The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, Beijing, China (2012)
Our 2012 journey to China was a private tour arranged by Great China Travel. We customized our tour so that we could learn more about the minority cultures, Buddhism, and historic sites; and try the local cuisine.
Following the Southern Silk Road (or, Tea and Horse Road), the journey began in Sichuan province. At the capital – Chengdu, we learned about the ancient Shu people in the Sanxingdui Relic Museum and how the Giant Pandas were cared for at the reserve. Then, we learned about Buddhism in Leshan and Mount Emei, one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains of China. After the enlightening experience, we went further back in time with the dinosaurs of Zigong and the Buddhist carvings of the Dazu grottos—both reminders of a world beyond us. Our final stop at Kunming was short, since it was the halfway point of our journey. Of course during our stay, we tried the spicy Sichuan food (at the mildest level as possible) and tried a herbal hotpot meal, despite the humid weather. The tour in Sichuan was organized by a single tour guide, Cathy, and driver.
From Beijing to Sichuan province to Yunnan province (courtesy of Google Maps)
Next, we toured Yunnan province—home to the 55 minority groups of China (56 total including the Han (Chinese) people), which make up one-third of the country’s population. The Bai people are the largest group. During the time we visited, the Bai people were celebrating the Torch Festival on August 10-12, which we were lucky to witness and welcomed to join in the revelries. Here we visited several Buddhist sites, including the holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang and Meili Snow Mountain in Shangri-La and Deqin. We also explored natural wonders, such as the Stone Forest and Tiger Leaping Gorge. As a grand finale, we returned to the capital—Kunming—and marveled at the Peacock Dance by the minority groups at the theater. It is to note that in Yunnan, we had several tour guides; one at each city so gratuity must be organized as such.
Our final stop was in Beijing, where we revisited famous sites: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to see how much changed since our visit in 1998. Then, we visited the Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) and saw a Peking Opera show at Liyuan Theater. We were lucky to have organized a few things with a tour guide, who had picked us up at the airport on August 4th.
Overall, the journey was enjoyable and a great learning experience. The only concern was that we were not able to choose the food dishes; most likely this was due to the budget our tour guide had to meet. For future trips, we plan to explain to the tour coordinator that we would like to choose dishes that we would like and would meet the said budget. This would be the most ideal course to make a trip worthwhile.
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