I imagined nine days of getting know to China and ...the imagination came to fruition! I jumped the plane(s) with some 40 West Michiganders to explore the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou, a tour offered under the umbrella of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
How long is the flight? LA to Beijing, 13 hours. Beijing to Shanghia 1.5 hours. Bring a book...or two
China is full of life, prolific new construction, rice/hot tea/and beer at every family style meal! Think Washington DC when you visit Beijing, NYC with a Shanghai stop. Out of the city, mountains begin to rise, in preparation for a view of the Great Wall. Bicyclists and Scooters mingled with the city traffic, and... it's cold in November!
These are my recommendations: climb UP (and DOWN) the Great Wall (especially IN the snow), a visit to a tea Plantation, Tian An Men Square plus the Temple of Heaven. Tiger Hill is the "Leaning Tower of China" and you really do linger..in the Lingering Garden.
Some cultural aspects worth noting: the awesome athleticism of the Acrobats, watching those skilled in the handmaking of oriental rugs, pottery, embroidery, silk, and witnessing the marketing of the jade and pearl products, plus Herbal medicine.. very intense.
Are there china "oddities"? Ladies, study up on your "restroom" options, beware a dog with orange ears and yellow tail, prepare for the human mosquitos, lots of "personals" hang out to dry, and...it's ok to slurp your soup. There's a scale in every hotel bathroom (?) and make note that the official state bird is the crane (due to the high rise construction)
From this experience, I came away with a deeper appreciation of this home of the "Made in China" label, that we're all on this earth together to make it a better place. To boot, no jet lag!
About the author:
Shelley Irwin is a host and producer for National Public Radio in Grand Rapids.