I was traveling to Beijing, Xi’an and Guilin as a national guide for a group of 27 people from UK and Australia. This is the first large group I have organized since I work for China Highlights last year. David Baird, the organizer from the other side, and I have sent more than 260 emails back and force since last October to make every arrangement in order. This group is coming for David’s son’s wedding held in Qingdao, Shandong Province before the tour actually starts in Beijing. All of us were very excited to meet each other after such long communication.
Day 01 (July 27): Arrival at Beijing
Sean, our local escort in Beijing, and I was waiting for about 1 hour until they came out from the luggage claim area. I tried to figure out who David would be while they were walking out with luggage trolleys. It turned out that he was not like what I had imagined. They came to me one after another and introduce themselves. Gosh, I hoped that I could match the names with the faces. No worry, there would be another 10 days for us to know each other better.
We went on the 45-seater air-conditioned bus and loaded up all the luggage. After 50 minutes drive, we arrived at Sunworld Hotel Beijing, located close to Wangfujing Street.
Day 02 ( July 28 ): Beijing - Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutong Tours and Temple of Heaven,
6:30-8:30 Breakfast at Sunworld Hotel
The breakfast buffet was delicious. There were plenty of choices and it exceeded my expectations. I ate a lot because I knew that lunch today would be late.
9:30-10:30 Tiananmen Square
After we got to the Square, we walked through a lot of people and a lot of vendors. The vendors were pretty aggressive, following us along selling knick knacks and books about the Square. it was hot and humid. The group was not used to this kind of weather.
When we got to the end of the Square nearest the famous Tiananmen gate, we had a group photo taken with Chairman Mao’s Picture as background with China Highlights Flag. *_* the group wanted to charge me something as advertisement.
11:00-13:00 Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was definitely the highlight of the day but with too many Chinese groups. It felt like I was walking into a history textbook with all of the spectacular architecture and statues. The palace was built between 1406 and 1420, but was burnt down, rebuilt, sacked and renovated countless times, so most of the architecture you can see today dates from the 1700’s and on wards. The Forbidden City was the seat of Imperial power for 500 years, and is now a major tourist attraction in China.
My dear group members are too tired to walk for another single step. They kept asking me: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? We are hungry, thirsty and tired.”
It was a difficult trip to walk for such a long time under 39℃(102℉) with 100% humidity.
16:10-17:40 Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was constructed in 1420 AD during the Ming Dynasty as a site for the emperors to offer sacrifices to heaven. Many elements of the temple have symbolic meaning. For example, nine is a good and lucky number in Chinese culture. It is more of a park for the local residents, neat and big. Lots of locals and retired people come here in the morning to hang out with friends and do morning exercises. There was a lot of activity everywhere you looked around. In the open areas, people also did ribbon dancing, ballroom dancing, playing cards and dominoes. There was music and singing.
We drove back to the hotel for our group to take a quick shower, which was a great idea after being walk in such hotness for whole day. People were dressed up for dinner, which I thought was more of a tradition in European countries. I didn’t prepare for that and our guide had no place to shower, so both of us looked weird being together with a group of 27 elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen.
Tonight’s dinner was famed Peking Duck dinner, which was served in Fangzhuang, one of the most famous Quanjude Chain Restaurants. We were quite excited about it and it turned out to be a wonderful dinner and a great experience.
Day 03 (July 29): Mutianyu Great Wall and Acrobatic Show
We sang a birthday song to Robin, one of our travelers. Today was his “62nd” birthday. There would be a celebration by dinner time.
The Great Wall is in fact now no longer contiguous. Much of it is in disrepair. Five sections have been rebuilt and repaved for tourist. They are Badaling Great Wall, Juyongguan Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall. We went to the section with fewer tourists, Mutianyu. It was still hot and humid. People were easily stuck on the souvenirs along the way up to the Cable Car Station. It took us more than 30 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the cable car. This was a group of souvenir fans. It was a pity that it was very hazy that we couldn’t see very far, but the pictures turned out very beautiful with mist. More romantic! We had our group picture taken with China Highlights flag again! They started to enjoy it.
We then had lunch at Xinshuangquan, a lovely local restaurant owned by local farms. It was amazing that they served draft beer.
A visit to Cloisonné Factory was interesting and knowledgeable. It would have been more enjoyable if air-conditioner had been set up in the factory.
We finished the tour at about 16:00 and returned to the city. Suggested by our local guide, we went to visit the Acrobatic Show. What a wise choice. We all loved it and amazed by the skills performed.
After the show, we drove to dinner place, a buffet restaurant with unlimited beer, which was great news to our members as they loved beer so much. We had prepared a birthday cake and a card.
A very interesting part was the candle, shaped like a lotus flower. After being lit up, the flower bloomed.
Day 04 (July 30): Summer Palace, Pearl Store, Lunch and Fly to Xi’an
The Summer Palace was originally a royal garden and a temporary dwelling palace for emperors of Qing Dynasty, Its predecessor was the Garden of Clear Ripples started in 1750 and burned down by the British and French allied troops in 1860. In 1886, Empress Dowager Cixi used navy outlays and other funds in the reconstruction and renamed the park as Summer Palace in 1888. The Summer Palace in northwest suburban Beijing is the largest and most complete imperial garden existing in China. It was a long walk inside with lots of Chinese tourists around. I was not well today, some tummy problem, the same as one of the ladies in the group. It was like flu and spread to other 4 ladies by the end of this tour just like I had expected. People from outside China can easily get tummy problem due to the different weather, different diet and different life styles.
After a stop at a Pearl store and having lunch in a restaurant on side of it, we went to the airport with a pass by at Olympic Stadium.
Our flight landed at Xi’an Xianyang Airport as scheduled. After claiming our luggage, we were met by our local expert, Ms. Jiazhen (Mini). She was very informative, experienced with typical American accent. Her introduction on the way the hotel provided brief frame about China’s dynasties.
We arrived at Aurum International Hotel after 1 hour. It was centrally located but a little old with faded furniture.
Day 05 (July 31 ) Xian – Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Terra Cotta Warriors and Dumpling Banquet Dinner
Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built in Tang Dynasty, about 1300 years ago. Now it is the symbol of Xian city. Besides, it's also the famous building in the Buddhist religion. The pagoda was first built for a monk named Xuanzang. It was said that it took Xuanzang 17 years to bring back over a thousand volumes of Buddhist materials from India to Xi'an, the capital of China in that time. The emperor ordered to set up a temple and a pagoda for him to store the Buddhist materials. The temple is Daci'en Temple, and the pagoda is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
We drove to Chongde Handmade Pottery Factory to learn the skills about making the Warriors.
Lunch was served at Lintong County on the way to Terra Cotta Museum. It was a popular local restaurants famed with Hunan Cruise, salty and spicy. It was a surprise that our group liked the spicy food so much. Pumpkin cakes as desert were loved by them.
Terra Cotta Warriors was the exciting part for the whole group. It was exciting because of the historical background behind the emperor and it was amazing to see the statues, of which no two are alike. Meeting the farmer who discovered the sites while digging a well was another exciting factor.
A whole afternoon from 14:00-17:30 was spent there.
We then just went back to the hotel and showered before going to have our dumpling dinner.
15 courses of dumplings with different flavors were served in different shapes. People enjoyed it so much, not only the dumplings but also the relaxing atmosphere. One of the waitresses (an 18-year old girl) became the star of the night. Her manner and personality was so much appreciated by our group. She represents good manners and hospitality of Chinese people, which has impressed our international friends.
After dinner, we had a photo stop at South Gate of City Wall with lights on. Local people were dancing and relaxing there and there were lots of vendors. Ladies joined them to dance and had phone taken with local residents. Great experience.
Day 06 (August 1) Xian –City Wall, Shaanxi Museum and Fly to Guilin
We had a late start at 10:00am.
The present wall was constructed over remains of earlier walls built from 582AD and added to through time. It was fully rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. It is regarded as one of the most complete ancient fortifications in China today at almost 14 km in length 15 metres wide at the top. Its fortifications include a moat, hanging bridge, gate towers and turrets. The Ming City wall encircles the city in a rectangle with one gate on each side. On the wall, fortifications such as watch towers, ramparts, (duo-kou) were built into a complex and well-organized system of defense. There are total 98 ramparts on the wall. The City Wall of Xi'an is the only well preserved walls in China. The City Wall of Beijing was tearing down make way for development and subway construction purposes. What a pity!!
Some of us rent rickshaws and battery trolleys to ride on the Wall. The rest adventurers rent bicycles and ride for 1.5 hours. We again had our group photo taken with China Highlights flag. ^_^
ShaanxiProvincial Museum is no doubt one of the best museums in China with a huge collection of more than 370,000 exhibits, though any of us can't see all of its exhibits. The architecture complex was constructed after the Tang Dynasty. The exhibits cover the age from Stone Age-1.7 million years ago to 20 century.
A big storm landed this afternoon and then rained cats and dogs. I was worried about our flight to Guilin.
We were so lucky that our flight departed just as scheduled though other flights to Guilin or other cities were delayed or canceled.
We landed Guilin, my home city, at 20:20pm and then transferred to Guilin Bravo Hotel with accompany of Jenny, local guide in Guilin. the hotel is located on side of Banyan Tree Lake, one of the 4 lakes (old city moat) in the city.
Day 07 (August 2) Guilin –Longsheng Terraced Fields and Minority Village
Today we had a wonderful trip to Longsheng to enjoy the Terraced rice fields and the local villages of Zhuang and Yao minority groups.
Guangxi Autonomous Region, administrating Guilin City, contains 13 nationalities, including Zhuang, Yao, Miao and Dong. Different groups have different customers and traditions. Terraced rive fields were firstly cultivated in Yuan Dynasty, 800 years ago. Our ancestors were so talent to create farms along the steep mountains, 1000 meters above the sea lever.
It was a whole day trip with a simple lunch at a local farmer’s restaurants. Some organic vegetable meals were served.
Dinner today was fancy in an elegant local restaurant with tasty food. It was another member’s birthday. We also provided a birthday cake with lotus flower candle. They then enjoyed free shopping at night market along Zhongshan Road. They had expected this shopping opportunity for whole week.
Day 08 (August 3) Guilin –Yangshuo Li River Cruise
A very relaxing cruise sailed along famous Li River for 4 hours. it was a great experience to be close to nature, with Karst Mountain, fishing villages, farm lands, water buffalos, ducks and fishermen. We could relax with beautiful scenery and fresh air. They also spent some time writing postcards.
After the cruise, we disembarked at Yangshuo, a small town considered as bag packers’ paradise. After 10 minutes walk along the West Street, we arrived at Aiyuan Hotel on the other end of the street. We checked in and had free shopping for whole afternoon.
After dinner, some of us signed up to enjoy an optional evening show, Impression Liusanjie. It was a live show with stage on water and mountains as background. 2000 performers including some local farmers and fishermen, even water buffalos are involved in this show. I had highly recommended it and people liked it so much and said that it was a wise choice.
Day 09 (August 4) Yangshuo Countryside tour with bicycles and battery trolleys, Fly to Shanghai at late afternoon
This morning, we had a tour to visit the countryside of China, out of the cities for the first time during the entire trip. 11 people went by bicycles and the rest took battery trolleys. We passed rice paddies, visited a local family and got some brief information of farmers’ lives in China. A beautiful and peaceful trip!
We had lunch in the hotel before going to the airport for the flight to Shanghai.
It was time to say goodbye to the group as I had to get back to the office to deal with tons of emails.
I couldn’t hold my tear when they sang a song to me on the way to the airport. We were like a family after being together for 9 days. They said I was like a Mummy and I say they are like close friends. I could visit them with free accommodation in the future, they promised. ^_^
My job as a national guide was finished. It was a different guide experience as I had organized this group and I had emailed with them for last 10 month. I have learned a lot from them and I think same for them. We are still in touch by emails and I hope we will have chance to meet again in the near future.
I have made a conclusion in Chinese about what we still need to improve to better serve our customers. It is highly approved by my supervisor. Therefore, this trip finally turns out to be a very successful business trip.