Wendy Wu China Educational 2011.
Glories of China Tour.
Shanghai is a big up and coming city. It is forever growing and changing and full of high-rise buildings.
We visited the Shanghai museum, The Bund area (It is the business district so very commercial), The fastest lift in Shanghai (88 floors in 45 seconds), Maglev Train (takes 7 minutes to get from downtown Shanghai to the airport @ 431 km per hour), Huangpu River Cruise (the city looks very pretty all lit up at night), French Concession area (very trendy, modern and up-to-date with nice wine bars and restaurants) and the Yu Gardens (there is lots of history in this area and it felt like traditional China in the middle of the city). We also visited some ‘dodgy’ (as per the Chinese) markets where we were taught to barter for the goods. You can buy lots of fake designer bags/shoes/souvenirs for a lot less than the price they originally quote you. Work out what you want to pay for the item and if they say no go to walk out the shop. 9/10 times you will get the price you want!
Yangshuo was my favorite area of China. It was still busy but a lot quieter than the bigger cities.
The streets in the market place were cobbled and there were lots of shops and stalls to barter with.
We visited a farmer’s house and it was very basic. She showed us how to take the rice from the stalks, and the machine she uses to take the bits out of the wool to make cotton wool. We then went to the rice fields and saw how the farmers use water buffalo to carry the goods for them. They treat them as a member of the family (If you take a picture of the farmers or the water buffalo and they catch you they will expect you to tip them and they will chase you for it!). It was very nice to see how people live and work, it makes you realise how lucky you are.
We took a river cruise along the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. You pass the traditional Chinese fishermen and see lots of water buffalo. Local tradesmen moor themselves to the boats to try and sell you locally produced goods. The scenery is amazing! You get a map when you first get on board to pinpoint all the important scenery.
We also visited the South China Pearl Exhibition Centre where they show you how to tell the difference between real and fake pearls and which are freshwater and seawater pearls. You get the opportunity after to buy some pearls at a very reasonable price.
We then visited the Seven Star Caves located in the Seven Star Park. The park received its name due to the seven peaks having a close resemblance to the Big Dipper constellation. The caves are very big and vast and you can see stalagmites and stalactites and different faces/pictures in most of the rocks.
After here we went to the ‘Giant Panda Hotel’ to see the 3 pandas! They are treated really well in a huge enclosure and really like to pose for the cameras!
We also visited Mount Diecai whilst in Guilin. It is over 1000 steps to get to the top and offers a bird’s eye view of the surroundings. It is very tiring but very worth it.
Xi’an is a more traditional Chinese city. On arrival we visited the Ancient City Wall. It is 600 years old and was built to protect the city. It is the one of the only walls in China to remain intact.
We visited the Shaanxi Provincial museum which holds thousands of priceless relics from the past dynasties, and then Muslim Street which was very traditional China (It was very busy with lots of people cooking food in the street to sell), Bar Street (Sells very cheap drinks), and The Little Wild Goose Pagoda which was built to store the figurines of Buddha.
We visited the city wall park which was opposite our hotel. There were lots of people singing, playing instruments, doing Tai Chi and exercising on man-made exercise machines.
Finally we visited the Terracota Warriors. The army comprises of over 7000 soldiers, horses and chariots. The army was designed by Emperor Qin Shi Huang to defend himself in his afterlife. The warriors are all life size and mostly now in very good condition.
Whilst in Xi’an we also had a Shui Jiao dumpling dinner. This is a specialty of the region and they were made into different shapes and patterns. We watched a music and dance show from the Tang Dynasty area after eating dinner.
Beijing is a very smoggy city. It is very busy like Shanghai and there is a lot to see there.
We started out by going to Tiananmen Square which holds a crowd of over 1 million people. Chairman Mao’s mausoleum is in the square which holds his body. People queue up for hours to see it.
The Imperial Forbidden City is massive! It takes about 3.5 hours to walk around all of it. It was the sacred empire of the Chinese empire for 500 years.
We also visited the Temple of Heaven (set in a 267 hectare park with 4 main gates at the 4 points of the compass), the Jade Factory where you are taught what is real or fake jade but it is quite expensive, and the Summer Palace (where the Dragon Lady (Empress Dowager Cixi) lived and a retreat for emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties).
We visited the Hutong area of Beijing which is now a protected area. We took a rickshaw ride around it to see how people live. Most of the locals do not have a toilet in there house so there is a toilet block every 18 metres and it can get very busy especially first thing in the morning. We also ate lunch at a local’s house whilst in the area and it was lovely.
The Great Wall of China was built over 2000 years ago and stretches all the way from Shanhaiguan Pass on the East Coast to the Gobi Desert in the West. It was very busy and very steep. I made it to the 10th Beacon Tower on the wall and was shattered! The Towers were built on both sides of the Great Wall at commanding points. If the enemy was sighted fires were lit on top of the beacons at night.
On our last night we had a Peking duck dinner and it was really nice! The chef slices it in front of you and teaches you how to make a proper pancake. We also watched a Chinese acrobatic show which was fantastic.
China was nothing like I expected it to be. It is very busy and fast paced and they drive like lunatics!
The sights are amazing and the smells take some getting used to!
The Chinese describe Shanghai as the future of China, Beijing the present and Xi’an the past.
I would recommend traveling out to China ‘Club Class’ (especially if you are on a night flight) even if it is only one way as it would be worth arriving into China feeling refreshed and ready for the start of the tour.
There are a few extras that you have to pay for on a Wendy Wu tour:
– You only get one drink with your dinner/lunch and the drinks in Shanghai and Beijing are quite expensive.
– If you wish to experience the Maglev Train and the fastest lift in Shanghai you have to pay for these separately (Only £1.00 each).
– The show in Yangshuo, ‘Inspirations’.
– The Kungfu show in Beijing.
– A tip for the rickshaw driver in Beijing (Only £2.00 each).
If you are a fussy eater or have walking difficulties I would not recommend China as it is very full on and there is a lot of walking involved. You often leave the hotel after breakfast and do not return till after your evening meal. If you do not like Chinese food you may struggle with your diet.
I would recommend for guests to take toilet roll (most of the toilets outside of the hotel do not have toilet roll in them and 90% are ‘squat’ toilets), wet wipes, antibacterial gel, snacks incase you are not keen on your meal or get hungry in the day and shoes that are suitable and comfortable for walking.
Wendy Wu tours are the best in the business for China. Everywhere we went to people knew who they were. The national and local representatives were extremely knowledgeable and if you asked a question they did not know the answer to they went out of their way to find it out.
China – Gemma Ashton Hinckley October 2011