Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘China’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

Border

Top Reasons to Visit China

Friday, November 6th, 2015

 

China is one of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations, both for a look into its past and for a chance to ponder its future. China’s evolution from the oppressive Mao years to the current rampant consumerism may be one of the most amazing transitions in human history. This country is changing faster than any place on earth, so it’s important to go now before any more of its history disappears.

Here are the top reasons to visit China now:

6523181635_79190382c1_b (1)

Beijing

Beijing is the historic heart of China where courtyard homes still line old, narrow alleyways called hutongs and a traditional way of life continues despite the constant threat of redevelopment. The capital city also contains many sites essential to understanding this sometimes baffling country.

Begin at the Forbidden City, an impressive palace complex built in the early 1400’s where twenty-four emperors ruled for 500 years. Hidden from view behind imposing walls and a deep moat lies a totally different world of marble bridges, tranquil gardens, and thousands of rooms once used to house the emperors and their households. The Forbidden City was designed according to feng shui principles with red buildings (for luck) topped with yellow roofs (for power). Common people were not permitted to enter, and many of the royals rarely ventured out. Why would they have any desire to leave? After all, of the 10,000 people who once lived here, 3,000 were concubines.

Tiananmen Square fulfilled Chairman Mao’s dream of creating the largest and most spectacular square in the world. Designed to hold 500,000 people, it’s easy to envision the intimidating military displays regularly performed here during the days of the Cultural Revolution. The site also evokes memories of the hundreds killed by government troops during the 1989 student protests. But today, the most common sight is the street vendors hawking cheap Mao wristwatches, with the Chairman pounding out the seconds with his fist. If you want one, be sure to bargain hard!

The Summer Palace is a gorgeous spot outside the city where the royals went to escape the summer heat. While The Forbidden City was all about power and impressing visitors, this summer retreat was a pure pleasure palace. Don’t miss the Marble Boat down by the lake. This “boat” that looks more like a boat-shaped marble pier, was built by the crazy Empress Cixi with funds supposed to be used to modernize the Navy.

6523186957_50c482c11a_b (2)

The Great Wall

Reputedly 5500 miles long, The Great Wall is considered one of the wonders of the world and is China’s number one tourist attraction. The Chinese have a saying, “You are not a real man until you have climbed the Great Wall.”

The Great Wall is simply awesome, a truly unbelievable engineering feat. The 12-foot wide wall has crenellated sides like the edges of a huge castle, a height that varies between 20 to 30 feet depending on the terrain, with scenic watchtowers strategically placed all along the route. The wall itself is impressive enough, but to build it in this unforgiving terrain seems insane. At least one million slaves and prisoners of war worked on the project. Walking from watchtower to watchtower is an incredible way to see the beauty of the country while participating in an activity that you can brag to your friends about for years!

6523194473_2d56319f96_b (2)

Xi’an

Discovered in 1974 by Chinese farmers drilling for a well, The Terracotta Warriors are one of the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century and the highlight of any visit to Xi’an. Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, was obsessed with the hereafter. To ensure that he would continue the sweet life of commander-in-chief even after his death, he had his minions create a terracotta army made from local clay baked in a kiln. This effort resulted in thousands of warlike, life-sized soldiers with weapons in hand, decked out in full battle armor, and positioned in military formation.

The Warriors are housed in 3 separate buildings (“creatively” named Pits #1, # 2, and #3). Each pit is an unfinished archeological work in progress, with many of the soldiers and other artifacts still in the process of being discovered. It is estimated that 6,000 soldiers will be unearthed in Pit #1 alone. Walk around the periphery of the excavations to observe the details of each soldier and horse. Remarkably, no two soldiers are alike – you’ll see different faces, heights, and statures along with a variety of mustaches and hairstyles. Each soldier’s head is actually a separately molded piece that fits together with the body, like inserting a peg into a hole. The idea was to provide the soldiers with a wider range of motion so they could turn their heads during battles in the afterlife.

Xi’an offers more than just clay warriors, and even if you are not usually into song and dance, you should check out the Tang Dynasty Show. This extravaganza features wildly colorful stage sets and elaborate costumes. Plus a fascinating musical mix of unusual Chinese instruments and dancing that is the definition of graceful, especially when the female dancers wave their long, drooping sleeves like ribbons in the wind.

6523185225_51c4221452_b (1)

Food fit for an emperor

If your knowledge of Chinese food is limited to your neighborhood take-out place, you haven’t begun to appreciate this complex cuisine. Chinese dishes are varied, healthy, always a treat for the senses, and each region glories in its own specialties.

Ancient chestnut trees still grow near The Great Wall, and these wonderfully chewy nuts are the star of savory dishes. Xi’an has a longstanding dumpling tradition and eating a “dumpling dinner” ranks right up there with seeing the Terracotta Warriors as a Xi’an must-do. Wooden steamer bowls are spread out on your table, each one holding several beautifully presented dumplings. The paper-thin wrappings conceal ingredients such as chicken, vegetables, fish, and even walnuts. One of the most loved foods in China, dumplings are delicate works of art often shaped to look like animals or flowers – a delight to the eye and the tummy.  And don’t forget to sample the fragrant Chinese teas. Some of the more elaborate teas even open up like a flower unfolding in your glass.

Beijing is renowned for Peking Duck, a roasted duck dish that was a favorite in the Imperial Court. The lean and crispy duck arrives at your table intact where it is expertly sliced in front of you. Then, you go to work creating the equivalent of a Chinese taco: spread some plum sauce on a steamed pancake and add succulent slices of duck, some scallions, and cucumber slices. Now down it all with a cold Tsingtao beer. Hao chi! (Delicious!)

6523197871_492f1f1a6b_b (1)

Shanghai

Shanghai is a city of contrasts where east meets west, and an historic waterfront faces off with a modern, neon skyline. Shanghai is at its most romantic along The Bund, a sublime riverside walkway and people-watching paradise. This part of Shanghai feels almost European with many buildings unchanged since the 1930’s when Shanghai and The Bund became the chief shipping, trading, and financial district for the colonial powers (Great Britain, France and the U.S.). In those days, Shanghai was considered the Wall Street of Asia. A walk along the 1-mile promenade reveals why The Bund has been called a “museum of international architecture” with a mix of architectural styles including a number of exceptional Art Deco structures.

The architectural delights of The Bund compete with the marvelous modern structures of the area called Pudong, directly across the Huangpu River. While The Bund holds on to its colonial heritage, Pudong is bright and brassy, clearly demonstrating the power and financial might of the new Shanghai. At night , the Pudong skyline is a neon fantasyland from the crystalline rooftop of the Jin Mao Tower to the Chinese Oriental Pearl Tower that looks like it swallowed two giant Christmas balls.

The people of Shanghai are as shockingly modern as the skyscrapers of Pudong. Designer clothes are de rigueur, and shopping seems to be the principal pastime. The tranquil Yu Yuan Gardens provides a peaceful respite from the bustle of the city. And the pearl shops nearby offer an astounding selection of these lustrous gems.

6523201937_f336f8b4e7_b (1)

An unexpected welcome

The best reason to visit China now is because foreigners are still a novelty. At first, you may feel uncomfortable with the way that the Chinese stare at you — like you are the most exotic animal in the zoo. But you need to understand that many Chinese tourists are traveling from their homes in the provinces for the first time, and some have never seen a western face before.

You may find yourself surprisingly popular. When visiting China, you may be amazed when Chinese tourists at breathtaking sites like the Temple of Heaven or The Great Wall want to take pictures of you. Some of your favorite memories of China may be these fun picture-taking interactions.

It is hard to believe that the Cultural Revolution ended just two generations ago. Throughout China, young people seek out foreigners to show-off their fluent English, and little school children jump up and down yelling, “Hallo! Hallo!” whenever they see western tourists. In general, China is much friendlier than you would expect. As new generations emerge, the old antagonism towards the West seems long forgotten, and the deep suspicion of foreigners that Mao encouraged is nowhere in sight.

 

edited from BootsnAll

Amazing Journeys’ glorious vacation to China has come and gone

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Amazing Journeys’ glorious vacation  to China has come and gone, oh too quickly. Thirty folks from 4 countries all convened in New York for a 13+ hour journey across the globe for a tour that was chock full of unbelievable experiences.  For ten fascinating days, we toured some of the most famed highlights in the world, tasted not-your-neighborhood-takeout Chinese food, shopped for pearls and silk, witnessed arguably the greatest archeological  find in history and hiked a wall that was really Great.  The tour began in Beijing and traveled through Xian and into Shanghai….and while it was a little chilly in the beginning, the warmth of such a great group enjoying so many wonderful experiences together meant that new friendships and amazing memories would not soon be forgotten.

From posing like a Terra Cotta Warrior to shopping from the “Hallo” people for “one dollah, one dollah”…. to hiking The Great Wall and biking through a Hutong neighborhood…..from making silk to making friends, …from anxious toilet experiences to exciting cultural performances… and from navigating traffic like nowhere on earth, to feeling a vibe like nowhere on earth, it really was, by definition, an amazing journey.

We sincerely thank all 30 of our guests; our newest AJ friends, for entrusting us with their travel plans and  for being part of such a memorable destination.

As they say in China..”XieXie”

Didn’t get a chance to visit Asia on this trip but wished you had?  Join us on our Asia Cruise for New Year’s Eve!  We set sail to the exciting ports of Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. Sign up by this Friday, March 30 and you’ll get a $100 ship board credit!

Amazing China at a Glance

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Our Amazing Journeys China tour is off and running. Beijing is the first stop for four nights and here are a few moments of all the memories-in-motion!

An Unofficial List of Amazing Journeys’ Top 10 Lifetime Experiences

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Having traveled to all 7 continents with thousands of travelers over the course of 20 years in the biz, we have been privy to so many amazing life experiences for so many amazing people. While some prefer adventure to fulfill their bucket lists (jumping off the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand), other prefer seeing famous landmarks (The Sydney Opera House). While some are in search of elusive wildlife (spotting a cheetah in Tanzania) others are thrilled to simply experience a paradise (snorkeling in French Polynesia).
Whatever the destination, we live in a world chock full of so many incredible, sometimes life-changing places to see, do and experience. Its why we do what we do–giving folks an opportunity to experience places once only read about in books or seen on television is something we are passionate about.
As a group of “wandering” Jews, we not only crave the next adventurous pursuit…we have strong opinions about how we do it. Feedback is an important component for Amazing Journeys in meeting the needs and understanding the interests of our clients. Through this feedback, we not only learn how to better meet these needs, we learn just how our jobs change lives of people. As our tagline says “Vacations That Change Your Life”.
In light of this premise, check out our Top Ten List of Lifetime Experiences that so many our passengers have shared with us; that have changed their lives. And ours too!
10. Zip Lining above the treetops in a cloud forest…in Costa Rica!
9. Witnessing the birth of a baby buffalo on safari…in Botswana!
8. After a day of waddling with thousands of penguins, having a whale swim so close to our ship that we could almost reach out and pet her…in Antarctica!
7. Cuddling a koala in our arms the same day we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef…in Australia!
6. Traveling about as far from home as humanly possible and finally arriving at the Taj Mahal….in India!
5. Actually standing on and seeing the endless structure (over 4000 miles long) of The Great Wall….in China!
4. Watching all the pageantry culminated by seating at the famous Samba Parade during Carnaval….in Rio de Janeiro!
3. Physically exploring the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels – a labyrinth of underground survival strategies used by the Viet Cong during the war….in Vietnam!
2. Arriving atop the ancient, hard-to-truly-grasp preserved landscape of Machu Piccu….in Peru!
1. Mushing on a dog sled atop a glacier after the most scenic helicopter ride imaginable….in Alaska!
Now this is by no means a complete and final list. Some honorable AJ-Mentions include visiting The Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia, climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, cruising around Cape Horn-the southern tip of South America, living in scenery that looks like a painted picture in the Canadian Rockies, and hiking in the US national parks. There are so many other life experiences shared by our passengers and you too can experience a few yourself. Check out what AJ has in store for 2012 by visiting our website www.amazingjourneys.net or calling us at 412-571-0220.

Preparing for China

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As our travelers prepare for their upcoming journey to China, there are a lot of things to consider. What should I wear? What should I buy? What will I eat? In preparation for our trip, we wanted to highlight a few of the differences that will be noticed along our travels through China.

Food
The American version of Chinese food and the Chinese version of Chinese food are quite different. The American version is catered more towards our taste buds and aren’t quite as risky when it comes to ingredients. We are also looking forward to becoming skilled chopstickers.
versus

Drinks
The Chinese culture places an emphasis on tea, specifically the tea pouring ceremony. As opposed to the American coffee ritual of running down the street to your local Starbucks , there is a specific science and precision to the ceremony which is very unique to take part in.
versus

Bathrooms
As our travelers have already been warned, there is a noticeable difference between Western bathrooms and Eastern bathrooms – mainly, the seat! It takes some practice and balance to master the Eastern toilet but we are looking forward to the challenge and know that we will all come home having mastered the squat and having tones glutes to prove it!
versus

Height
For those of us who are taller than the average American, it is quite an experience to walk around China – you feel a little like Godzilla. I am 5’9” so I am 6.5 inches taller than the average Chinese woman. The average Chinese man is 5’5” as compared to the average American man at 5’10”.

Language
As many of us have learned throughout years of travel, there is often a language barrier that makes travel fun. Sometimes you are able to follow along because of the Spanish classes that you took in high school or you can kind of figure out what a sign says because words are similar to English. This, however, is not the case in China. The language, the letters, the signs – they are all in a completely different language that we are going to have fun interacting with.
versus

This will be an exotic adventure to a land very far away, with people and experiences unlike anything found at home. We look forward to reporting back all of the exciting and interesting differences that we experience while diving into the Chinese culture.

Ia Orana (“yo-rah-nah”)

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Ia Orana is a proper greeting (“Hello” or “Welcome”) in the Tahitian language.  This week 36 AJers will will say Ia Orana to each other, and to Tahiti as we embark on an 11-night journey to French Polynesia.  Perfect weather is an understatement as balmy days turn into moonlit nights, and where tropical breezes blow while brightly colored fish swim just below the surface of clear turquoise waters. 

The pampering begins with two nights at an incredible resort in Tahiti followed by a seven night cruise aboard the luxury ship, Paul Gauguin. Built specifically for French Polynesia, this intimate voyage will glide our group of honorary Jewish single Tahitians through some of the most remote islands of the world.  Some of these islands you may have heard of: Tahiti and Bora Bora seems to be familiar to many.  But there are 118 islands-about 50 of which are inhabited-that make up French Polynesia.  Our journey will also take us to the tiny but pristine islands of Moorea (More-aya), Raiatea (Ry-a-taya) and Taha’a (pronounced exactly how it looks).

The ship is equipped with an array of unique features such as a drop-down watersports marina where passengers will enjoy complimentary kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and waterskiing.  On board, unlimited complimentary drinks, three exquisite restaurants, Polynesian entertainment and a ratio of one crew member to every two guests will translate into one huge Ia Orana (“Welcome”) and memories to last a lifetime. The word ‘vacation’ cannot be more clearly defined than what is in store in French Polynesia. 

To share in the tranquility of these unique islands our new friends will travel from four countries to be a part of this amazing journey: US, Canada, Australia and England.  Stay tuned to our Amazing Journeys facebook  (www.facebook.com/AmazingJourneys) page over the next 2+ weeks for a front row seat on our adventures. 

And then…don’t be left out in the cold yourself.  Why not consider joining us on one of our next upcoming Amazing Journeys:  Spain, China, West Coast Cruise, India, Music Cities of the South, New Year’s Caribbean Cruise, Alaska…and lots more.   Visit: www.amazingjourneys.net  

The State of the Travel Industry

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Malori and Stacey just returned from World Travel Market in London and are happy to report that all is good in the travel industry!  We met with tour operators and vendors from over 250 countries around the world as we planned and got ideas for future Amazing Journeys in 2012.  In addition, we attended lectures given by travel insiders from around the globe as they presented the state of the travel industry.

“Green” travel options were a big topic.  Vendors from every corner of the globe are stepping up to the plate to offer sustainable tourism, becoming more aware of water shortages, carbon footprints and taking a stand to keep the world from being overused.  Along those lines, we attended lectures on keeping religious sites truly sacred by limiting the amount of tourists at any one place at a given time.  It’s a responsibility we must all embrace if we are to have a world to share with the next generation.

Trends in growth for travel include Asia, leading the recovery from the 2009 economic downturn with more people visiting countries within Asia, as well as the “new middle class” within China who are beginning to travel within their own country and abroad.  Latin America is offering more adventure and sporting event opportunities with Brazil being the favorite destination.  Africa is getting ahead of the pack with “Space Travel” opportunities, offering travelers in-room telescopes to look at the night sky, night-vision safaris, Astro tourism, clear night skies in Africa and wants to actually take up traveling in space to compete with the US.  Adventure travel is appealing to more individuals than ever before and 85% of those polled worldwide, list adventure travel as a priority when making plans to travel.  And finally, there are the beginnings of interest in Iraq as a growing area for tourists (think Vietnam).

While in London, Stacey and I selected hotels in London for our upcoming British Isles trip.  You’ll love what we found and we can’t wait to share it with you in the coming weeks!

So there you have it.  We have toured the globe in only three days at World Travel Market.  Where do you want to go in 2012?  Now is the time to let us know as the planning has begun!