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China: Trip fulfills visitor's wishes

by Rosemary McGrath
| November 25, 2010 8:00 PM

I want to thank our Chamber of Commerce and their tour organizer, Ginger Dalvini, for offering the exceptional trip to China at such reasonable rates, treating us to many popular tourist sights firsthand. After a lifetime of storybook tales about Marco Polo and the Silk Road, reading labels with "Made in China" on the backs of so many everyday objects here at home, and reading ongoing news articles about the emerging power of China, I wanted to see China for myself.

On a trip like this, I was happy to see master artisans at their crafts - handmade silk rugs, fine embroidered wallhangings, stunning pearl jewelry, and jade artwork. The markets were bustling and the bargaining could be fierce! And of course, it was delightful to enjoy an introduction to the tea culture at the famous Dragon Well tea plantation. The cuisine was consistently Chinese, and the Peking Duck dinner was delicious.

We travel for many reasons. I wanted to see the famous sights I'd read about in history books and seen on TV news programs - The Great Wall, the Bund in Shanghai, the bizarre stone gardens of Suzhou - the "Venice of the East", Tian An Men Square - the largest (and infamous!) square in the world, the Forbidden City - home to 24 Emperors with a total of 9,999 rooms, and West Lake in Hangzhou. To paraphrase former President Richard Nixon, "Beijing may be the capital of China, but West Lake in Hangzhou is its heart." This is where he had his historic meeting with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972. It was after those historic meetings with Mao in Beijing and Zhou Enlai in Shanghai and Hangzhou that Nixon said, "This was the week that changed the world, as what we have said in that Communique is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past. And what we have said today is that we shall build that bridge." Our October 2010 trip was a part of that bridge-building exercise that continues to this day!

We traveled by luxury bus, hopped on the fastest train in the world - the Mag-Lev to the Shanghai Airport, and meandered along narrow lanes on pedal-powered rickshaws in Suzhou. I'm so glad I didn't miss out on any of the world-renowned tourists sites - and I'm so happy to have seen them firsthand! Luckily, we were invited to a more intimate gathering with a local family at their modest home in the historic district in Suzhou for lunch. After our meal, we were treated to a trick cricket performance by a cricket-trainer - who knew there was even such a thing as a trick cricket trainer! I've traveled enough to know that if you want everything to be like home, then stay home - really! Travel is tiring and you have to be up for the adventure. My daughter has traveled widely in China, and I agree with her that all I really needed to bring was a sturdy pair of shoes, a bit of historic perspective, and a positive attitude. I'm so grateful that I was able to keep up with the pace of this memorable tour, enjoying the encouragement and camaraderie of my fellow travelers. Now whenever I see articles about China, it tweaks my interest and I can put a face to the place.

Rosemary McGrath is a Fernan resident.

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