My first steps on the Great Wall at Mutianyu were almost my last. After taking a cable car up to the start of the ancient wall – you can also walk to that point, a climb that takes about 30 minutes — Pat and I started descending some steep brick steps. It was a… Read More ›
On a bone-chilling morning in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven Park was bustling with activity. Elderly couples were dancing to traditional Chinese music, groups of amateur crooners were singing Peking Opera songs, early risers were practicing tai chi and others were playing jianzi, a game in which you kick a weighted shuttlecock. The 660-acre park… Read More ›
Chairman Mao is showing his age. Lying in an open crystal casket encased in an airtight chamber at his massive mausoleum in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, China’s former supreme ruler looks like a figure from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Surrounded by a bed of lilies, his body is dressed in his usual drab gray suit and draped… Read More ›
I was feeling a little travel weary until I read about Xuanzang, a 7th-century Chinese monk who went on a 16-year, 100-plus country pilgrimage and returned home with one of the greatest collections of Buddhist scriptures in history. I learned more about Xuanzang at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, part of the Da… Read More ›
When I first saw the Terracotta Army during a national holiday in October, the place was so crowded you could hardly move. The 25-mile bus ride from Xi’an took 3½ hours and, once we got there, my friend Damian and I had to wait an hour in line to see the main exhibition. My second… Read More ›
When Pat and I walked into our hotel room in Chengdu, the first thing we noticed was the stuffed panda doll sitting on your bed. Nothing could be more fitting in this ultramodern central China megalopolis that’s home to a leading panda breeding and research center and omnipresent images of the cuddly, black-and-white bears.
While searching for new experiences abroad, spontaneity usually trumps planning. Pat and I were scheduled to spend the morning in Yangshuo before heading back to Guilin to catch a late-afternoon flight to Chengdu, home of a renowned panda-breeding center. At the last minute, however, we decided to return to Guilin early so we could check… Read More ›
Pat and I took a 4½-hour boat cruise on the Lu River from Guilin to Yangshuo, a bustling tourist town surrounded by majestic karst peaks that are so close you can practically touch them. The riverbanks are lined with peaks whose unusual shapes have inspired colorful names: Painted Hill of Nine Horses, Snail Hill, Bat… Read More ›
Yesterday we took a two-hour van ride from Guilin to Longji, where a guard in the tourist office was watching Spurs-Grizzlies highlights on TV. From there, we transferred to a bus that took us up a winding mountain road overlooking the famous Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. The area is home to two ethnic groups, the… Read More ›
After three wonderful days in Shanghai, Pat and I flew southwest to Guilin, about 950 miles away in a region bordering Vietnam. The Guilin area is a major tourist destination because of its natural beauty. The city is surrounded by karst peaks, which resemble jagged, triangular mini-mountains. Within a few hours drive are the famous… Read More ›
My proclivity for getting into strange, frustrating and sometimes dangerous situations was the theme of the presents I received from my colleague Jennifer at our office Christmas party. Jennifer gave me box of knickknacks, along with a booklet of written instructions on their use and purpose. The items included: “Chill Pills’’ – Two bottles of… Read More ›
I saw my first Chinese snowflakes today. We got a brief dusting in Zhengzhou this morning that quickly disappeared when it warmed up in the afternoon. It does occasionally snow here, but major snowstorms are rare. Zhengzhou’s climate is very similar to New Jersey’s. There are four distinct seasons, though the winter is a little… Read More ›
Many readers have asked me to post a photo of the perilous mountain path my friends and I descended in the dark. So here it is. Looking back, it’s a miracle we’re alive.