Since launching my blog in August of last year, it’s been a privilege to share my travels with my mother in hopes it will motivate others to get out there and GO. Life is short, go makes some memories. I’ve also had the great fortune though to read many wonderful tales of travel from TWAP readers. Jane Gruenebaum’s story resonated with me as she took a chance on traveling to a far away place with her best friend and guess what? She had a blast traveling to China!! I think you’ll enjoy her tale as well!
Jane is a registered nurse although currently enjoying retirement from the Managed Health Care field. She lives in a Del Webb over-55 Active Adult Community in Cary, NC. Jane shared “As a single woman, it is a great place to live with a built-in social life and lots of new friends. I highly recommend this style of living.”
I do not have a specific travel bucket list; I tend to be a responder rather than a planner. So a trip to China was not something I had planned on doing. But, my very good friend of 48 years called to say that Gate 1 Travel was offering a really good deal on a 15 day trip to China and would I be interested in joining she and her husband on the trip? Glo and I met in nursing school but later in life she gave up medicine to become a travel agent. I knew I would be in good hands if I decided to make the trip. I checked it out and thought “why not?” I had never been that far from home nor away for that long so it was a big step for me. I can say now, that it was a wonderful trip and I am so glad I decided to go.
Our first city was Shanghai. I was in awe as we drove from the airport to downtown. It was evening and there were lighted buildings everywhere; reminding me of Las Vegas. It is a very crowded city and the noise level of honking horns is far greater than New York City. One takes their life in their hands crossing the streets as there is no such thing as pedestrian right of way – it is one big free for all between cars, buses, bikes and motor scooters.
A first for me were the squat toilets. The Chinese believe these types of toilets are more conducive to nature but I found them very difficult and unpleasant to use. One must always remember to bring their own toilet paper or tissues (as it’s not supplied)!
Another first was getting a “clothes-on” massage by a blind man. Not kidding; the masseuse is blind but knew exactly where to press. His hands, elbows and forearms were very strong and I was sure I would be bruised all over.
Next up, a four night river boat cruise upstream on the Yangtze River. River travel is quite beautiful and tranquil as you glide along the water and see firsthand how the people live along the shore and up into the hills. Then, out of nowhere, comes a modern city with high rises to equal any major US city! It was rather shocking! When the boat docked at the end of our trip, our tour director told us we would have to climb 75-80 steps to reach the street and our awaiting bus. My thought was, oh no, I’m not sure I can do that! But I’m happy to report I made it! Since this was my first trip as part of a tour, I realized that I had not anticipated the amount of walking and climbing that I would have to do. As we get older (even older than I am now), it is definitely something to consider and to find out about ahead of time.
After leaving the boat, we flew to Xian. The main attraction here is the Terracotta Warriors Museum. This is a “must see in person exhibit” as there is no way pictures can provide the depth and breadth of this display. It was truly amazing to see these greater than life-size soldiers, horses and chariots that were crafted in 246 BC. We also had the opportunity to go to a local park in Xian. The Chinese men and women gather each morning to do tai chi and sing and dance around the square. We all had such a good time joining in with them, waving our fans, moving and grooving.
Our last stop was Beijing. We had 3 days and we made the most of them. The Great Wall was the highlight, but we also saw pandas, the Olympic Village, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Imperial Palace and took a rickshaw ride through the Hutong (old China) area. Again one cannot appreciate the vastness of the Great Wall since we were only able to see a small portion. I’m happy to report I managed to ascend part of the Wall and walk one section! I was happy to say I have been.
Another unique opportunity was the use of “professional” wheel chair pushers. Our guide, Jason offered their services to us for our hike through Tiananmen Square, the Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City. Even though I was embarrassed to be pushed around, I considered the alternative as it’s a 3.5 mile excursion to see all the sits. It was quite an experience, which included being pushed on the street along the curb facing oncoming traffic.
A highlight of the rickshaw ride through the Hutong area was having the opportunity to tour a courtyard home. As we walked through the owner’s house, we noticed a jar sitting on the kitchen table with a snake in it! I hate snakes and so I had to ask what the jar was all about. The woman, the owner of the house, told us it was for “medicinal purposes.” Apparently you keep adding rice wine to maintain the volume.
Several guys in our group did try a shot it and said it burned going down but it didn’t taste a whole lot different from cheap liquor. No one got sick from drinking the snake wine.
Our final night in Beijing we enjoyed a Peking duck dinner and toasted our tour directors who helped make our trip. They were so knowledgeable, shared more information than I can remember but also told us about their lives and what it is like to live in China.
My trip from Beijing to Raleigh, NC was exhausting but I am so very glad I made the decision to visit China and to experience an ancient, rich culture.
Wonderful story Jane and thanks for sharing! If you’ve been thinking about taking a trip, now’s the time. As Mark Twain once said:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Let’s all get out there and be brave like Jane!