That's good-bye in Mandarin. I can't believe it's already here. I leave for China in just over 48 hours! I have been so busy at work that I've barely had a chance to prep for my trip. As soon as I get home, the last thing I want to do is research on the computer or other packing things. So, I'll be doing a lot of scrambling tomorrow night and Saturday morning before heading up to New Jersey.
I'm taking this trip with the same group I went to South America with, Amazing Journeys. The best part is that I already know 6-7 folks on the trip, including my roommate. We've already been corresponding back and forth via email about what we plan to do, bring, etc. I'm leaving out of JFK Sunday morning, hence the reason I'm trekking up to north Jersey . . . again. What sucks is that b/c I'm traveling w/ a group, I don't have an assigned seat. To get an assigned seat I have to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight, which means I have to be there at 6:15am!!!!!! Ugh. Of course, it's the same day we fall back and the running of the NYC marathon. I so hope that these things don't get in the way!
The flight is 15 hours and non-stop from JFK to Hong Kong. My plan is to knit for a good portion and then take my sleeping pill and sleep for a good 8+ hours of the flight. Please, let this stuff work this time. I had meant to do another test run but it just never worked out. It also won't be as easy to sleep since we leave in the morning and then arrive in the afternoon.
Ok, enough about the damn logistics. I'll be in China for 2 weeks and plan to visit 4 major cities: Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. I may do a day trip to Macau or Shenzhen, but that's up in the air until next week probably.
After a quick layover in Hong Kong and another 3+ hour flight, we will arrive in Beijing. I will be there for 4 nights. We will visit the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympic stadiums, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Hutongs, and many other places. After our first full day of sightseeing, we will have what I've heard is an amazing foot massage. I may have to have one every night, that's how good they are supposed to be. While in town we will attend a traditionally prepared Peking Duck banquet. Wish me luck since I'm not a big fan of duck or fatty meat in general. Another night, my friends and I have reservations at the Li Family Restaurant which has come highly recommended.
During some of our free time, I plan on heading over to the Pearl Market to buy a butt-load of pearls. I have friends that are giving me orders. Whether I can find what they want, have the time to get them, or the room to carry them all is another story. My friend just got back from China and showed me a 16" strand of freshwater pearls she got for US$14! I just have to remember to print out the list of requests and bring it with me! There's also the Silk Market and a bunch of other shopping locales.
The highlight of the trip will be climbing the Great Wall. I will have a field day taking pictures!
Our next stop for only 2 nights will be Xian. Here the main attraction is the Terra Cotta Army. The army was only discovered last century but it is an amazing find. I can't wait to see it. There's an area outside of Xian that I wish we had time to see, but we don't. It's called Huashan, and they are very special mountains. I'm not into eastern religions, but I am interested in beautiful landscapes and this has it. I first saw it on the Amazing Race a few seasons back and it's really what made me want to go to China to begin with. Figures I don't get to go there, but I'll do it another time.
The other highlight, from what I've been told by another friend, is the Imperial Dumpling Banquet. My friend said that I should fast all day b/c the dumplings are sooooo good. Supposedly about 30 different types. Oh my!
We will spend the next 3 nights in Shanghai. Some highlights we'll see include the Yu Yuan Gardens, Nanjing Road, and The Bund. We will also take a Jewish tour of Shanghai. Apparently many Jews moved to Shanghai to flee the Nazis or the pogroms of Eastern Europe. It should be very interesting. Also, while in Shanghai we will catch a Chinese Acrobatic show.
Although some folks will be leaving from Shanghai, I opted to extend my trip to Hong Kong where I'll spend my next and last 3 nights in China. Well, technically, I guess I'm not really spending these nights in China since I need to show my passport to enter and it's a whole different currency. Still, I'm looking forward to exploring and conducting any last remnants of shopping. I will have plenty of free time here. I printed out a list of yarn shops and might check those out if I have time. I also might look into buying a little camera or other electronics while I'm there.
We will also have the opportunity to take a 1-day tour to either Macau or Shenzhen. Macau is the Vegas of the Far East, but it also has beautiful Portuguese architecture and a great fusion of Chinese-Portuguese food influences. I was really interested in going there until I learned that the Macau Grand Prix will be taking place the day that we'd being going there. This isn't some NASCAR stadium race, but an actual race on the streets of Macau. I don't think I want to deal w/ that. Shenzhen, on the other hand, is back in mainland China and is supposed to be a great shopping mecca. Check back here to see what I decide to do.
My plan, as I did w/ South America, is to update this blog throughout the trip. Not only is it a great way for me to keep tabs with folks back home (or more like they can keep tabs on me), but it acts as a journal which I was never good at keeping. So, stay tuned.