Beijing

Beijing National Aquatics Centre and Beijing N...

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we worked out at the gym and met peter (our tour guide) who gave us a tour of the Summer Palace.  we went by for photo opportunities of the Beijing 2008 summer olympics (bird’s nest, water cube, etc) and then headed to a local hutong where we rode around in a rickshaw and had lunch with a local family.  the father was a kung fu expert and trained both his sons, one of whom is in houston and was a coach to jet li. the family was very nice and the tour was an interesting look at people’s lives in a hutong. we saw the bell tower and drum tower near the hutong.  we checked out silk street markets and got a d&g jacket and white ceramic chanel watch.  hard bargaining!  then, we went to Da Dong, an amazing restaurant was focus on peking duck, presentation, and decor.  we ordered the shark fin soup, bird’s nest soup, beef short ribs, bamboo shoots, and the 1/2 duck.  it was a superb meal!  after that, we took a walk jinbao road and saw some amazing car dealers all in a row. not to forget all the new hotels and specialty shops on this road!  we then headed down wanfujing road and ducked into a nice air conditioned mall called malls at oriental plaza. durian was attempted here…we found a store like whole foods called Ole where we got some for the chairman at the hospital and went by the Sony store to get Bargitta an electronic picture frame. headed to bed around 11p.

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Beijing

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling

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we drove out 3 hrs of south of Beijing to a non-crowded section of the Great Wall (Jinshanling).  the view from this section of the wall was amazing.  it was incredibly beautiful! we hiked the wall for 4hrs…. after the hike, we met Bargitta for dinner at the hotel as there was a huge storm that blew in from Typhoon Muifa.  we stayed in the hotel and watched The Hangover.

Beijing

Sunset of the Forbidden City, Beijing (northwe...

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we worked out early at the gym, checked out Tianneman Square which was quite crowded. we also checked out the Forbidden City and the many Halls (“hores”).  then we headed to the Temple of Heaven…echo wall.  we checked out henderson shopping centre (close to our subway stop) and played lunch roulette (basically ordering off a non-english menu without pictures…just pointing to the characters). after lunch, we took the beijing subway to Lama Temple where we saw an 88 foot wooden Maitreya buddha.

Xi’an to Beijing

Drum tower in Xi'an,China

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We went to the islamic mosque and then checked out the islamic quarter. sticky rice with rose sauce was delicious. we also tried a fried persimmon. we then walked down a very modern street with modern malls and spotted a dq and dunkin donuts. for lunch, we ducked into a hot pot restaurant…which was ok. clearly, a torist stop setup by the chinese tourism dpt. after lunch, we headed to the airport and departed Xi’an for Beijing. Upon arrival to Beijing, we checked into our hotel and then headed to wanfujing and decided to test our stomachs by eating scorpion and pupas.  the scorpion was surprisingly delightful, but i couldnt get past the texture of the outer shell of the pupa.

Shanghai

Nanjing Road is one of the world's busiest sho...

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we took an early morning run along the Bund. The thick fog/smog was a bit unbearable, but the views were amazing!  After picking up a of quick breakfast items along the street (yummy fried bread with chives and sticky rice with fried dough in the middle). At 10a, we headed to the shanghai urban planning exhibition center and discovered the true size of shanghai via miniature scale model.  As it began to rain, we headed to the Jiangnan Silk workshop where we learned how silk was taken from the silk worm and used to make clothing and bedding.  There was a torrential downpour as we headed out to the Yu Garden, so we headed to a restaurant next to the area and had some dumplings , chicken feet, and other delicious items.  after lunch, we headed to the beautiful Yu Garden where there was a nice shopping area designed in traditional Chinese architecture.  After this we went to Xiantandi, an area that is pretty similar to Newbury street in Boston.  we also headed to Nanjing road which was really a beautiful spectacle at night….almost like a Times Square with all the lights and people out doing some shopping and eating.  I got some Li-nings that are super light.  We finished up the loop by taking a nighttime stroll along the Bund. With all the lights and people out, it was truly the place to be!

Yangshuo to Guilin to Shanghai

Lake inside the Reed Flute Cave.

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Went for a 6am bike ride that really helped us discover the beautiful countryside villages outside of Yangshuo. The villagers were extremely nice and we were able to truly see their way of life as they plowed the rice fields with water buffalo, sold unrefrigerated fresh meat to locals, ate their morning breakfast of rice noodles, and  performed their morning chores. After an 1.5 hr bike ride, we wandered the streets for local fare and came upon some yummy buns filled with meat with a delicious seasoning.  Then, we opted to head out to a park near our hotel and check out the awesome workout equipment all around the park. Additionally we took a quick, but steep climb up one of the park’s hills to the top, which housed a pagoda with magnificent views of the city.  After heading back down, we watched the people in the park participate in tai chi and Chinese dance.  Finally, we headed back to the hotel to grab a quick breakfast and meet our tour guide at 930a for our trip to Moon Hill.  We took this climb up with two Asian women from the nearby village. One was roughly in her 50s while the other was at least in her 70s. It was a steep 900 step climb to the top of Moon Hill which provided us with beautiful views of the surrounding farms and village. Next, we headed back to Guilin for Elephant Trunk Hill…a beautiful park with the signature mountain. After this, we checked out Reed Flute Cave which was a 22C welcome to the hot, humid weather. The lights were beautifully arranged and colorful! Using your imagination, you could see the different animals, vegetables, fruits, and tangible items in the limestone formations.  Lastly, we headed to the South China Sea Pearl Museum which educated us on the different aspects of pearls and how to choose a good quality pearl. It’s not surprising that a jewelry store was at the end of our tour.  We said goodby to our sweet guide Sophie and checked in at the Guilin airport.  Dinner had pretty limited options, so we hit up an American (and apparently, Chinese) favorite….KFC!  There were slightly different menu options, but I’m not sure what the options are in America as I havent been to one of these in ages.  I got the 4 piece combo…and what came back was fried chicken the tasted like KFC, but was the size of hot wings….not the standard fried chicken size. It came with French fries and we ordered a side of fried dough.  To top it off, I had to get a vanilla ice cream.  After passing through security, we checked out the various airport stores and discovered a couple of interesting items.  1) ants….chopped finely. We discovered that it goes in wine…not sure about the flavor. 2) different cakes: osanthum (a type of tree in the region), chestnut, and some other flavors. The cakes came it quite dry, crumbly, and chalky.  Good thing we didn’t get these as gifts for souvenirs! 3) cool panda hats and backpacks.  They were incredibly cute!

 

Now we wait in the Guilin airport a bit longer as there is a delay in our flight to Shanghai (Pu Dong) secondary to air traffic congestion.

Guilin to Yangshou

Guilin landscapes

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Took a beautiful run around one of the 4 Guilin lakes around our hotel. It was extremely serene with many older Chinese people doing tai chi and exercises. A more traditional hearty buffet breakfast awaited us…congee, fried rice/noodles, hard boiled tea eggs, dumplings, and other yumminess!  Sophie picked us up and we headed out on the Li river cruise.  The Lijiang River originates in Xing’an County in northern Guilin. It flows 437 km down Guilin, Yangshou, Pingle, and Wuzhou into the West River.  We took a 50km ride down the river from Guilin to Yangshou. The river was winding like a ribbon which beautifully displayed the region’s characteristic peaks.

After disembarking, we walked up West St…a tourist trap.  We checked into New Century Hotel for a couple of hours and then set out for dinner that was about a 10 min walk from our hotel.  We ordered the beer fish, pork-stuffed snails, and meat stuffed tofu and Yangshuo‘s local tea, which was an orange appearing refreshing drink.  Later this evening, we went to the Impression show, which was a splendid display of music, water, dance, and lights….all on the Li River. There were 300 farmers who performed choreography in the water on their bamboo boats, 300 performers from the Impression performing arts school, and 3000 audience members. It was outdoor seating in the hot, humid, blood-thirsty insect happy environment….but it was worth it. The show was incredible! I highly recommend it! It was directed by the same guy who directed the Beijing Olympics in 2008.