China 2016

I recently returned from a trip I've wanted to take for a while, a visit to China!  My sister and I are 3rd generation Chinese - our grandparents emigrated from China in the 1940's and our father was born in the US.  I thought this would be a great trip to take with dad; he visited China with his parents when he was around my age, but I've never been.

Since neither of us speak Chinese, and we don't have family there anymore, we opted for a guided tour with Gate1.  The itinerary included some of the more common tourist sites (Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Terra Cotta Army, etc.) but we also got to explore on our own and experience the local culture outside the touristy areas.  It was a fantastic trip, and it was great to experience the country my ancestors are from.  And the visa is valid for 10 years, so I can go back anytime in the next decade!

One of our first stops was the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the most active Buddhist temples in Shanghai, dating back to the Qing Dynasty.  Lots of Buddha statues and tapestries.

One of our first stops was the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the most active Buddhist temples in Shanghai, dating back to the Qing Dynasty.  Lots of Buddha statues and tapestries.

Wandering around Shanghai, an eclectic assortment of mopeds and mini-mini-vans.

Wandering around Shanghai, an eclectic assortment of mopeds and mini-mini-vans.

We took a day trip to Suzhou, which is where my grandmother is from.  This fella gave us a boat ride through some of the canals that run through the city, old-school China style.

We took a day trip to Suzhou, which is where my grandmother is from.  This fella gave us a boat ride through some of the canals that run through the city, old-school China style.

Various sights in Suzhou.

Various sights in Suzhou.

The Garden of the Master of the Nets

The Garden of the Master of the Nets

Shanghai, by day and by night.

Shanghai, by day and by night.

Nanjing Road in Shanghai with its lit up neon signs.  Times Square of the East!

Nanjing Road in Shanghai with its lit up neon signs.  Times Square of the East!

Some elaborate silk rugs - some with 1700 stitches per square inch!  

Some elaborate silk rugs - some with 1700 stitches per square inch!  

After Shanghai, we took a three day cruise along the Yangtze River.  Cruises don't usually excite me, but passing through gorges and seeing towns along the shore definitely beats being out in the middle of the ocean.

After Shanghai, we took a three day cruise along the Yangtze River.  Cruises don't usually excite me, but passing through gorges and seeing towns along the shore definitely beats being out in the middle of the ocean.

Couldn't resist taking a mirror selfie with dear old dad :)  And I liked this fella out on his balcony as we passed another ship.

Couldn't resist taking a mirror selfie with dear old dad :)  And I liked this fella out on his balcony as we passed another ship.

Cruise guests on a passing ship.  You know I love that symmetry!

Cruise guests on a passing ship.  You know I love that symmetry!

The Three Gorges Tribe walking tour had stilt houses, Chinese actors dressed in traditional clothes, and...

The Three Gorges Tribe walking tour had stilt houses, Chinese actors dressed in traditional clothes, and...

...wild monkeys!

...wild monkeys!

The end of the walking path had a snazzy waterfall.  Fellow photographers should know that I shot these handheld at 1/3 second shutter speed :)

The end of the walking path had a snazzy waterfall.  Fellow photographers should know that I shot these handheld at 1/3 second shutter speed :)

We also visited the Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, the world's largest power station and a rather controversial project.  It helps control flooding and generates a huge amount of power, but it has also affected the environment and the project forced 1.3 million residents to relocate.  Needless to say, it was interesting to learn about!  

We also visited the Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, the world's largest power station and a rather controversial project.  It helps control flooding and generates a huge amount of power, but it has also affected the environment and the project forced 1.3 million residents to relocate.  Needless to say, it was interesting to learn about!  

The dam also has an extensive series of locks for ships to pass through.  It took 3-4 hours to get from one side to the other, and we watched for a while as we entered the first lock.

The dam also has an extensive series of locks for ships to pass through.  It took 3-4 hours to get from one side to the other, and we watched for a while as we entered the first lock.

We took a smaller boat up the Shennong Stream, through some of the "lesser gorges."  Cliffs, caves, and hanging coffins!

We took a smaller boat up the Shennong Stream, through some of the "lesser gorges."  Cliffs, caves, and hanging coffins!

These guys offer to carry people up several hundred steps to the top of the White Emperor City.  Not a job I'd want to have, but the view from the top was pretty sweet!

These guys offer to carry people up several hundred steps to the top of the White Emperor City.  Not a job I'd want to have, but the view from the top was pretty sweet!

Yangtze River sunrise

Yangtze River sunrise

Visiting Shibaozhai, built during the Ming Dynasty.  A 12-story pagoda built into the side of a cliff without any nails.  This nerd is impressed!

Visiting Shibaozhai, built during the Ming Dynasty.  A 12-story pagoda built into the side of a cliff without any nails.  This nerd is impressed!

Some views from the tippy top of the pagoda.

Some views from the tippy top of the pagoda.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was walking through local markets and checking out all the fruits, vegetables, meats, and even a dentist (lower left photo).  

One of my favorite parts of the trip was walking through local markets and checking out all the fruits, vegetables, meats, and even a dentist (lower left photo).  

Visiting a kindergarten classroom

Visiting a kindergarten classroom

Mr. Mao (no relation to the Communist chairman!) was one of the people relocated due to the construction of the Three Gorges dam.  He invited the group into his home and talked about his life before and after the relocation.  He also shared some of his homemade wine with us :)

Mr. Mao (no relation to the Communist chairman!) was one of the people relocated due to the construction of the Three Gorges dam.  He invited the group into his home and talked about his life before and after the relocation.  He also shared some of his homemade wine with us :)

Visiting the Muslim district in Xian, and exploring a local market.  So many interesting people to see and foods to try.

Visiting the Muslim district in Xian, and exploring a local market.  So many interesting people to see and foods to try.

Chinese Batmobile!

Chinese Batmobile!

Kite man selling (and flying) his kites.

Kite man selling (and flying) his kites.

The next morning we stopped at Xingqing Park.  Every morning people show up and sing, dance, play music, and exercise.  We tried participating and successfully embarrassed ourselves :)

The next morning we stopped at Xingqing Park.  Every morning people show up and sing, dance, play music, and exercise.  We tried participating and successfully embarrassed ourselves :)

Our next stop was the archaeological site of the Terra Cotta Warriors.  8000+ life size soldiers were built for China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him during the afterlife.  A farmer discovered them in 1974 and was compensated about $5 and a basket of eggs.  Pretty raw deal for the farmer if you ask me.

Our next stop was the archaeological site of the Terra Cotta Warriors.  8000+ life size soldiers were built for China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him during the afterlife.  A farmer discovered them in 1974 and was compensated about $5 and a basket of eggs.  Pretty raw deal for the farmer if you ask me.

We're now in Beijing, visiting the Olympic Village from the 2008 games.  We went to the top of the Olympic Tower, Beijing's tallest building.

We're now in Beijing, visiting the Olympic Village from the 2008 games.  We went to the top of the Olympic Tower, Beijing's tallest building.

At the top, we had great views of the city. Only 22 million people here, NBD.  For reference, NYC has about 9 million.

At the top, we had great views of the city. Only 22 million people here, NBD.  For reference, NYC has about 9 million.

At the Summer Palace, being amused by red jacket man, the world's longest corridor, and an impressive pagoda.

At the Summer Palace, being amused by red jacket man, the world's longest corridor, and an impressive pagoda.

This couple caught my attention.  Again, gotta love that symmetry!

This couple caught my attention.  Again, gotta love that symmetry!

Visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Speaking of forbidden, you're not supposed to take pictures of the soldiers, which only made me want to. What can I say, I'm a rebel.

Visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Speaking of forbidden, you're not supposed to take pictures of the soldiers, which only made me want to. What can I say, I'm a rebel.

Weird eats at Beijing's night market.  Frogs, sheep testicles (yum!), and some candied fruit (that one I would actually eat).

Weird eats at Beijing's night market.  Frogs, sheep testicles (yum!), and some candied fruit (that one I would actually eat).

Let's see, we have some caterpillars, grasshoppers, seahorses, spiders, centipedes, silk worms, beetles, and scorpions.  My dad and I ate the scorpion.  Tasted like chicken.

Let's see, we have some caterpillars, grasshoppers, seahorses, spiders, centipedes, silk worms, beetles, and scorpions.  My dad and I ate the scorpion.  Tasted like chicken.

My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Great Wall.  We hiked up the equivalent of about 110 flights of stairs (according to my iPhone), equaling maybe a mile or two.  And the wall spans over 5000 miles in total.  Mind=blown.

My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Great Wall.  We hiked up the equivalent of about 110 flights of stairs (according to my iPhone), equaling maybe a mile or two.  And the wall spans over 5000 miles in total.  Mind=blown.

Crazy steep steps in some spots.  The steps varied in height and width, so you really have to watch where you're going.

Crazy steep steps in some spots.  The steps varied in height and width, so you really have to watch where you're going.

Our last stop was the zoo to see some pandas.  They're super cute!  But they unfortunately have an uncertain future, due to their difficulties reproducing.

Our last stop was the zoo to see some pandas.  They're super cute!  But they unfortunately have an uncertain future, due to their difficulties reproducing.

A group photo of our travel mates during our last night in China.  Our guide Jason did a fantastic job showing us around, organizing our accommodations, and sharing his vast knowledge of his country with us.  A great group all around!

A group photo of our travel mates during our last night in China.  Our guide Jason did a fantastic job showing us around, organizing our accommodations, and sharing his vast knowledge of his country with us.  A great group all around!

And or course, no trip would be complete without some photos of the "wildlife."  Kitties and doggies abound! :)

And or course, no trip would be complete without some photos of the "wildlife."  Kitties and doggies abound! :)