November 25, 2017

Notes on our China trip

My wife and I traveled to China in October on a tour with Overseas Adventure Travel, with a private extension to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The tour made all of the logistics easy and allowed us to see a lot more of the important sights and sites than we would have without that support. The tour necessarily insulated us from many otherwise necessary interactions with Chinese people. Our tour guide helped to balance that by initiating interactions with regular people in every city, making the trip a richer experience. Over the next week or so, I’ll post my thoughts about the trip and what we saw.

I took some pictures, but I’m not really a photographer. I’ll post the most interesting ones with subsequent posts.

This is a quick outline of the trip:
  • We flew into Beijing, where we visited the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City, as well as visiting a private home, a Buddhist temple, a Chinese medicine facility, and several parks.
  • We took a bullet train to Xi’an, where we toured the terracotta warriors site, a school, another private home in the country, the Muslim quarter and its Great Monastery, and the still-existing city wall.
  • We flew to Chengdu, where our visit included the People’s Park, an opera performance, and, of course, the Chengdu Panda Base Breeding Center.
  • We took a near empty flight to Lhasa, thankful to be able to visit so close to the Nineteenth Party Congress. We visited Potala Palace, another private home, the Jokhang Temple, and a couple of monasteries. Security was tight.
  • We flew to Chongqing, where we boarded the Victoria Anna for a cruise on the Yangtze River. We passed through the three gorges, visited the home of one of the families relocated by the Three Gorges Dam, and also toured the dam itself (a fancier tourist site than Grand Coulee). The highlight was a small boat tour up one of the flooded tributaries, green cliffs dropping into smooth, green water.
  • We took a bus through the pretty and interesting countryside to Wuhan, where we spent the night and flew to Hong Kong the next day.
  • Our time in Hong Kong included a visit to Aberdeen harbor, Victoria Peak, and a lot of discussion of Hong Kong’s special status within China. Judy and I visited the Hong Kong Museum of History, taking the subway on our own.
  • Finally, we flew to Phnom Penh, where we stayed with relatives and had a relaxing and educational visit, returning home via Hong Kong after a night in a hotel near the airport.
This was a trip that I had been preparing for and looking forward to for some time. I’ve been reading about China history and listening to public affairs, history, and literary podcasts for the past several years. As background, this was useful, but it was the tour guides that provided the most value and insight into China as it thinks of itself. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time.

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