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Sunday, May 20, 2012

China au pif

My son Eric started studying Chinese 14 years ago in preparation for his study of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He lived in Taiwan for three years and has also worked and traveled extensively throughout mainland China. Eric served as interpreter when he and my other son, Philippe, spent 4 months touring Asia in 2001. I have wanted to visit China with Eric as tour guide ever since then. I had the opportunity this month when our schedules finally coincided.

I met Eric in Taipei, had dinner with some of his close friends, and we toured city's night markets, and museum before taking the train to Taroko Gorge - Taiwan's version of the Grand Canyon.
Suspension foot bridge - Taroko Gorge
We then flew to Hong Kong so that I could get the tourist visa that would allow me to visit mainland China.

One day later, visa in hand, we took a train to Guangzhou - a city that Eric knows well as the source for the medicinal herbs used in Chinese medicine.

After a few days in big cities, we stepped back in time as we visited the mysterious karst mountains found in the Li river valley near Guilin. We set off on bicycles to explore the region around Yangshuo - a photographer's paradise.


Final stage of the trip: Beijing, the famous Forbidden City and nearby Great Wall of China.


I loved watching the double take - head snap, wide eyes and big smile each time Eric conversed in fluent Mandarin. People were always friendly, sharing insights normally unavailable to the average tourist. And we had complete autonomy - no group tours being herded on buses at impossible hours.

The trip was blissfully stress-free for me. Eric did all the ordering in restaurants, introducing me to culinary specialties from every part of the country. I sampled a world of fresh fruits and vegetables that I'd never tried before: durian, jack fruit, dragon fruit, lychees, loquat, mangosteen, and innumerable green leafy vegetables. We ate fish and fowl hacked into bite sized pieces and served bones and all.  We also saw, but didn't taste, all manner of weird things such as snakes, scorpions, cicadas, sea horses, duck tongues, sheep penis, etc.

Scorpion appetizers
And the shopping! Commerce is king, haggling over prices is mandatory, and Eric's  mastery of the language and the rules of the game resulted in some fabulous deals on clothes, DVDs and handbags.

The China we visited was a fascinating study in contrast: Taiwan with its western influence, food, dress, accents, and customs were quite different from those in the capital Beijing.
Hong Kong
And the cities of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, awash in neon, in striking contrast with smaller towns such as Guilin and Yangshuo attracting Chinese and western tourists alike for their natural beauty and amazing landscapes.
Sunset on the Li River near Guilin
What an experience! I've been struggling for days, poring over pictures and words, trying to capture the range of exotic sights, sounds, tastes, smells in an attempt to give you a glimpse of what I enjoyed during my two weeks in China. Here is the link to a Google+ album with some of the highlights.



4 comments:

  1. Amazing album...makes me so proud to have known you when (and you know when as well as I do!)

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  2. Stunning pics. It's always amazing to me that these lives are happening now, while I lead such a different existence. It makes me want to change places with some of them......for a short time :-) :-)

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  3. The above comment was from yer jealous (:-) Sis.

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  4. Fantastic photos Elaine! Looks like an amazing trip!

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