Beijing days, Shanghai Nights… A sojourn in China

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Beijing days, Shanghai Nights… A sojourn in China

Sangeeta Kakoty | November 10, 2018 18:44 hrs


China? Why China??? This was the common reaction when I mentioned to people that my Puja vacation trip was to China.


It had really been a spur-of-the-moment decision when we (my husband and I) decided to take a look at the Cox & Kings offers during a fair in Hotel Novotel, Guwahati. The 10-day Mysterious China Package to Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming caught our fancy and we booked then and there.


12.35 AM on 16th October, 2018 we took the flight from Kolkata to Kunming. Our entire group consisted of us four Guwahatians (Me, Bablu, Nanu Da and Sipra Bou) and 31 others from various areas in and around Kolkata ranging from 18 to 80 years of age. Our tour manager was a young lad, DDG (Durga Das Ghosh), himself on his first visit to China!


5.30 AM China time (2 hours 30 minutes ahead of us) we landed in Kunming and from there, took the Eastern China flight to Xi’an at 9.45 AM. At 11.55 AM, we landed and were received by Ms Violet, our local guide. Driven straight for lunch to an Indian restaurant, Violet, in her accented English, did her best to give all information about Xi’an on the away. Xi’an is a big beautiful city with greenery all round, clean to perfection and with an easy pace of life. Our hotel, Laika, was the okay types. Here, during our 3-day tour we were taken to (1) the famous UNESCO World Heritage, the Terracotta soldiers. A collection of about 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 520 horses, 150 cavalry horses, all life size sculptures depicting the army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, (2) the Wild Goose Pagoda, a serene Buddhist Monastery established by a scholar from India, Tushita, (3) The City Wall (13 kms), where we used bicycles to look around. It is like a miniature Great Wall, (4) the Shanxi Museum of History was a great place but needed more time, (5) The Tang Dynasty showing the Shanxi Sunshine Theatre was a touristy experience.

From Xi’an we boarded a train to Beijing. It was a 12 hour journey. Arriving at 7.00 AM, we found Beijing cold but our local guide Ms Aimi was a cute and warm person. Much to the chagrin of our group, the itinerary said a quick breakfast at McDonald (freshen up) and then a daylong tour! This is the most irritating thing about package tours: that hectic, by-the-clock routine. Another thing, in China hotel check in/out is at 2.00 PM. So, here we stood, a bunch of bedraggled people bundled off to see the Summer Palace. This was the summer retreat of the emperors in the past and now the largest and most ancient preserved garden in China that included 100 pavilions, mansions, halls, temples and an enormous man-made lake. Our own Joy Sagar seemed like a bath-tub in comparison! Post lunch we trouped into Hotel Xingzheju which was much better than the previous. Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world but there were no horns blown, no overtakes done, no rushing around. Everyone drove within speed limits. The visits we were taken to included the Great Wall of China (a lifetime experience), the Imperial tombs of the Ming dynasty, the Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Birds’ Nest stadium (of 2008 Olympics fame), the Jade factory and the Chinese traditional medicine centre (these two were business!). 


Plus there were two interesting shows: the Kung Fu show and the Golden Mask show, where the stagecraft was unbelievable. Real water gushing in torrents on stage to show a flood was amazing to say the least! 

From Beijing to Shanghai was a 5-hour high speed (300 km/hr) train ride. Here we were welcomed by a real entertainer, Mr Richard, who was besotted with Bollywood, particularly Aishwarya Rai. A drizzle made it cold but thankfully it did not last long. Shanghai is huge, full of skyscrapers, traffic, malls, decorations et al but without chaos, horns, speeding or rushing. The view from the 263 metre tall Pearl Tower through the glass bottom (though we had to do with a very poor vision due to bad weather) was knee-shaking. The view of the river from the Bund in the morning was nice but the cruise on the Huang-Ho was a fabulous experience with the full glory of Shanghai by night on show. In Hong Kong one gets to see the lights on only one side but here one can enjoy both sides of the river. It was like Diwali gone bonkers on those 45-65-76 storied buildings and hotels! The ride on the Maglev Bullet train (450 km/hr) is something I will boast about to my grandchildren. The Yu Yuan gardens in Old Shanghai and an acrobatic show thrown in completed our tour here.


From Shanghai we caught an Eastern China flight to Kunming, our final stop before returning home. We never realised on the first morning that Kunming Airport is humongous with 285 gates! Welcomed by Kailao, our local guide, I fell in love with this place. It is beautiful with its slightly hilly terrain, clean azure skies, super broad roads, shops galore, and lovely ambience. If I ever want to return to China, it has to be to Kunming. A one night stay was definitely not enough. A direct flight from Guwahati would be about an hour only! The highlight here was the Stone Forest 80 kms away from the city. A UNESCO W.H site, this one has to be seen! Monoliths of all shapes and sizes that had once (2,00,000 million years ago) been under water, now polished by the elements. Spread across hundreds of acres this is nature’s marvel.


Hectic no doubt, but an experience cherished! Shopping was not a priority but we managed to grab some knick-knacks. To the travel lovers out there, China should not be missed. But a program through a travel agency is a good idea because communication, connectivity (roaming must) and food could otherwise become nightmares.

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