There are few countries in the world with a culture as distinct and diverse as China. It is a country of contrasts, with thriving big cities such as Beijing, and Shanghai, and rural and smaller areas including Chengdu, Xian and Guilin that are also magical to explore. This is a country stuck between the developed and developing world and now is the time to dip your toes into this amazing culture and explore the diverse flavors and colors across the provinces of China.
Beijing was a study in contrasts with modern high rises situated directly next to the old traditional Hutongs ( traditional homes). We were welcomed with open hearts and often a request for selfies from the young and old. Tianamen Square was fascinating at the sheer size of the area. Even better our kids had been studying China and could compare their studies to what was being taught in China.. PRICELESS!
Selfies all the time with my son!
The Forbidden City
At the center of Beijing is the Forbidden City, the vast palace complex of former emperors. Mao’s Private areas being unlocked for us to explore..
You have to stand in the center of Tiananmen Square to begin to visualize the true magnitude of the city (in which nearly one million citizens came together for the protests of 1989), where the expansive surroundings are STILL watched by government-controlled cameras. Having watched the news in 1989, it was even more grounding to have our children reveal their learning from their World History Books.
The Summer Palace
When exploring the summer palace and the incredible gardens there is a sense of peace when walking the winding paths and visiting the Temple of Heaven. There is a gentleness to the culture where the retirees are found enjoying the ancient parks practicing their tai chi, calligraphy, and sometimes doing the electric slide to Britney Spears! And sometimes you just have to join them!. It is truly a Peaceful Oasis.
Nothing like embarrassing your teens:) But when you get invited to dance...
Room Service at Aman Summer Palace!
The Marriage Mart:)
Mothers have their children's resumes available for the "Harmonious Match"
The Great Wall
While it is easy to go to the closer part of the Great Wall, we took the time to venture out of town to a section of the wall that was empty. We were awestruck by the Wall snaking up and down over plunging cliffs and jagged ridges, The scenery was truly dramatic, but the lack of crowds gave us time to explore and hike for hours! Bring your sneakers, you will want to explore! Our hike led us to a tower where we enjoyed dinner with white linens and the perfect glass of wine with the most amazing views on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA. The last part of our day was a private Kung Fu Performance of the Shaolin Warriors who combine the agility and grace of gymnasts with the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil performers.
Chengdu found within the Sichuan Province is home to very spicy food and some very sweet Pandas at a conservation center that can choose if they would like to join you for a bite of Bamboo. Their cute Panda personalities shone through! This panda scooted closer to me and leaned in.. My heart melted! This was a hit with our teens as you can imagine!
Szechuan Cooking Class
Chengdu is known for its spicy cuisine (the Sichuan pepper should be sampled with caution:) and Giant Panda Research Base. Here, locals have a slower, more leisurely pace than elsewhere in the country; visitors will enjoy afternoons spent in teahouses, touring temples and savoring local specialties found at the colorful outdoor markets.
Those noodles were chopped BLINDFOLDED.....
Xian is an essential destination to see the Terracotta Warriors. The sheer amount of warriors with expressions and differing postures and ornamentation is breathtaking. It is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle... And there is so much more to uncover..
Our one night in Xian included a dumpling creation lesson. Our communication was limited to head-shakes, No No No, Yes, and laughter.. Lots of Laughter!
The Rivers of Guilin stretch and wind around the rural countryside dotted with rice farms and villages. The river was hight so our bamboo raft adventure was canceled, which led to some much enjoyed downtime at the pool!
When biking between villages on a very warm and humid day, we were welcomed into the home of a family that wove rugs for their income and attempted to learn their process of weaving. They spoke no english and we spoke no Chinese, however we the connection of friendship was immediate and our laughter contagious! We also visited some retired farmers who thought we should have a pipe smoking lesson and magic show. All on the side of the road!
Shanghai is truly a Cosmopolitan and International City. The architecture tour we enjoyed encompassing the British Quarter, the original Kentucky Fried Chicken ( which was an American Emblem) to the incredible skyline dotted with new sky scrapers and new construction was incredible.
Access to Disneyland before the Opening!
The Bund by Water
A view of the Bund by the Peninsula Yacht during tea time was unforgettable! It was so peaceful to be out on the water and the views were spectacular.
The Bund from the rooftop deck of the Peninsula Hotel!
Tastes of China!
Before you go to China
5 Tips for when you go!
In order to access google, social media download a VPN prior to departure
A Visa is REQUIRED in advance
Prepare for many selfies with the people of China-
they are just as curious about you:)
The Chinese comfort zone of personal space is much tighter than those of Westerners
Give and receive gifts with both hands (same goes for business cards).
Never leave your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice!
Must do while in China
Hike the Great Wall and then enjoy dinner one of the towers
Hug a Panda
See Shanghai via the water
Walk through Tiananmen Square
Bike through the Villages
Explore the Pearl Markets
Take some Selfies with the Locals