China is certainly a country on the move and now is a great time to visit. I am running two 18 day tours in September and October 2015, which will certainly give and insight into China and what makes this huge country tick. The combination of modern day, the history and ancient traditions along with some natural beauty and nature will fulfill everyone’s curiosity.
What I consider to be the centre of China’s politics and history. China has moved on since the terrible events of Tianamen Square in 1989. Though censorship is still rife and guides are not allowed to explain what happened here in 1989. Criticism of Chairman Mao and the Chinese government is not permitted and can be dangerous. No democracy or freedom of speech here in China but the people do generally have a much better life since the economic reforms and since China opened up to foreign investment. Deng Xiaoping opened China to the Global market famously saying about trading with foreigners ”It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice!!”
Walking on the Great Wall of China is just incredible and something I never thought I would do. I think about the history behind it and the manpower it took to build it. Can it be seen from the Moon? Apparently yes it can! Though last time I had that discussion with some clients one informed me that Elvis lives on the Moon. Whether the wall can be seen form the Moon or not, it certainly is impressive.
Arrived in Guilin and checked into the hotel. Something seemed wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. By the time I got to my room after checking the group in and sorting out passports, visas and luggage it was after ten, so I skipped dinner again and tried to watch a chinese film about the war.
It wasn’t until I was on a boat on the River Li the following day that I realised we had checked into the wrong hotel. It was our local agent’s fault but I should have noticed, though I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.
The trip on the River Li is nice but 5 hours is a bit too long.
We had all day in Xian today before our late flight to Guilin. First we saw the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The street vendors were a real pain. they were selling these wierd plastic birds, that could be wound up and then should flap their wings and fly. The vendors kept winding them up and throwing them in the air. They were quite dangerous and 3 of my clients got hit in the face by these birds and one bird got stuck in one lady’s hair. It took ages to get it out of her hair. Anyway as we arrived at the coach, two old ladies and a man in a rusty 3 wheeled wheelchair descended upon us and started to throw the dreaded plastic birds around. I said “Boo Yau” to them but to no avail, so I asked my guide, Joe, to tell them to stop throwing the birds around as it was dangerous. A major row erupted and the old ladies were shouting and swearing in Chinese. My guide shouted back and then suddenly the man in the wheelchair set off at a great speed and rammed his rusty wheelchait into my guide. Then hejumped out of his wheelchair and started running on the stumps that were his legs. He ran fast and started hitting Joe with his umbrella. I couldn.t believe it. In a way it was quite comical. My clients offered to help Joe and fight off the mad man but I told them to leave well alone and let joe and that guy sort it out among themselves. The last thing I wanted was my clients being arrested for fighting with a disabled madman. We managed to board the coach and Joe managed to detach himself from the street vendors and join us on the coach. The door was still open and Joe was still arguing with those crazy vendors. I told the driver to close the door and drive away. Finally, we made our escape.
That was enough excitement for one day. Lunch then the Yangling Tombs – a kind of mini Terracotta Warriors., before our next internal flight to Guilin.
We had a 45 minute break at the hotel for lunch so I succumbed and had Chinese McDonalds. Then off to the Summer Palace before our late flight to Xian. Our late flight was delayed so we arrived in Xian at 8.45pm and we still had to get to the hotel and have dinner. I wasn’t bothered about dinner for myself but it was included and the clients have to have what is included. Arrived at the hotel at 10.15 and I sent the group straight through for dinner. I, in the meantime, checked the group in. It took ages and by the time I had given all the keys out and sent the luggage to the rooms, it was 11.15 p.m. – too late for dinner. I took a large gin and tonic to my room and had that with a bag of M and Ms for dinner – so much for the glaourous, jet set lifestyle of a tour guide.
In China people retire early – 45 or 50 years old. But as in the West people are living longer and so the retirement age may go up to 60. Sounds great to us Europens. I think I will work until I am 70. So what do the retired Chinese do? They meet every morning in parks, gardens, suares, pedestrian areas, courtyards and dance, practise tai chi or play cards or dominoes or partake in a multitude of other activities. Today we went to one of the largest parks in Beijing and saw how these pensioners spend their time. The park is also home to the Temple of Heaven – a huge Buddhist Temple. The atmosphere is amazing with tranquille calming music everywhere and people dancing and parctising Tai Chi.
Early start for Tiannamen square and the Forbidden City today. The guide has not really talked about the events of 1989. I know the television, press, internet and all media is heavily censored in China and I also think the Chinese Guides are also censored. Three years ago when I first took a group to China, the local guides really said nothing negative about China or even chairman Mao.
This afternoon we had an optional rickshaw ride through what is left of old Beijing. Most of old China has been bulldozed and replaced with high rise, grey, gloomy looking housing blocks. But this afternoon we saw an area known as the “Hutongs”. The houses consist of one or two rooms and don’t look too bad, but they have no toilets. There are public toilets – one for 300 people.
We visited one house and the owner had an orange eared dog. I couldn’t stop laughing at the dog, named Mama Lolo. Soon my group were all laughing too.
Orange Eared Dog
Don’t go to the Great Wall of China on a Sunday!! That’s what my Beijing local guide tells me as we are on our way to the Great Wall of China and yes, it is Sunday. We are stuck in traffic and have been for the last 2 hours. It has taken us 3 hours to do a journey that normally takes 1 hour and are still nowhere near the Great Wall.
Our programme for today was to spend a couple of hours at the wall and then drive to the Ming Tombs for an included lunch and to see the tombs. We didn’t arrive at the wall until 12.30, so I have managed to make some changes and we can have lunch near the wall and then free time and then we will see if we have time for the Ming Tombs. The most important thing today is that the clients have enough time for the Great Wall of China.
In and around Beijing is very hazy because of the pollution and the good thing about arriving late to the wall is that the haze as cleared and it is about as clear as I have seen it.
Alls well ends well – the clients had a great day and were very happy.
Great Wall of China