Travels in China 2012: Overview

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, Beijing, China

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, Beijing, China (2012)

Our 2012 journey to China was a private tour arranged by Great China Travel. We customized our tour so that we could learn more about the minority cultures, Buddhism, and historic sites; and try the local cuisine.

Following the Southern Silk Road (or, Tea and Horse Road), the journey began in Sichuan province. At the capital – Chengdu, we learned about the ancient Shu people in the Sanxingdui Relic Museum and how the Giant Pandas were cared for at the reserve. Then, we learned about Buddhism in Leshan and Mount Emei, one of the four holy Buddhist Mountains of China. After the enlightening experience, we went further back in time with the dinosaurs of Zigong and the Buddhist carvings of the Dazu grottos—both reminders of a world beyond us. Our final stop at Kunming was short, since it was the halfway point of our journey. Of course during our stay, we tried the spicy Sichuan food (at the mildest level as possible) and tried a herbal hotpot meal, despite the humid weather. The tour in Sichuan was organized by a single tour guide, Cathy, and driver.

China 2012

From Beijing to Sichuan province to Yunnan province (courtesy of Google Maps)

Next, we toured Yunnan province—home to the 55 minority groups of China (56 total including the Han (Chinese) people), which make up one-third of the country’s population. The Bai people are the largest group. During the time we visited, the Bai people were celebrating the Torch Festival on August 10-12, which we were lucky to witness and welcomed to join in the revelries. Here we visited several Buddhist sites, including the holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang and Meili Snow Mountain in Shangri-La and Deqin. We also explored natural wonders, such as the Stone Forest and Tiger Leaping Gorge. As a grand finale, we returned to the capital—Kunming—and marveled at the Peacock Dance by the minority groups at the theater. It is to note that in Yunnan, we had several tour guides; one at each city so gratuity must be organized as such.

Our final stop was in Beijing, where we revisited famous sites: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to see how much changed since our visit in 1998. Then, we visited the Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) and saw a Peking Opera show at Liyuan Theater. We were lucky to have organized a few things with a tour guide, who had picked us up at the airport on August 4th.

Overall, the journey was enjoyable and a great learning experience. The only concern was that we were not able to choose the food dishes; most likely this was due to the budget our tour guide had to meet. For future trips, we plan to explain to the tour coordinator that we would like to choose dishes that we would like and would meet the said budget. This would be the most ideal course to make a trip worthwhile.

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Toronto, Ontario: A Multicultural Metropolitan City

Downtown Toronto -- Hydro Canada (2013)

Downtown Toronto — Hydro Canada (2013)

After a tough semester, I spent a week (August 3-10, 2013) in Toronto– the city of my birth– to visit relatives and family friends; go sightseeing, and investigate various suburban areas (i.e. Markham and Richmond Hill) to determine the market for pharmacy. In this account, I will highlight some of the important must-see sights of Toronto and their exquisite cuisine.

August 3, 2013

We left San Francisco and arrived in Toronto on time. The plan was to meet my mother and brother, who would arrive at the airport from Montreal at 8 PM EST, at Payless car rentals. Unfortunately, we had trouble looking for the rental place, so we waited for the rest of our family before going together. After asking the airport staff, we learned that the car rental place was off-site and one had to call the place for a shuttle to go there. Not very convenient as we have liked.

We rented a Hyundai Elantra that was fairly easy to drive. Since we had not returned to Toronto in years, my father had trouble getting onto the highway toward Markham/Unionville. By the time we arrived at the Hilton Suite (formerly Markham Suite Hotel), it was already 10:30PM. We then headed to  Richmond Hill Court restaurant for a quick meal of wonton noodle soup, beef congee, ying yang fried rice, gai lan, and satay vermicelli noodles. We finally went to bed at 2 AM.

A quick near midnight dinner at Richmond Hill Court

A quick near midnight dinner at Richmond Hill Court

August 4, 2013

Breakfast at Congee Wong's

Breakfast at Congee Wong’s

In the drowsy morning, we had breakfast at Congee Wong consisting of dumplings, gai lan, congee, Chinese donut, and breadsticks.  Today, we planned to meet my aunt in downtown Toronto. We drove to Finch Ave, where we parked our car at the park-and-go area and took the subway to College Street. The fare prices were reasonable. We purchased 14 tokens for $36 CAD. Continue reading

Travels in China 2010: Overview

Bridge to Hongcun Village, Huangshan, Anhui (2010)

Bridge to Hongcun Village, Huangshan, Anhui (2010)

Private tour, except Suzhou and Hong Kong.

We chose to go on a customized, private tour hosted by Dragon Delight Tours. Below are the places we have visited during our second trip to China.

  • June 11-15, 2010: Shanghai (上海)
  • June 12, 2010: Shanghai World Expo 2010 Report
  • June 13, 2010: Suzhou, Jiangsu (江苏) province
  • June 16-18, 2010: Huangshan, Anhui (安徽) province [part I | part II]
  • June 19-20, 2010: Hangzhou, Zhejiang (浙江) province
  • June 21-22, 2010: Xi’an, Shaanxi (陕西) province
  • June 23-25, 2010: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang (广西) province [part I | part II]
  • June 26-July 2, 2010:Hong Kong (香港), Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China
China 2010 Map courtesy of Google Maps

China 2010 Map courtesy of Google Maps

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