Wednesday, April 28, 2010

0 Where Next Wednesday: China

*Photos courtesy of Lonely Planet and National Geographic

To Do List
China is huge! It's the third largest country by land mass and first largest by population--so we might just have to take another six months off to thoroughly explore (just kidding, bosses!)
  • Beijing could keep us busy for a week. The Forbidden City, a 980-building imperial palace from the Ming to Qing dynasty, sounds incredible. It's "forbidden" because no one could come or go without the emperor's permission. Tiananmen Square, like Red Square in Moscow, hosts a well-preserved revolutionary. We'd love to see Mao in the flesh. Those communists and their love of preserving dead bodies! 
  • The Great Wall. Apparently the further you go from Beijing the less crowded--we'd like to go all the way to Shanhaiguan, the part that juts out into the sea, a three-hour train ride from Beijing.
  • Xi'an's Terracotta Army (pictured below): 8,000 terracotta warriors with 30,000 weapons built by 700,000 workers as a form of funerary art for Qin Shi Huang in the second century BC. It's a two-hour flight our twelve-hour train ride from Beijing.
  • Shanghai's old, wooden architecture, ancient gardens, and colonial buildings alongside a brand new riverfront and the Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the tallest buildings in Asia. A sleeper ticket on one of the overnight trains from Beijing will cost you $75--they run at ten-minute intervals starting at 7pm.
  • Zhujiajiao: the "Venice of China" recently featured on The Amazing Race. It's a two-hour bus ride from Shanghai.
  • Hangzhou, originally admired by Marco Polo for its beauty, is highlighted by mountains, lakes, tea fields, and pagodas.
  • Tibet: the home of Lamaism. Sights include the Potala Palce, Jokhang Temple, and the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama. Buddhist monasteries everywhere. There's also Qomolangma National Nature Reserve on the Tibet side of Mt Everest. Tibet is much harder to get into than the Forbidden City: you must have a permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau and thus must go with an organized trip.  

  • Noodles: we love us some pasta and China, after all, is the original home of the noodle.
  • Peking duck
  • Hot pot restaurants: Chinese fondue! Cooking your own meat and veggies in spicy broth.
  • Dim sum: no, we did not get our fill of dumplings in Hong Kong. Not nearly.
  • "Imperial" cuisine: includes specialties like camel's paw, shark's fin and bird's nest. 
  • Tea: the Chinese have been drinking tea for millennia (that's way longer than you've been enjoying your Starbucks chai latte) so they really know what they're doing. 
Get Me There
As of this post, Kayak shows United as offering the cheapest flights from Boston at $868 to Beijing and $922 to Shanghai, both with one stop.

But there's some work to do before you hop on that flight. Visa applications require details like cities and dates of entry and exit, an itinerary, and must be delivered in person to your local Embassy or Consulate General--or you can add a $50 service fee to your $130 visa and have Travisa process it for you.
    Did You Know?
    Your favorite part of Chinese takeout isn't Chinese at all. Fortune cookies were invented in California in the early 1900s. So the "in bed" rule is not a traditional Chinese custom after all.

    The Word
    Orn's Travel Blog - "From Shanghai we took the very modern and fast fast-train to Hangzhou, described by Marco Polo as "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world"... We can certainly accept Polo’s description of Hangzhou but we’re also sure that he came when the sun was shining and the mist/smog was a lot less then it was today."
    Emil's Trip to China - "The next day began with a flat bottom boat ride beginning in Guilin and cruising down the legendary Li River, with towering mountain-like limestone peaks dotting the winding shoreline... We shared the relatively narrow river with fishermen on bamboo rafts who use large black cormorants to catch their fish, vendors on similar rafts who hook onto the side of the ship to hawk cheap buddhas, as well as water buffalo, cows, and children swimming in the water begging for money."
    Tibetan Portraits - "While traveling and studying in Tibet, I met many Tibetans who generously shared their time and stories with me. Through Tibetan Portraits, I hope to convey the beauty of these people and their culture."

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