Sam's Tour of ChinaSam's Toybox Homepage

My April-May, 2017 trip with Gate 1 Travel was to three cities in China from Los Angeles, California. Had a great time and here are way too many photos to prove it.

Click on any thumbnail to take you to a larger picture with caption. Each picture has next/previous links to take you through the entire tour. Cheers, Sam

Day One - Thu 4/27/17 - Fly from Albuquerque to Los Angeles - Tour the Griffith Observatory, Hang out at Venice Beach

Griffith Observatory in LA
First stop on our tour of LA was the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park - 4/27/2017 My two traveling companions for LA were Linda and Stephanie - 4/27/2017 Great view of the Hollywood sign from the Observatory grounds - 4/27/2017 Linda got to hob-knob with Einstein discussing the heavens - 4/27/2017 Though I didn't get a clear picture of it, I was duly impressed with the Observatory's Tesla Coil - 4/27/2017 Also impressed with the 10" telescope - 4/27/2017 The view of the grounds from the Observatory roof is spectacular - 4/27/2017

Venice Beach Boardwalk
Next stop was the Venice Beach Boardwalk, about 25 miles south of the Observatory - 4/27/2017 The It'Sugar candy store on Venice Beach has every kind of candy you could think of, even <i>adult-only</i> novelty items - 4/27/2017 Linda got suckered into participating in one of the many side show acts on the boardwalk - 4/27/2017 Lots of performers on the boardwalk including this grand piano player - 4/27/2017

Day Two - Fri 4/28/17 - Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary

Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach
Day two started with a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific - 4/28/2017 Big joint with a big whale hanging from the ceiling - 4/28/2017 We saw a number of divers cleaning tanks but this one, where the tank is only about three feet in diameter was most impressive - 4/28/2017 The Horses and Dragons show was going on and we got to see lots of cool sea horses - 4/28/2017 Another cool sea horse - 4/28/2017 The things that look like sticks on the left are in fact sea horses (or dragons). How cool - 4/28/2017 These large bellied sea horses just wouldn't hold still for me to get a good picture - 4/28/2017 I'm also a big fan of jellyfish exhibits and the aquarium had many - 4/28/2017 The moon jellyfish are among my favorites - 4/28/2017 Although these tiny ones are great too - 4/28/2017 This crab was huge - 4/28/2017 These elaborate creatures were beautiful - 4/28/2017 Its always fun to watch an octopus glide around a tank - 4/28/2017 Seals and River Otters could be seen from below the water line - 4/28/2017 This shark was not called a Hammerhead but is close enough for me - 4/28/2017 It was feeding time for the penguins while we walked by - 4/28/2017 And the bigger sharks in the outdoor tank were impressive - 4/28/2017 One of the strangest creatures was the SamSquid. We saw folks who actually bought these hats. It takes all kinds - 4/28/2017 In addition to the aquatic exhibits, the Aquarium also has a large, walk-through Lorakeet exhibit - 4/28/2017 You could purchase some liquid that the lorakeets might drink from your hand - 4/28/2017 Many different colors. These two had just finished taking a bath and were drying themselves in the sun - 4/28/2017 The aquarium also has a jellyfish touch pool. They feel about like you'd think - 4/28/2017 While waiting for our Behind-the-Scenes tour, we got to see a diver show in one of the larger tanks - 4/28/2017 Our guide collected us for our Behind-the-Scenes tour - 4/28/2017 We got to chat with the divers who are all volunteers - 4/28/2017 All dive equipment is supplied and maintained by the aquarium - 4/28/2017 It is always impressive to see a large aquarium tank from above - 4/28/2017 Lots of interesting specimens at the aquarium - 4/28/2017 These leathery pouches are actually shark eggs - 4/28/2017 They check on the health of the young sharks by shining a flashlight through the eggs. So cool - 4/28/2017 A large turtle came to the top of the tank for a close-up visit - 4/28/2017

The Queen Mary Hotel/Museum in Long Beach
After lunch at the aquarium we took the free city shuttle service to our next stop, the Queen Mary - 4/28/2017 Nice tile mosaic image of the ship is built into the floor near the ticket booth - 4/28/2017 The ship's bell is prominantly displayed right where you enter the ship - 4/28/2017 The bar at the front of the ship is quite famous - 4/28/2017 The Art Deco establishment has been used in dozens of movies - 4/28/2017 Close-up of part of the railing. Very well done - 4/28/2017 On deck is all kinds of interesting things - 4/28/2017 Including this double gun which may have been added when the ship was a troop transport during WWII - 4/28/2017 The anchor chains were huge with each link being about a foot long - 4/28/2017 The smoke stacks were most impressive - 4/28/2017 One could also get a good view of the Russian Submarine which is docked next to the Queen Mary - 4/28/2017 While on ship we took the Haunted Queen Mary tour and this fellow was our guide - 4/28/2017 I, of course, took more interest in the oddball things like this carpet while on the tour - 4/28/2017 Deep in the bowels of the ship we came to one place where a cargo chute at one time allowed the ship to be outfit with supplies - 4/28/2017 Great rope near the bow of the ship - 4/28/2017 This is the first class swimming pool which was closed off and we didn't get to see. Supposedly some nice special effects there that we missed - 4/28/2017 While waiting for our 4D movie to start, we got to see this great cut-away painting of the ship - 4/28/2017 Great anchor on display. I love big anchors and propellers - 4/28/2017 One of the propellers is encased in a steel box and lit up so you can view it. Well done - 4/28/2017 One of the propeller shafts that run through the engine room - 4/28/2017 This huge gear was chipped up pretty good and would likely have needed replaced if the Queen Mary had not been retired - 4/28/2017 A look at one of the engines - 4/28/2017 And the control room that kept the engines running - 4/28/2017 One of the ballrooms we snuck into was set up for the convention that was there when we were: StokerCon (for Horror Writers) - 4/28/2017 This is a 25 foot long model of the Queen Mary made out of Legos - 4/28/2017 And a ship poster likewise made of Legos - 4/28/2017 Our last look at the ship and sub as we headed to the hotel for a good nights rest before flying to China - 4/28/2017

Days Three & Four - Sat 4/29/17 & Sun 4/30/17 - 12 Hour Flight to Beijing, Lose a Day Crossing the International Date Line

Beijing Airport and Mecure Beijing Hotel
Arriving in China after a 12 hour flight (where we lost a day), we deplaned via stairs, only the second time I've done this - 4/30/2017 We took a shuttle to the baggage claim, made it through customs & immigration and met our Beijing guide to head to the hotel - 4/30/2017 First three nights we stayed at the Mercure Beijing Hotel, a great place,  - 4/30/2017

Day Five - Mon 5/1/17 - Jade Factory, Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, Drive around Beijing, Peking Duck Dinner

Driving to our first stop in Beijing
With a small group of only 11, we used small buses during the trip. This is our first morning of touring as we got to the Jade Factory - 5/1/2017 On the way through Beijing we saw some interesting buildings including this, the China Central Television Building (CCTV) - 5/1/2017 And this oddball building though I didn't catch what the building was used for - 5/1/2017

Jade Factory in Beijing
The National Stone Place, the first of many shopping visits had some great jade which they offered us at "30-40% discount" - 5/1/2017 This artist was cutting jade "generation balls", balls within balls carved from a single piece of jade - 5/1/2017 Here is one of the factory's three generation balls--they make up to five generation ones which are much larger (and more expensive) - 5/1/2017 Our sales guide showed us many jade pieces and explained how they are translucent by holding them up to the light - 5/1/2017 Like many of our shopping stops, the folks here were extremely pushy--the least favorite part of the entire tour - 5/1/2017 They did have some beautiful heirloom quality jade jewelry. Luckily I have no significant other and got away without buying any - 5/1/2017 From jewelry-sized to large sculpture, they had something for everyone - 5/1/2017 I especially liked the jade chains carved from single pieces - 5/1/2017 Most of the sculptures were well outside of my price range, though I'm pretty cheap about such things - 5/1/2017 Outside we got to pose with the first of many lions. I believe this one was made of concrete - 5/1/2017

Great Wall of China at Juyongguan near Beijing
Next stop was the Great Wall of China which we first saw through the bus window. The Great Wall was the first of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we saw on the China trip - 5/1/2017 We went to the Juyongguan section (Juyong Pass), a less traveled part as it was May Day, a Chinese Holiday We parked near the middle of the map, headed South then West to Watchtower 7 and climbed to #8 - 5/1/2017 Sam, our guide talked a bit about the history of the wall before we walked up. Watchtowers 7, 8, and 9 are straight ahead - 5/1/2017 This is the part I climbed, only to Watchtower 8 on the steepest part of the wall at Juyongguan - 5/1/2017 Thankfully, they put this thoughtful sign up to make sure I didn't over do it. BTW, my heart is fine - 5/1/2017 A gentle incline and a few dozen steps got me to Watchtower 7 where I took this shot of the South Pass Gate Tower and the Temple of Guan Yu to the east - 5/1/2017 I'm not laying down to force this to look steep, it really is that steep with most the steps being over a foot tall - 5/1/2017 From just above Watchtower 8, the view across the Juyongguan Valley of the wall to the east is spectacular - 5/1/2017 Just above Watchtower 8, as high as I went, is a gift shop which has an alternate switchback-and-fewer-steps path back down - 5/1/2017 Not only were the steps hugely tall, they varied in height so that an army could not march up the wall with ease - 5/1/2017 Some folks made it way past Watchtower 8 all the way to #13, a total of 3389 steps. I likely climed about 700 - 5/1/2017 I went to the onsite museum and got my first glimpse of the painted beams and ceilings prevalent in older Chinese building - 5/1/2017 Museum in the foreground, Watchtower 8 in the background. Doesn't look like as hard of a climb as it was - 5/1/2017 Back near the gift shops I got my first taste of how many Chinese people want their picture taken with a "big nosed" American - 5/1/2017 This is the South Pass Gate Tower - 5/1/2017 And the Temple of Guan Yu (right) and the South Pass Tower (left) - 5/1/2017 The Sluice Gate Tower sits in the middle of a resevoir toward the east with Watchtower 5 in the upper right - 5/1/2017 After our few hours at the wall, it was time for the first of many meals at a round table with a glass lazy susan in the middle. Two free glasses of Coke, Sprite, Bottled Water or Beer with every meal--Diet soft drinks are nearly unheard of in China - 5/1/2017

Ming Tombs: Changling, near Beijing
Once we were full, we went to the Changling section of the Ming Tombs, the second UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour - 5/1/2017 Sam our guide told us about what we would see in excellent English. Most signs have Chinese, Japanese, Korean, English, and Russian descriptions - 5/1/2017 Many places were walled and had gates one must pass through to get to the important buildings. This was the gate to the Tombs at Changling - 5/1/2017 This was our first look at the Imperial Roof Decorations, a Dragon at the rear, a man riding a Phoenix at the front and an odd number of Dragon Children in between. The metal around them? Lightning Rod system - 5/1/2017 Even the gate building had an ellaborately painted ceiling - 5/1/2017 Our first look at the Hall of Eminant Favour, now a museum - 5/1/2017 One of two Sacred Silk Burners where folks can make offerings - 5/1/2017 The entrance to the hall has some replica ancient Chinese instruments that are played during celebrations - 5/1/2017 The museum showcases items owned by the Yongle Emperor who reigned from 1402 to 1424. Impressive statue of him - 5/1/2017 Shoes worn by a wife or concubine of the Emperor who had her feet bound. The shoes were about 4" long - 5/1/2017 One of the Emperor's robes on display. Note that only the Emperor was allowed to have dragons on his clothing - 5/1/2017 And an amazingly detailed hat - 5/1/2017 The pillars holding up the roof are mahogany, about 50 feet tall and nearly 3 feet in diameter. It did not grow nearby - 5/1/2017 This is the Soul Tower, not the mausoleum but a tower from which you could see the mausoleum, a large round burial mound - 5/1/2017 I liked the tree that chose to grow out of the wall of the Soul Tower - 5/1/2017 Upon crossing our umpteenth huge threshold, I asked Sam why they were so tall. He said that they were to keep ghosts out as ghosts can't jump. Apparently Chinese ghosts shuffle in straight lines and can't float/fly like good old American ghosts - 5/1/2017

Ming Tombs: Sacred Passage, near Beijing
Next stop was the Sacred Passage, Shendao section of the Ming Tombs where 36 large marble statues line a beautiful walkway - 5/1/2017 Start of the passage from the north you can see the first two statues - 5/1/2017 Stephanie cozies up to a statue of a General - 5/1/2017 My turn with the same General - 5/1/2017 The statues of animals included four of each, e.g., two standing horses followed by two prone horses - 5/1/2017 Standing Qilin, a mythical beast that is offspring of a dragon - 5/1/2017 The standing elephants were huge - 5/1/2017 As were the standing camels - 5/1/2017 This is a Crouching Xiezhi, another mythological beast - 5/1/2017 And a Crouching Lion, the last of the statue pairs heading south - 5/1/2017 This rack had many red wooden ribboned items on it. When I asked Sam our guide, he said that each has a hand-written prayer or request on it - 5/1/2017 Shengong Shengde Stele Pavilion at the south end of the Sacred Way - 5/1/2017 Inside the Pavilion was this amazing statue of a turtle, a good luck animal in China - 5/1/2017

Drive past the 2008 Summer Olympics venues in Beijing
After the Ming Tombs, we drove past some venues from the 2008 Olympics on our way to the hotel. This was the Tennis Stadium - 5/1/2017 This is the Olympic Park Observation Towers - 5/1/2017 This is the "Water Cube" and the "Bird's Nest Stadium" - 5/1/2017 A more close-up view of the Bird's Nest, more formally known as the Beijing National Stadium - 5/1/2017 Beijing has some beautiful parks including this one with modern sculptures - 5/1/2017 Flowers are everywhere in the city including this display which I believe represents Christianity. Last on the list for May Day was an amazing Peking Duck Dinner which I forgot to take a picture of--too much fire water - 5/1/2017

Day Six - Tue 5/2/17 - Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace

At hotel and driving to first stop in Beijing
Lost in Translation: Icing Sugar Jam Fried Package = Jelly Doughnut - 5/2/2017 As we drove to our first destination we passed many American brands: Super 8, McDonalds, 7-11, KFC, Pizza Hut, Baskin-Robbins - 5/2/2017

Tiananmen Square, Beijing
We arrive at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City - 5/2/2017 Our first look at the Zhengyangmen Gate, the entrance to Tiananmen Square on the left. In the background is the National Museum of China - 5/2/2017 That's me in front of the Zhengyangmen Gate - 5/2/2017 The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong was closed so we could not see his body which has been lying in state in a crystal coffin since 1977. The statues of workers in front are quite nice though - 5/2/2017 The Zhengyangmen East Railway Station is now the downtown branch of the China Railway Museum - 5/2/2017 Sam gave us a bit of background on Tiananmen Square and its various buildings - 5/2/2017 One of the main structures is the Monument to the People's Heroes - 5/2/2017 This plaque describes the monument - 5/2/2017 The monument features a flag honor guard that we watched change every half hour or so - 5/2/2017 These young folks stood absolutely still for such a long time - 5/2/2017 The landscaping in front of the National Museum of China is amazing - 5/2/2017 Here is a close-up of one of the columns - 5/2/2017 The shrubbery is so crisply trimmed in hard angles. Just amazing - 5/2/2017 The Tiananmen Gate, "The Gate of Heavenly Peace" is what the square is named for - 5/2/2017 There is a fine water fountain show that is synchronized to Chinese Music in front of the gate - 5/2/2017 Not quite Bellagio quality but not a bad show - 5/2/2017

The Forbidden City, Beijing
The Tiananmen Gate is the entrance to the walled Forbidden City, the third UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour - 5/2/2017 The Forbidden City has 980 buildings and was the Imperial Palace for the Emperor from 1420 to 1912, nearly 500 years. It is now called the Palace Museum - 5/2/2017 A nice shot of Stephanie, Sam, and Bunny before we entered the Forbidden City walls - 5/2/2017 This is The Meridian Gate and in its day only the Emperor was allowed to walk through the tallest center entrance - 5/2/2017 Chinese Architecture from the 1400s was so cool - 5/2/2017 We followed in the Emperor's footsteps and went through the tall gate to get our first view the the Gate of Supreme Harmony - 5/2/2017 Crossing one of the five Golden Water Bridges, we approached the Gate - 5/2/2017 The male lion is always on the right of an entrance and is stepping on the world. This lion is jade - 5/2/2017 The Gate is an important building as you can see by the seven Dragon Children on the roof corners - 5/2/2017 The female lion on the left is seen stepping on a baby (lion cub). Doesn't seem hardly fair... - 5/2/2017 Once through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, we can see the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest building in the complex - 5/2/2017 The steps and platforms surrounding the Hall are carved marble. One of the most important buildings, this one has nine Dragon Children and an Immortal Man on the roof edges between the Dragon and the Man on Phoenix - 5/2/2017 This young fellow believed I was the Happy Buddha (aka the Laughing Buddha) and wanted to rub my belly for luck - 5/2/2017 The Copper and Iron vats were filled with water for fighting fires at the palace. There are 308 of them on-site - 5/2/2017 This sign describes the pots including how they were kept from freezing - 5/2/2017 A look at the detail in the paint on the Hall of Supreme Harmony - 5/2/2017 Harmonious isn't it? - 5/2/2017 Another lost in translation moment: We kept running into this Chinese Tour group. Yes, their hats do say what you think they say - 5/2/2017 Looking out over the buildings in the Forbidden City and you could see the famous Beijing air pollution - 5/2/2017 This is the Hall of Preserving Harmony, the living quarters of the Emperor's wife and concubines - 5/2/2017 Second most important building type, it has nine Dragon Children but no Immortal Man like the Emperor's residence - 5/2/2017 By the Palace of Earthly Tranquility you could get a close-up look at the 600 year old Terra-cotta roof tiles - 5/2/2017 The tiles are in surprisingly good shape for their age - 5/2/2017 And the end caps of each row of tiles are also ellaborate - 5/2/2017 On the patio of the Earthly Tranquility Palace were a large number of sculptures like this Turtle - 5/2/2017 Also a sun dial so the Emperor could tell how soon dinner was - 5/2/2017 At the far north end of the Forbidden City is the Emperor's Garden which was very well done - 5/2/2017 Slightly different architecture in the garden - 5/2/2017 And a very cool double trunked tree - 5/2/2017 This mountain of limestone was built by hand so that the small temple could be placed on top for the Emperor's use - 5/2/2017 I liked this tiny Chinese Imperial Gazebo - 5/2/2017 Even the walkways were well done with this fish mosaic as an example - 5/2/2017

Pearl Factory, Beijing
After leaving the Forbidden City which had many buildings named "Tranquility" we went to a shopping trip at the Pearl Factory - 5/2/2017 This lady who gave us a brief talk about pearls was anything but tranquil. I bought only a small Gelatto and they tried to upsell me on that! - 5/2/2017 Stephanie looked great when she tried on the strand of golden salt-water pearls - 5/2/2017

The Summer Palace near Beijing
After a nice lunch which I didn't take a picture of, we headed to the Summer Palace, the fourth UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour - 5/2/2017 Yesterday was May Day, a Chinese holiday, and the crowds at the Summer Palace were twice what we encountered - 5/2/2017 Lots of pollution as we looked across Kunming Lake to see the buildings - 5/2/2017 We got in line and Sam handed us our tickets for our lake crossing on this dragon boat - 5/2/2017 I gotta get me one of these! - 5/2/2017 Inside of the boat as we left the dock - 5/2/2017 If we hadn't take the boat, we could have walked around the lake crossing the 17-Arch Bridge - 5/2/2017 A nice view of the Tower of Buddhist Incense, other buildings and boats as we crossed the lake - 5/2/2017 After disembarking from our dragon, we saw this Marble Boat and were disappointed to find out that it didn't float - 5/2/2017 Our main destination on the far side of the lake was the Long Corridor - 5/2/2017 Sam explained that the Long Corridor was created so that the Emperor's mother could walk the gardens without regard for sun or rain - 5/2/2017 Quite long, the corridor is 728 meters in length, just under 800 yards - 5/2/2017 The beams in the ceiling of the corridor have around 14000 paintings on them - 5/2/2017 More jade lions in front of the Gallery of Literary Prosperity at the Summer Palace - 5/2/2017 Lots of these holey rocks displayed in Beijing. They are limestone which has been submerged in water for a few decades - 5/2/2017 Last look at some of the cool timber paintings - 5/2/2017 As we left the Summer Palace, we saw these unique painted windows. Great idea - 5/2/2017 Bronze dragon statue outside the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity - 5/2/2017 Bronze lion statue outside the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity - 5/2/2017

Driving around Beijing
As we left the Summer Palace, we saw the huge number of bicycles present on every sidewalk in Beijing - 5/2/2017 More scooters that I've ever seen, mostly electric. No working lights on the scooters, headlights or brake lights, no matter time of day or night - 5/2/2017 Also on most sidewalks are hundreds of rental bicycles from many companies. Rented by the half hour via smartphone - 5/2/2017 Every median in Beijing is very well landscaped, mostly with roses - 5/2/2017 More unique architecture in downtown Beijing as we approach our hotel - 5/2/2017 Speaking of unique - 5/2/2017

Day Seven - Wed 5/3/17 - Fly to Xi'an, Tang Dynasty Dinner Show

Arrive Xi'an, drive to hotel
Third day of sightseeing we flew to Xi'an China and saw our first and only rain on the trip. In each Chinese city there were vast number of high-rise buildings, some condos, some apartments and new ones going up beside many of them - 5/3/2017 The old city of Xi'an is an ancient walled city - 5/3/2017 Guard towers all along the perimeter - 5/3/2017 And ancient imperial architecture on each corner - 5/3/2017 The city is still surrounded by a moat. I didn't get a chance to walk the walled city though some folks in our group did - 5/3/2017 Many of the shopping areas are decorated loudly with the hope of standing out from their neighbors and drawing customers - 5/3/2017

Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an
We spent two nights in the Five-Star Golden Flower Hotel by Shangri-La - 5/3/2017 Impressive lobby with a seven story set of circular stairs which I did not use to go up - 5/3/2017 Nor did I use the stairs to go down - 5/3/2017 Rather, I used the elevator which the hotel staff was nice enough to change the carpet every day and let me know what day of the week it was - 5/3/2017

Tang Dynasty Dinner Show in Xi'an
Our first night in Xi'an took Stephanie, Bunny and me to the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show - 5/3/2017 We were the first folks at the theater and were serenaded by Chinese musicians as we dined - 5/3/2017 Six course dinner and a four act song and dance extravaganza - 5/3/2017 When this singer came out we were delighted to hear her sing Red River Valley--in Chinese - 5/3/2017 The live orchestra started the show as some of the players entered the stage - 5/3/2017 These fine ladies were seated with the percussion section of the orchestra on stage right - 5/3/2017 Some of the action took place right beside us as actors walked right past our table - 5/3/2017 Not only were there ellaborate costumes and stage props but the rear of the stage was a projection screen for amazing backdrops - 5/3/2017 The costumes were very well done - 5/3/2017 There were also some aerial stunts as part of the show - 5/3/2017 The center of the stage could also be raised and lowered for scenes - 5/3/2017 So very well done - 5/3/2017 The singing, like the rest of the music, was done live and was very beautiful - 5/3/2017 There were as many as 30 actors on the stage at once - 5/3/2017 And multiple folks flying at one time - 5/3/2017 The Chinese Drums were brought out as we neared the conclusion of the show - 5/3/2017 The Emperess donned her royal gown - 5/3/2017 And ascended to her place of aduration at the end of the show - 5/3/2017

Day Eight - Thu 5/4/17 - Xingqinggong Park, Terra-cotta Factory, Terra-cotta Warriors, Dumpling Dinner

Xingqinggong Park in Xi'an
Second day in Xi'an: Jessica our guide tells us about our first stop - 5/4/2017 Our first stop of the day was Xingqinggong Park - 5/4/2017 The first thing I saw was that there is an amusement park on site, though it was not operating while we were there - 5/4/2017 The large park contains a lake and many buildings and gardens - 5/4/2017 Each morning a group of older folks practice Tai Chih and we were invited to join them - 5/4/2017 The leader of the group, in pink, is in her mid nineties. Hope I can still move if I live that long - 5/4/2017 Wisely, they didn't loan us any swords... - 5/4/2017 A nice collection of newer rides at the amusement park - 5/4/2017 Luckily, this motorcycle ride was not running as it likely would have made me sick - 5/4/2017 Not sure why the blood on a kiddie ride? - 5/4/2017 We were likewise invited to join the crowd of folks dancing - 5/4/2017 Live music and lots of folks participating - 5/4/2017 Part of the dance revolved around two ladies dressed as donkeys - 5/4/2017 Gate 1 gave each of us our own fan so we could join in - 5/4/2017 One of the two donkeys we danced with - 5/4/2017 During a break from dancing we had the opportunity to take pictures with many of the locals - 5/4/2017 But the music and donkey dancing continued without me - 5/4/2017 I finally got close to the donkeys - 5/4/2017 I've got to get me one of these costumes for Halloween this year - 5/4/2017 As we headed towards a meditation session we saw this amazing tree - 5/4/2017 Most days in the park there is a band and chorus who get together to play Chinese folk tunes - 5/4/2017 Invited into the center of the band, they greeted us with the only American tune they could play--Jingle Bells. It was such fun singing for our new friends - 5/4/2017

Terra-cotta Warriors Workshop in Xi'an
We saw many interesting sights on the bus while driving to our next stop this morning - 5/4/2017 The Terra-cotta Warriors Workshop is the only authorized entity that can produce Warrior replicas for sale - 5/4/2017 They even provided some warriors outside for our photo ops - 5/4/2017 Though they were difficult to get right... - 5/4/2017 Produced as they were 2000 years ago, the factory creates full-size and smaller warriors - 5/4/2017 They produce the smaller figures in large quantities - 5/4/2017 <b>REALLY</b> large quantities - 5/4/2017 Like the originals, the heads are removable on the largest models AND finished by hand so that no two are alike - 5/4/2017 Our workshop guide told us all about the creation of the figures - 5/4/2017 In addition to creating figures by pushing logs of clay into the plaster molds, this lady then cleans up the wet figures after they are un-molded - 5/4/2017 They look to be produced in at least six different sizes - 5/4/2017 Here is one of the molds opened to show both halves. Filled with rolled clay snakes, not poured slip like done in the Senior Centers here - 5/4/2017 And you can get two heads for your full-sized Warrior--one traditional and one sculpted with your face on it - 5/4/2017 Note that no statue of Emperor Qinshihuang was present at the actual Warriors site--his body was/is there, no need for a replica - 5/4/2017 Not quite as pushy as at some stops, this fellow gave me an extra discount after I correctly answered a number of Warriors trivia questions - 5/4/2017 The second floor of the workshop is where they create laquered wood products - 5/4/2017 Beautiful and expensive works were available as well as smaller laquered boxes and such - 5/4/2017 I found myself wishing that I had a use for a Chinese Laquered Screen - 5/4/2017 Painting, inlaying, and laquering are all done by hand by skilled artisans - 5/4/2017

The Terra-cotta Army (Mausoleum of Emperor Qin) near Xi'an
After a lunch that I failed to photograph, we headed to the site of the Terra-cotta Warriors. There is an extensive website for the Mausoleum Museum but be aware that the site is in Chinese - 5/4/2017 The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is the fifth UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour - 5/4/2017 The Mausoleum/Terra-cotta Army campus is separated into three Excavation Pits and a Museum. Pit 1 (left) & Pit 2 are shown here. Pit 3 is behind Pit 2 and the Museum is off to the right - 5/4/2017 My first view of the warriors was just as amazing as I thought it would be - 5/4/2017 The building that covers Pit 1 is quite impressive with a walkway all round the outer edge - 5/4/2017 This picture shows something of how big the building is: 750 feet long x 200 feet wide - 5/4/2017 The troops are shown in formation approximately where each was found. Note that behind these rows you can see soldiers still being excavated - 5/4/2017 Even on a weekday there are huge numbers of people here but the crowd seemed pretty friendly - 5/4/2017 I walked the exterior in a counter-clockwise path. So cool - 5/4/2017 Heads were cast and sculpted separately and some of the statues are missing theirs as they could not be reconstructed - 5/4/2017 Also present in the pits were many horses (calvary and chariot pullers) as well as 100 or so wooden chariots and lots of weapons - 5/4/2017 This is how the warriors are found, smashed to pieces. They are lovingly exhumed and put back together - 5/4/2017 Near the rear of Pit 1 are the statues most recently reconstructed - 5/4/2017 This is the "hospital" where the soldiers are reconstructed. You can see straps as well as stretch (Saran) wrap holding pieces together as their morter/clay sets - 5/4/2017 The world's most difficult jigsaw puzzle? - 5/4/2017 More statues in various states of reconstruction - 5/4/2017 A view from behind the soldiers - 5/4/2017 Soldiers are of different ranks and stations which can be discerned by their uniforms and head wear - 5/4/2017 The soldiers were found in 1974 when villagers were digging a well. The well was in this corner of Pit 1 - 5/4/2017 The coolest thing ever - 5/4/2017 Approximately 1000 warriors have been reconstructed of 7000+ estimated to be in Pit 1 - 5/4/2017 Empty spaces behind the horses were where the wooden chariots were, long since disintegrated - 5/4/2017 Pit 2 is not nearly as excavated as Pit 1 and gives good glimpses into how hard this work must be - 5/4/2017 Some soldiers will be easier to reconstruct than others - 5/4/2017 This picture shows that the warriors were at one time painted in bright colors. The paint falls off when exposed to the atmosphere - 5/4/2017 Pit 2 has an example of each type of warrior behind glass. This is the standing archer. His bow was lost to the ravages of time - 5/4/2017 This is a chariotier with one of his horses - 5/4/2017 The high ranking officer would have had his hands on his sword, also lost to time - 5/4/2017 The middle ranking officer would have held a wooden weapon with a bronze tip - 5/4/2017 Lastly was the kneeling archer - 5/4/2017 Another look at an active excavation in Pit 2 - 5/4/2017 Pit 3 has been completely excavated and was believed to be the command post for the army - 5/4/2017 In the basement of the onsite museum are the Bronze Chariots, half-size replicas of chariots found buried near the soldier. This is chariot two - 5/4/2017 Chariot one is, I believe, the cooler of the two. These chariots are among the 64 historic artifacts that can never leave China - 5/4/2017 On walking back to our bus after seeing the warriors we went through a market area and saw these cool sculptures made of twisted wire - 5/4/2017

Backstreets and Dumpling Dinner in Xi'an
While walking in the back streets to our Dumpling Dinner, we passed many interesting sites including this scooter with recycled cardboard. We saw many, many of these in China - 5/4/2017 Chicken feet prepared in a couple of different ways - 5/4/2017 And there was the China Welfare Lottery offices - 5/4/2017 We passed the huge golden dumpling on our way to our upstairs private room - 5/4/2017 If everyone looks happier than me perhaps its because they are drinking beer and I only have Coke - 5/4/2017

Day Nine - Fri 5/5/17 - Fly to Shanghai

Stuck in the Xi'an Airport
We got delayed on our way to Shanghai and spent six hours in the Xi'an airport. Luckily there was all the Perch Coffee we wanted - 5/5/2017

Day Ten - Sat 5/6/17 - In Shanghai: The Jade Buddha, The Bund, Yuyong Garden, Peking Acrobat Show

Driving around Shanghai
Shanghai is likewise a beautiful city with many art installations on the streets - 5/6/2017 And the medians again were filled with rose bushes - 5/6/2017 With little room to grow outward, the city goes upward instead. This Ferris Wheel sits atop a shopping mall - 5/6/2017

The Jade Buddha Monastery in Shanghai
We made it to our first stop, the set of temples collectively known as the Jade Buddha Temple - 5/6/2017 I believe this to be the Heavenly Kings Hall at the Jade Buddha Temple - 5/6/2017 Not Buddhas but protectors of the Buddha - 5/6/2017 This set of temples has many, many Buddha statues in addition to the one made of jade - 5/6/2017 More protectors of Buddha - 5/6/2017 Buddha in an exaborate display cabinet - 5/6/2017 Even multiple Buddhas in the same building - 5/6/2017 This beautiful wood carving is a drum - 5/6/2017 And a large bronze bell. Glad I'm not the Buddha that sits inside this bell - 5/6/2017 I love the statues that have many arms - 5/6/2017 And this large Buddha sculpture was in an entire wall of Buddha sculptures - 5/6/2017 The lanterns were, I believe, outside the entrance to the Jade Buddha building - 5/6/2017 There is no photography allowed of the Jade Buddha so I got this one from the web. Very well done in White Jade - 5/6/2017 There was a plaza where one could burn candles and incense in prayers to Buddha - 5/6/2017 Lots of incense was being burned while we were there - 5/6/2017 This was a four sided, four faced Buddha statue - 5/6/2017 Speaking of arms, this statue had about 36 of them - 5/6/2017 Last of the golden Buddha statues before we left the Jade Buddha Temple - 5/6/2017

The Bund in Shanghai
Next stop was The Bund, the financial district of Shanghai - 5/6/2017 From the street the view toward the river is quite well done with wall made of flowers - 5/6/2017 Like on Wall Street, there is also a bronze Bull sculpture - 5/6/2017 The flower walls are very well done - 5/6/2017 As you can see. Across the street are many of the large banks built in the 1930s and 40s - 5/6/2017 View across the Huangpu River at the Oriental Pearl Tower, a Radio & TV tower - 5/6/2017 On the right is the Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China and the second tallest building in the world. Note the haze/air pollution while looking at the skyscrapers less than half a mile away - 5/6/2017 On the near side of the Bund are many statues and gardens - 5/6/2017 The Bund is a popular destination for wedding and engagement photos - 5/6/2017 A look back down the river showing all the English Architecture financial buildings on the right - 5/6/2017 A community of Monks enjoyed the view of the skyscrapers as we did - 5/6/2017 A close-up of the Bund Bull statue - 5/6/2017 One last look at the buildings across the river at the Bund - 5/6/2017

Silk Embroidery Shop in Shanghai
Next stop prior to lunch was a shop and museum of Silk Embroidery. This portrait of Princess Diana is actually hand embroidered on silk - 5/6/2017 I very much wish I needed one of these Chinese Screens as they were quite well done - 5/6/2017 All different kinds of pictures were available at the Embroidery Shop - 5/6/2017 Below the Terra-cotta Warrior picture are many pictures that were sold that day. The buyer signs the back to assure that they receive the one they paid for - 5/6/2017 Near our restaurant was the American Baby International English company where you can learn to "Speak Like American Born!" - 5/6/2017 With only 11 of us on the tour, we got to go to some local restaurants that a larger group could not. The Sunday Restaurant was so local that they had no forks--they'd never had a group of Americans in before - 5/6/2017 Behind me from right to left was hanging Chicken, Duck, and what was rumored to be Pork - 5/6/2017

"Chinatown" and the Yuyong Garden in Shanghai
After lunch we went to "Chinatown"--the place where the Chinese lived when Shanghai was owned/occupied by the English and French - 5/6/2017 Old Imperial-style buildings which now house many, many retail spaces - 5/6/2017 Beautifully done multi-story buildings - 5/6/2017 In the middle of Chinatown is the Yuyong Garden built in the 1500s - 5/6/2017 An extensive garden surrounding many water features - 5/6/2017 This is the Pavillion of Listening to Billows, obviously - 5/6/2017 Amazing deteriorated Limestone rocks abound - 5/6/2017 And some wildlife in the lagoons - 5/6/2017 I love the clay roofs with statues on them - 5/6/2017 And I love the dragons... - 5/6/2017 Even the walkways are ornate like this stone with its sculpture of three fish - 5/6/2017 The dragon's body goes much of the way around the garden - 5/6/2017 In case the dragon isn't enough, he has a toad sitting beneath his chin - 5/6/2017 Close-up of a roof sculpture. Notice that the roof has many small plants growing in its valleys - 5/6/2017 Beautifully manicured tree by the dragon body - 5/6/2017 David, our Shanghai guide, explains this sculpted relief - 5/6/2017 So well done - 5/6/2017 This is an early rendering of the garden - 5/6/2017 And more wildlife in one of the lagoons - 5/6/2017 Too many people to see it but these folks are on the Nine-ZigZags Bridge. ZigZags, like high threshholds keep the ghosts out - 5/6/2017 In such an old setting, I chose to try out the local fare--I got a Peanut Buster Parfait from Dairy Queen - 5/6/2017 We got to walk through some older parts of the city on our way back to the bus. Note that Chinese households have washers but no dryers, all cloths are air dried - 5/6/2017 Coolest walkway ever allows folks on foot to navigate this busy vehicle intersection - 5/6/2017

Ocean Hotel in Shanghai
Our hotel in Shanghai, the Ocean Hotel had a revolving restaurant on its 27th floor - 5/6/2017 The cylindrical windows in the middle were an interesting feature. Both from the outside... - 5/6/2017 And inside. My room was behind one of the cylindrical windows on the 9th floor - 5/6/2017

To the Peking Acrobat show in Shanghai
That night at dinner, we were treated to our first taste of Jellyfish. Also my last taste as it has no taste, just the consistency of an old tire - 5/6/2017 Another amazing dinner at a local restaurant - 5/6/2017 After dinner as we drove to the Peking Acrobat show, we saw many residences in the lower income areas - 5/6/2017 I love the ingenuity of the metal hoop clothes lines, some of which could be raised and lowered - 5/6/2017 The acrobat show was at a theater inside a big hotel which I believe was an Intercontental - 5/6/2017 Not a great picture but outside the theater is this huge fountain building that had water running down its sides - 5/6/2017 No pictures allowed during the Peking Acrobats show so here is the curtain before it opened - 5/6/2017 Back in my room after the show, I could see one of the most spectacular lit up buildings - 5/6/2017

Day Eleven - Sun 5/17/17 - Tour of Suzhou with Canal Boat ride, Master of Nets Garden, Shanghai by Night river cruise

Morning tour and boat ride in Suzhou
Last full day in China started with a drive to Suzhou, the Venice of the East - 5/7/2017 We took a Canal Boat tour of the canals on our way to the Humble Administrators Garden - 5/7/2017 Six of us in each boat were ferried, and serenaded on our tour - 5/7/2017 Not a gondolier, I'm not sure what our boat pilot's title is but she did a great job - 5/7/2017 Our other group was ahead of us and we got to watch them go under the many bridges on the canal - 5/7/2017 The bridges were varied in architecture and some were for only pedestrians, some for vehicles - 5/7/2017 On either side of the canal are many shops and restaurants - 5/7/2017 This restaurant or hotel had its own canal boat, substantially bigger than our boat - 5/7/2017 Some parts of the canal are quite wide while others are very narrow - 5/7/2017 We disembarked to port and walked along the canal for a bit - 5/7/2017 I didn't buy any of these steamed buns, just admired them - 5/7/2017 Hand poured Chinese lollypops where in the shape of objects and Chinese characters - 5/7/2017 A look down at a canal boat from above - 5/7/2017 I liked that this counter was made from Chinese travel guides - 5/7/2017 Lots of artisans along the Suzhou Grand Canal - 5/7/2017 This opening looks barely wide enough for two of the small boats to pass - 5/7/2017 You could buy nearly anthing in the shops - 5/7/2017 The number of tchotchkes was overwhelming. I held out and only bought magnets and postcards - 5/7/2017 Got my picture taken as part of a College Photography project - 5/7/2017 Not quite proper English but the point gets across - 5/7/2017

Lunch in Suzhou
After leaving the Canal, we headed toward lunch and I saw the Easy Richness Center! Sucks that it is boarded up, doesn't it - 5/7/2017 Lunch at another amazing local restaurant that we could not have visited had our group been tour-bus sized - 5/7/2017 Luckily, David our guide did the ordering for us as we would have had no clue - 5/7/2017 A first for me--I've never seen a locking umbrella stand in a restaurant before - 5/7/2017

Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou
After lunch we headed to the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the sixth and final UNESCO World Heritage Site on our tour - 5/7/2017 In particular, we went to the Master of Nets Garden rather than the Humble Administrators Garden - 5/7/2017 Nice use of distressed limestone to build this tunnel - 5/7/2017 An ornate Sedan Chair on display at the gardens - 5/7/2017 Lots of beautifully carved furniture in some of the buildings - 5/7/2017 And the woodworking was great - 5/7/2017 So much sculpting in just a single entranceway - 5/7/2017 More furniture with painted marble inlays - 5/7/2017 And again, the walkways were ornate using complex stone mosaics like this crane - 5/7/2017 One of the most photographed structures at the garden is this round gateway - 5/7/2017 A guard on one of the zig-zag bridges - 5/7/2017 And a Ne'er-do-well on the same bridge - 5/7/2017 I could sit on one of these benches and read a book for many hours - 5/7/2017 Lots of Koi in many ponds in the garden - 5/7/2017 Bunny looks at home in this great garden - 5/7/2017 Another zig-zag bridge to keep those pesky ghosts out - 5/7/2017

Shanghai at Night river cruise
At our last dinner, I was presented with this amazing Elephant hat by fellow tourist Cheryl. Hope I did it justice - 5/7/2017 Postponed from our first night in Shanghai, five of us took the Shanghai by Night cruise on the Huangpu River - 5/7/2017 Not sure the name but this is the building I could see from the window of my hotel - 5/7/2017 It has an amazingly varied number of themes it shows on it many LEDs - 5/7/2017 Ocean scenes, Flowers - 5/7/2017 Chinese characters in red were quite bright - 5/7/2017 Behind Stephanie you can see the hordes of folks on our boat who did not pay for the upgraded seating and had to fight for a view. It cost 30 Yuan ($4.70) to go to the nearly empty front of the boat - 5/7/2017 This is a view of the English Architecture financial buildings on the Bund - 5/7/2017 The tower in the middle is the sibling clock and bell system to Big Ben in Parliament - 5/7/2017 The crown building doesn't light up well enough for a good picture but it sure was cool - 5/7/2017 Close-up of some of the buildings to the right of the Imperial Pearl - 5/7/2017 And our first view of the Pearl tower - 5/7/2017 A nice view of the Pearl and the other skyscrapers - 5/7/2017 It was a full or near full moon the night of our tour - 5/7/2017 Such an amazing view - 5/7/2017 The tour boats are quite varied but all are as lit up as the buildings - 5/7/2017 The Pirate Ship was an unexpected vehicle. Wish I could have ridden it - 5/7/2017

Day Twelve - Mon 5/8/17 - Fly Shanghai to Beijing (3 hours), then Beijing to Los Angeles (12 hours), crash at hotel

At LAX and my souvenir haul
After 15 hours in the air and about an hour taxiing at LAX, we finally deplaned back on American soil - 5/8/2017 I brought home dozens of post cards, six magnets, seven Terra-cotta warriors and various other souvenirs. A great trip - 5/10/2017

All in all a very successful and enjoyable trip. Sam

Other photo galleries
Alaskan Inside Passage Cruise (2017) | China via Los Angeles (2017) | Iceland via Denver (2017) | New England Fall Foliage Tour (2016) | Mexican Riviera Cruise (2016) | Panama Canal Trip (2016) | Trip to the Rose Parade (2015-2016) | East Coast Rollercoaster Extravaganza (2013) | Sam & Peter's Europe Trip (2008)

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Last Modified: July 2, 2017

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