I recently returned from a 15 day tour of China with my sisters and brother in laws. My expectations were that I would be going to a polluted country that I knew very little about. I left with the same pollution problem verified but with more knowledge of this ancient colourful culture.
Our trip started in Shanghai where we visited among other areas, a silk factory and the Museum of Textiles. The embroidery that women were doing was astounding. They used threads the diameter of a piece of hair to sew beautiful pictures and designs. These would take weeks and months to complete.
We then flew to Chongquing, a city of more than 20 million, and had a delightful visit to the zoo to view very active frolicking panda bears who are out enjoying the cool air. I was impressed with the breeding program they have for these animals. There are only 400 left in the wild.
We then left on a four day cruise on the Yangtze River. This was most enjoyable as we did not have to pack and unpack each day. We enjoyed trips to bamboo forests which were breathtaking, rides into tributaries led by young Chinese women guides, and we cruised through the three gorges which had amazing views which were hampered by pollution which covered the whole country. Nevertheless one could see the beautiful mountains covered in green. There was construction throughout the country. Many high-rises were being built with over 3000 being built in this area alone, all over 30 stories high. Highways were being built and new bridges over the Yangtze were evident. We enjoyed a tour of the three gorge damsite along with the locks which our cruise ship went through.
After disembarking from the cruise, we toured Jingzhou-Wuhan , an ancient city of only 5 million which dated back 6000 years of history. I was amazed by the ancient textiles in the museum we visited. Brocades dating back 2000 years were on display.
After this we were put on a high speed bullet train which took us up to Xi’an and the terracotta warriors display. These were amazing considering that they had been partially destroyed by fire over a thousand years ago and were being put back together painstakingly by the Chinese. Each piece was glued back with the same clay it was made with and then covered with the clay wash. They looked totally whole again. They did this for each of the warriors and horses along with the carriages. They have only uncovered part of the huge area which the army is contained in. Some of the pieces were made of bronze.
Of course our tour would not be complete without a trip to the Great Wall of China. We flew into Beijing and spent several days enjoying various amazing areas such as the summer Palace, the Imperial Garden, Tiananmen Square, the forbidden city, the temple of heaven, and of course the great Wall. I was surprised to see that some of the steps on the wall were at least 20 inches high. One had to pull themselves along the metal rail climbing these old steps which was quite a workout. My sisters and I climbed about half way up to the third tower Coming down was quite a trial. The view again was hampered by pollution as it was in most parts of the country but especially in the Beijing area.
We ended our tour with a night tour of Beijing and their Chinese Market area in the centre of town. They had very high end international brand stores side-by-side with this Chinese market that was crowded with people munching unidentified food on sticks and we even saw live scorpions stabbed on a stick, ready to be roasted. I did not partake in this.
We were most fortunate to have an excellent guide with us the whole time. He spoke very good English, was very knowledgeable, and had a great sense of humour. We had a great group of people on our tour which added to the enjoyment.
We ended the tour with a flight back to Shanghai and then Vancouver which took a total of 21 hours, ugh.
My impressions of China were that of an ancient culture which had changed very dramatically in the last several decades from a poor country to a major economic player in the world. In order to do this, their government controlled everything. Personal freedoms did not exist unless they were part of the overall plan of the government. The people we saw seem to be happy and very proud of their country and its accomplishments. I imagine that the elderly would have different feelings. China no longer has the one child rule. Families of two and even three are common.
The environment has taken a huge hit during this rapid expansion. I did not see evidence of birdlife or animals other than in the zoos. Even though China is making great efforts at becoming green and reducing their dependence on coal, they still have a long way to go as air pollution was evident everywhere. I must say that the country was very clean and did not have the garbage lying around that one sees in other countries. They wash their city roads every night in Beijing and they have people sweeping the sidewalks on a regular basis.the Yangtze has been cleaned up with no garbage evident but one could not drink the water anywhere so depended on bottled water. I felt very safe there as there was evidence of the military in the cities. The people were very friendly and often anxious to take pictures of us with them.
All in all I am very happy to have taken the trip as I found it most educational to view China’s glorious past along with their beautiful art and experience the way that a their society copes with it’s new way of living.
Most of the photos below are self explanatory other then the lovely one with the lady in red which was in the bamboo forest. The cruise ship was similar to the one we were on on the Yangtze River. These first two photos were of one of the incredible hand embroidery pieces found at the museum of textiles in Shanghai.
Above is Tiananmen Square, and next is the Beijing city centre with a few police to keep watch. with the Wangfujing market (photo below) which was part of this area. The live Scorpions on a stick were found here. the immediate photo below is of Shanghai which was lovely with it’s modern skyline.