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Kyle and Lori Maddock
A Real Day-by-Day
Travel Book China - 16-day Adventure

This is a real trip, by two adventurers, that have traveled all over the world, it reads like a China Travel Book.

This story brings a great personal look into the excitement and awe of Travel in China.

Our trip to China was an amazing experience and adventure. We traveled through Beijing , Xi'an , Yangshuo and Shanghai using Travel-the-Real-China

We were thrilled with the level of service we received as well as the itinerary itself.

It was an experience we'll never forget.

After a 13-hour flight over the North Pole, we began our adventure in Beijing - visiting the Llama Temples and Hutongs directly from the airport.

It was exhilarating to be walking through a city half way around the world, but we were also exhausted after arriving from such a long flight.

We spent the day perusing the Buddhist temples, discovering back streets and visiting the Hutong residential homes. We learned we are quite privileged living in America, as some the Hutong houses we visited were not much bigger than our bathrooms and closets. The people living in the Hutongs were friendly, one resident fed us nuts and performed Tai Chi for us. One downside, at least in our opinion, was cruising the Hutongs in a carriage behind a bicycle.

Neither of us are very comfortable being hauled around by someone as we peer in people's houses, invading their privacy. But, I guess they are used to it as this is a popular tourist attraction in Beijing.

After a long nights sleep, we were ready for our first full day in China. We were off to see the Great Wall - Simitai section.

We've heard from others that the Simitai is the best way to see the wall, as it is mostly in it's original form (not remodeled like the "Badaling" section). In addition, the steep climbs and three-hour drive from Beijing tends to take it off the tourist path.

When we arrived, we found we were one of only a few people there. There is a path around a small lake to arrive and walk on the actual wall itself. On our way, a group of Mongolians began talking to us and we said "Hi" back. That was a "newbie tourist" mistake - I thought we were better traveled to fall for that again.

Well, as it turns out, we had new "friends" who followed us the entire path - offering to sell us many things. We ignored them and just dealt with it.

The wall is really a spectacular site. Climbing the wall is just amazing, but as you ascend the steep mountains it conjures thoughts of the number of lives it cost to build the wall and the difficulty to build it. Plus, the sheer size of it, no individual location can really provide you the true scale and length of the wall. Unlike the pyramids of Egypt, which you can fully appreciate from one location, the GreatWall would require weeks of traveling to truly appreciate its scale. However, it's still amazing to walk on this piece of history.

Leaving the wall, you have the option to jump in a harness and take a zip line over the lake to the main entrance. We opted to go down this way and were glad we did - it was so much fun! Afterwards, we went to a traditional massage parlor for a one hour foot massage - running us 100RMB each (about $12).

It was great, they really dug in hard.

On the following day, we toured the additional Beijing sites and attractions.

We began our day in the Summer Palace, walking around the lake to sites of spectacular pagodas, statues and landscape. Beautiful. In addition, we visited a jade shopping center to make some purchases.

Next, we had a nice lunch and continued to Tiananmen Square - the cultural and notorious plaza representing China's cultural movements. We entered the Forbidden City directly under the portrait of Chairman Mao on Tiananmen, and explored the fascinating and large city that was prohibited to the general public for 500 years.

It's quite a vast area with 800 buildings, most which blended in with each other as we continued along. It has quite a bit of history, a notable one being from "The Last Emperor" - where the very young Pi Yu reigned, and you can view the curtains behind his seats where his mother provided assistance to him during meetings with officials.

That was rather fascinating - in addition to the many rooms available for concubines. However, the most attractive part of the Forbidden City is the Imperial Gardens at the back of the city (north gate). The landscape, rocks and trees especially were unique and wonderfully kept.

That night, we were scheduled to see the Peking Opera show. We skipped it and walked up the street to a local bar and chatted with the young bartender, teaching him English as he taught us Mandarin. Great guy. Lots of fun.

Next, we were off to Xi'an early in the morning. Our guide picked us up and took us into the main city.

Xi'an is an original capital city of China, and is surrounded by a large city wall with four main entrances. It's quite a smoggy place, and an odd mix of old and new - with ancient structures becoming overpowered by modern high rises.

We had quite a traffic delay, as protestors were staging a sit-down on one of the entrances to fight against their low wages (500RMB per month - about $60 US!)

When we arrived, we decided to spend the day on our own to shop and meander around the city.

We visited an Internet Cafe and had quite a difficult time sending pictures to our families. We could not speak Mandarin and the staff could not speak English, so we typed messages via a web-based translation service with mixed results. Once he typed something, which translated to "You go to plate run hat mix bowl." He looked at us with a 'Now do you understand me?' look.

We just agreed, giggling the entire time, and eventually got our emails off. Next, we went to a bar down the road for a drink. Everything was going fine, and suddenly several women appeared and gathered around Kyle. It was a bit uncomfortable, we couldn't tell if they were prostitutes or just very interested - but regardless, we left.

We entered the center of town, enjoyed a few drinks at the outside pavilion, and ate about 1000 dumplings. They were wonderful, but we refused to eat dumplings again from that point on in the trip.

The next morning, we took off early to visit the Terracotta Museum. Wefirst visited a the Terracotta factory for tourists (where we bought mini-Terracotta's like tourists).

Next, a visit to the Huaqing Hot Springs - our biggest surprise during the trip.

It was absolutely stunning - a real beautiful place which the Summer Palace in Beijing was later modeled after. We toured the area for a while, through the wonderful hot spring fountains and amazing architecture. You can visit the top of the mountain, but it was too cloudy and we decided it wasn't worth it.

Rather, we went for lunch and then onto the Terracotta Museum. What an amazing site! Over seven thousand warriors (and counting) - each six foot in height and possessing unique features and characteristics. The lines of warriors seemed endless, each crafted in painstaking detail.

The farmer, who discovered the warriors in 1974, now works at the museum - with the wonderful job of giving autographs to the tourists. Yes, we got one too.

The following day, we had some time to kill before our flight to Guilin, so our guide took us around to some local sites and markets. It was a nice day - we visited some museums but others were under construction. Much of China is under construction for preparations of the 2008 Beijing Olympics tourist onslaught.

It was a day of viewing the old mixed in with the new - beautiful ancient sites plagued by modern eyesores. After our day, we jumped on the plane to Guilin and had our first interesting experience.

Two different people - an older man and a woman, had the same exact seat assignment for the window seat directly next to us. Rather than simply jump to another open seat, the woman's husband and the man next to us decided to fight about it. It seemed there were families from both sides of the arguers on the plane. Suddenly, there are flight attendants and pilots holding people back as a full fledge brawl almost broke out. As we had no idea what they were saying, we decided to duck and giggle as the mayhem broke around us.

In America, the plane is emptied, the cops come, and the flight's delayed for hours. In China, once the fight is over, everyone sits down - no one seems to care. Works for us.

Then, on to Guilin , our cabbie picks us up and takes us down to Yangshuo - where we meet Alf, who arranged our tour in Yangshuo, and Yuan, our local guide. We checked into our hotel, and put together an itinerary for our next few days in Yangshuo while having a few beers at Alf's bar - The Buffalo Bar.

On the first morning in Yangshuo, we decided to bike through thecountryside. We woke up early, had a nice inexpensive meal, and then met our local guide "Yuan".

We jumped on our bikes and had our first nervous moment - driving down a main road in China. We were only a few of the millions of bikes on the road, but it is still quite difficult getting used to the onslaught of cars, bikes cutting you off and just plain craziness of biking on a main road in China. (Anyone from China will probably laugh we're even mentioning this - but from where we come, this is quite a task!)

We jumped on our bikes and had our first nervous moment - driving down a main road in China. We were only a few of the millions of bikes on the road, but it is still quite difficult getting used to the onslaught of cars, bikes cutting you off and just plain craziness of biking on a main road in China. (Anyone from China will probably laugh we're even mentioning this - but from where we come, this is quite a task!)

After a little while on the main road, we jumped off to a back path and began our real journey though this amazing, spectacular section of China. The karst peaks and countryside of this area in the Guangxi province were the highlight of our trip. Every twist and turn revealed spectacular, breathtaking sights - each as amazing as the next.

It felt for the first time that we were in the real China - with real people, real housing, real lives. Just amazing.

We were treated well in the countryside too, everyone waved and smiled. We no longer felt like tourists, but rather visitors and friends to a real community. Just spectacular.

We biked for 32 kilometers that day, stopping often to appreciate the sites. We crossed the river on the local boats and visited the local market to watch the farmers sell their hand-made goods as well as livestock and meats. What an amazing day!

That night - we decided to go to the Yangshuo Light Show - an outdoor show on the river amongst the karst peaks with over 500 performers. What a show! I don't want to provide details to ruin the show for first time visitors but when in Yangshuo, don't miss this show!

On day two in Yangshuo, we jumped on our bikes again for a shorter ride to the Yu Long river. We climbed aboard a small raft built for two, and glided along the river as a local paddled away. It was very relaxing, and wonderful to dip your feet in the water as you glide along in the middle of the mountains. Every now and then, a local teen would jump into the river "cannonball style" to cool us off.

In this section, we began to sense the modernization of China hitting the farmland. A man by himself on the raft, just as the exotic pictures of China display on the books, would suddenly begin ringing and pick up his cell phone while on the river.

At one point on the river, a group had a complete computer setup with WIFI ADSL connections to take pictures of tourists as they come down the waterfall and then sell them later along the river - just like Disney World! Also, several "floating Wal-Mart's" (our name), glided along the river where wecould attach to them and buy anything from beer to postcards, Such a funny place.

After our ride, we biked to Moon Hill and climbed 885 steps to the top of the mountain. What an amazing view! It was very hot. We had a "Travel Assistant" with us - our name for the locals who follow you around until you buy something from them. She followed us up all 885 steps, fanning us along the way - even though we ignored her for every second of our climb.

However, at the top, her little bag was filled with water, and were quite thrilled about it. We did have to bargain her down - and ended up paying about $2.00 US for a large bottle, which is a lot of money in Yangshuo for water. But to us - definitely worth it.

That night, we did a little shopping, got another foot massage (35RMB or about $4.25 US for a complete hour and a half massage) and then hung out for a while at Alf's.

On our last full day in Yangshuo, we took a bus to Xing-Ping, known as the best sight seeing area along the Li River, and jumped on a boat to tour the mountains. This is such a wondrous area. The view is the same as the back of a 20 Yuan bill, which is a testament to this area in itself.

We cruised up the river for about an hour and a half, then back down. Although we covered the same karst peaks both ways, they had a completely different look and feel about them from one way to the next.

Tourists boats from Guilin passed by, packed with 70-100 passengers each. We were the only ones on our boat - it was peaceful and serene. We quietly watched the scenery pass by.

After our ride, we took another bike ride over to a mountain not far away. After some debating regarding how tired we were, we decided to climb the mountain - 1152 steps straight up. It was brutal - but really worth it. The top of the mountain provided views of the Li river winding through the peaks and the landscape behind it. We sat atop the mountain and soaked in one of the best views of our lives. Wow.

It sounds like we're gushing too much about this place - but it has to be seen to be appreciated.

Later that night, we did a bit more shopping and spent more time at the Buffalo Bar, chatting with other travelers and sharing stories. Great people.

Sadly, we had to leave Yangshuo the next morning. However, we had an evening flight to Shanghai and scheduled our day to visit the Longsheng Terraces - about a three hour drive from Yangshuo.

When we arrived, we were surprised to find a local ceremony was to take place for the Yao women.

The area is in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Longest Hair of a Community" as all the women have enormous hair length.

The celebration was for a woman who just turned 18 and would get her hair cut for the first time.

The crowds gathered around as they lit firecrackers and the entire community walked across a bridge and down a long path along the river to a rocky location in the middle of the river. Next, the women prepared themselves and began dancing ceremonies unfortunately; we were short on time and had to skip the celebration half way through.

We continued up the mountain to the Longsheng Rice Terraces - just another spectacular place! The terraces were first built 800 years ago during the Yuan dynasty and proved to be quite an efficient yet simple way to irrigate rice crops by streaming water down the mountains. We hiked through the terraces for quite a while - stopping every now and then to enjoy the scenery high in the mountains.

When we were finished, we jumped back in the car and headed towards the airport to visit Shanghai

On our first day in Shanghai - the weather was very rainy. We met John (who put together this trip) in the morning and he provided us some information of what to do in Shanghai.

Since it was raining, we decided to skip the touristy locations and go shopping.

We entered the local "rip-off" market to a stream of people approaching us with "Rolex? Coach bag? Northface jackets? DVD's?"

We browsed along, purchasing a few items here and there. The real fun was the negotiation process. We were told to take the price down to 25% of the original asking number. After they fight you off, you up it to 30% maximum and stop there. However, some agreed to our first 25% price too quickly - we think they may be on to the 25% thing on tourists and have jacked first rates up even higher.

However, everything was still very cheap and we felt we got a great deal on everything. We walked quite a bit further that day through the streets and different shops.

We Later that night, we went to dinner with John and his girlfriend Elaine. They took us for a walk on the popular Nanjing Road towards the Bund at night. It's quite a spectacular site. That evening, we went to a few local bars and enjoyed some drinks outside when the weather cleared up a bit.We browsed along, purchasing a few items here and there. The real fun was the negotiation process. We were told to take the price down to 25% of the original asking number. After they fight you off, you up it to 30% maximum and stop there. However, some agreed to our first 25% price too quickly - we think they may be on to the 25% thing on tourists and have jacked first rates up even higher.

However, everything was still very cheap and we felt we got a great deal on everything. We walked quite a bit further that day through the streets and different shops.

Later that night, we went to dinner with John and his girlfriend Elaine. They took us for a walk on the popular Nanjing Road towards the Bund at night. It's quite a spectacular site. That evening, we went to a few local bars and enjoyed some drinks outside when the weather cleared up a bit.

The next morning brought more rain. We ventured around some of the older parts of the city, browsed the antiques market and walked through the Animal, Bird and Insect market - which was quite interesting.

We were beginning to tire from our very busy trip - and relaxed at a nice restaurant for a while. Later that evening, we attended the Shanghai Acrobat show at the Ritz Carlton. Wow - what an amazing show! It's hard to imagine the time, effort and discipline required to perform at their level.

Later that evening, we returned to the hotel and noticed something odd. Our room was the fire escape for our floor! I guess we had the responsibility of opening the door for everyone if there was a fire. Quite funny.

On our last day in Shanghai, the weather was foggy. but the rain cleared. We walked along Nanjing Rd again and visited some shops. Next, we walked along the Bund.

Underneath the walking area was an underwater transit to visit the Pudong District. We jumped on and it was quite an "over the top" experience - with light shows, movies and blow-up dolls on the way. We jumped off the ride and climbed up the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The visibility wasn't great, but the view was still pretty nice. Afterwards, we went to the wax figures museum at the bottom of the tower for a walking tour of Shanghai's history. It was pretty interesting, actually - and had lots to see.

Later that evening, we met John and Elaine for dinner at a wonderful Indonesian restaurant. Lori was not feeling good - and had a slight suspicion something was wrong. Elaine helped us at the pharmacy to get what we needed.

We then jumped on a cab to the Pudong District at night, and climbed the Hyatt tower to a spectacular night view of the city. We went back to the hotel - and got the news. Lori's pregnant.

Wow. We didn't realize that three of us were traveling China this entire time. What a wonderful shock. We quietly boarded the plane back to Beijing - both of us speechless. We arrived, transferred to our hotel, and went out later that night for some Peking duck (our best meal of the trip). We walked through Tiananmen Square that night - a beautiful place in the evening. However, our vacation mentally started to end as we began to discuss our future.

Our last full day in China. We slept quite a bit that morning and walked through the Temple of Heaven Park. It was a pleasant walk - but a bit boring compared to the other sites. We moved along to a busy shopping center - with levels and levels of Chinese goods for sale and masses of tourists bargaining for everything from pearls to cameras to clothes or artwork. We made a few last minute purchases of our own and continued up the street to a busy shopping district. Lori began to feel the bodily wonders brought on by pregnancy - and we decided to call it the day. We attempted the restaurant in our hotel that evening - but the sites of fish heads, gizzards, mutton and more had us yearning for Western food. We moved on to a Japanese restaurant instead - and had an adequate meal of rice.

We took off back to the states - enduring a long flight from Beijing toNewark, arriving to two plane cancellations to Washington DC, put up in a hotel for two hours sleep, back to the airport for morning flight delays, and then finally to Washington DC. Just to top it off, our cab broke down only a mile away from our home and Kyle had to push it down a very busy road to get it off the street. We were expecting this in China - not here in the USA. We quickly appreciated how well everything went for us in China during this trip.

In the end, just an amazing experience.

An amazing place. While China still seems to be searching for an identity - as tradition and communities seem to be fading amongst modern high rises and economic division, it remains wonderfully exotic while at the same time feeling like "home".

I hope when our child visits China, he or she will enjoy the same hospitality, culture and landscapes we experienced unaffected by rapid modernization.

That's the China we fell in love with.

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