Xian to Beijing and Chengdu
22.09.2011 - 26.09.2011
Wow! We finished with Xian and as with everything on this tour loved every moment of our time in this ancient capital of China. We then moved on to the Imperial Northern City of Beijing for our 3 night stay. Beijing is a vast city of high rise buildings surrounding what is left of the ancient City centre. The first evening in beijing evening on 22nd September we were treated to the Kung Fu Spectacular show - one of the top 3 shows in China. This was the story told in wonderful colour and action of the rise of a young boy to become the abbot of the Shaolin Monastery. The music and action defy description - a not to be missed show if it tours again.
On 23rd September we spent hours walking through Tianmen Square and the Forbidden City along with 10's of thousands of local and foreign tourists. The Winter palace as it is also known is vast and impressive even with the teeming throngs. In the afternoon after a local lunch we were taken to the older part of the city and treated to a tea making demonstration and learned how to make the dumplings we had been served on our last night in Xian.
Next day we were taken to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall after first visiting a cloisonee factory where we saw the process of this ancient art form from start to finish. The wall in this section had a setep slope up through crowded market stalls to a cable car which took us to the Wall itself. What a magnificent acheivement! Even though this part of the wall was extensively restored with the help of a German Engineering company it is beautiful and we had perfect weather as we have been blessed throughout this entire trip. We spent over 2 hours waking up the Wall climbing into guard towers and listening to a group of Swiss yodellers performing on this most iconic of Chinese structures. We returned to the hotel - Sofitel Wanda rested and then enjoyed our Peking Duck banquet.
The accommodation has been excellent on this tour with most hotels really being the best available. The food has varied and although it could be warmer has mostly been delicious.
Yesterday we left Beijing and flew to Chengdu in the West of China. Chengdu has been the capital city of Sichuan province for over 2000 years and last night we were treated to a performance of the Sichuan Opera. The cast were all very experienced and described by the pretty MC as masters of Opera, Traditional Music and Face Changing. A good time was had by all of those who were still part of our original group. We are now down from 26 to 17 and tomorrow we will be only 7 going up to Lhasa. Today we visited the Panda Research and Breeding Centre where Celina and I sat next to a year old Panda and had pictures and video taken while were able to stroke and touch one of the World's most endangered creatures. We spent several hours watching and wondering at these magnificent creatures who have survived as a species for 8 million years until the advent of man. We have returned to our hotel for a few hours rest then it its repacking and preparing for a very early start to our last 3 days in Lhasa. We have been told we will need to take it very slowly on our first day and then we have a very busy programme for the last 2 days.