This tour was 4 weeks total. It was arranged by Grand Circle. They did a great job, but this was a long time to be in China, even though there was a lot to see, and we were kept busy all the time. We took over 1800 photos with our new digital camera. In order to organize and name the 248 pictures I chose for this site, I used 3 different software programs, not including Dreamweaver which I use to create the actual web pages. I've created a web gallery for each category. This gives you the opportunity to click on a thumbnail of a picture and the larger version is shown. You can cycle through the pictures then come back to this page or home.

At right is the route we took. We were in Tokyo a couple of days, then started the China portion in Beijing. The red line in the center is where we took the Yangtze River cruise. After Hong Kong we flew to Bangkok for a few days. A lot of bus and plane rides. The buses are made for small (Asian) people, so not real comfortable. I got very ill on this trip as did a lot of others on our tour. We never ate raw vegetables or drank the water, but sanitary conditions are NOT good. It will be a long time until I eat Chinese food again!

Map of the tour we took.

We arrived in Tokyo a day late, so we missed the city tour. Our plane from LA had a minor problem and we were taken to Anchorage to spend the night before continuing on the Tokyo. (The repair part was in Alaska).

It was very cloudy and foggy in Tokyo. The trip to Mt. Fuji, which was supposed to take 1 1/2 hours, took 5 hours as the traffic was terrible. When we got there we couldn't see the mountain for the fog. There were at least 40 bus loads of people up there, mostly for hiking. We took a little boat ride on a lake and then a gondola ride over a valley of hot springs. The battery in our camera died while we were over the hot springs. Not a good way to start our trip.

Tokyo is another large city with a lot of expressways, apartment buildings, and people. There is some greenery, large trees and hibiscus flowers. They drive on the left side of the street and also walk to the left on sidewalks. Prices are very high here. You can drink the water here though and they have nicer toilets than China.

Click to see photos:  .Tokyo

Beijing -

We start in Beijing with a tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City next to it. Beijing is built out from around this area. There are street vendors everywhere and in your face trying to sell you something. Lots of people!!

Forbidden City is the size of 160 football fields - enormous. It was off-limits to visitors for 500 years, thus the name. It contains 800 ceremonial buildings and a courtyard that can hold 100,000 people. The courtyard is built of brick and is 15 layers deep so that no one could tunnel into where the emperor was. There is a moat around it wide enough for naval engagements. Tiananmen Square is probably the largest public square in the world. In and around it are government buildings, gates to the city and the National Museum.

We see the Summer Palace (former summer retreat for the imperial family); take a rickshaw ride through the alleys for tea; see a Peking Opera; visit the Ming Tombs and Sacred Way; go to the Temple of Heaven (like a community center), visit a cloisonne factory; and of course walk on the Great Wall.

Beijing photos.

Shanghai is another large city. The pollution in these cities is terrible. You can feel it in your eyes and as you breathe. The toilets in China are mostly 'squat' type - not fun.

Here we see the Shanghai Museum of Art and History; have a Mongolian barbecue lunch; see the lavish Jade Buddha Temple; a stroll along the Bund (a riverfront promenade); and there is a cruise on the Huangpu River.

An all day tour to Suzhou takes us to visit to a silk carpet factory and a silk production factory; and cruise down the Grand Canal with it's bridges and gardens.

We go to the apartment of a local Chinese woman where we have lunch which was prepared by her mother. Everything was homemade that morning on her 2 burner stove. The kitchen is small with no microwave or regular oven. We had a least a dozen dishes - probably the best of all the Chinese food we had. The Grand Circle Co. pays the people where we have the home hosted lunch or other visits. In fact they tell the hostess what dishes to serve; although it appears that they each add a couple of things not on the list. We broke into smaller groups as each home holds 8 people and there were 2 tours of 40 people each.


In Wuhan we board our ship for the Yangtze River cruise. This is the third largest river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile. We watch the scenery and hear about the Three Gorges Dam project, which is displacing over 1 million people. When finished there will be huge new locks and a reservoir equal in size to Singapore. We see a variety of scenery - most notable the unusual peaks of mountains which contain tombs and caves.

Side trips from the cruise take us on a small boat excursion through canyons where the boats are pulled by 'trackers' or men wading near shore. We were told that these men have to take a 5 hour boat ride to get to the site to do this job of pulling us. I wouldn't ask how much they are getting paid. We also dock at Wanxian, a large city, and visit the apartment of a farmer who was displaced by the Dam project. At Chongqing we go to the zoo to see the pandas. World-wide, there are about 110 pandas in zoos and less than 1000 living in the wild - mostly in China.  Yangtze

In Guilin there is the Li River cruise on a local boat. Here we see water buffalo and fishermen on bamboo rafts. This is also where they wash the lettuce in the river. Which is why you don't eat it.

The Yao Shan Tea Garden is a Chinese tea farm where most of the harvesting is done by hand. Their lunch presentation was very artistic... although the food wasn't really much different.

The Jiguan Kindergarten was fun for all. The children put on a little song and dance routine and painted pictures for us. It should be noted that the Grand Circle Co. and it's Foundation pays (or donates money to) this school for us to visit. The same with the KungFu School.


Xi'an - China's greatest archaeological attraction is the Qin Mausoleum. More than 2000 years ago, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried in a earth mound, along with 6400 life-sized terra cotta warriors, archers, and infantrymen, together with their horses and chariots. These were individually sculpted from live models. In the 1970's, farmers digging a well accidentally uncovered some of these soldiers. Since then, three large pits have been uncovered and are now on view to the public. It is amazing to see an entire army carved in great detail, with each one having their own personality. They stand in battle formation, to guard and protect the emperor's tomb.

Here there is lunch in a noodle/dumpling factory. Also a visit to the Ming Dynasty 14th-century City Wall, and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, which is housed in the Jianfu Temple.

Photos of Xi an

Hong Kong -

As one tour guide said - Welcome back to civilization. Being under English rule certainly had some benefits. This is the high rent district, though, which means that the hotel rooms are tiny and prices are high. Even electronics are not a bargain - and of course there are a lot of fakes for sale.

There are thousands of people who spend their lives on junks and sampans in the harbor - the floating village of Aberdeen. There are a couple of floating restaurants in the harbor, too. A picturesqe contrast to the contemporary buildings of the city.

We take a ferry, with masses of other people, between Kowloon and Hong Kong; drive up Victoria peak; and of course have a 'shopping opportunity' at a large jewelry factory.

Hong Kong

Bangkok -

There are a lot of waterways here; and our first excursion on one is a sunset cruise on a wooden rice barge. We see a lot of temples along the Chao Phraya River. We have a snack of peanuts and rice chips. The network of canals connects the rice fields with the city and the market. Quite a contrast between old temples and the modern contemporary skyscrapers.

At our Thai dinner, we sit on the floor (with our feet in a pit, for us Westerners) and see a classical dance show. The food was not as spicy as we had anticipated. Our hotel had pretty good food as much of it was a version of American style. We are really sick of Chinese food!

We visit the Grand Palace, which is like the Old Kingdom of Siam. It's gateways are guarded by mythological monsters. It is a massive complex of gilded wats (temples), ceremonial halls, and elaborate carved and detailed buildings. It is enclosed by ancient walls. There is the Emerald Buddha which is carved from a huge piece of emerald-color jade. (no photos allowed).



More Bangkok -

There are a lot of ancient city ruins in nearby Ayutthaya. This was the capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767, during the rule of 33 kings of different dynasties of Siam. It was destroyed by the Burmese. The two museums here house more buddha's, intricately carved panels, and other objects of art.

One fun boat ride was on a 'James Bond' (traditional longboat) through the canals and ending at the Floating Market. Here boat vendors steer up and down tree-lined canals as they conduct business from their sampans and barges filled with fruits, vegetables, noodles, rice and fakes of brand name purses, etc.

We have lunch at the Rose Garden (no roses, just a name). Here we see elephants perform, take a ride on an elephant, and see a Thai folk show.

This was definitely a once in a lifetime trip - meaning I would not go back. Thailand was the most interesting, had more variety, and fun things in my opinion.