My Travels to the Other Side of the World and Back

Originally written August 8, 2013

Our Travel Adventures- To The Other Side Of The World And Back

The Flying Chagall- Nan Lin Gardens against Buildings of Hong Kong

I’m Baaaaack!  I have so much to share.  It’s been an amazing month! The pinnacle of it all was an incredible journey that my family and I made… to China! Yes, that was my big secret which I was unable to leak.  But now we’re home safely and, as my husband always jokes when we approach our house from a long trip, the windows are still intact and there’s no police tape surrounding it.  A good sign! So where to begin?  I suppose I should reveal how this adventure unfolded.  My husband was asked to give a talk in Beijing and there happened to be a conference in Hong Kong that he was interested in.  So he decided to make a trip of it and we happily tagged along! The other part I forgot to mention is that afterwards we went to Niagara Falls.  Come again?  It emerged that the cheapest and most direct flight was out of Toronto.  So- we drove up to Canada, flew to Hong Kong, then Beijing, then back to Toronto, and hit Niagara Falls on the way back. Ready for some pictures?

View of Hong Kong Bay at dawn

View of Hong Kong Bay at dawn

The Flying Chagall- Hong Kong Harbor with Boat The only benefit of being jet-lagged (after a 15 hour flight and a 12 hour time difference) is that we caught some beautiful sunrises- since we were wide awake! Hong Kong by day is pretty spectacular, too.  It’s very modern, easy to navigate, and eclectic.  It was a British Soverignty until 1997 and retains many of it’s western influences.

10,000 Buddhas Monestary. The figures in the front were carrying an umbrella not because of rain but because of heat!

10,000 Buddhas Monestary. The figures in the front were carrying an umbrella not because of rain but because of heat!

A Long Armed Buddha

A Long Armed Buddha

And yet Hong Kong is stuffed with old, traditional neighborhoods and quiet monasteries.  We almost gave up on finding the one pictured above.  The secluded pathway to it wound up the side of a steep hill, past colorful, rugged buildings with yelping dogs- then up a long staircase lined with golden Buddhas to an oasis of shrines with miniature Buddhas, well over 10,000!

Whatever you do, don't feed the monkey!

Whatever you do, don’t feed the monkey!

I had to include this sign.  Unfortunately, I never caught a glimpse of the said monkey.  But it made me realize just how far away we were.  Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin Nunnery

A funny story.  We had reached the courtyard of this beautiful Buddhist convent.   I read a sign at the entrance (with an English translation) that said to leave your cares behind and enter tranquilly.  Then, boom!  I tripped over the threshold and yelled out as I fell!
It appears that most monasteries and temples in China have a large doorframe to step over to remind you to enter reverently.  I wish I would had known, I even stopped a Monk from chanting as I made my grand entrance!
Front gates of The Summer Palace

Front gates of The Summer Palace

Then on to Beijing, which was another 4 1/2 hour plane ride from Hong Kong.  It felt like a whole different world, too.  For one thing, it is  ginormous!  It’s the 6th largest city in the world with 17 million people, 3 times the population of New York City!
There is a very real smog problem as well due to the influx of automobiles and industry.  Even though we landed in the daytime, we were unable to see the city until the plane had nearly touched the ground.  The smog was that thick and didn’t let up until a few days later when it rained.
Pictured above is the front gate of The Summer Palace, an imperial summer home and grounds which is now a National Park.  We stood out like a sore thumb there since there were very few westerners.  My poor daughter became mobbed at one point with people clambering to take a picture with her.  We vowed to put her hair up under a hat from that point on!
The Flying Chagall- Temple Buildings in The Summer Palace- Beijing
I was amazed at the scope and attention to detail at the Summer Palace.  Every beam was carved and hand-painted, every tree was trimmed just so, and beautiful rocks where brought in so that every view was spectacular.
China is very proud of its Pandas!

China is very proud of its Pandas!

The Beijing zoo was enormous.  Unfortunately, that was the day it decided to rain so many of the animals stayed indoors.  We went indoors as well, into the aquarium with all the other thousands of Chinese who decided to go to the zoo that day.
But oddly enough, the crowds began to thin soon after we arrived.  The reason became clear an hour later when we stumbled into a gigantic arena with an indoor dolphin show just ending.  That’s where everyone was!
View of The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall was as spectacular as it’s hyped up to be!  As I had mentioned, it rained the day before so we were graced with a pristine blue sky and an awe-inspiring view. I had imagined that it would be quite a climb to get there but then a smooth walkway once we were up along the wall itself. Not so. There were literally thousands of little steps in all shapes and sizes any time there was an incline (or decline) and often leading up to the majestic towers along the wall.

Majestic View of The Great Wall of China

But it was so worth it!

The Bird's Nest from the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The Bird’s Nest from the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was quite impressive.  It is mainly used as a tourist area now.  We arrived there at Sunset, just as the Bird’s Nest and Aquatic Center became illuminated.

The Beijing National Aquatics Center

The Beijing National Aquatics Center

There were street vendors every way you turned peddling souvenirs and long rows of paper kites which were quite remarkable against the backdrop of the luminous Aquatics Center.

Entrance to the Forbidden City

Entrance to the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace for almost 500 years.  Most Westerners know of it because it was the site of the movie, The
Last Emperor.  But it really was a forbidden city, closed to everyone except the Emperors and their households.
Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

And like everything else in Beijing, it was humongous.  A truly dazzling sight and much like the summer palace, every beam was carved and painted, every pathway carefully thought out, and no attention to detail left behind.

It was difficult to leave China once we had immersed ourselves in its culture but it helped to anticipate the lovely Niagara Falls.

So after (only) a 12 1/2 hour flight from Bejing to Canada we arrived at the Toronto Airport and booked a room at the airport hotel so that we could crash.  But we were up at dawn and eagerly made our way down to Niagara Falls before heading home. What a Marvelous Sight!

Bird's Eye View of Niagara Falls

Bird’s Eye View of Niagara Falls

We couldn’t have chosen a more ideal way to end our vacation.  The falls were stunning and mesmerizing- a soothing antidote to our jet lag! It has taken us awhile to adjust and re-enter life back home.  I think it will take even longer to process all that we’ve experienced.  But each time we sort through our photos, hand out our souvenirs, and tell our stories, our adventures are slowly unravelling and embedding themselves into our memories. Do you like to travel?  Please comment below and tell me a story about your own adventures with a foreign culture.  Also tune in next week as I share further in-depth impressions and inspiration gleaned from our trip to China. Until then, Have A Safe And Tranquil Week! (without tripping on any thresholds!)

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