China – November 2015

Once again booking our trip on Travelzoo, we got an unbelievable price, flights, hotels, tours, several meals, river cruise for under $800.00 per person.  We did however have to purchase a Chinese Visa which was a bit pricey but good for 5 years.  We flew into Beijing, where we were meet by our tour guide Kathi Lee, so it was easy to remember. We began our Chinese adventure with a visit to the Forbidden City, officially known as the Palace Museum.  From there we made our way to Tian’anmen Square, where our guide explained in detail the events that took place on June 4, 1989 as she was a student taking part in the demonstrations. We also visited the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  While in Beijing we traveled by bus to the Great Wall, at over 3700 miles long it zigzags from east to west and was built to stop invaders from the north. We were lucky in that the day we went was only the 4th time in its history it was covered in snow and ice.  Let me tell you, it was quite an adventure to walk on, it was like a ski hill, but absolutely beautiful to see.  We also visited the Beijing Olympic Park and saw the Iconic Birds Nest Arena.  While wondering around the grounds of the Olympic Park several local students would come up and ask to have their pictures taken with us.  Our guide said they loved to have pictures taken with Americans and would often have them framed and would hang them in their homes. We were scheduled to take a flight to Xi’an but as it turned out our flight was cancelled due to the snowy weather.  We were put up in a very interesting hotel as all hotels were already booked due to the weather.  In the drawer where you would typically find the bible, we had gas masks, things that make you go hum. A few of us in the group were hungry and ventured out in the snow to find something to eat.  We found a small family restaurant located near by filled with a few locals that dared to venture out in the snow.  Not much English was spoken, but luckily the menu had pictures.  The locals were very friendly even though we couldn’t understand each other, we proceeded to buy each other drinks, all the while smiling and giving thumbs up to each other.  After several drinks, we joined tables and somehow decided an arm wrestle contest need to been done to prove who was strongest.  Our contestant for some reason decided he needed to remove his shirt (might have been the alcohol talking) quite funny though.  I don’t remember who won know but it was a fun night to make up for the cancelled flight, and the food was pretty good.  The next morning, we boarded buses early to Xi’an as flights were still bad.  After finally arriving we continued on our scheduled tour and visited the Terracotta Warriors and Horse Museum.  It was amazing to see the details of the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century. We made our way through Suzhou, where we dined at a family’s home and Wuhan on our way to Yichang where we boarded a boat for a Yangtze River Cruise.  The boat was really nice and the food awesome.  The Yangtze River is the longest river in China.  The most beautiful section is known as the Three Gorges.  The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. We boarded smaller vessels to check out the Shennong Stream and a small village tucked back in the Gorge.  There we were able to walk around and the monkeys would come close to see what we might have to eat that they could share.  Along the river our guide pointed out on the cliffs of the Gorge where the Chinese would hang their deceased family members on the sides of the cliffs of caves in the side of the cliffs, this is known as Hanging Coffins. This tradition was started around 3000 years ago.  They believed mountaintops and high elevation were closer to heaven, the cliffs served as the stairway to heaven.  It was amazing to see and left you wondering, how could they place these coffins where they did. Our Yangtze river cruise ended in Chongqing, where we boarded buses to the airport and flew to Shanghai for our trip back home.  What a fantastic trip that touched on the many highlights in China and what a deal for the price.