Casey, Tim and I had what may have been our best day in China. We left the hotel about 9am and took a taxi down to the Yu Gardens. It was early so we had the place practically to ourselves. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the numerous gardens enjoying the water, plants rocks and buildings. Afterward we walked through the bazaar with its many colorful shops.
We jumped on the metro which is quick, clean and cheap and took it out to Longyang Road Station where we boarded the fastest train in the world. The Maglev train covers the 18 miles out to Pudong Airport in 8 minutes reaching speeds in excess of 260 mph. We ate lunch at a little local restaurant near the station. The food was awesome and cheap. Afterward we toured the Maglev Train Museum.
Next we took the metro to Nanjing Road and walked through the shopping district to the Bond, Shanghai’s waterfront where we strolled along the promenade for a half hour or so. We then took the very kitschy Bond Underground Tunnel Ride under the River to Pudong. We walked around and eventually made our way to the Park Hyatt Hotel where we had a drink in the world’s second highest building. We managed to get a window seat on the 91st floor and enjoyed the setting sun over a beer and a cocktail.
We walked past the Shanghai Center. Under construction it will be the world’s tallest building once complete. With the sun setting we took the ferry back across the river to Shanghai where we again walked along the promenade and through some of the local shopping districts only to finish at the Bond once again to enjoy the colorful lights after dark.
This morning we drove about 80 miles outside of Shanghai to the town of Suzhou. Our first stop was the silk factory museum and store. We got to watch the process of silk extraction, spinning and weaving as well as the hand production of silk comforters. After lunch we visited the Master of Nets Garden, a World Heritage Site. It represents a traditional Chinese home with water garden.
Next we went to the town of Tongli, known as the Venice of the Orient where we took a gondola ride through the town’s canals.
This morning we went to Pudong which is just across the river from Shanghai. We went up to the observation platform of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the 6th tallest building in the world. We went out on the glass viewing platform where we could look straight down about 900 feet to the streets below. The views of Shanghai and the river were spectacular.
We then went across the river to the Bund, the historical waterfront district of Shanghai. The buildings are predominately British Colonial. The waterfront promenade is phenomenal with views across the river to Pudong.
I like Shanghai better than Beijing. It is more vibrant and the architecture is much more interesting. The mixture of Chinese, British and French influences provides a lot more texture to the city than you see in Beijing which seems dull by comparison.
Tonight we have dinner and then will attend a Chinese acrobatics show.
We checked out of our Beijing hotel this morning. It is still hazy, but the air seems much cleaner than the past few days. First stop was the Temple of Heaven complex. The buildings were beautiful, especially the Temple of the Prayer for Good Harvest. Just as interesting were the locals participating in their daily activities. Many people were practicing Tai Chi, a fluid dancing exercise. We joined one group for several minutes and it was a lot of fun. Other groups were playing hacky sack or a form of catch with badminton shuttle cocks. A final group was a number of elderly men and women seeking mates for their younger children. They bring pictures and serve as matchmakers.
Next stop was a pearl factory. China is famous for its fresh water pearls. I knew that an ocean oyster only produces one pearl at a time so I was surprised to learn than a fresh water oyster can produce over 20 at a time.
After lunch we went to the Beijing Olympic Park where we walked around and saw some of the Olympic venues from the 2008 Olympics including the Birds Nest Stadium and the aquatic center.
Our flight to Shanghai was scheduled for 5:30 but was delayed about an hour.
It was snowing and 20 degrees when we left the hotel this morning for the Summer Palace. It continued to snow very lightly throughout the morning. In summer the palace is probably breathtaking. It was beautiful in winter, but had an abandoned desolate feeling like it was frozen out off time.
After the palace we stopped at the jade factory. Some find this type of thing interesting, but I hate the constant sales pitch and would just assume skip these places. We had lunch at the factory and like every meal so far was very good. Served family style they provide a dozen parts of various Chinese food, everything from soup, dumplings, various stir dry dishes, rice, noodles, etc. Everything has been delicious and there has been plenty to go around.
After lunch we visited the Ming Tombs and walked the sacred way, a mile long path lined with carved figures that watch over and protect the entrance to the tombs.
Finally it was on to the highlight of the trip – the Great Wall. All I can say is that it did not disappoint other than we would have liked to have had more than the two hours we spent exploring the walls. Incredible.
This morning we walked through Tiananmen Square. It was cold. Just above freezing with the sun working hard but unsuccessfully to burn through the smog. We took pictures in front of the famous photograph of Chairman Mao and then toured the Forbidden City. The Imperial Palace as it is officially known Is an immense complex of buildings. Needless to say we did not visit all 9999 rooms.
For lunch we took rickshaws through the Hutong district to a traditional family house for a home cooked meal. Afterwards we went to Badaling Park and saw the Llama temple and the 9 dragon wall.
The Marriott has an incredible breakfast buffet. Half a dozen stations. So far this morning, and I’m not sure if I’m done yet, I’ve had an omelette, hash browns, bacon, tomatoes, fried dough, yoghurt, a dozen varieties of fruit, pork dumplings, fried rice, various dim sum, sesame chicken, and 3 different juices. Maybe it’s time for the bread bar?
We arrived in Beijing after a very long 13 hour flight. Our route took us east of Hudson’s bay and over Baffin Island. We could see the north lights as we crossed near the north pole. They were an emerald green mist near the horizon. We then crossed Siberia and Mongolia before finally reaching China.
We managed to get a little sleep, but were not prepared for the long duration between meals. We had dinner about an hour into the flight and then nothing until lunch an hour before we landed. Starving, we wish we had brought snacks. We also missed the personal entertainment systems we have grown used to in the seat backs. No such thing here and we had to settle for Chinese tv on the common screen.
The smog is a lot worse than I expected. It’s even gay inside the airport and outside has a dense smokey feeling.
Casey, Tim and I are at JFK Airport in New York awaiting our flight to Beijing. It’s been a long day already. I was up a little after 5:30 and out the door by 6am. The hour required an immediate coffee stop. A little caffiene and I was good for the drive to Pennsylvania. The nice thing about having adult children is that I no longer have to do all the driving. Tim jumped behind the wheel and I was able to take a nap in the back seat. Our flight leaves at 3:50pm and is scheduled to be 13.5 hours. The longest flight I have been on by far. The Camino de Santiago taught me to sleep anywhere. I hope I haven’t forgot that lesson. A man can only watch so many movies.
My last day on the Camino (for now) began in the town of Ages. For the most part Niels and I walked alone, though we did see several others in a bar a few kilometers into the walk. Appropriately the walk included a little of everything – sun, rain, mud, hills, beautiful vistas, quiet country roads, busy city streets. 18 of us went to dinner together in Burgos and it was a lot of fun. Burgos was definitely a milestone. Some were moving on, some were taking a rest day, and some, like me, were leaving. We took lots of pictures and said our goodbyes.
In the morning I had breakfast with my friends from Holland, Fred, Grietje and Eline, along with Neils. We saw the cathedral and then went to lunch where John from Australia joined us. Ultimately it was time to say my final goodbyes. I made one final stop at the post office to collect my excess baggage that I had mailed from Pamplona and it was off to the bus station for my bus to Madrid.
Filed under Camino, Spain