China trip October 2013

Our house exchange for this year fell through this year and we had to do something apart from driving through Australia. So it was decided to see the highlights of china with a company called Seniors Holiday Travel. All the tickets were already organized month in advance including the visa for China. Despite this they only arrived two days before we departed which was a bit of concern.
6th Of October and we took the plane Townsville to Brisbane. Early rise and the shuttle bus to the international airport. We were the first of the group to arrive. Plenty of time for breakfast which ended up very greasy and might have contributed to some discomfort the first few days. Eight and a half ours flight with China Southern to Guangzhou which wasn't too bad. All we had time for the first day was travel, dinner and sleep. When we got to the hotel everyone was very impressed.  Nothing organized for the morning and during our walk we discovered a market. Like all Asian markets very interesting what they are selling and preparing the food especially when it get's killed there and then.
         The parts of China we visited                                      The first hotel                                                      A lot of meat but no flies
Guangzhu was the first stop on the Silk Road and an important trading post. In the afternoon we visited the Chen family  memorial hall. Luckily they did not destroy all old buildings but a few must have gone by the wayside. There are still a few parks left with statues. Every now and then there is an explanation in English but they are far en few in between. We only stayed in Guangzhou for one day but as we found out they cramp as much sightseeing in a day as they can. 
     The old and new Guangzhou                   This is only a small part of the 13KM long city wall in Xian                                               Tripod
Next day we flew to Xian. Xian was the capital city for eleven Dynasties over a period of 2000 years. First day here we visited the old city wall which is the largest and most complete military defense system in China and was very impressive 10M high and 13KM long. You can hire bicycles to do the round trip. Talking about bicycles the old perception is that everyone drives a bicycle. This is not the case anymore. There are lots of electric scooters and we saw plenty of BMW, Audi, Mercedes and a lot of brands you have never heard of. The traffic can be a bit hair raising at times. Lane changing in the popular sport of course without using your indicators and just centimeters in front of the other car.  We did see a few car prangs but not as much as you would expect. 
The tripod you see in the photo was only allowed to be owned by influential persons. This is a particular elaborate one. Normally you only see the pot part. This one is situated in the Bell Tower complex. 
That night we visited an acrobatic dinner and show. There are a few in the group which are not too keen on Chinese food but it all tasted good.
Xian has one of the highlights of the trip, the terracotta warriors. Before we saw the real ones we visited a state sanctioned workshop where they still produce authentic looking statues for sale. We had seen plenty of pictures before but it is something else when you stand in that massive hall and see all those statues in front of you. We were not the only ones here as is in all the tourist spots you have to elbow yourself in position. And it could have been worse. The national holiday week was just finished. There are still hundreds of  statues still in the ground. So far there are three different halls about 50M apart with remnants of the statues. At the far end of this hall is where they assemble all the bits in to a whole statue.  All the statues you see here were not dug up in that condition.  Later in the afternoon we visited the historical museum with a lot more artifacts which were dug up where  the statues are. 
                                                                        The main hall with the terracotta warriors
Next day we fly to Shanghai. This is the largest city in China 27 million people. And you can see where they all live. Whole suburbs of 30 story high-rise apartments. The pollution so far is not too bad. There is a haze wherever we go. They have massive power plants in the middle of a residential area.  High voltage cables are everywhere. The amount of building going on is unbelievable. Modern highways three stories high excellent roads just a pity the drivers are not the same quality. We just get a quick look of Shanghai as we will be back here. The waterfront has magnificent views which we appreciated from a different angle when we did a boat trip through the harbour at night. 
Next day Hangzhou.  This place is famous for the West Lake. We had to do a lot of walking here
  Just to prove that we were there.                            Shanghai harbour                                               West Lake  Hangzhou
Only one night in the hotel again. This time by coach to Wuzhen. This place is called the Venice of China. It is an ancient fishing village and as in Venice they live above the water. We had lunch in the village but a western dinner in the city. It was nice to have a bit of variety because to have the same  Chinese for lunch and dinner get's a bit much.  Normally the lunch and dinner is served in a dishes which are placed on a large rotating piece of circular glass and help yourself. You also get one glass of beer or soft drink. At night we walked through a large shopping mall. The 100m roof was a large LED TV. You will find LED lights on about everything. Artificial tree in the parks, massive advertising signs on buildings.
        Wuzhen the Venice of the Orient                                         Green  Tea plantation                                             Scorpions for dinner
                  Massive LED screen.  This is only a small section.                             Our western dinner                            The leaning tower of Tiger Hill
Visited a silk factory, tea plantation and Tiger hill.  A lot of the oldies in the bus have trouble walking long distances and especially around Tiger Hill it goes up and down. When It was time to go back to the bus I had difficulties finding my way back. I arrived only a few minutes late but I got the impression that everyone had already been waiting for half an hour.  After this episode a leisurely drive back to Shanghai and the Radisson hotel.
Next day just sightseeing in Shanghai. Took the lift in the highest building and a not so clear view from the top. It was explained that in most cases two or three families live in one flat. A bedroom for each family a kitchen and bathroom. No family room or any other luxuries. A small flat in the center can cost $A  1.5 million.  A cheap flat of 100 M2 cost $A  200 000.  And this is on a wage of  $A 12000 a year. This is another reason so many families live together because everyone helps paying for the flat.
                         They do cramp them in do they                                  Tianaman Square queuing up to see Mao's tomb
Day ten.  Bullet train Shanghai to Beijin. About 1200 KM. The speed we were doing before we even had time to sit down properly was 308KH and it felt like doing 60KH.  The fact it still took 7 Hr was probably because it stopped at every little village. The track is above ground level on concrete pillars. No level crossings. All we had time for that day was travel and dinner. Next day Tianaman square. A very popular spot for the Chinese to visit. especially the tomb of Mao Zedong you had to queue up for hours which we did not do.  The guide advised us not to speak to anyone on a political level. Not that we saw many who could speak English. The whole place was very impressive especially of all the relative recent upheaval there. We also had a number of Chinese come up to us and asked if they could tale a photo with us. The shy ones took photo's of themselves with our group in the background.
Next a tour through the Forbidden City. The imperial palace has 9999 rooms and housed 3000 concubines.  The temple of heaven which was used to offer sacrifices to heaven and pray for a good harvest.  At night we enjoyed a Kung Fu show.
                Susan and guide                                   Chinese wanted a European backdrop                           Kung Fu Show
Day 12.  Another highlight. The Great Wall at Juyongguan Path.  Everyone has seen photo's of this before but it is like the terracotta warriors. Definitely a wow factor. I did not realize that you had to do so many stairs. The wall might only be 10 M high but to get there you have to clime 10dreds of stairs from watchtower to watchtower. From our group three made it including me. I thought that I could get to the car park via a different route which is possible but would have taken the whole day. I realized this after flying down for 10 minutes which took me a lot more than 10 minutes to get back up. Again I was only five minutes late and not too popular with the others in the group who had waited already for an hour to leave.
  Proof of being there.                           The great wall
We are slowly counting down. During the morning a tour through the summer palace, the summer resort for the emperor. As usual it was packed with Chinese tourists. On one spot they were making music and when we got there everyone was happy to be photographed and they encouraged us to dance with them although none spoke English. The Chinese in general were very friendly but lack of communication makes things difficult.
                                    This was as much a novelty to us as it was for them                                                         Finally some pedal power
During the afternoon had a quick look at the Olympic site.  That night there was a rock concert in the Birds Nest and there were a lot of scalpers around. After dinner we had another look at the sight and as normal in China a lo of coloured lights on the buildings.  The next day packing and a quick walk around the block and it is time again to head for the airport. This time we have to take two planes Beijing - Guangzhou and Guangzhou to Brisbane. The first leg was with the new airbus 380. A double decker plane which was far quieter than the one we flew on to China.  All together eleven hour flying with two hours stop in between. Arrived in Brisbane 10 AM and the train to Townsville left four PM.with a 10AM arrival time.
All together a marvelous trip which altered my perception of China for the better although I think the police department keeps a closer eye on things than they let you believe.

    Susan's feet are not made for walking.