Wonderful Holiday in China
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We are back in Abu Dhabi after a fantastic holiday. Thanks to you, our Travel Consultant from China Odyssey Tours responsible in finalizing our tour Itinerary, we enjoyed the locations which are completely different from each other.
We (me and my wife Bhooma) are very fond of traveling and we have covered most of the places in the world. Bhooma was always keen on visiting China. When we started planning for a visit to China, my friends asked "Why China". We told them that we wanted to visit China as it has always intrigued us and like India, China has a great history. During the planning of the visit I was very surprised to get my queries answered by you within a couple of hours! The whole trip worked with clock-work precision, thanks to your excellent planning and organization. All the guides had personal warmth; Li-Ping had extensive knowledge.
Bhooma and I would like to share with you some of our experiences in China.
We boarded a Qatar Airways flight at Abu Dhabi, leaving just before midnight on a Thursday (23rd March 2006) and reached Beijing Friday (24th March 2006) afternoon and transiting through Doha.
We were the only Indians on the Doha-Beijing flight and the departure of the flight was delayed by an hour and suddenly I became apprehensive about the whole trip. The apprehensions vanished when we saw the cheerful Li-Ping, our Beijing guide, waiting for us at the exit of the baggage claim area.
Day 1, 24th April 2006:
As we had arranged for a private tour, a black sedan was waiting for us at the airport and took us to the Guangzhou Hotel. On the way we saw plenty of construction work and we were informed by the guide that Beijing is preparing for hosting the 2008 Olympics. The hotel was beautiful and located very close to the Tiananmen Square and shopping area. As we were very tired, we told our guide that we would rest for the complete day. We slept through the whole day!
Day 2,25th March ‘06
We had a good breakfast and visited The "Temple of Heaven", the place which was visited yearly by the emperors who performed intricate rituals to insure a good harvest for the whole nation at ancient times. We saw many senior citizens exhibiting their talent in music and dancing. Wow, no wonder Chinese are fit mentally and physically.
We visited a Government Silk factory where they showed us how silk is made. We subsequently visited a Friendly store where the same items were available at cheaper prices. But we couldn't say which one is genuine!
As we are strict vegetarians, our special vegetarian lunch was arranged in a Thai restaurant. We enjoyed our meal and a beautiful classical dance show.
After lunch we visited the Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) Square, the largest city square in the world and the spiritual heart of China, where the national flag is raised exactly at sunrise everyday. The square was crowded and unbelievably clean!
Then we visited the Forbidden City located in the center of Beijing, used to be the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties with a history of around 600 years, it is the grandest integral palace complex still remaining in China. We saw someone dressed like the emperor waving to everyone! Many people were getting photographed in royal clothes. Absolutely a beautiful palace!
At night, we attended the Peking Opera, a kind of singing drama which is an ingenious and colorful combination of elements from many sources: traditional music, poetry, singing, recitation, dancing, acrobatics, and martial arts.
Day 3,26th March ‘06
Today's excursion took us to the majestic Great Wall, Ming Tomb and Sacred Road.
We left early morning for The Great Wall, the most famous symbol of China and one of the world's most remarkable architectural wonders, it was built over 2,000 years ago and stretching about 6,700km.
On our way we stopped over at a factory manufacturing ‘cloisonné'. Cloisonné manufacture is comprehensive and sophisticated, combining the techniques of making bronze and porcelain ware, as well as those of traditional painting and sculpture: Beijing is the cradle of Cloisonné technique the workers were highly skilled and produced amazing results.
We drove to the bottom of the Great Wall and took a trolley to the top of the wall. What a magnificent sight! We walked on the wall for some distance but could not climb to the highest tower as the road was very highly crowded. I exercised my skills at bargaining and the old shopkeeper lady wanted me to stay with them!
Our next stop was the Ding Tomb, the burial site of Wanli emperor, the 13th emperor of the Ming Dynasty who ruled for 48 years until his death in 1620, it is the only underground tomb of the thirteen tombs of the emperors. The tomb was enclosed by mountains and faced a river and looked beautiful and serene.
Our last stop for the day was The Sacred Road, a path lined with stone statues of animals, mystical beasts and officials who serve the emperor in his afterlife, through which the sitting emperors would go to perform memorial rituals for the ancestors once a year.
As suggested by our guide, we attended the ‘Kung-Fu' show and it was extremely well choreographed and beautifully executed.
Day 4, 27th Mar ‘06
After breakfast, we visited Hutongs by rickshaw. Hutongs are the old narrow paths with lots of courtyard homes where common people are living. We had lunch at a Chinese home, who were kind enough to prepare a vegetarian meal for us. They also presented us a with a small paper art.
After lunch as we had some free time we visited Dr. Tea house and learnt how to make various types of Tea. We tasted them and bought some for us as well.
We took the afternoon flight to Xian where we were met by our guide ‘Leo'.
Day 5, 28th Mar ‘06
Here I have to say that we had already started missing our daughter ‘Neeraja' and Son ‘Mukund' who had accompanied us on our earlier holidays. Presently they live in USA and could not join us.
Our guide Leo reminded us so much of our son and we took an immediate liking to him. We stayed at the ‘Orient Hotel' which has a revolving restaurant at the top providing a beautiful view of the city.
After breakfast we visited The Ancient City Walls built during the 14th century on Tang dynasty foundations, date to the Ming dynasty. The walls are claimed to be the largest and best-preserved ancient fortress in the world. There is a gate in each of the four sides, the gate towers built over each gate look lofty and magnificent and form a tight defense engineering system.
Then we visited the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, discovered in 1974 by local farmers digging a well, one of the most significant archeological finds of the 20th century. These 6,000 life-size painted Terracotta Warriors and Horses, individually sculpted from real-life models and arranged in battle formation have been protecting the mausoleum of the first emperor in Chinese history. We had read so much about the warriors long time back in National Geographic magazine and we found it highly interesting.
In the afternoon, we climbed to the Bell Tower and had an impressive view of Xian.
After a tiring day I enjoyed a nice foot massage.
We completed the day with the Tang Dynasty show.
Day 6, 29th Mar ‘06
After breakfast, Big Wild Goose Pagoda: regarded by many as a symbol of the city, the pagoda was built in 652 A.D in Tang Dynasty to house the sutras brought back from India by the famous monk Xuan-zang.
Then we visited the Shaanxi Provincial Museum opened in 1991, the largest comprehensive museum in the province, the museum exhibits over 3,000 unearthed historical relics, a small fraction of their collection, most of the exhibited items are rare treasures, showing you the splendid Chinese culture.
We took an evening flight to Guilin. Our guide Leo surprised us presenting us with a paper art.
Day 7, 30th Mar ‘06
We reached Guilin late in the evening, met our guide the bubbly Kathy and checked into the Osmanthus Hotel. It had a great view of the river and we regretted that we will just spend that night in that hotel.
Early morning, we checked out and took the Li River Cruise. The view of the adjoining hills was breathtaking. Probably one of the most beautiful locations we had ever visited. We came across a hill where there were many horse like formations. Kathy challenged us to count the number of horses we can see. It seems President Clinton counted nine, Bhooma counted twelve! No words can describe the beauty; one has to see this personally!
After reaching Yangshuo, we checked into the New Century Hotel again with fantastic views.
Our guide Kathy suggested a show called ‘Impressions'. We took her suggestion and were grateful as the show was fantastic and I have not heard of a similar one anywhere in the world. Unfortunately I couldn't take any pictures as it was very dark.
Day 8, 31st March ‘06
In the morning, we declined an invitation by Kathy to ride bicycle and took the car ride to visit the Big Banyan Tree more than 1500 years old, with its crown covering more than half a hectare, it was once the spot where "Third Sister Liu" who was the folk song singer of Zhuang people sang beautiful melodies according to the legend.
Then we had an excursion to the Moon Hill, the hill viewed from different places, the moon takes on different shapes, sometimes full moon, sometimes half-moon and sometimes crescent, forming a marvelous spectacle in Yangshuo. We climbed about 800 steps up to the very top, but then the fog prevented us from having a fantastic view of the whole county. Two old ladies (above 70) climbed along with us just to sell water and Coca-Cola!
We had a chance to pay a visit to one of the local farmers' home.
In the evening we were on our own and had a wonderful time in shopping with excellent bargains.
Day 9, 1st April ‘06
We checked out of the hotel and took a car ride back to Guilin. We visited the - Elephant Trunk Hill, the symbol of Guilin, which resembles a giant elephant drinking water from the Li River.
We then visited the beautiful Reed Flute Cave 5 kilometers away from the city center, famed as "A Natural Palace of Art", in which we saw lots of stalactites & stalagmites illuminated by the lights of different colors and learnt how they were formed. The ‘Crystal Palace' was very impressive.
On our way back, we visited the Government Pearl shop. We learnt the differences between Sea and fresh water pearls and also how to find genuine pearls from fake pearls.
We had a spicy lunch after a long time and enjoyed it fully. We spent some time in the city centre before taking a flight to Shanghai. We were met by our beautiful guide Asa who took us to the Ocean Hotel.
Day 10, 2nd April ‘06
This morning we went to the Yu Garden located in the Old Town of Shanghai and laid out in 1559 AD by a powerful Ming official, Yu Garden recreates a beautiful landscape of pagodas, pavilions, rockeries, fountains, ancient trees and precious flowers. Dragon sculptures on the walls were quite impressive.
Then followed a visit to The Bund (the word "Bund"was derived from Anglo-Indian word meaning quay): Where the great trading houses and banks had their headquarters in 1920s and 1930s, about a mile long, it is the city's fulcrum.
We crossed over to Nanjing Road: known as "China's No.1 Shopping Street "with a huge of merchandise on sale.
We had a nice lunch and went to Shanghai Museum often ranked as China's best museum; it is the biggest museum in China with a fine collection of over 120,000 pieces of Chinese artifacts.
In the evening we attended an ‘Acrobat show', probably the best show on our tour.
We returned to our hotel.
Day 11, 3rd April ‘06
Today is our free day. We decided to go to Xiangyang market in the morning. We took a taxi from the hotel and reached the market. It is a huge market with many small shops selling all popular brands of watches, bags, DVD's etc. We had a great time and bought whatever we wanted. The people were very friendly.
We came to Nanjing road and took a stroll, buying some silk coats on the way.
We returned in the evening to the hotel and had good rest.
Day 12, 4th April ‘06
Today is our last day in China and we had the morning to ourselves as our flight left at night.
We had a good rest in the morning. We took a taxi to Nanjing road to complete our shopping. We had good lunch at Pizza hut. Then we spent some time in the evening at the Bund. It started raining and we decided to call it a day and returned to the Hotel.
We were picked by our guide Asa and reached the Airport well in time. We were sad to leave China, but carried excellent memories of our trip.
I sent SMS to all our guides who had taken care of us so well during our trip and within minutes , I got the reply SMS wishing us good luck and safe journey.
One final word of thanks to the drivers of cars at all these locations (I do not remember their names) for their patience, courtesy and safe driving.
We owe this wonderful holiday to you Annie!
With best regards,
Temple of Heaven
Rickshaw in Hutong
WithOld ladies on Moon hill
Crystal palace inside the cave
Can you count the number of horses
With Kathy at Elephant Trunk Hill
Wild Goose Pagods
With guide Asa in Bazaar