China May 2010

ASURA Members on the Great Wall

Jerry Snyder at the Forbidden City

Schwalms with Ming Cup

Stone Forest

Breakfast in LiJiang

Tea Plantation

Middle School Band

See our Photo Gallery for more pictures

On Monday, May 17th, twenty excited, adventurous and eager people boarded the plane for China.  On Wednesday, June 9th, 20 excited, adventurous and tired people got off the plane from China.  Twenty-two days, a great adventure, one to be remembered forever.  We traveled thousands of miles by plane, train, bus and boat.  We visited five of the seven ancient capitals of China.

We saw first hand Chinese icons of the ages: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Warriors, the Ming Tombs and Tiananmen Square.

But we also explored the little known, visiting the ancient villages of the Naxi people near Tibet, cruised the Li River watching cormorant fishermen and the incredible karst landscape and peered into the 4,000 year old grotto along the Li River near Luoyang, one of the seven ancient capital cities of China. 

We had such delicious food: a dumpling dinner, a Peking Duck dinner and a Mongolian hotpot dinner.

The tour started in Shanghai, proceeded to Hangzhou, then on to Yichang by over night train where we boarded the ship for our cruise on the Yangtze.  The Three Gorges Dam, the largest in the world, is a head-shaker.  The cruise activities included a talent show that we reckon we should have won with our rendition of You Are My Sunshine and a choreographed Home On the Range.  Our Sunshine song was sung most days to keep the rain away, and it works!

The three train rides enabled us to see the countryside and marvel at the vast agricultural effort-three rice crops a year-without the use of the mechanized equipment we have in the US. Small walk-behind garden tractors, water buffalos and many people do the work.

The walk on the ancient city wall at Xi’an, over 2,000 years old,  the constant learning from our guides about Buddhism, the dynasties, the Silk Road, the ancient civil service system, and so many other things revealed just how uninformed we Westerners are about the history and advances of that Eastern culture. Humbling and stunning.

The Chinese people: Friendly, hard working, eager to try their English, eager to have a picture taken with the Americans and most very smartly dressed.  They were curious about America and Americans. Our nametags had both an American and a Chinese flag on them and we would often get a ‘thumbs-up’ and a nod when our US flag was spotted.

We would often see many retired Chinese folks in the parks and plazas each morning exercising and socializing.  A boom box was common, often playing a waltz, with 4-8 couples ‘cutting the concrete’.  Occasionally the selection was a jitterbug and when members of our group joined in they always got a smile, a nod and polite applause. Poetry was being written in Chinese characters on the pavement with a large brush dipped in water in a bucket. Large groups of Chinese seniors engaged in tai chi exercises.

Perhaps most memorable and striking is the sheer number of Chinese people: a population of over 1.3 billion. China has 44 cities with a million people or more. In contrast, the US has 9 cities with a million people or more. The populations of New York (8 million), LA (4) and Chicago and Houston (2 million each) do not equal the 17 million people living in Shanghai. Pollution? Sure, just as if you combined the four largest US cities above into one.

While there were many, many tourists, especially in Beijing, we saw relatively few Europeans/Caucasians. The tourists were nearly all Chinese. It was reported to us that 95% of the tourists in China are Chinese. They have the money and they want to travel and see their country.

Our leader and national guide was Lucky Wang, a wonderful Mongolian.  He has a great sense of humor, is very knowledgeable and informative, very organized and an excellent people person.  Lucky has taken many groups of US academics around China over the years.  At each city or destination, we would pick up a local guide who would be with us in that particular area or city. Every day was a school day.

Some traveler comments:

I am still so excited that I went alone and that I could keep up with the pace.  … I made great friends in the group …. and made me feel welcome.  I will keep in touch with Lucky.  He was amazing.

…it was a wonderful trip, both enjoyable and thought-provoking.  We had a great group of people and we enjoyed getting to know everyone.  Good company, good conversation.  And what a trip!  Lucky was a first rate guide and manager.  I can’t even imagine doing the trip without him.

I just wanted you to know that John and I really enjoyed the trip.  There was a wide variety of experiences in it that really kept us going.

We had a great time.  Thank you………

Our journey through China with Lucky is the most incredible experience of our lives.  The local guides were excellent.  Lucky is the BEST.

…we have gotten back to the gym and thanked our trainer for getting our bodies ready to endure such a wonderful vacation.  We truly had a marvelous time and enjoyed getting to know each of you.

Wow, what great memories.  Hope everyone is now sleeping through the night and staying up all day.  I am almost there.

Man, I really miss all of you guys.  …… This trip was truly the trip of a lifetime for me, for many reasons.  I hope we all keep in touch….

 ......

Gary Anderson
Travel Committee Co-Chair and Trip Organizer