Beijing was as busy as ever with crazy drivers; nobody stays in their own lane and there are masses of people everywhere. One day, we were fortunate to be taken by pedicab, another hair-raising ride through the traffic, to the old part of the city. Here, we met a number of local families and then we were hosted to dinner by one of the families.
The day we visited the Great Wall we really lucked out, as it was quiet and there was no smog or mist.
One of the things we will long remember is our visit to Sun Village home. This is a home for children of Chinese convicts. These children have either been deserted and left to roam the streets and fend for themselves, or they are being looked after by very old grandparents. This home was a real eye opener. They house 109 children, some as young as 4 months. The home is run by volunteers and they also maintain a farm where they grow enough produce to feed the children and enough to sell to raise funds.
A glimpse into rural life was when we visited Farmer Xang’s farm and saw his famous paintings. He demonstrated his technique and then we also had a chance to paint - some more talented than others!! I tried to leave my painting behind but somebody always rescued it!
Our visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors are a sight to behold. Since we were last there 6 years ago, they have uncovered another 2,000 figures. They are almost positive that they have discovered the Emperor’s tomb, but will not excavate until they can be sure that they will be able to preserve it properly.
Now I know that you won’t believe this, but I actually went to a cooking class! We made three dishes using a wok and very complicated ingredients. Then we had to take our efforts into the restaurant and eat them for our dinner. It took 2 hours to prepare and cook. Shan’t be trying that at home any time soon!!!
The three-day cruise down the Yangtze River was lovely as we all had balconies with our rooms. The weather was ideal so that we could sit out and enjoy the passing scenery.
We had a three-night stay in Shanghai and one day was completely free to do as we wished. We took a taxi (wasn’t sure that we would be around to tell the tale during a ride that I watched through parted fingers!!) to one of the knock-off markets. What an experience!! I am now the proud owner of a Jimmy Choo purse and a Michael Kors purse. During the purchase of one of these, we were invited into a secret room where there were hundreds of the real thing - I suspect stolen. We hi-tailed it out of there in a hurry.
There is no Google or Facebook in China and while watching the BBC news one day, the Dalai Lama came on and the screen immediately went black. One of our guides told us that if you wanted to know what was going on in her country you had to ask your foreign friends.
A lovely point is that in China, the elderly people are looked after by the younger generation and are well respected.
It’s a fascinating country and the culture is so different. If you haven’t visited China by land and sailed the Yangtze Gorges by ship, I strongly encourage you to go and discover this giant of a country.