Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sights to See: Summer Palace, Beijing, China


Summer Palace  Located on the banks of manmade Kunming Lake, this hilly 670-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site is China’s last imperial garden.  It is a vast area filled with lakes, gardens, and palaces.  Originally constructed as a royal summer home, it is visited now for its classical Chinese gardens and elaborate covered ½-mile Long Corridor.  After walking beside and through the hallway, view the marble boat at the end and then take a refreshing boat ride back to the entrance.
    The Aman Summer Palace is set within the palace grounds.


entrance to Summer Palace in Beijing, China
entrance to Summer Palace
More things to do in Beijing.

More things to do in China.  


Taking an organized tour to China. 
 
More China items. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



view of palaces in Summer Palace in Beijing, China
view of palaces in Summer Palace
artist vendor at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
artist vendor at Summer Palace

Long Corridor at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
Long Corridor at Summer Palace

Long Corridor at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
Long Corridor at Summer Palace

Long Corridor at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
Long Corridor at Summer Palace

marble boat at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
marble boat at Summer Palace

boat ride at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
boat ride at Summer Palace

dragon at helm of boat ride at Summer Palace in Beijing, China
dragon at helm of boat ride at Summer Palace


Friday, May 22, 2015

Sights to See: Great Wall, Beijing, China


Great Wall  1½ hour from town.  Visible by the naked eye from outer space, this UNESCO World Heritage Site snakes through the hills like the tail of a dragon for more than 4,000 miles.  The goal when construction began in 2021 B.C. was to keep out nomadic peoples.  In 1985, an Englishman completed walking the wall after 1½ years.
Great Wall in Beijing, China

entry gate at Badaling Pass section of Great Wall in China
Today the reality is that it is a steep climb amid crowds of other tourists from all over the world.  Steps are uneven and often high, sometimes requiring you to pull yourself up and to hold on tight going down.

Some steps are simply wood rails nailed across the stone base to allow your shoes to grip.  
wood rails on stone path at Badaling Pass section of Great Wall in China

Railings do help, but they vary in height and availability.  Wear unloved pants or jeans so that you can bump your way down where necessary.  Rain adds slippery to the mix.  A friendly Chinese lady--who seemed to enjoy seeing me and with whom I tried to carry on a conversation--warned me to take it slow.  So on a gloriously clear and mild day, 
view from not very far up at Badaling Pass section of Great Wall in China

I stopped climbing a steep incline before my husband did and just sat at the side on one of the steps and enjoyed some prime people watching.  The Japanese were particularly watch-worthy—many wore outrageous outfits for the venue—think high heels, tulle, and sequins.  Later, my husband told me that what looked to be the top wasn’t; yet more climbing was ahead with no end in sight.  He never reached a leveling off.  Visitors can gain entry to the wall in 14 spots, and the wall can be experienced in other ways, like camping out in a watch tower overnight or even running a marathon






Great Wall sections/gates:
Who knew?  Near Beijing, there are five places to access the Great Wall.  Each offers an experience that is different in degree of difficulty.  Several offer a cable car lift.  Avoid the weekends!  Three of the most well-known passes are:
Badaling Pass  70 km/45 miles NW of Beijing.  This steep section is very popular and the most crowded because it is safer and easy to get to.  It is the one my own group visited.  The section of the wall here is the most well-preserved and close to original condition.  Other sections of the wall are not as well preserved, or have even crumbled out of existence.  Bedaling stretches for 7.5 miles, though only about 4,000 yards of it are open to the public.  A long, steep stairway leads up to the wall.  I had been told to take the steeper left stairs (north) instead of those on the right (south) because it is more scenic.  Some accounts say this section has a cable car, but I didn’t see it. 
Juyongguan Pass  60 km/37 miles from Beijing.  Another popular gate, the wall here has a handrail.  Progression up the stairs can be slow, depending on who is in front of you.  A fear of heights can slow people down.  Faster walkers, who don’t mind steepness will push on around.  Going isn’t so bad, though it is slow due to the crowds.  But coming down can be scary. 
Mutianyu Pass  80 km/50 miles from Beijing.  Though a bit farther away, this pass offers a cable car ride up and down, plus the option of sliding back down on a toboggan ride.  This gate is especially recommended for children and those with mobility difficulties.  You can take the cable car up to Fortress number 14, walk to number 6, and then take the cable car or slide down on a toboggan from there. 

More things to do in Beijing.

More things to do in China.  


Taking an organized tour to China.  

More China items. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



Monday, May 18, 2015

Sights to See: Forbidden City, Beijing, China


Forbidden City  Located across the road from Tiananmen Square, this immense UNESCO World Heritage Site has many an inner and outer courtyards.  It measures 172 acres--as big as 200 soccer fields.  If you are without a guide, visit in early in the morning and get an audio headset.  The largest palace enclosure in China, it was closed off to the public for the 500 years that it was home to 24 emperors.  In 1911, the last emperor left and the compound was opened to the people.  Its new name was Palace City.  (The Academy Award-winning movie “The Last Emperor” was filmed here and worth a watch.)  Buildings are many and ornate.  Though to my disappointment I missed seeing it, a small gallery holds the Clock Museum.  With more than 1,000 Chinese- and foreign-made pieces, it is one of the world’s largest collections of mechanical timepieces from the 18th and 19th centuries.



More things to do in Beijing.

More things to do in China.  



gate tower entrance to Forbidden City in Beijing, China
gate tower entrance to Forbidden City


interior courtyard at Forbidden City in Beijing, China
interior courtyard at Forbidden City

garden at Forbidden City in Beijing, China
garden at Forbidden City

Taking an organized tour to China.  

More China items. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sights to See: Beijing, China


Beijing is the gigantic capitol city of China.  The original city wall is long gone, replaced by six ring roads, and the moat has become a river.  The high-rise buildings go on and on and on. 
unusual high-rise in Beijing

 Nowadays almost everyone lives in high-rises, too. 
residential high-rises in Beijing
 
Traffic is a crazy, yet surprisingly organized, mash of cars, tuk-tuks, and bicycles.
mixture of vehicles in traffic in Beijing


I found it surprising that the streets are clean and litter-free.  Locals say that happened when the Olympics came to town.  Individuals and teams of human street-sweepers as well as street-cleaner vehicles operate regularly.
street cleaners by the Great Wall in Beijing
I did not see one cat or dog.


The best weather is in May and June, with comfortable weather in April, when I visited.  Because the city is near the province of Inner Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, sand storms do occur.  We did experience a short one.  People want to be inside when that happens and to have a face mask.


traditional building juxtaposed with high-rise apartments in Beijing

More things to do in Beijing.

More things to do in China. 

Taking an organized tour to China. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways. 

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sights to See: China


I am generally an independent traveler.  I rarely travel with groups except when they include other professional travel writers.  For my 9-day Triangle Tour of China with Palace Travel, the group consisted of 11 people—5 couples and 1 couple with a teenager.  It was a perfect size.

group with Palace Travel, in front of gate to Forbidden City, Beijing, China
my group in front of gate to Forbidden City in Beijing

     What I really liked about the tour
●the itinerary.  It hit the main UNESCO sites in just 9 days, and ran from a Saturday to a Sunday so that only 1 week of time needed to be taken off work.  It would have been nice to visit more areas and stay longer—there are other tours for that--but the extra time wasn’t an option for me then.
●the tour bus.  I would call it a mini-bus.  It had plenty of room, big windows, and was easy in and out.  I really dislike smaller vans. 
●the hand-holding.  I know I would not like to visit China my first time on my own.  A tour is a must. 
●the exercise.  I expected a tour of China to be exhausting.  So much is crammed into each day that I would fall exhausted into a deep sleep each night. 
●the price.  I think the price for the air, hotels, admissions, guide, bus, and most meals is a real bargain. 

     Advantages to taking an organized tour
●The must-see tourist attractions are seen efficiently and with minimal hassle.  No waiting for buses, no standing in line for tickets, no trying to figure things out in a foreign language.  Someone else does all the grunt work.
●Hotels are all pre-selected and feature comforting amenities.  I adored the buffet breakfasts, which included plenty of fresh fruit as well as dim sum and other local delicacies but also American bacon-and-eggs and made-to-order omelette options. 
●A guide/”local friend” shows you around, teaches you how to bargain, and reminds you to be careful of pickpockets.  The guide fills you in on history and traditions and provides insight into their country.  Ours answered questions that allowed us a glimpse into their daily life.  Tour guides must get relicensed each year and so do keep up on changes and provide current information.

Our hard-working guides made our trip memorable:

tour guide Mark at Forbidden City in Beijing, China
well-spoken and knowledgeable Mark, at Forbidden City in Beijing

tour guide Henry at The Bund in Shanghai, China
techie and hip Henry, at The Bund in Shanghai

tour guide Jackie at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an
stand-up comedian and entertainer Jackie, at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an

I will be blogging about this China trip over the next few months.  Please join me as I recall the adventure.  We will begin in Beijing. 

Things to do in Beijing. 

More things to do in China. 

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways. 

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers