I always wanted to visit China. I was curious about this vast country its history and its culture and mostly its people and how they live. So when an opportunity presented itself too good to miss I convinced my travelling companion that we should join this guided tour and see what adventure unfolds this time.
Most of our travelling adventures in the past were done by the two of us on our own, we take time to read, research the country we want to travel by watching Travel DVDs, then plan and outline our route without the help of a travel consultant. However this trip to China we decided to sit back and enjoy the trip and leave the planning to the experts and that is exactly what we did.
The tour began in Beijing, then on to Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Wuxi. We were accommodated in five star hotels and most of the meals were included. All our Tour Guides spoke English and the presenters at the different places we visited in China were very knowledgeable and loved to talk about their country.
Each of the places above were very unique and had its own charm. Here are some of the highlights of our trip. In Beijing we explored historical sites like the Forbidden City and we got an opportunity to climb the Great Wall. For me this was so real to climb the stone steps to the different posts which soldiers many centuries ago, climbed to defend their country. I was surprised at the narrow breadth of the wall. I imagined it to be wider as I had read somewhere that four horses riders could ride side by side at the same time. I think some parts of the Great Wall may be wider at another point.
In Shanghai I loved the Lingering garden which was an ancient home belonging to a Chinese aristocrat with a garden attached to the house. From the outside it did not look like much but once inside it was beautifully landscaped with waterfalls and plants and flowers. The place had a peaceful atmosphere and the art of Feng shui was very evident from the interior decor and furnishings.
In Suzhou we were taken to Silk Spinning Mill where we experienced how silk was extracted from the silk coccons and then woven into silk material. Such stops on the trip were educational as well as a place where foreign tourists are taken to buy goods. One has to be careful not to get trapped into buying anything if you don’t want. Go for the experience it is worth it. We also took an optional Trip in Suzhou to go for a boat ride on the Suzhou Grand Canal. We saw houses along the canal where people still live and this canal provides the locals another mode of transportation as well as for local produce to move from one village to another that are on the canal route. This was a nice experience which reminded me of our gondola ride in Venice.
In the province of Hangzhou we visited the Dragon Well Tea plantation we saw how the tender tea leaves were plucked and then roasted by hand. We got to sit for a presentation and then the sales pitch to buy their boxed tea. Here too one has to be aware and avoid buying if it is not what you want. I wish we could actually walk through the gardens and watch workers picking the tea leaves. We did however, take the optional boat ride on the serene West Lake in the evening which was very enchanting.
At Wuxi we visited the Fresh Water Pearl Farm and the Lingshan Grand Buddha. At the Pearl Farm we had to sit through another presentation. I was not too impressed but had to sit through and learn how pearls were formed. After the presentation we were ushered into a room where apparently only foreigh visitors are taken. Here too you have to hear some high sales pitch. They say “no bargaining” but it is always a good idea to bring the price down and have some knowledge of pearls if you are inclined to buy any. The Lingshan Grand Buddha was a unique display of the life of Buddha on a rotation pillar which kept us spellbound.
Our ten day trip ended in Shanghai. We visited the Bund and ended the day with the beautiful Shaighai by night river cruise. Shanghai during the night is breathtaking and amazing sight. All the tall structures are lit up on both sides of the river banks which provides great photo opportunity.
No trip to China should end without a trip to the ‘knock out’ market. Here you can find house hold goods, electronics, home decor and other goods at very reasonable rates, bargaining is a must if you want a good deal. Quite a few of our fellow travellers did shopping here. I could not believe we walked out without buying anything other than eating our lunch there. The prices of the electronic goods were very reasonable and we were tempted to do some purchases.
Overall I would say there were a lots of pro and cons on going on a guided tour. The pros were we got to see many places in ten days which we could not have done on our own. The cons were the food was not always to our taste. I think Chinese food in North America is much tastier. Breakfasts was always the best meal of the day for us as the buffet always provided us with tasty options.
Our trip to China was a real dream come true for me which I will cherish for some time. So I will keep you posted as we continue on our trip to another country in Asia.
Until my next post, Zaijian my fellow travelers!