LivingSocial Travel Deal: CHINA!

May 16, 2012

East Asian Elegance in Enchanting China

Covering Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou, your expedition includes seven nights of accommodations, daily breakfast, five lunches and two dinners, and round-trip airfare from either JFK or Vancouver International Airport.

$1,690 per person based on double occupancy

This trip is a great deal because of everything it includes.  The flight alone would typically be about $1,200 so this is similar to paying about $500 for all the ground accommodations.

To make it an even better, though, LivingSocial gives the 4th person free if it’s booked correctly.  The deal is that if you book the deal, give a specific link to your friends to follow when they book theirs, and if 3 people book they give you your trip completely free.

Want it for free?Buy first, then share a special link. If three friends buy, yours is free!

$1,690 * 3 paying guests = $5,070

$5,070 / 4 guests = $1,267.50 per person




Xi’an – China part 3 of 5

September 4, 2011

Beijing – China part 5 of 5

August 24, 2011

When I think back to China, I keep thinking about how much I’d like to go back to Beijing because we didn’t get to see nearly as much as the city has to offer.  I’m also intrigued because my friend’s cousin is living there learning to speak Chinese and he took us around to some of the small bars and a part of town we otherwise wouldn’t have seen.  I’m really bummed we didn’t get to see the Bird’s Nest or the Opera House which are two amazing architectural structures.  Also, I wish we could’ve spent more time traveling through the Hutongs which are the quickly disappearing original villages scattered throughout the city.

Beijing is developing very fast, as well as the rest of China.  They’re installing a subway system which is about half the size of New York City’s today.  In the next five to ten years it will eventually be three times the size of NYC which will make it very easy for tourists to get around and see everything the city has to offer.  The main reason we didn’t get to see the Olympic Stadiums or the Opera House is because it was too far out of the way.  Olympic Park is on the outskirts of Beijing and would’ve taken about 1.5 hours to get to by bus and the Opera House, although it wasn’t too far away, was also out of the way that we traveled the few days we were in the city.

We had a view of this building from our hotel, although this picture was taken from another angle from a different part of the city.  The building houses the headquarters of the China Central Television company.  It’s an architectural and engineering marvel because of the complications with having it built.  It was definitely one of the most interesting buildings I’ve ever seen.

This park, called the Temple of Heaven Park, is similar to Central Park in New York City.  It’s a large park in the middle of the city that the public uses for leisurely activities.  In the middle of the park is an amazing temple.

Tiananman Square

Riding in a rikshaw through a small village area in Beijing.  They took us to a small house which a single lady who lives alone opens up for visitors and she cooked us lunch.  It was an interesting experience and she cooked some really good food.  After the meal she sat down and our tour guide translated some things she shared with us and she let us ask her questions as well.

Forbidden City.  WOW is all I can say.

Tiny village at the base of the Great Wall, the chair lift is behind this area and takes you to the top and other side of the mountain to where you can hike around a few miles of the wall.

It was about 90 degrees and very humid.  There was a breeze once in a while but when we’d walk through each of those forts it was a lot cooler.  We ended up spending a good bit of time climbing around a few of the forts in order to stay cool.  My three friends and myself didn’t hike as far as the rest of our group because we took it slowly but we definitely still saw just as much.

To get down the mountain you could either take the chairlift down or you could take this slide which takes about five minutes to coast down.  There’s a lever at the front between your legs that you push forward to go faster and pull back to brake.  There was a small crowd in front of me that I ran into about half way going down so I wasn’t able to pick up as much speed as I would’ve liked but it was fun nonetheless.

Lijiang – China part 2 of 5

July 29, 2011

Lijiang was the second city that we visited in China and it couldn’t be more than different than Shanghai.  It was a breath of fresh air and was easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.  The city of Lijiang is mostly known for it’s Old Town area which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with history dating back more than 800 years.  It is at the base of the Himalayan Mountains and has a population of approximately 1,250,000 people, most of whom visited and never left.  It’s very understandable why one would never want to leave this place because of the beautiful mountains and relaxed pace of life.

We arrived in Lijiang in the mid afternoon and were taken directly to dinner before being dropped off at our hotel in Old Town.  After getting checked in to the hotel, we had the rest of the night to ourselves and my friends and I did a little bit of exploring but we didn’t venture out too far.  Others in our groups made it a later night and found a few bars to bounce between.  Luckily in this city the bars weren’t littered with whores such the way it was our first night out in Shanghai.

Old Town in Lijiang, China

Shanghai – China part 1 of 5

July 8, 2011

Leaving Tampa, FL at 6:00am on Friday, June 10th and arriving into China at 2:00pm the following day, Shanghai was the first city we visited.  Shanghai is compared to New York City in the sense that it’s the business epicenter of the country.

One fact about Shanghai that’s tough to imagine is that there are over 3,000 buildings taller than 18 stories.  I’m not sure how many buildings there are in NYC over 18 stories but I’d guess around 500 – 1,000 which is still less than one-third the amount in Shanghai.

After arriving we were met by our first tour guide, Tony, and he took us to the hotel.  We didn’t have anything planned for the night so we all went out to dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.  After dinner a few of us went out to a few bars across the street which ended up being nothing less than whore houses.  The girls out front were really aggressive, especially since we were a group of five guys.  Personally, I didn’t like the fact that they’d grab a hold of you so I’d tell them to not touch.  Also, along with the aggressive whores there were nagging beggers and one of the begger’s child lached a hold of my friend’s arm and was hanging all over him beyond anything I’d be comfortable with.

The next morning we started our trip with a long day of touring.  Our tour guide took us to the British Concession, called The Bund, which is similar to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.  It’s a few mile stretch of wide sidewalk along the water where people walk, run, and otherwise be leisurely.  The buildings directly next to the sidewalk along the water are British influenced due to their occupancy of the area in the past.  Eventually the land was given back to China but the architecture remains.  After the British Concession we visited the French Concession which is a much smaller area a few miles away.

Next we visited the Buddha Jade Temple which is a very famous temple in China, and then we had lunch in the same area.  After lunch we headed to a large market in Shanghai which has a very large, beautiful garden next to it.  We headed to the garden first but to get there we had to walk through part of the very crowded market.  This was out first sight of a crazy Chinese market and everyone was very excited to have time to shop.

After the shopping we had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and then we went to an Acrobatic show.  I thought the acrobatic show was a little hyped up because our tour guide told us it’s a really great show and if some of the actors mess anything up then they can potentially die.  The only part of the show which could’ve been life threatening was the end where five guys on dirt bikes got into the steel globe and rode around.  It was definitely impressive but I still didn’t feel like they’d die if they messed up.  The show was pretty cool I thought, even though most of our group feel asleep because we were really exhausted from the day.

This building, which was built in 1994 and called the Oriental Pearl Tower, is 1,535 feet tall.

The Bund

Hard to tell from the photo and even standing there it didn’t feel like it, but most of those buildings are around 1,000 feet or taller.

Jade Buddha Temple

First market we visited

Dunhuang – China part 4 of 5

June 18, 2011

The fourth city on my visit to China was Dunhuang which is a desert paradise in western China.  I was particularly looking forward to this part of the trip because I did a little research and the pictures and videos I found looked nothing short of amazing.

We arrived in the late afternoon on Friday, June 17th and our first night was spent camping at the base of the sand dunes.  First we dropped our luggage off at our hotel where we would be staying the following night and we were met by a group of camels which we rode to our campsite.  Unfortunately my camera battery died shortly after getting on the camel so I don’t have any pictures of the campsite or sand dunes myself but I’m going to get copies of pictures that my friends took and post those when I get home.

Our campsite was at the base of the sand dunes.  There wasn’t much else to do except hike around and so far this was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Right now I’m sitting in the airport in Dunhuang waiting to fly to Beijing where we’ll be visiting the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City so there’s still a chance that I’ll enjoy one of those sites more but we will have to see.

Initially our whole group climbed the first sand dune where the view was amazing but then after realizing we had the whole night to explore and do nothing else except relax and be in the dunes, myself and four others picked a peak far away to hike to.  I forgot my bottle of water down at the campsite which was a brutal mistake but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from hiking around.  The peak we set out to climb ended up being much further away than it looked, probably about 1.5 miles or so but it only looked to be .5 mile away.  I thought the view from the first dune was amazing and now at the top of this second peak we were about 800 feet higher and the view was beyond spectacular.

Standing on the top of the peak was one of the best feelings in the whole world.  We were utterly exhausted after making the hike, especially without any water, but once we reached the peak it was a big feeling of accomplishment.  When none of us were speaking, it was a very peaceful silence except for the occasional wind and there would be a bit of sand blowing around from time to time.  I wished I had been at the peak by myself and been able to sit there for a few hours and taken it all in.  I considered making the hike again by myself in the morning but it was too much.  To do it the way I would’ve liked, I would’ve needed 4 to 5 hours and there just wasn’t that much time unfortunately.

At this point, being well over a mile away from the others in our group we all looked like ants to each other.  They were still standing on the top of the first dune that we all climbed and all we could see were small pecks of color.  I’m surprised they all waited there for us as we climbed because it took us a good 45 minutes to reach the peak.  When we were nearing the top of the peak they started to yell towards us, we’re pretty sure they were yelling for us to come back but we were in no rush at all and it was going to take us a really long time to make it back over there.  Eventually they all disappeared because they went back down to the campsite.

We finally made our way back down to the campsite but the five of us who climbed the extra peak quickly realized we would prefer to sleep on the sand dune up at the top.  It would be too much to hike back to the large peak and sleep there so instead we took our sleeping bags up to the first sand dune and all found a decently comfortable spot.  The moon was rising over the dunes as we were getting back up to the dune and it looked unbelievable.  A friend of mine has an Ansel Adams photograph titled Moonrise which is what this view reminded me a lot of.  The sand dunes in the distance were black and the moon lite up the sky as it emerged over the mountains.

Our wake up time for the next morning was 5:30 so we could be packed and ready to leave at 6am.  We were having an early breakfast at our hotel, which was only a few miles away, and then we were starting our day at 9am to tour the city.  The few of us up at the top of the sand dune woke up around 4:30/4:45 and we made our way down to the campsite.

Experiencing the sun set from the top of the peak far up into the sand dunes and then waking up and seeing the sun rise from the opposite direction at about 5:00am was one of my favorite experiences of the trip.  Climbing back down the sand dune in the early morning when the sand was cool and a little damp is one of the vivid memories I won’t soon forget!!

The next pictures aren’t photos that I took but they’re photos by a few other students who went on the trip.  Credit to Blake Wheeler and Robert Dox.  These pictures are from the overnight camping portion of the trip to Dunhuang, at which time my camera battery was dead so I wasn’t able to take any pictures myself.

This time in two weeks I’ll be in China.

May 28, 2011

Eight months ago when I was considering signing up to go on a group trip with Hillsborough Community College to China it felt like it was lightyears away.  But here it is less than two weeks until departure and I’m realizing that it’s going to be here before I know it.  I have 12 days before I leave to look up as much information on the places I’ll be visiting.  I’m planning on watching a few videos on NetFlix and I want to look up each places on the itinerary so I have an idea of what’s in store.

For previous trips, I rarely would do a lot of research because I liked to see places without knowing too much.  Also, the anticipation of a big trip, especially an international trip, really sucks dealing with so the best approach for me is to continue concentrating on work and the other things I have going on and then before I know it the trip will be here.  Then of course I have to completely adjust and slow down so that the trip goes by as slow as possible.

CHINA 2011

The evening of June 9th I fly from NYC to Tampa, arriving at 12:30am.  On June 10th my flight to China leaves at 6am so we need to arrive at the airport by 4am, so I’ll stick around the airport and wait for the morning to come.  We fly through Chicago and then onward to Shanghai.

In Shanghai we’ll visit a handful of places and we’ll also have some time on our own to explore.  The Bund is one of the most famous tourist areas of Shanghai.  The stretch of road which is The Bund houses 52 buildings with various architectural styles.  This website recommends a bunch of things to do in the area.

Shanghai French Concession

Frommer’s doesn’t seem thrilled about the Yu Garden, mainly saying it’s overrun with tourist

Jade Buddha Temple

Shanghai Acrobatic Show

Black Dragon Pool

Lijiang Wangfu Hotel

Jade Snow Mountain (2)

Yufeng Monastery

Naxi Ancient Music performance

Shangri-la Golden Flower Hotel

Terra Cotta Warriors

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Great Mosque and Museum Quarter

Tang Dynasty Dinner Show

Dunhuang travel guide

Bicycling rental in Dunhuang

Festivals in Dunhuang

Magao Grottoes (pics)

Crescent Moon and Singing Sand Dunes

Sandsurfing YouTube video

Peking duck dinner and Peking Opera

Sofitel Wanda hotel

Tian’anmen Square (protests)

Forbidden City (2)

Temple of Heaven and Hutong Tour

Mutianyu Great Wall

Sacred Way

Day 1, June 10 — Departure from Tampa International Airport to Shanghai, China

Day 2, June 11 — Group arrival in Shanghai and group transfer to the Hilton hotel

Day 3, June 12 — Full day tour of Shanghai including: the Bund, Old French Concession, Yu Garden, Old City Bazaar and Jade Buddha Temple. Evening Acrobatic Show with transfer (B,L,D)

Day 4, June 13 — Fly from Shanghai to Lijiang via Kunming by air including transfers. Afternoon visit to Black Dragon Pool and the Ancient Town of Lining. Overnight at Lijiang Wangfu Hotel (B,D)

Day 5, June 14 — Visit Jade Snow Mountain ( including chairlift ) Yufeng Monastery. In the evening enjoy a Naxi Ancient Music performance (B,L)

Day 6, June 15 — Fly to Xian via Kunming with transfers included. Enjoy an evening Dumpling Dinner. Overnight at the Shangri-la Golden Flower hotel (B,L)

Day 7, June 16 — Full day tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Great Mosque and Muslim Quarter. Evening Tang Dynasty Dinner Show with transfers (B,L,D)

Day 8, June 17 — Fly from Xian to Dunhuang by air including transfers. Camp overnight in the desert (in 2 person tents) with campfire and sunset dinner (B,D)

Day 9, June 18 — Full day tour of Mogao Grottoes , Crescent Moon and Singing Sand Dunes, Sand surfing and camel ride (B,L)

Day 10, June 19 — Fly from Dunhuang to Beijing by air with transfers. Enjoy a Peking Duck dinner followed by Peking Opera. (B,D) Overnight at the Sofitel Wanda hotel

Day 11, June 20 — Full day tour of Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Hutong Tour (B,L)

Day 12, June 21 — Mutianyu Great Wall and Sacred Way (B,L)

Day 13, June 22 — Return travel to Tampa, FL