Posted on January 02, 2005 01:24 AM
I guess this has to be the most extensive traveling we've ever done before. Knowing it was going to be snowing and cold we took the packaged tour route for embarking on this trip. 11 days and 5 cities (Guangzhou, Guilin, Beijing, Xian, Shanghai) at the end of 2004 brought us a white Christmas, a renewed interest in Asian history especially the elaborate chinese dynasties, and a new appreciation for Charmin toilet paper and western style toilets. Funny enough the toilets here have a rating system just like hotels. The best rated toilet was at the Summer Palace at 4 stars.
Many folks mentioned that Christmas was not going to be fun in Asia since much of the people are not Christian. Boy would you be wrong, for instance here in HK the whole city of lights were in full swing in November. You would have thought the whole island was Christian. Of course all the wonderful light shows and Christmas displays were all in the name of tourism and consumerism. Even in mainland China I was impressed with how the hotels and main streets were all lit up with various holiday greetings and imagery with the faint sounds of holiday music echoing in the background. Even one night when I was cuped up in the hotel room recovering from food poisoning, I could hear children singing "Silent Night" down in the lobby, one floor below. It made me miss my family and friends.
So at the Great Wall, yes "the" great wall our travel companions were able to get a cell phone signal and called their relatives down in Australia. Boy technology is truly amazing. Unfortunately I don't have international direct dialing on my cell phone so was unable to call anyone. It was fun having a father/daughter duo as traveling companions in Beijing and Xian. Along with our personal tour guides giving us truncated overview of chinese history, we had a blast over our Peking duck and wandering around trying not to fall on the icy paths.
What was most interesting over the trip was not just the old sites, but how there was a Starbucks even in the center of the Forbidden City. I could just imagine if the spirits of the emperors were hanging out amazed not just to see tourists hanging out and gawking at their old things(or at least the replicas of old things since much of the place was pillaged during the wars) but to see the familiar Starbucks logo plastered on an old chinese styled building jammed packed with Western tourists ordering their tall non-fat double macchiato. Most of the large cities we went to had a Starbucks every few blocks. It was amazing and sick at the same time, but it wasn't as bad as hearing KFC celebrating their 1200 KFC restaurants in China last week.
I guess the closest you can get to the Forbidden City without being there is watching the movie _The Last Emperor_. I'm currently reading the autobiography of the emperor that inspired the movie and it's kind of interesting.
Links to recent photos:
Hong Kong Christmas Lights along TST waterfront
Jeff's niece plays, little drummer girl at the Ritz Carlton Tea Room
Mainland China Albums