Friday was our last full day in China and the only day we did not have a single thing planned! After running all day and night each day we've been here, Josh and I took our last and only free day as a luxury to be savored. We slept in, ate breakfast, poked around shops, ate lunch, and soaked in the overall ambiance of the city. Sadly, I forgot to charge my camera, but I have taken over 1,000 pictures in a little more than a week, so that should last me. :)
This morning, we were up early to catch our flight back home to the United States. I am writing this on my Blackberry while we wait for our flight. I cannot believe we have only been gone a week. It seems as though we have seen several weeks' worth of amazing sights! Although, China is such a huge, tremendously diverse country, and so I'm sure we've only had a small taste of all that is here to experience.
That said, although I am sad to leave and go back to the grindstone, I am looking forward to seeing my dogs, house, and eating some In 'N' Out stateside. Of course, I'm sure my normal activities will not make nearly as interesting posts. Good thing we are already brainstorming for the next trip!
A few random reflections on the trip as it comes to a close:
- Although I have wanted to go to China for a long time, I must say it surpassed my expectations. The people were so friendly and the history and sights went far beyond my expectations. Sadly, I'm sure my camera captured only a fraction of the beauty of the gardens, water villages, and cityscapes we saw. Suffice to say that, if you are considering a trip to China, go and see all this in person!
- Many people looked at me like we were crazy when I said we weren't going to travel with a group, but it was the best decision, in my opinion. We got to see what we wanted to see at our own pace, avoid many crowds, and have a truly custom and intimate travel experience. A private guide is the way to go. The Chinese government licenses guides after they have passed several tests (including national history, foreign language, and foreign cultures/cultural sensitivity), so the guides we encountered were knowledgeable and professional. Also, they are relatively inexpensive if you book them directly (as opposed to through an American travel company). We paid approximately $45 per day for our guides. If you are going to Beijing, we highly recommend Mary. She was, by far, our favorite guide.
- Even when we weren't with a guide, it was relatively easy to get around. I printed out the names and addresses of our hotels in Chinese and carried them with us. Most taxis were able to get us back to our hotel after we handed them this paper. If we wanted to go somewhere, we just had the bell hop at the hotel tell the driver the name and address of our destination.
- Despite the friendliness, we did get a lot of local people staring at us like we were aliens. Mary told us that many of these people were domestic tourists and had likely never seen a foreigner. It was pretty wild being the only westerners in a large crowd and having multiple sets of eyes taking you in. At times, it was a bit unnerving, to be honest.
- Chinese people are teeny tiny compared to us, so I felt like a giant whale next to many of the 80-pound women! Definitely good motivation to work out when we get home.
- I loved blogging about the trip as it happened. Before we left, I wondered if blogging would become a hassle or a burden on the trip, but it did not. Rather, I looked forward to organizing our pictures from the day and putting together a recap instead of writing in a travel journal, which is what I usually do. The blog was great because it became an interactive travel journal of sorts, and I loved sharing our experiences with our family and friends as they happened! Technology is so amazing!
Alright, off to wait for the plane. Get this: our flight leaves from Shanghai at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and we arrive in Los Angeles at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday . . . gotta love the time change! Next time you hear from me, we'll be back in the good 'ole U.S. of A.
再見中國 (Goodbye China)!