Family from the States was in town visiting, and although we originally planned to take them to OUR favorite place in China (Guangxi province), we decided that due to it being the rainy season in that region, we'd take them somewhere else. We ended up spending time in Beijing, then headed to Xi'an for a VIP tour of the Terracotta Warriors, and finally, we ended up in Hong Kong.
Dinner at the Noodle Loft in Beijing - good Shaanxi noodles and fun to watch the noodle makers throwing the noodles around in front of you
My husband and our guests headed to Xi'an on an overnight train, and I flew with a friend and met them there the next day. I had a really cool cab driver drive me from the airport to my hotel. He was super chatty the entire way and loved that I could speak Chinese. When he realized I could read Chinese, too, that really sent him over the edge - he'd excitedly point out billboards on the roadsides as we passed and say "And that one?" "and THAT one?!!!" "and that one!!" as he had me read the billboards aloud to him. I'll tell ya - me and cab drivers in China - we have come a long way. I have learned that a friendly smile, a big "NI HAO!" (hello!), and a good attitude works wonders! I think it's pretty cool that since my last trip to Xi'an, I've pretty much come full circle - from 万事开头难 （everything has a difficult beginning) to what I think is now the opposite - everything has a difficult end! I leave China late next month. The adventure is almost over.
Because my friend's husband is the President of the Asian branch of a huge company - and the company contributes a huge amount of money to Shaanxi province's tax base - we were able to get the real VIP tour at the Terracotta Warriors site! This is the same tour that is extended to U.S. Presidents and other heads of state.
The average person only gets this close:
We got THISclose:
We were very careful not to even sneeze. Can you imagine stumbling into a cultural relic dating back to 210 B.C.?!!! These statues guard the tomb of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.
After our time in Xi'an, we headed to Hong Kong. Actually, we landed in Shenzhen, which is still in mainland China just across the way from Hong Kong. Because Hong Kong is considered an international flight, prices flying in are often much more expensive than flying into Shenzhen, which is considered a domestic flight. The process of landing in Shenzhen, taking a bus to the Hong Kong border, going through customs, and being dropped off in Causeway Bay took about 3 hours. Luckily, we flew out of Hong Kong International Airport - but if the price difference is huge, it may be worth it to fly into Shenzhen.
Bamboo scaffolding! I've only seen that in movies. Rush Hour, anyone?!
The famous Hong Kong trolley system, and double decker buses! (British influence, anyone?!)
Pretty views taken from a junket ride in Victoria Harbour
This is the site where in 1997 Hong Kong was officially handed back to China after more than 150 years of British rule
Night scenes, hard to get a good pic without a tripod
Me staring longingly into one of Hong Kong's many beautiful boutiques
View from The Peak
A reason I loved Hong Kong: a city built amid palm trees
Not the only car of this caliber seen on the streets of Hong Kong!
The Big Buddha at Lantau Island
I also ate at California Pizza Kitchen, which rocked my world, and the hubby and I also went to see an American movie in the super nice mall across the street from our hotel (we sort of have a tradition of seeing a movie in foreign cities we've been to - we've seen movies in Brugges, Victoria, Hong Kong, and Vienna).
And that's it. Hong Kong was truly one of the coolest cities I've ever been to. I love the tropical clime, the palm trees, the city built around it, the proximity to the ocean, and all the amazing shopping and restaurants. It's also definitely one of the most crowded (the most?) city I've ever been to - streets are very narrow, surrounded by high rises - it makes the streets of Beijing look extremely wide and spread out!