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Trip Report Karen and Julie in China

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(Please disregard previous post - I forgot to click trip report.)

Some of you may remember my thread about whether I should go on my trip to China or postpone because of a back injury. I debated (mostly with myself) and fretted and talked to my doctor and my physical therapist and my boyfriend (not necessarily in that order of importance). In the end, I decided to go for it, although I knew I might have to make some sacrifices. Could I negotiate the Great Wall, could I bicycle in Yangshuo, and most worrisome of all, could I use the bathroom in squat toilets?

The answers turned out to be yes, no, and not very well. Still, China is an amazing place, and my daughter and I had some wonderful experiences. Do I regret not waiting until my back heals? Yes and no. I could have done more things in a few months - but we had a great tour guide, met some wonderful people, and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Here's how it went....

I flew from Baltimore to SFO on United with an upgrade to First Class, met my daughter Julie in San Francisco and continued on with a direct flight to Beijing in Economy Plus (for me) and Economy for Julie. It was an incredibly smooth flight - I don't think the pilot turned on the seat belt signs once, except for take-off and landing.

In Beijing, a G Adventures representative transferred us to our hotel, Dong Fang, an average, nondescript tourist class hotel - nothing special, but in a decent location within walking distance (20 minutes) of Tiananmen Square.

As everyone here warned: the beds are hard. I don't mean hard like a firm bed. I mean hard like the floor. Our tour guide, Jerry, kept telling us that the next hotel had much softer beds. And the next one, even softer still. Either he was trying (hard) to make us feel better, or the degree of hardness was lost on us - we found no discernible difference from one bed to the next. All were like sleeping on the floor. On the bright side, I think it might have been good for my back.

Day 1 we strolled toward Tiananmen Square, found a bustling restaurant along the street, and had our first meal in China - cheap and good. A noodle bowl, a plate of vegetables, and some fried rice. We were the only Westerners and saw a few people staring. I noticed one older lady who kept looking at us; I smiled and waved at her as she left - she smiled and waved back.

We met our favorite "Beijinger" (what's the word for someone from Beijing?) - a deaf calligrapher who charmed us with his antics. Posing for pictures, making funny faces, holding a magnifying glass and peering at Julie through it. He was a dear.

That evening we met our tour group: 15 in all, 4 nurses from Seattle, two young couples - one from Canada and one from Germany - two older couples from England (brothers and their wives), a young single man from England, and Julie and I. Plus of course, our tour guide Jerry, a 30-something native of Yunnan Province. He was terrific - with good English skills and a fun-loving personality.

We had a duck banquet after introductions. I've never been good with chopsticks and was determined to use them exclusively throughout this trip so I could come home an expert. While I fell short of that, I did improve my skills. Some of the duck dishes were good, but I'm not a huge fan. I go more for the vegetables.

We were as ready as we'd be! Tomorrow: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Temple of Heaven.

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