March 14th 2014
Published: April 7th 2014
Edit Blog Post

When Emma, my Irish travel buddy, first texted me back in October asking if I wanted to go to China in March, my initial reaction was, "Heck, no." I was actually on vacation at the time it was hard to think about another trip. But after having a think about it, I realized that I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Emma was going with her MBA group as part of their curriculum and she wanted me to meet her at the end so we could spend some extra time sightseeing. Unfortunately, the dates didn't coincide with my spring break, but I was able to get a great substitute for my classes and we started planning.

I left San Francisco on Friday afternoon and arrived in Beijing on Saturday night, which was the last day of Emma's week long study tour. I saw her only for a few seconds as she was on her way to a St. Patrick's Day ball. I was so exhausted that I decided I need to eat something and get to bed quickly. Unfortunately, the only food in the vicinity was McDonald's so I was forced to break my twelve year McD's fast.

The next
Jingshan ParkJingshan ParkJingshan Park

Jingshan Park as seen from the Forbidden City
morning, Sunday, I went to Tiananmin Square and the Forbidden City. It was crowded since it was the weekend and there were a lot of locals. I had great weather and the pollution wasn't too bad. After the Forbidden City, I went to Jinsing Park for a view over the city. After that, I went back to the hotel and met up with Emma who was just getting up after a long night at the ball. We went to the Temple of Heaven and then had a lovely meal with some of her classmates. We found this brilliant restaurant that was a Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese fusion. Great time.

The next morning, Monday, we got up early and took the train to Xi'an. We went with the train instead of flying because it's supposed to be a scenic ride, but with the pollution, who can tell? All we could see was brown. Upon arrival to Xi'an we really wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors that afternoon instead of waiting until the next day. We were able to hire a taxi driver who took us to the Warriors as well as to Banpo Village and to the Hot Springs on the
Terracotta WarriorsTerracotta WarriorsTerracotta Warriors

This Chinese emperor had his entire army to defend him in the afterlife.
way. He also dropped us off at our hostel afterward. The Warriors don't disappoint. Emperor Qin Shi Huang had his entire army duplicated in clay to protect him in the afterlife. Each of the 6,000 pieces is unique and it's amazing.

That night was St. Patrick's Day so we met up with more of Emma's classmates. The next day, Tuesday, we went to the city wall of Xi'an. Xi'an is the only city in China that still has its city walls intact and you can walk or bike along the top. We didn't have much time so we just did a quick stroll and then it was off to the airport for our flight to Chongqing.

In Chongqing, we started a four day river boat cruise on the Yangtze River. The highlight of the tour was the Three Gorges Dam. It's a feat of human engineering. The entire project cost $28 BILLION although almost 1/2 of that was to relocate the 1.3 million people whose homes are now underwater. The ship went through the locks system and we got to go on a tour of the dam site. The cruise was great for other reasons as well. There were classes such as Introduction to Mandarin, Natural healing, and the history of the Yangtze and we went through the Three Gorges which were gorgeous.

After the cruise on Friday night, we flew back to Beijing. The next day, Saturday, we hired a taxi driver to take us to the Great Wall, The Olympic Park, and to the Zoo. We had an amazing time at the Great Wall. Again we were so blessed by the weather and the pollution wasn't too bad. We had some clear, blue sky. We spent some time at the Olympic Park and we got to see the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. Unfortunately, we should have spent less time at the Park because by the time we got to the zoo it was just closing. All we wanted to see were the pandas, but they wouldn't let us in. We missed it only by minutes. We regretted not looking into that beforehand since we could have easily hurried up earlier in the day and made it on time. In addition, the taxi driver had dropped us off there so now we had to navigate the subway with literally thousands of people who were
Three Gorges DamThree Gorges DamThree Gorges Dam

The Dam cost $28 billion, 45% of which went to relocating the 1.3 million people whose cities are now underwater.
leaving the zoo as it closed.

We finally made it back to the hotel and got cleaned up. We went to the Silk Market and Emma got some new purses. Then we wanted to make our way to the Sanlitun area which has a bunch of cool restaurants and night life. This proved harder than we thought because the Obamas were in town (not Barack, just Michelle and the girls) so many of the streets were closed and traffic was worse than usual. Taxi drivers wanted to charge us more then we were willing to pay, but we finally found one that took us (although I'm pretty sure he was drunk). We even saw the Obamas on the way. We saw them come out of a restaurant, get into the motorcade, and drive off. Emma and I had a great dinner to celebrate our latest adventure and then we headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, Sunday, I decided to try to see the pandas before my flight. Emma's flight was earlier than mine so she couldn't join me. We said our good byes in the hotel room and I made my way back to the zoo.
Climbing the Great WallClimbing the Great WallClimbing the Great Wall

We got so blessed with the weather and the clear sky. What a great day for a hike.
It was great to see the pandas and I made it back to the hotel for my stuff and to the airport in plenty of time. The flight back was uneventful. It is an odd time difference though to cross the international date line heading east. My flight took off at 1:45 PM on Sunday are arrived in SFO at 9:45 AM on Sunday. Basically the flight arrives four hours before it takes off. It's an odd feeling to have it be 10:00 AM and I've already been up for about fifteen hours. It's nice though because I got home and was able to unpack and get all my grocery shopping sorted so that I could hit the ground running for the next day.

Overall it was a great trip. Some fears going into it were that we were going to be so rushed that we wouldn't be able to enjoy it. I was also afraid that I would totally regret not seeing Shanghai. In response to those, I didn't feel rushed at all. We had planned well so that we maximized our time so we were able to fit a lot into a small amount of time. I
Giant PandaGiant PandaGiant Panda

What can I say? Isn't he the cutest?
don't regret not seeing Shanghai. I think I saw enough of the rest of China that missing that major city isn't too much of a regret for me. Overall, a fascinating country. I found it easy enough to get around and except for the first night when I was forced to eat McDonald's, the food was great. I'd go back again if another opportunity arose.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Jingshan ParkJingshan Park
Jingshan Park

The Forbidden City as seen from Jingshan Park

Beijing as seen from Jingshan Park. Check out that smog
Terracotta WarriorTerracotta Warrior
Terracotta Warrior

Each warrior is unique and life-size.
Terracotta WarriorsTerracotta Warriors
Terracotta Warriors

This Chinese emperor had his entire army to defend him in the afterlife.
Xi'an City WallsXi'an City Walls
Xi'an City Walls

Xi'an is the only city in China with its city walls still intact. It takes about an hour to bike the whole thing.
Lock SystemLock System
Lock System

This is the first of five locks that connect the two bodies of water in the Yangtze where the Three Gorges Dam is built.
Lock SystemLock System
Lock System

The water has been drained from the lock (notice the different colors on the wall) so now we are ready to enter the 2nd lock. The door is opening and then we'll enter. Check out the thickness of those doors!
Lock SystemLock System
Lock System

The lock system. You can see the different levels and also notice all the ships coming and going through the system. The Yangtze is a much used river

Tot: 0.336s; Tpl: 0.013s; cc: 9; qc: 45; dbt: 0.2767s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb