Lines & more lines!

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Lines… I think I am going to have to get used to lines of people on this trip. It is a direct flight to Beijing – 12 hours only! That seem like a long time but it is much shorter than when I went to Bangkok or Brisbane. The plane is full & I have an aisle seat; I can hang my legs out occasionally until someone hits my feet. I have watched 2 movies already and still sleep does not come. For the first time I took melatonin as suggested by frequent flyers and I am only slightly drowsy, not enough to sleep but too much to take on another film.
We left Toronto at 3pm Tuesday and will arrive at 3ish in Wednesday. We have one day to settle in until the group arrives- Just like in Lima when Ethna & I spent time to aclimatize.


We arrived in Beijing by 4pm China time which is 12 hours ahead of Toronto time. It took at least an hour to get through customs with the lines & lines of people. Wow! What a civilized following.
No photos. No cell phones No hats.
Then we got luggage & a taxi to our hotel. It took an hour & a half to get into the city of 30 million people.
The hotel is fabulous and I need to sleep.

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About China- Yes I borrowed this from a National Geographic Source!!!

 

OFFICIAL NAME: People’s Republic of China

FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Communist state

CAPITAL: Beijing (Peking)

POPULATION: 1,355,692,576 …That’s a lot of people!!!!

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Standard Chinese, Mandarin

MONEY: Yuan (or renminbi)

AREA: 3,705,405 square miles (9,596,960 square kilometers)

MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Himalaya

MAJOR RIVERS: Yangtze, Yellow

GEOGRAPHY

Stretching 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) from east to west and 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers) from north to south, China is a large country with widely varying landscapes. Its territory includes mountains, high plateaus, sandy deserts, and dense forests.

One-third of China’s land area is made up of mountains. The tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, sits on the border between China and Nepal.

China has thousands of rivers. The Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers are the most important. At 3,915 miles (6,300 kilometers) long, the Yangtze is the world’s third largest river.

PEOPLE & CULTURE

With a population of 1.3 billion, China has more people than any other country on Earth. About a third of the population lives in cities. The rest of the people live in the country.

Arts and crafts have a long history in China. Thousands of years ago the Chinese were some of the first people to use silk, jade, bronze, wood, and paper to make art. The artistic writing called calligraphy was invented in China.

Much of China’s modern beliefs and philosophies are based on the teachings of a government official who lived nearly 3,000 years ago. Kongfuzi, also known as Confucius, taught people the value of such things as morality, kindness, and education.

NATURE

China’s diverse habitats are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants. More than 3,800 species of fish and hundreds of amphibians and reptile species live in the rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

China’s forest wildlife is threatened by logging and clear-cutting (clearing the land of all trees) for farmland. Expanding deserts in the north also shrink animal habitats. The Chinese government has created more than 1,200 reserves to protect plant and animal species.

The giant panda lives in the misty mountains of southwest China and nowhere else on Earth. They eat bamboo and usually live near stands of the woody evergreen plant. Pandas have been hunted and only about 1,600 remain in the wild.

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GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY

China is an authoritarian state ruled by a very powerful central government. A huge workforce and lots of natural resources have driven economic change. This has forced the communist government to permit more economic and personal freedoms, but it has come at a huge cost to the environment.

Many experts predict that the 21st century will be the “Chinese century.” Whether or not that proves to be true, there is no doubt that what happens in China will affect many other nations.

HISTORY

China is the home of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, but it has only recently become a “modern” nation. In the last 20 years, China has changed faster than any other country in the world.

Chinese history is divided into dynasties, each of which marks the period when a line of emperors ruled. The first empire was the Qin dynasty and began in 221 B.C. The last emperor was overthrown in 1912, and China became a republic. The communist government began its rule in 1949 following a civil war with the Chinese Nationalists.

Ancient China was a land of invention. For centuries, China was way ahead of most other countries in science and technology, astronomy, and math. The Chinese invented paper, the magnetic compass, printing, porcelain, silk, and gunpowder, among other things.

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Friday-Last day before Departure

Friday- Our last day before departure.
I had an early start for my tour of Lantau Island wehich is twice the size of Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong is made up of 256 outlying islands and it was a surprise to visit this huge area. One end of this island now houses the new airport and we passed two correctional centres, one high security and the other for light offenders.
The old airport was on a strip of beach that now is the dock for cruise ships. It was a short strip with a sharp turn at the end and there was always a collective sigh of relief when landing was successful.
We took a ferry to Lantau & then bussed to Chung Sha Beach. The water was 80 F and the beach was lovely. Then we went on to Tai O, a fishing village where homes are built on stilts. I wondered as I passed by on a old fishing boat where their bathrooms were and how they disposed of the waste!
We went high up the mountain to see a Giant Buddha Statue. The views were incredible and it was a clear day. We had a vegetarian meal in the monastery- that I could have missed. Some fellow passengers tend to take double portions before the plate with remnants swung around to me! I was hungry!
Our tour ended with a cable car ride from the mountain! That was the best part of the day! What views! Wow!
Home again to the Royal Plaza Hotel for an evening with our new friends. Magda went off dancing and came in at 2 in the morning. I spent a quiet night- aren’t I boring?? Home tomorrow from heat to freezing! Ahhh!!

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Thursday in Hong Kong

img_1934 img_1943 img_1959 img_1978 img_1984 img_1985 img_1987Hong Kong – Second time around!
I love this city more and more. Like Vancouver it has mountains & the sea but this place has so much more to offer.
It is humid here- about 90% and the temperature is over 30 Celsius.
We began our tour by taking the tram up to Victoria Peak. This time the sun shone and the view was incredible. Descending from the peak we headed off to the Stanley Market. I almost bought a few things- but I didn’t! Lots of great shopping was available. Dim sum lunch was on a floating restaurant and the we toured the water waterways by sampan. Then we went back to our hotel after a short ( wasted) tour of a jewellery factory.
The evening was fabulous- a night on the town. First we did a cruise of Victoria Harbour – an all you can drink cruise for an hour and a half. Hong Kong is gorgeous by night. That was a fun cruise with our group. Then we hit another night market. More shopping!!! Dinner was back up on Victoria Peak at Bubba Gump’s. We had Western meals but I must say Eastern meals area lot lighter to digest. Sleep came easily after so much eating & drinking.

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On to Hong Kong

We are almost ready to go to the airport (or “airpot” if you are Chinese speaking English!) I am fortunate to have spent so many years with Chinese students- I am fluent in Chinglish and have a good ear for it so I can translate for others.
In 4 more days I will be home and yes I am looking forward to that. Travelling starts to get to me after a while. The change to different places is great but I am tired of my same old clothes and eating 3 meals a day and being pleasant all the time. The people are mostly very nice but some of their habits & neediness becomes tiring.
Magda & I are good travelling partners. Conversations are never dull and she has a very perceptive eye regarding people! We will certainly venture out together again.
Shanghai is a worthwhile city to visit. It is the financial capital of China and appears like the face of a very modern China. It is more akin to Hong Kong than Beijing. It is a city of beautiful modern architecture, skyscrapers, the Huangpu River, the Bund, the French Concession, some tiny little 19th century alleyways with shops and European housing. I love Shanghai. And the East China Sea is close.
The airport is next and then Hong Kong!
Our flight to Hong Kong is delayed and delayed. I don’t know what that is about. We checked in, balanced overweight luggage with others in our group( an advantage of group trave!) and then we joined the long lines of security. They are really serious about security here! Don’t try to joke with them.
Due to the delay we had time for beer & wine. That makes waiting more pleasurable!
It is ten minutes to two and the plane is just rolling down the runway. It was supposed to be a 10 o’clock flight. We land just past 4pm in sunny hot humid air. It is 30+ Celsius. Arrival at the hotel takes about an hour. More building has happened since I was last here. They are now working on a bridge to Macau which I had reached by hydrofoil before. I love this city. The mountains, the sea, the energy of the place!
The hotel is amazing… 5 star + at least. It is attached to a high end shopping plaza and is near the flower market and the bird market.

See you later!

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Zhujiajiao

IMG_1758.JPGIMG_1774.JPGimg_1984Today we visited a water town called Zhujiajiao. It is similar to Suzhou but smaller. In fact when we got here it was crowded with tour groups and reminded me of Pioneer Village in Pickering with a Chinese angle!
This area is called the Venice of the East and you would understand if you saw the number of canals. We walked some times but we also went around on gondolas that carried 6 people. The shops were amazing selling bone carvings and pearls and clothing, silk & polyester, meats, crabs, ( I wanted to free them!), turtle (made me very sad) and duck and duck eggs… ahhh! the list is too long! Lunch was great but I could see those poor crabs trying to get out!
It was a great day and tonight we have our last dinner with the group. Half are going home tomorrow and the other half are off to Hong Kong.

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Zi’an in the Blink of my Eye

Sunday morning, Zi’an
Time is moving quickly and already we are leaving Zi’an for Shanghai this morning. I think we land in Shanghai about 1pm
Zi’an is a beautiful city and I am disappointed to leave so quickly. There is so much more to see. We visited the Terracotta Warriors yesterday-an amazing site but unfortunately the crowds of people were a deterrent. They certainly need some kind of organization of the visitors – like timed appointments or something to control the aggressive Asian viewers. It was possible to be pushed, knocked down or run over while trying to see the site. I don’t want to go through that again but it is difficult to avoid. Tourism is big here and the Chinese are the most nationalistic people I have ever met. They want to have the biggest, the best, the first, and the greatest of everything. There is no shortage of money here and construction of new condos and office towers is everywhere around. Life is bustling. But there are the poor. As a tourist I suspect we have been guided away from the negative aspects of this culture but I have a sense that it is not totally invisible.

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Chongqing

Chongqing – Friday October 21
The cruise down the Yangtze is coming to an end. We woke already docked in port to a grey overcast day. This is a huge city. Our excursion this morning is to the zoo to see pandas. This afternoon we hop on a short flight to Zi’an to see the terracotta warriors. It is quite overwhelming what we have seen and where we have been. I am really enjoying this group of fellow travellers. And within it we have 3 doctors and if none of them can help we have a mortician. There is always lots of laughter. The guide, Michael is so fluent in English that he can make jokes.
Chongqing is building a new harbour so right now it is quite a mess. 33 million people live in the province and 8 million live in this city. One million people are being relocated in order to flood the area and build the harbour .
Half the historic monuments were destroyed by Japanese bombing.
Chongqing is the economical and industrial centre of this area. Ford, Suzuki automobiles & Motorcycles.
The cities are huge here. Each one seems bigger than the next and there isn’t enough time to explore. I must come back to this country again after doing a bit more reading about the history.

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