on Earth, Old Town Shanghai. Originally the walled city, it is now a bazaar filled with small shops and many hawkers trying to get you to buy "Watch?", "Bag?", "Louis Vuitton?", but it's still a treasure trove for photos and people watching. Fun to go there once, but never again!
52: As we struggled to keep up with our local guide (carrying red Uniworld flag), I jokingly told Marilyn that if she saw a Dairy Queen I would stop and buy us an ice cream cone. Until now, we had not seen a DQ in China. | About 10 minutes later as we emerged from the crowded walkway to a large, beautiful, and crowded square I heard Marilyn excitedly scream "There's a Dairy Queen!". | Sure enough, much to my disbelief, right in the corner of the square and barely visible from where we were standing, was a Dairy Queen! Unfortunately, the lines were long and we were afraid of losing sight of our tour guide!
53: Before leaving the crowded square I saw a young lady taking a photo of her two girlfriends and I jokingly pretended to join the photo. As I walked away they asked me to please join their photo. The highlight of "my" trip!!! Thanks to Marilyn for being such a good sport! Photos below were taken as we left Old Town Shanghai.
54: Following another delicious Chinese dinner, we were driven to the Shanghai Ritz Carlton to see the Shanghai Acrobats put on a spectacular performance. Due to the slow shutter speed of my camera (or my lack of knowledge of the camera) most of my photos were blurred and I failed to get many of the most dramatic acts, but the photos on this page still give an indication of the kind of the rich colors, sensational talent, and unbelievable excitement this show presented to us! Thus ended a most unforgettable day!!
55: LEFT - Day 11 in China started with Marilyn and I taking a short walk before we left for the airport to fly to Yichang. The photo to the left shows people practicing tai chi. We saw this in almost every park we saw in China. | RIGHT - Marilyn & Jackie get ready to leave hotel in Shanghai to go on cruise of Yangtze River. | LEFT - We say goodbye to our local guide at the Shanghai Airport to leave for Yichang.
56: YANGTZE RIVER CRUISE | On our 11th day in China we flew from Shanghai to Yichang and then made an hour and a half drive to where our boat, the Victoria Cruise Ship "Jenna", was docked. We boarded the ship, unpacked, attended a "welcome" dinner, and then returned to our room for some much needed rest.
57: Day 12 of our China Adventure! Below- View from back of the boat as we sailed toward the Three Gorges Dam. | Above - Marilyn and I standing on the visitor center tower overlooking Three Gorges Dam. | Above - Model of Three Gorges Dam layout in the visitor center. | Above - Three Gorges Dam is the largest in the world and provides flood control and 10% of all China's energy needs.
58: Sailing through the Three Gorges Dam Five-Chamber Ship-Lock | Top Left - Our boat approaches the first of five ship locks. Top Right - We stand at the rear of the boat as we wait for the gates to close and for the lock to fill with water. Note the water level marks on the wall of the lock. | At left you can see that the boats in the lock have been raised significantly. The trip through the five locks takes about 4 hours and raises the boat about 113 meters.
59: We ended the day with a Western style buffet dinner (much appreciated by everyone!) and then were entertained by a fashion show put on by the crew of the boat. The very colorful and entertaining show featured traditional Chinese clothing.
60: Day 13 of our trip started with us sailing along the Yangtze River and enjoying the beautiful scenery around us.
62: Later in the morning we took a ride on a sampan through the Lesser Gorges. The scenery was even more beautiful with steeper mountains and lush vegetation. We also had some laughs along the way.
63: Later in the day several of us went on an optional excursion to Baidicheng which dates back 1,800 years and has long been a refuge for kings and poets. It's an island with beautiful temples, gardens, and breathtaking views of the gorge in the background. | Bottom Left - Jack & Jackie were carried up the steep steps to the ancient temple complex. Bottom Middle - Ancient pagoda with beautiful mountain background Bottom Right - One of many sculptures on the property.
64: Beautiful courtyard | Typical coffin used to bury people in limestone caves along the river. | Bottom Left - scenery behind us is on Chinese $10 bill. Bottom Right - Four tiered Bonsai Tree wall at entrance.
65: More photos from Baidicheng
66: This evening we were again entertained by the crew who put on a really fun & entertaining cabaret style show. However, there was even more to the show than you see above.......
67: There was a magic show also! And look who the magician's pretty helper is! | About now I'm feeling pretty bad because it looks like she's actually paying attention to what this guy is saying. She never listens to what I have to say! | There you go....see! She wasn't listening to what the magician was telling her. He very plainly told her how to keep from cutting a hole in the handkerchief. I felt a lot better after that and was able to get a good night's sleep after all!
68: The 14th day of our trip (3rd full day on the river cruise) found us visiting Fengdu - the "Ghost City" famous for its gardens, temples, and statues of ghosts. | Fengdu became known as the "Ghost City" when two officials from the Imperial court married and settled on Mt. Minshan just outside the city. Combined, their surnames, Yin and Wang, sound like King of Hell in Chinese.
69: A few of the many ghostly statues found in the "Ghost City".
70: More photos from the "Ghost City". We had the rest of the day to relax after visiting Fengdu. Marilyn took advantage of this by getting a massage and acupuncture on her back (experienced only temporary relief). I spent much of the remainder of the day enjoying the view from the top deck of the boat as we sailed toward Chongqing.
71: We enjoyed the Captain's farewell dinner on the final night of our river cruise. Below are the two crew members who took such great care of us at each meal.
72: Chongqing On the 15th day of our China Adventure we disembarked from our riverboat "Jenna" and boarded a bus to explore the city of Chongqing, the "Mountain City". This city has a population of approximately 32 million people! Our first stop of the day was to see the giant pandas.
74: The giant pandas were certainly the stars of the zoo! There were many panda exhibit areas where you could easily watch these giant teddy bears sit and munch the stalks of bamboo.
75: I found the large Bengal tiger exhibit to be one of the most fascinating exhibits of the zoo. What beautiful creatures! | This young man seemed completely oblivious to the Bengal tiger lurking just behind him.
76: I was really surprised by the number of classes of tai chi and martial arts being carried on within the park by people of all ages. It was really fascinating to watch!
78: There were also lots of cute sculptures, interesting signs, and lots of grandparents & parents showing off the kids.
79: From the zoo we were driven to the Chongqing Great Hall of the People. This is a beautiful and huge building resembling a giant pagoda that is now used for large assemblies.
80: Above Left - Great Hall being prepared for big event. Above Right - Interesting painting from art gallery in the Great Hall Bottom Left - Artist begins watercolor painting Bottom Right - Artist displays completed painting after only a few minutes of work.
81: GUILIN | Following our visit to the Great Hall of the People, we flew to Guilin and arrived in the evening. The next morning, now the 16th day of our China visit, we went for a cruise on the beautiful Li River.
83: Enjoyed spending time talking with Lenny & Sandy, a retired couple now living in Miami. | The pointed limestone mountains really gave the river a gorgeous and mysterious look. | A local person pulls up beside our boat to sell his goods! | Marilyn with a very nice young couple from Italy we met on the Li River cruise.
84: Boats constructed of PVC pipes were a common sight on the Li River. | Middle photo is man with his fishing birds. Bottom Right - note the bicycles & mopeds parked to the side of road.
85: Guilin is considered one of the best landscaped cities in China. Top Left - Rice paddies on the way back to Guilin from the Li River. Top Right & Bottom Right - Day & night photos of the Twin pagodas located within walking distance of our hotel in Guilin. Bottom Left - Sculpture in park near our hotel.
86: On the 17th day of our China adventure we visited a tea farm not far from Guilin. Here we saw the fields where they grew the tea leaves and learned how they were picked . | We also learned the different qualities of the teas and how they were processed. The picking is always manually done. The leaves are 1) selected, 2) withered, 3) kneaded, 4) parched, and 5) fermented.
87: Following the demonstration of the tea leave processing, we were given a tasting of the various teas processed at this farm. All of the teas we tried were quite tasty. | Above photo shows lecturer pouring water from high above the tea pot to aerify the tea and improve the taste. Clay monkey below provided many laughs as it would pee when hot water was poured into it.
88: After our visit to the tea farm, we returned to Guilin to enjoy one of the most beautifully prepared meals of our tour.
89: The afternoon was spent at the Reed Flute Cave, a beautiful cavern located in the city of Guilin. | The landscaping of this place was as beautiful as the cavern itself.
91: The 18th day of our China adventure began with a trip to Victoria Peak, the "Mountain of Great Peace," which features the world's steepest funicular Railway and a not to be missed panoramic view of the Hong Kong's spectacular skyline! | Hong Kong
92: We then went to the Aberdeen Fishing Village where we were taken for a cruise on a sampan boat to view the remnants of the traditional Hong Kong fishing life. We also got a kick out of the boat captain and her pet!
93: Next, we went to the Aberdeen Jewelry Works where we watched craftsmen as they created beautiful (and expensive!) jewelry to be sold in the store. | Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the retail area of this exclusive facility.
94: Top Left - The Stanley Market - a place to shop for bargains. Top Right - The Hong Kong Jockey Club, a place where betting on horses is legal (gambling is illegal in Hong Kong but this is considered entertainment!). | Bottom photos were taken as we walked through the Metro to get to the Kowloon shoreline and the ferry boats. The Metro subway is for pedestrians, not for trains. Very nice!
95: Left - Standing on the Kowloon Peninsula shoreline. That is Victoria Harbor and the Island of Hong Kong directly behind us. Right - standing with a young student (studying photography) who provided assistance to us in getting to the correct ferry boat to go over to Hong Kong Island. English is the 2nd language spoken by most people in Hong Kong and it is spoken by all Hong Kong bankers.
96: The view of Hong Kong becomes even more breath-taking as darkness settles in over the city. This is surely the most beautiful city I've ever seen in my life up to now!
97: The 19th day of our China adventure is our final day. As we drive to the airport I am amazed at the number of container ships in Hong Kong's harbors. It is without a doubt one of the largest centers of commerce in the world. We left China with mixed feelings. We were sad to see our trip of discoveries come to an end, but were also excited to get back home to our great country and our families and friends. We will forever remember the incredible sites we saw, the history we learned, the experiences we had, and the great people we met on this trip. We also will always remember how friendly the Chinese people were to us in every part of China we visited. We were so Blessed to have been able to take this trip! This tour is a memory I will cherish forever and I can only hope that this book has accurately portrayed our experiences in China and will be an inspiration for others to make such trips in the future!
99: Translation - Only Kindness Brings Peace.