Vernon’s Cindy Keith won a once-in-a-lifetime all-inclusive trip to China through Black Press Media and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and now – she’s sharing her experience with you.
Blog #1: From Vernon to the Great Wall
By: Cindy Keith
We’ve sure have had a great start with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce & trip partners Citslinc International and Transat Travel - so far so good!
No doubt, intercontinental travel is inherent with the ups (anticipatory excitement for adventure) & downs (security hassles, delays & time changes) that go with it.
Knowing this, off our 46-strong group went, from Vancouver to Beijing (via Shanghai) and made the best of the endurance test! What stuck out most for me, was the on-board audiovisual differences!
Firstly, evidence that the entertainment industry is clearly growing in China has been well-documented in the media as of late - with modern TV show series and films - both domestic and partnering with Hollywood/North America - there was a huge selection! I’d forgotten how much the emphatic, but melodic tones of the Mandarin language are so nice to listen to…so I delved right into a Shanghai International Film Fest fun flick “When Larry Met Mary”.
About 3/4 into the flight, all screens were silenced and an announcement came; describing that the risk of blood clots with prolonged flights would best be managed with a Tai Chi exercise. This led right into an instructed 10-minute passenger-encouraged class - while seated! Most of our group was shy, but there was decent participation with Chinese passengers…nice! And so we arrived to our luxurious Sofitel Wanda Beijing (with the best breakfasts EVER!)!
This busy capital of the most populous country in the world - the People’s Republic of China - is a welcome energy (the fast pace works well to shake off the jet lag!).
This was my first time arriving by plane to China (22 years prior I’d travelled in via bus from Vietnam and left by train to Hong Kong) and I was ready with Chinese Renminbi (also called Yuan).
Looking around now, I sure do sense it’s much flatter than British Columbia :) “Beijingers” seem friendly and proud to be in this political, cultural and historical centre!
I was expecting poor air quality, but apparently smog is at its worst in the winter, when the cold air creates an inversion and traps the pollution in the city, so it’s hopefully improving here now.
Our first day started with a tour of the Ming Tombs - one of the 13 Ming Emperors’ Tombs is fully excavated and we explored it.
We then visited a jade then cloisonne (enamel covered copperware) factory - such meticulous labour-intensive creations!
We then went on to tour The Great Wall - our awesome guide Michael confirmed that it’s the most-visited international tourist site in Beijing - and my personal favourite memory. It was really exciting to once again scale the old relic rocks; originally built to keep the Mongols out and protect China.
We next visited the 2008 Beijing Olympic venues! We had a view of the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) and the National Aquatic Centre. Neat fact: Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games ans will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics - the only city to host both!
Our next day kicked off with a visit to the pearl market en route to the Summer Palace; known for boating on Kunming Lake, surrounded by a pagoda and lovely temples - magical Emperor residences and a quiet retreat filled with treed gardens.
Next (drumroll please…), it was sure exciting to once again stand in the world’s largest public landmark - Tiananmen Square. It’s the world’s largest public square; home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People’s Martyrs. also the site of the infamous massacre of student activists by the People’s Liberation Army in 1989.
It is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History and of the Chinese Revolution and the Qianmen Gate. We then visited the most important palace - bar none - largely untouched by the cultural revolution, the Forbidden City.
It was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. I learned it was home to 24 emperors with a total space of 9,999 rooms!
The day of lots of walking ended with an extremely delicious Peking roast duck dinner. Without a doubt, I have NOT forgotten through the years, how incredible Chinese cuisine really is. What an honour!
Today, we visited the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine Sciences for a workshop and foot massage then strolled around the Lama Temple (or Yonghe Lamasery); home of the 18-metre tall White Sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
We next had a Hutong (Beijings ancient alleyways with traditional architecture of walled garden homes) tour for lunch. We lucked out in visiting the Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Pandas (my personal thrill!) before visiting the extensive Temple of Heaven which was built in 1420 A.D. for emperors to pray for a good harvest.
Alas, we must now depart this growing dynamic metropolis of 23 million people and counting to our next adventure!
Stay tuned for her next blog post in a few days.