My experience of China tour

Bijaykanti Ray

We recently undertook a 10-day tour in Peoples' Republic of China. Except two persons all were accompanied by their spouses. Some of them were also accompanied by their children. Most of the families were from Tripura. Only there were two families from West Bengal and one family from Assam. Unfortunately, one family from Tripura could not clear immigration formalities in Netaji Subhas International air-port, Kolkata.

This tour was organized through Cox and Kings. My experience of foreign tour is quite limited. Naturally there was a lot of excitementparticularly because the present tour was in China. Though there was plan for foreign –tour, we never thought of visiting China. Butsometimes things happen like that. In fact Ipersonallybelieve that whatever happens in our lives are decided by some unknown forces. One of the factors of visiting China was perhaps the fact that there were many friends in the group.

As per the itinerary, we started for Kunming in the midnight of 15th June By the China Eastern Airlines. It is only a journey of two hours and thirty five minutes from Kolkata. China is a big country probably three times that of our country. But Kunming is situated near our Arunachal Pradesh. Contrary to our expectation food served in the flight was very substandard. We actually started on16th morning since it was after 12.00 in the night.  Kunming local time was then 03.05 am. It is so because China is further east in reference to our India. We landed in the Kunming International Airport in the dotted time. It was morning but the sun was yet to rise. A peculiar feeling engulfed my mind on setting foot on a land I have never dreamed of going on tour. It is really a feeling of joy I realized the truth that'The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands.'-Sir Richard Burton. Any new land which I have not visited within the country or abroad is always a matter of attraction to me.

Kunming International Airport is a big one. A lot of time was taken to clear the immigration because the immigration counter was poorly staffed. After immigration clearance we rushed to the departure lounge to catch the flight to Xian. It was a flight of two hours and ten minutes. During the flight from Kolkatato Kunming International airport, the topography seems to be like our Assam. Kunming airport seems to me like our Guwahati airport but of course, much bigger than Guwahati.

As per the arrangement made by the Cox and Kings one guide was there with us from Kolkata. They engage also a local guide. A beautiful Chinese lady was our local guide for Xian. After we came out of the airport we found her waving the Cox and Kings Flag. We were escorted to a beautiful bus. Mrs.Mai our local guide for Xian took command of the group and introduced herself to us and explained to the group about the programme of the day.

After one hour drive from the airport we reached our hotel. It is Palace Hotel, a 27storey building. I and my wife were provided a room in 20th floor. We have never stayed in such high-rise building before.

Xian is the capital of Shaanxi province. Its population is about  120 lakhs. The oldest archeological relics of human civilization were found in Xian and nearby areas.

After taking some rest we went to enjoy a cultural programme in the Sun shine theatre. A beautiful dance programme was presented by the artists. We have never enjoyed such exotic dance programme before. Some of the moves resembled Russian belle. The spectators remained spell-bound for two hours. A beautifully dressed Chinese dancer welcomed the visitors. Our ladies took photographs with the girl as a memento of the visit.

Xian is a beautiful city with hundreds of high-rise buildings. It is clean. The streets are wide and lined with thousands of beautiful trees and flowers. In fact they say Xian is a flower city. There is discipline in the traffic, no honking anywhere. Presence of police was almost invisible. The foot-paths are cleared for the pedestrians. In our country the foot-paths are always occupied by the petty shop-keepers and venders. What is surprising is that the city streets are not crowded like our cities though the population of the country is much more than ours.

On day 2 we have visited the archaeological site of amazing Terracotta Warriors. In 1974,near Xian in central China the villagers while digging a well chanced upon what has become one of the world's  most astonishing archaeological findings-an 8000 men army in battle ready formation, each warrior a life size figure in pottery made over2200years ago. Restoration work is still going on. This is now the eighth wonder of the world. The UNESCO declared the site as world heritage relics.

We had also visited the famous Shan Xi Museum. It is a center forcollection, preservation, research and exhibition of cultural properties in Shaanxi Province. The Museum has a collection of around 200000 pieces of relics. Xian is one of the most ancient site of human civilization. Thousands of people visit the Museum every day.

On day 3 we visited the ancient City Wall built in 1374 AD by the Tang dynasty for defense of the city. It is built of grey bricks and are still standing from the middle ages. It is in fact the only city wall in China now. We have taken photographs of this beautiful site. The enthusiasts among the group held a long photo session in this ancient site.

We have then visited the Big Wild Goose pagoda which houses sutras collected by a wandering Chinese Monk in India celebrating the on-set of Buddhism in China. It is difficult to conceive how a monk could travel such long distance to reach India on foot through the inhospitable route facing danger at every step.

On day4 we have boarded high speed train for overnight journey to Beijing. In China English is not understood by the people in general. In the train a ticket collector came to our compartment for checking the ticket. But because of language problem he could not do his duty. Being disgusted he left the compartment. We enjoyed the fun.

The journey was quite comfortable. The compartment was very clean. All stations and the railway track was found very clean. We normally do not find it in our country.

Before leaving Xian railway station, our guide Mrs. Mai took leave of us. Everybody in the group was very impressed with the service of her. She always extended her helping hand whenever required.

At 7 am we reached Beijing railway station. It is a huge station and appears to be like a big airport. After getting out of the station we found our local guide waiting for us.

We straightway moved for the Mc Donald's for breakfast. After breakfast we visited the Summer Palace, a magnificent imperial garden located 12 km west of Beijing city. It was a summer retreat for emperors and a chosen few in the past. It is now the largest and most ancient preserved garden in China. We enjoyed the site and the lake. A beautiful bridge connects a small artificial island in the lake.

We then visited the Olympic park. It is a sprawling complex surrounded by a string of beautiful buildings. Outside view of the Water- Cube, the national Aquatic Centre and the National stadium also known as the Bird's nest was very impressive. A shopping complex is also there in the exit of the Olympic Park. Everybody in the group waste no time and resorted to marketing. Unlike many other marketing areas, rates are fixed here.

In the evening we had our dinner in an Indian restaurant. In fact we have taken our meals mostly in Indian restaurants. In all the cities that we have visited there are a no .of Indianrestaurants. We have also occasionally taken food in the Chinese restaurants. This is the first time that I have tasted pure Chinese food. The difference is quite palpable. It seems to me that the Chinese food arehealthier. They do not use spices like us. What is surprising that while tea packets are supplied in the hotels they do not give sugar like other countries. They also do not supply salt in the table. The secrets of their good health may be lying in that. By 8 pm their dinner time is over. Sometimes we were to finish our dinner before sunset. That is the Chinese norm.

On day 5 we had visited the famous Jade Factory. All kinds of jewelry items are prepared from the stone available in the nearby hills. It is very costly. Many from our group purchased the jewelry because it is difficult to restrain the women folk. Many other items are also prepared from these stones for decoration of drawing rooms. The skill of the Chinese workers is really appreciable.

Our main purpose of the day was to visit the Great Wall of China-Badaling by cable car. It is the only human construction visible from the Moon. It is an unforgettable experience to climb the wall though in cable-car. It is one of the oldest monuments of the world and a symbol of Chinese civilization. Just like a gigantic dragon, it winds up and down across desert, grasslands,mountains and plateaus from east to west of China. Traditionally it is known as the 'Wall of Ten Thousand Li'. It left us spell-bound by its sheer magnitude and architectural splendor.

We had then visited the Imperial Tombs at ChanglingTombs, the only existing burial chambers of the Ming Emperors. Outside the site there are a no. of small shops selling different articles. Many of us purchased small mementos like caps umbrellas etc.

On day 6 we visited the famous Tiananmen Square. It is one of the 10 biggest square of the world. Nicely maintained flower gardens and a string of beautiful buildings around the square gives amajesticlook of the resurgent China. Here is the place where Mao Zedong declared the birth of communist China after the successful revolution on 1st October, 1949.

While enjoying the beauty of the sprawling complex, a feeling of sadness engulfed my mind by remembering the communist government's repression of the uprising of the young Chinese students revolting against the government for democratic reforms. 

Thousands of students were reportedly killed by the army to suppress the movement in this very square. The protest stated on 15th April 1989 and ended on 4thJune. The Chinese army crushed the movement with assault rifles and tanks. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundreds to several thousand with thousands more wounded.

Tiananmen gate and crowned by a tower with a typical tiled roof and the museum of the history and revolution. Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly peace) is the original gate of the imperial palace better known as Forbidden City. Our Chinese guide advised us not to visit the last palace where the bodies of the emperors lay buried deep under the ground because they consider it not auspicious.

Next day we started for Shanghai a city of three crores of people and the biggest city of China. While Xian is the city of Chinese culture and heritage, Beijing is the seat of power, Shanghai is the financial capital of China. It took four and half an hour to reach Shanghai from Beijing by bullet train at a maximum speed of 350 kms per hour. It is really a journey to remember for life. The bullet train is the latest proof of Chinese technology. The train is clean and very comfortable.

While travelling for four and half an hour we found the topography very beautiful. It reminded us of our rural Bengal but the land use appears to be more scientific. Population is concentrated in small areas look like urban areas in high-rise buildings and the areas mostly under cultivation. Unlike our Bengal entire area is not dotted by habitation. I am now satisfied that God is impartial in distributing natural beauties and resources. The beauty of rural China impressed me very much.

Shanghai literally means 'the city on the sea' lies on the Yangzi River delta at the point where China's main waterway completes its5500 kms. journey to the Pacific. Until 1842 it was small fishing village. Now it is the biggest port of China. Now thousands of high-rise buildings are there. The city seems to be a congested one. It is a jungle of bricks and mortar.

In Shanghai we had visited the TV tower which is 263 meter high. From the top of the tower the city seem to be a fairy land of buildings. It gives a similar impression which we had felt from the top of the Empire State Building, USA.

In the evening we had enjoyed a cruise on the Huangpu River, gazing at the mighty skyscrapers, the monument tower. it looks very panoramic when rainbow colours are beamed on the buildings. We shall remember the scene for a long time.

In the evening we had enjoyed anastounding'Acrobatic Show 'in the local theatre.

Next morning we enjoyed a ride in the world's fastest train the Maglev train from the city railway station to the Shanghai Airport. We started for Kunming by air via Nanjing.

Onthelast day of our visit we visited the flower city. It is a beautiful garden under a covered area. A lot of flowers have been planted in geometrical pattern. The aesthetic value of the garden is great.

The last programme of our China visit was to see the Stone Forest. The Stone forest or Shilin is situated in the shilin Yi Autonomous County. The set of lime stone formation can be found in an area of 500 is 90 km away from the provincial capital of Kunming in Yunnan Province. It is believed to have formed 270 million years ago. UNESCO has declared the site as the world heritage.

We have enjoyed the site very much. The government spared no efforts to maintain the site. To increase the beauty of the site flowers of various colors have been planted in huge numbers.

Again at midnight we boarded the Kolkata flight from Kunming leaving behind a happy memory of our China visit. I always enjoy the fun of mapping my insignificant foot-prints in this vast world. I could also realise the truth behind the famous remarks of Gustav Flaubert 'Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.'

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