There might have been some Chinese Americans on the flight, but Kari and I were the only identifiably western folks on our flight of approximately 500. Chengdu looked neat on our ride from the airport and I can’t wait to get out and do some exploring tomorrow!
The Giant Panda Breeding Research Center was everything it was cracked up to be, minus the crowds! Spent a lot of time with these guys, including babies in panda pediatric units. The videos put the pictures to shame, I’ll post some to YouTube when I get back to the states.
I was surprised to see that the Panda Center fully embraces the DreamWorks vision of pandas as Kung Fu artists. All press is good press, I guess. My money is on Kari, if these two actually rumbled though.
The Xian city wall is quite impressive and imposing. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be part of a Mongol hoard trying to pass the moat and breach the walls. Today it makes a nice backdrop for an evening stroll and street food, like the crawfish and octopus Kari and I had that night.
We took the Bullet Train from Xian to Beijing; what would have been a 12.5 hour drive took 5 hours in extreme comfort (we rode 1st class). Why the US hasn’t built anything similar is a mystery to me. Really, I guess, less of a mystery then a tragedy of insufficient political will. Who will live in the thousands of high-rise apartment buildings under construction along the route, though, is a different question entirely.
The Summer Palace north of the city is quite a sight. To imagine it was built for the royal family’s exclusive use beggars the imagination. Especially considering we shared the grounds with 40,000+ our of new Chinese friends without it feeling all that crowded.
The Great Wall basically defies description, so I’ll make a comparison instead: the only place I’ve ever seen that rivaled it for awe-inspiring scenery and the slightly haunting implications for the people who actually constructed it is Machu Picchu in Peru.
The Temple of Heaven is aptly named. A beautiful structure set amidst a fantastic urban park in central Beijing. Emperors used to pray here to assume a bountiful harvest, so I said a quick word for Kentucky’s harvest this year. Can’t hurt.
The Forbidden City and Tianamen Square are both neat, though the crowds were a bit much. The sheer number of temples in the City can be a bit mind-numbing and the size of the Square has a similar affect. Can’t help but feel the history (both ancient and modern) that fairly oozes from the bricks, though.
Hong Kong is fantastically interesting city and obscenely rich in beautiful skylines. The above view from our Mid-Levels hotel room and below from Victoria Peak are just 2 examples from the dozens I snapped during our stay.
We made a mistake by waiting till the afternoon to head up via the Peak Tram and had to suffer from lengthy waits on both trips and large crowds at the mall on top, but the views a short hike away made it feel like we had the place to ourselves.
Taking a ferry from the central pier on Hong Kong Island though, can lead to a range of different experiences from the blowtorches searing meat in markets in Kowloon to the resort atmosphere at Lantau Island where we enjoyed margaritas and the view below.
Perhaps our last sunrise in the city is the best example of what a great end to the trip Hong Kong really was, so I’ll post the time lapse here. About 2.5 hours in 22 seconds shows the beautiful rising orb to the east, then quick rain showers and finally boats plying the harbor.