Trip Leaders: Carla Constantino and Clair Quenzler
As one person stated early on, this is a TRIP, not a VACATION! Vacations allow you to relax and enjoy a leisurely pace. This was anything but for the 47 trippers who went to China. We succeeded in seeing most famous and extraordinary places the country has to offer. It took a 14 hour flight from Detroit to China, 4 internal flights to visit the best places, plus 1 high speed train to Hong Kong, miles and miles and miles on buses, a ridiculous number of steps to the top of Buddha temples; then throw in endless meals served on big lazy-susan’s and avoiding rather pushy souvenir sellers at every turn to survive this journey but we did! Here is a brief review.
Shanghai was our entry point and right away we began to understand how densely populated China is. In fact, every city we went to had endless high rise apartments, many empty. The Chinese just keep building. To top it off, the average apartment in China is 500-600 square feet total, seriously. The highlight in Shanghai was The Bund and the night cruise with countless lighted buildings. Shanghai is an explosion of color at night!
Next, the city of Xian where we came face to face with the Terra Cotta Warriors. For many this was a top highlight of the trip. If you have foreign travel in your blood, the Terra Cotta Warriors are probably on your list. In Pit 1, there are more than 2500 life size statues. They were found by a farmer in the 1970’s who was digging a well. A few feet in either direction and he would have missed and the soldiers may have never been discovered. The x-farmer is now there signing books. Awesome barely describes seeing these clay masterpieces in mass.
We traveled onto Yichang where we boarded our ship for a 4-night Yangtze River Cruise. If you wanted to rest, this was your chance. Many had clothing washed where the term ‘Chinese Laundry’ lived up to its perceived high standard. Seeing the Three Gorges Dam was a marvel you have to experience to understand. We experienced it and I am not sure we understand it even now after passing through the five-level ship locks of the world’s biggest dam. It boggles the mind.
Guilin was our next destination with a boat ride to see the monolithic peak mountains along the riverbanks. Truly beautiful, mysterious and very, very green. It is impossible to describe this natural wonder. Very few places in the world have this type of terrain. Combined with life along the river, it was quite serene. Many of us would have liked to spend more time here and if we had to live in China, we might choose Guilin because of the uniquely beautiful landscape.
Boarding a high speed train, we were off to Hong Kong. Everyone would agree that Hong Kong is one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Our hotel sat right on the Harbor with a promenade behind the hotel where people strolled, jogged, or just hung out. A stunning panorama of water and skyscrapers lies before you in every direction as far as the eye can see. It is a million dollar view whether you are on ground or the 25th rooftop floor outside with pool and bar. Hong Kong combines being Chinese but also westernized by the British making it very attractive and comfortable in many ways. If you like city life, you could be happy here.
But wait, the adventure is not yet over! Boarding the plane, the group was off to Beijing. No trip to China is complete without climbing the Great Wall. This is a BIG moment for everyone. You think about it for years and then you are finally there! It is another surreal moment to be in Tiananmen Square with its history that we all remember of one man standing in front of a tank. The stories about the Forbidden City are as fascinating as its structure. Beijing gave the group WOW moments with bucket list items getting checked off. At the top the list, the Great Wall is really…..GREAT.
This report is but a snippet of what we experienced in China. There are group memories, individual moments with close friends, your own internal dialogue all creating a new definition of what we know now about China. New because we saw things that are different and strange and wonderful. Travel to China expanded our mind and gave us a new appreciation for many things; some of which are rather simple like Western toilets, pizza and fresh clean air.
Carla and Clair