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Little Trouble in Big China

When your wife calls you and asks “Do you want to go to China?” What do you say? I don’t know what YOU say, but I said “When do we leave?”

I don’t think November would have been my first choice for departing for China, but as it turned out, it was the absolute perfect time! A tour offered up by Compass Holidays was providing 10 days in China with all air fare, accomodations, and some meals for the insane price of $830 CAD. Also included were entrance to all of the attractions and sites that were part of the tour. November or not….who could say no?

After arriving in Beijing, our well laid out itinerary would have us seeing the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.  The bulk of the next day would have us at the Great Wall of China, the 2008 Olympic Center, and taking in an authentic Peking Duck dinner. The remainder of our trip would have us based out of Shanghai, and allowed us visits of Wuxi, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.  Those days were filled with tours through factories of pearl, jade, silk, and teapots, followed by entrance to gardens, canals, tea plantations, the Bund, and Nanjing Road.

Now, those 10 days certainly were a bit of a whirlwind, with everything to take in, but I can attest to being awe-inspired more than a few times on this trip. First of all, the Great Wall is not only a UNESCO site, and one of the Seven Wonders, but it is an immensly thought-provoking site as well. You just can’t climb any portion of that amazing construction, stand there and look out at your surroundings, and not be humbled.

Now, on a second note, prior to our adventure, I fancied myself fairly knowledgeable about China. It’s history, it’s people, it’s politics. I can tell you now, that after my visits to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace, I discovered I still had a lot to learn on the subject. No amount of TripAdviser, Hollywood movies, or recollected highschool History or Politics classes can prepare you to walk through any of those places, and the history that goes with them.

The Forbidden City is the largest, and best preserved Imperial Complex in the world. For 500 years, right up until 1912 and the last emperor of China, it was home to 24 emperors. The walls seem to bleed their history directly into your veins. It’s impossible to walk those halls and not feel it.

Tiananmen Square.  “Gate of Heavenly Peace”  Ironically, maybe best known as the scene of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, it is also the location of the Monument to the People’s Heros, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. It is another place where you can’t take a step without feeling the history, and observing the strength of the people of China.

Those are the grand moments from our adventure, however, each and every moment we spent in China was full of a wonder of it’s own. Standing at the bottom of a beautiful green valley, and looking up to the hundreds of feet of tiered tea plants creates feelings that are certainly difficult to describe.

Strolling through the most amazing gardens, where every detail is well laid out and planned well in advance of the first planting. The bare ground is continually swept clean with rough-made brooms of branches. Every stone means something. Every curve and line has a purpose. Every angle shows you some small detail that you missed the first time you looked. I don’t know if it would ever be possible to see everything you’re meant to see. Or perhaps there are things that are there for someone to see, but not you. It doesn’t matter. The time you spend walking the meandering paths in any of a thousand gardens is medicine for the soul.

Yes, I thought November in China would be like November in Canada. I was wrong. During our stay we woke up to chilly mornings where you needed a jacket, to wishing for short-sleeves and shorts by noon.  The sun shone steadily, and the air, although visibly smog-filled, was crisp and clean in the mountains and gardens. The local Chinese were so warm and helpful, it was like being at home. The food was AMAZING, and I was sorry to see so many of our travelling companions forgoing the local fare, in search of the nearest McDonalds or KFC.

China was on our bucket list, but we never thought we’d get to see it so soon. Compass Holidays provided that opportunity at a great price with a nice itinerary. If you have the chance to go the way we did, I strongly urge you to do so. You won’t regret it!


The Beery Traveler

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