Monday, November 19, 2012

Magnificent China

One of the first words my 4-year old had learned to read was “China”.  He’d picked up a pot that he was banging on as a part of a mother-son musical duo, and read out the phrase, “Made in China”. 

It’s hard to overlook the magnitude of People’s Republic of China, a country where over 1.3 billion people reside, almost 130 different languages are spoken (excluding dialects or sub-dialects), and where there are more than 55 ethnic groups. 

China has always intrigued me, and it has been on my bucket list of travel for as long as I could remember.  The Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, and of course, Tiananmen Square, where the 1989 protests took place, the image a man standing in front of a column of tanks forever etched in my mind.  It was an epic travel experience that I'd always dreamt of. 

So, when Beijing was chosen as the site of the 2008 Olympics, I knew I had to make my pilgrimage to this land of one of the world’s earliest and greatest ancient civilizations.  

As soon as my husband and I’d landed in Shanghai, we knew that we were in for THE travel experience of a lifetime.

I was told that Shanghai was known as Paris of the East.  In my opinion, it should be the other way around, Paris is Shanghai of the West.  Shanghai is absolutely spectacular!  It is without a doubt the world’s boomtown, the quintessential symbol of China’s superpower status, and as the breathtaking view of the Bund will clearly demonstrate, Shanghai is a metropolis of the future.  

the Bund
Yuyuan Garden
beautiful streets near Yuyuan Garden
Qibao (Old Street)
What to do:
In addition to all the "must see" historical sites and museums, I really liked Nanjing Road and People’s Square (Ren Min Guang Chang), which truly is an urban park that features manicured greenery and the architecturally impressive Shanghai Museum. Also, as People’s Square is one of the busiest area in Shanghai, and perhaps in the world, it's an ideal place for people watching.  The area near the Yuyuan Garden and the Huaihai Road is absolutely charming, and don't miss the luxury goods store  Shanghai Tang, where the impeccable craftsmanship of the cloths and merchandise will give “made in China” a whole new meaning.

Where to stay: Central Hotel, Fairmont Peace Hotel, Langham Yangtze, Peninsula Hotel, Ramada, Westin

Beijing truly is a walking history book.  From the grandeur of the Forbidden City to the hutongs which reflect the everyday lives of ancient Beijing, everywhere we went, I felt as if I’ve been transported to a different time … a different century.  The only thing that brought me back to reality, and inevitably to 21st century, was hordes of tourists that surrounded me at all times. 

the Great Wall
ever-so-serene landscape
Summer Palace
Lama Temple
Forbidden City
Ming's Tomb Sacred Way

Where to eat:
the seafood restaurants near Holiday Inn, Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant (32 Qian Men Street), Dadong Roast Duck, Lao She Tea House (3 Qian Men Avenue West)

Hong Kong
Unfortunately, our experience in Hong Kong was quite the opposite from the experiences we had in Shanghai and Beijing.  It’s a place that has all of the disadvantages of being a big city: the crowd, the pollution, the noise and the inflated prices, but sadly, with none of the advantages … and even worse, very little history.  Fortunately, my husband and I were able to meet up with a good friend of ours, and we ended up having a great time. 
What to do:
  • the tram rides – the cheapest and the most fun way to get around (2HKD)
  • the ferry ride to Kowloon – same as the tram experience but on water (2.2HKD)
  • D’Aguilar Street – mainly comprised of restaurants and bars for expats but nevertheless fun
  • Wu Kong Shanghai – a great restaurant on the corner of Nathan & Peking Road
Where to sleep: definitely in Kowloon, Holiday Inn & Sheraton are good options.


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