Visit to China May 8/21 2012
On May 8, 2012 we took off from Melbourne with Qantas to fly to Hong Kong. the aircraft seat configeration was: 2-4-2, we managed to negotiate four seats for ourselves. Dreadful food in flight, Qantas to us seem to have dropped their standards.
Denise had organised that we would be met at all our destinations and taken by private car to our hotels, and also taken by car back to the airport for the next leg of our journey.
This all worked very well, without any hitches.
Our car was waiting and off we went to the Langham Hotel in HK, a superb choice, staff attentive and friendly, and our room fine.
We took the tram ride to the Peak on a fine morning, and the views of Hong Kong harbour stretched out below were quite wonderful. Unfortunately we had forgotten the camera to record our visit.
A day trip to Macau by fast Catarmaran took an hour, then an indifferant tour and a visit to a Casino. Here there are 33 Casinos, and the one selected not from the top ones.
Return to Kowloon by the fast cat, all in all, a bad choice of tours. We could have done far better on our own and saved a good deal of money.
Whilst here, I ordered a Navy blue jacket which was made and delivered to the Langham prior to our departure.
We visited both the Ladies Market and the Night Market, literally hundreds of small stalls carrying in the most part junk, but interesting to wander through the lanes, crowded with people, and shunting off touts or stall holders, all wanting us to buy whatever.
I bought a smart Tablet with key board and a nice case by Google here at the Night Market, sold by BILLY at stall 157.
I was silly enough to buy a fake Omega watch with a fine black leather strap it was even stamped with the Omega label. It was an automatic, and soon began to run slowly not keeping good time at all. I have probably wasted A$40.
I had suffered from an inflamed and very sore big toe on my right foot, and could hardly walk at all, it was most likely a bout of gout, never had it before. A visit to a local shoe shop was highly successful, buying a pair of grey Skechers, which I wore constantly, and allowing me to walk in comfort, they were just perfect.
We just loved the Langham Hotel and its bustling atmosphere.
After 4 days off to Beijing by the internal Chinese airline Dragonair.
The Chinese airports are huge, here at HK airport there are some 530 gates.
One word to sum up Hong Kong: Colourful!
A 3.5 hour trip to land in Beijing with a foggy outlook, and the Domestic airport about 19 k from the city. Met by Jason, our Chinese guide here, who proved to be most knowledgeable, spoke good English, and was very caring and attentive.
Beijing means Northern Capital, and is the seat of the Chinese Government, the Government even have their own airport. no troublesome Customs to worry about.
An amazing airport, even bigger than at Hong Kong, built for the Olympic games.
Jason said that 30 million people cram into Beijing, and it has about 4 million cars, so that all times a car crawls along at a snails pace.
We had dinner, Peking Duck, at a Chinese establishment, and had to stop the stream of various dishes coming to the table as we could not cope with the huge amount of food.
Our hotel here the Novotel, not at all like the Langham where we were spoilt, a dreadful room, it was dusty, dirty, and the carpet smelt of urine, so bad that at about 5.30 AM on our first morning, Denise stormed down to the front desk and demanded a better room, this resulted in moving to a suite. This at least was tolerable.
Jason met us with a private car and driver, and off we went to the Great Wall some 75 k to the North West of Beijing.
We arrived in the vicinity of the Wall, and there was a walk on very uneven cobbles of about 500 metres, and up a fair slope. With Denise and Jason assisting I made it finally to the cable car station, and a ride to the base of the wall.
To actually stand on the Great Wall we needed to negotiate about 15 stone steps with a large riser about 18 inches in height. This was the last hurdle, and it was suggested I might stay here. Not likely, I was not giving up at this final climb, with Denise and Jason pushing and an American tourist at the top pulling I made it, and finally I was standing on this section of this wonderful engineering feat, built here to keep out the maurading horde of Mongols.
The wall was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) it stretches East to West some 5,500 miles.
Jason took us to a Jade factory where a Chinese lady explained the process of cutting blocks of Jade into various fashion jewellery etc, thence to a huge retail area, here I bought a nice Jade necklace for Denise.
We visited the Sacred Way in a buggy, where 13 past Chinese Emperors are all buried. This area covers over 80 square kilometers.
Ming Tombs (Shisanling)
It was widely held in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that although dead physically, a person's soul remained, still having human needs. Consequently, the 13 emperors' tome complexes look like imperial palaces.
Under the guidance of traditional Chinese Fengshui (geomancy), the whole process from site selection to designing of the tombs paid attention to harmony between tomb architecture and the surrounding mountains, rivers and vegetation to embody the philosophical view that man is an integral part of nature.
Of the 13 tombs, Dingling, the tomb of Emperor Wanli (reigned 1537-1619), was under archaeological excavation in 1956, and all other tomb architecture has remained intact. The Sacred Way (Shendao) in front of each tomb as well as other main architectures including the marble memorial archway, the Great Red Gate (Dahongmen), a tall square stele pavilion, Avenue of the Animals, and Dragon and Phoenix Gate (Longfengmen) are still in perfect condition. Lots of pines and cypress planted in the Ming Dynasty inside and outside the tomb complexes and flanking the Sacred Way are still growing well.
The tombs for imperial concubines and eunuchs inside the mausoleum area were reclaimed as farmland during the later years of the Qing Dynasty, but the underground coffin chambers have remained intact. Though varying in size and architectural complexity, these tombs are similar in general layout: the plan takes an oblong shape with a round (or oval) Precious Hall (Baocheng) at the rear. Each tomb complex starts with a stone bridge, followed by a front gate, a stele pavilion, the Gate of Eminent Favor, the Hall of Eminent Favor, a watchtower and then the Precious Hall. The layout of these Ming Tombs produced a far-reaching impact on the construction of the Dong Tombs and Xi Tombs of the Qing Dynasty.
The Ming tombs were put under protection of the Beijing municipal government in 1957.
During our time in Beijing we visited Tianenman Square, a bustling area where all the Chinese people en masse just walk around the square and gaze across to the entrance to the Forbidden City with a picture of Mao prominent at its entrance. One could see swarms of people lined up to buy a ticket and go inside here.
We had taken a taxi asking to be let off at the entrance of the Forbidden City, but were dropped at its exit.
To buy an entrance ticket was some distance away, a Chinese woman was touting a ride there in a rickety motor cycle contraption for 30 Dollars Chinese, about A$5.
We were silly enough to accept, a rough ride in horrendous traffic, a car colliding with this mode of transport would have written us off. On arrival at some distance from the square, we were tipped out, with the driver now demanding in a very nasty and threatening way 180 Dollars Chinese, we were well and truly taken for the only occasion during our total visit to China.
Beijing is very clean, the streets pristine.
On a four lane freeway both in and out sections are separated by a median strip where roses red and yellow are planted, plus a mass of petunias, all very well attended and colourful.
At major road intersections where traffic lights are installed, a clock ticks down the seconds before a light change, but even when the Pedestrian Crossing is showing a green light, cars, especially taxis, motor bikes and even bicycles just stream through, not caring about the pedestrians at all, a very dangerous exercise crossing on a green light.
Our Foreign Minister Bob Carr was in Beijing at the same time as us, but he neglected to invite us to Afternoon
I had taken two pairs of reading glasses to China, and somehow managed to shed a springloaded arm on each of them, to my utter suprise no Chinese Optical shop could help. All they offered was to transfer the lenses into a pair of designer frames for A$400 for each pair. No thanks.
I battled on using a pair of Denise's glasses to shave.
After our 4 days here off to Shanghai by East Chinese air line, a 2 hour flight.
To sum up Beijing in one word: Sterile!
On arrival at Shanghai we were met by our guide here with a car and transferred some 19 kilometres to the Fairmont Hotel, we used their chain in Canada, and they now owned the Savoy in London, but do not have a presence in Australia.
Built in 1929 as the Cathay by Victor Sassoon. Sir Ellice "Victor" Sassoon, 3rd Baronet, GBE (20 December 1881 – 13 August 1961) was a businessman and hotelier from the Sassoon banking family. He succeeded to the Baronetcy on the death of his father Edward Elias Sassoon in 1924. Married late in life, he had no issue and the Baronetcy became extinct on his death. Sassoon lived in Shanghai as a wealthy bon vivant who worked tirelessly to protect Western interests in the Orient and helped European Jews survive in the Shanghai Ghetto. Sir Victor walked with the aid of two sticks as the result of injuries in World War I in which he served in the Royal Flying Corps. He founded the Cathay Hotel (now the Fairmont Peace Hotel) but left under increasing Japanese pressure in 1941. Named Peace Hotel to denote the end of WW2.
Victor Sassoon was an avid photographer and held extravagant parties at his hotel. He sold his business interests in India and Shanghai in 1948 and transferred the proceeds to the Bahamas. It was in the Cathay Hotel that Noel Coward wrote "Private Lives"
Renamed the Fairmont, in 2007 it closed for three years for both extensive and expensive renovations, now fully restored to its former glory, our room was fine, more like a suite. An entrance hall, laidies separate powder room, combined bedroom and sitting room and a lavish bathroom.
It stands on a corner, the famous Bund one of its streets. On the Bund which fronts the Huangpu river, thousands of the locals walk constantly.
Shanghai boasts a population of 25 million, this city alone carries over 3 million more than the total Australian population.
We visited Victor's Cafe ( named after Victor Sassoon) regularly during our stay to partake of an excellent French Onion soup, Our seat by the window faced a main street which was always awash with the locals out walking.We were very interesting to the locals who constantly stared at us, if we waved it usually evoked a wave back with a smile.
Opposite was the Swatch Hotel and an outlet for the watch of that name, a 101 years old building of no outstanding appearance, but the locals were continually taking photographs of this site.
We took taxis to market complexes here, at all times in China the taxis were both clean and cheap, the drivers rarely spoke any English, the Hotel staff would write out our destination in Chinese, and the Hotel name likewise, so by showing these to the taxi driver we got around and safely back to our specific Hotel.
In Shanghai we took a taxi across the river to the Yintai Centre, here at the 81st. floor stands the Grand Hyatt
We had a nice lunch at Mr and Mrs Bund at Number 18 on the Bund, a stonesthrow from our hotel. Our entree smoked salmon, carved by a Chinese waitress from a whole fish at our table, followed by steak Bernaise with hot chips.
Shopping in Shanghai did not impress us at all. Denise did succumb to the temptation of buying a fine Aiger German made handbag, my only purchase a China Owl in blue, for about A$6.
We went off to a Circus featuring acrobatics one night, it was located in a fine building with its own theatre, we
Four rode from top to bottom of the dome and the second 4 bikes in the middle rode round and round crossing the top 4 bikes, all at breakneck speed, the timing had to be perfect to avoid a crash, It was simply breathtaking,a
The Fairmont boasts a Jazz Bar where elderly muscians play for three hours nightly, playing all the old numbers. We
We took a ride on the Hop on Hop off double decker bus to give us a feel of the city, it took about 1.5 hours and
Throughout China my blood sugar readings were fine, we made sure we only drank bottled water and cleaned our
We did not have a moment's problem from Chinese Immigration or Customs, I was usually in a wheel chair because of the vast distances at all airports, and we were simply waved through all check points.
The Royal Australian Navy Frigate HMAS Ballarat visited Shanghai on a friendly visit whilst we were there, and was welcomed to the port by a Chinese Navy band.
Nightly at all our venues we had our traditional Gin and Tonic, just as if we were at home.
Shanghai in one word: Busy!
In hindsight we should have flown into Shanghai from Australia, moved north to Beijing, and finally flown south
Finally, our time in China was up, and we off to Pudong International airport about 43k away by car. Our guide found the Qantas check in, and we were at the gate awaiting our plane's departure. The aircraft was very full with Chinese passengers, either visiting relatives in Australia or returning home.
Again the Qantas food was awful, and most of it left uneaten.
It was a night flight home and neither of us slept at all, as Qantas only fly into Sydney from Shanghai we needed to
No activity at Gate 17, only 4 passengers waiting in all, finally we are called on the public address system, your
We land at Melbourne about 12.20 PM on Monday May 21, our saga to China all over.
The smiling face of my daughter Jayne greets us as we emerge at the arrival gate, its as usual a long way from
Our apartment is welcoming, and no matter how good any overseas trip may be, it is always good to finally be
We had an interesting experience, teeming millions of Chinese, horrific traffic snarls, but there is no place like Australia.