Imperial Jewels of China – Day 14 – Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Rickshaw Ride

Today is our last full day on the official Viking Tour. We are leaving the hotel at 7.45 am to travel to Tiananmen Square before heading to the Forbidden City. Either before or after lunch we will be doing a Rickshaw ride. It should be a good final day!

We arrive near Tiananmen Square and queue up. Terry already has our entrance tickets for us.

In the next few days there is due to be an important event in the Square, so security is very high.

We have been queuing for some some now, but not moving. We can see that Terry has gone off and we can hear him talking to officials in our earpieces. I can see him talking to many of them and on his phone too.

Eventually, he pulls us all out and breaks the news to us. The police won’t allow us through without seeing our visas! Terry has tried everything. As we don’t have them with us we can’t visit the Square.

We are all disappointed, but there is nothing we can do and we know Terry has really tried for us. We can all see he is really disappointed for us too so we all reassure him that it’s ok, we understand.

We talk a walk to meet our bus to go straight to the Forbidden City.

In the meantime Terry warns the other tour guides that were coming after us. They were in the queue too so would wait to see what they said to them.

We reached the Forbidden City and any disappointment I was feeling soon disappeared. Oh wow! I didn’t expect it to be this big or beautiful.

I can see why they say it is the worlds largest palace complex, with 980 buildings and 9,999 rooms. I wonder if they ever counted the rooms and if so, why they didn’t round it up to 10,000?

The palace dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Terry explained all the pavilions, courtyards and gardens to us, including the concubine courtyard and room. Sadly you could only see in through the glass to this room.

The whole place is just stunningly beautiful and I was so pleased we could spend so much time there. Even if we still only saw a fraction of it.

I’ve since heard that the other groups were allowed to enter the square without their visas! I’m jealous but these things happen.

We left the palace and headed to the Rickshaws, where we had a 20 minute ride around the Hutongs. These people must have really strong legs, cycling with hubby and I in the back. It was good fun even if they used the Rickshaw in front as it’s brakes.

It was time for lunch now. For the first time this trip it was actually quite late for lunch, and I was thankful for this.

I have to say, this was the best lunch I’ve had all holiday. My favourite was a chicken dish with nuts including walnuts. It had a bit of a kick, but I loved it.

This was our last meal with our travelling companions As we were checking out tonight. It is a night earlier, but we are going to stay with friends who are living in Beijing for 3 nights.

We say goodbye to the group, although I’ve missed Terry, which I’m gutted about. I leave a thank you note and a tip with reception for him though. He has been an amazing guide.

We get back to the hotel, pack and leave at 6 pm. I’m going to be sad leaving the tour part of the trip, but the holiday isn’t over yet!

I have no idea what our friends house looks like, so I’m excited.

We arrive and it’s huge and beautiful. Nothing like what we have seen in China up to now.

Tonight we go out for dinner in a western pub. A chicken Dorito is just what I needed after 3 weeks of chinese food!

We sit in the garden of the White Swan. It’s so different to what we have been used to, but it’s perfect to catch up with our friends. I’m looking forward to the next few days, to see a different side to Beijing.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 9 – Shibaozhai Temple

I am just about to go to bed but then as we sit on the balcony, we start to see lights ahead of us. There in front was the most amazing bridge I have ever seen. A light display plays in a routine. I have never seen anything like it before. It is stunning. I have to delay going to bed until we have passed the bridge.

The next morning it’s an early start again. Today we are going to visit Shibaozhai Temple. Instead of catching the usual bus, we are walking to the temple. From our balcony we can already see the temple opposite us. Towering over the river.

As we step off the boat, we see people washing their clothes in the river. It still amazes me that in 2019 people still live this way. They all seem very happy though.

It’s a steep walk up to what they call ‘the village’, passing lots of little stalls selling everything from scarfs, purses, tops etc.

The village is relatively new. In fact the road we are walking on was only completed the day before. The old village was relocated when the dam was created and the river levels rose. As they couldn’t move the temple they built a wall around it to protect it from the river.

We walk through the village as shop owners are setting up their stalls. The all mostly sell the same things but it’s still interesting to walk along and look.

As we near the temple we approach a suspension bridge which joins the village with the temple. As we step on it, it starts to bounce up and down. I’m not great with heights, so this was a little scary. If I was brave enough to look up I could see some amazing views though.

Finally I’m across, the bad news is that I have to go the same way back!

The temple sits above the Shibaozhai Hill adjacent to a 12 storey Pavilion. We walk up all 12 floors. It’s extremely humid today so we are all struggling. Sweat is pouring off us as we climb the steep stairs. The view at the top is worth it though. You then get to walk through the Temple. The bright colours and statues are beautiful.

The walk back down is so much easier.

My hubby wanted to take a photo of a little girl selling nuts and biscuits. I give her some money and hubby snaps away. Her mother is across the road and thanks us, but the little girl is upset that we haven’t taken something from her. I tried to explain that we gave her the money for the photo but she didn’t understand. As we walk away she comes running after us with some biscuits in her hand. When I take them she smiles. It was so humbling.

As we walk back past some the shops, I want to buy some gifts to give something back to these people. I choose 2 purses for my nieces. You haggle here which is fun. Eventually the owner persuades me to buy 3. I don’t need 3 but I couldn’t say no.

Next I look at silk scarves for my mum. Apparently they are 100% silk. I eventually agree to buy one. It’s not until I get back on board and look at it that I realise it’s 100% silk like polyester. I had to laugh. I’ve just been ripped off, but it’s still pretty and there need is more than mine.

Before we get on board there is a man begging on the street. We still have the biscuits from the little girl that we won’t eat as we have so much food onboard, so I hand them to the man. He is so grateful it warms my heart. One simple photo has helped 2 separate people.

We start to sail by 10.30 am. I’m full of cold today so not feeling great, so we Plan to just have a relaxing morning. At 11 am there is a talk on Tea which I’m really interested in which I decided to go to. I’ve learnt about the different types of tea and their benefits. For example, the first tea was found by Shen Nong. He added water to some leaves and apparently because of his transparent stomach, he was able to see all the toxins clearing. Imagine that – a transparent stomach.

Chai means clear in Chinese, hence how it got it’s name! Well that is what she said but when I tried to look it up I couldn’t confirm that.

The different teas include dark tea which is anti aging, helps with weight loss, cures sore throats, is anti cancer, caffeine free, clears toxins and lowers blood pressure.

Black tea cures headaches, regulates the stomach to relieve pain, takes away toxins and is also anti aging.

Green tea is something I drink daily at home. It is a diarrhetic, relieves fatigue, prevents diabetes and cardiovascular disease, enhances immunity and diminishes inflammation. What I didn’t realise is that it also has caffeine in it, so maybe that is why I don’t sleep too well.

White tea is good for your liver and hives, anti radiation and lowers blood pressure and body temperature.

Snow chrysanthemum tea I’d never heard of before. It’s caffeine free, lowers blood pressure and sugar, good for eyesight and sleep, cures colds, maintains youth and beauty and reduces body temperature. I definitely need some of this.

And finally another one I’ve never heard of – Oolong tea. It helps prevent heart disease, weight loss, digestion, lowers cholesterol and relieves fatigue.

I would have bought some tea on the boat but it was quite expensive. About £50 for a small tin, so I will see if I can pick some up elsewhere cheaper. Mind you, with my cold I’m certainly in need of it.

Lunch on board today is a Chinese themed menu but with a difference. As well as the usual array of Chinese food, you could try chicken feet, pigs tail, feet and ears and a few other weird things. I’ll be honest, I did look but I certainly didn’t touch!

After lunch we then had the opportunity to visit the bridge. I’m not totally interested in this but hubby is keen. Coming from a shipping background he loves this sort of thing. We had a 20 minute tour to see the controls and devices to sail the boat safely.

I was then torn. I wanted to go to the session on China, but I also needed to go back to bed. Hubby offered to wake me in time for the presentation so back to bed I went .

The presentation on china was really interesting. Elliot talked about their culture, dating, marriage and religion. The Chinese have a huge respect for family.

We were given some interesting facts like the selective abortion for girls was introduced in 1978. This then caused an imbalance in the number of boys and girls. This has meant that it has been harder for men to find a wife.

A lot of marriages are arranged through match makers. There is even a park in Shanghai where parents place umbrellas down on the ground and attach resumes of their children which includes their height and weight. Their children don’t know their parents are doing this. If someone thinks their child might be a match the parents set up a meeting.

I’m not sure if this was true or a joke but their wedding car is usually a BMW as it stands for ‘be my wife’!

During the talk I was looking out at the river bank. There seemed to be a lot of fires going on, and the haze was getting worse. When I left to join my hubby on the balcony I was shocked by the poor air quality. It hurt by throat and eyes. I couldn’t stay outside. Hubby soon joined me. It was horrendous. We don’t know for sure but we think they may have been burning their rubbish. Whatever it was, it cannot be good for the environment.

Tonight was our last night on board. We should have been making the most of it but all I wanted was to go back to bed, so after dinner hubby and I retired to our room. It will be sad tomorrow To be leaving the cruise part of the trip. Tomorrow we will disembark at Chongqing to take the bullet train to Xion.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 8 – Goddess Stream by Sampan

I’ve had an upset stomach since we left Shanghai which none of my pills has seemed to help. I was awake in the middle of the night due to stomach cramps so thought I might sit on our balcony.

As I opened the curtains I noticed the ships light searching the river bank. As I opened the patio door I suddenly realised it was pouring with rain. Maybe I won’t sit outside then!

I went back to bed. When I woke up the rain had stopped and the scenery was breathtaking. We were in the Lesser Three Gorges.

As we ate breakfast we moored in Wusham along side another boat which looked almost identical to ours.

I decided to see the ships doctors about my upset stomach. He spoke very good English and prescribed me with antibiotics. I need to see him again later today. He said he would give me a receipt for my holiday insurance so I am expecting a big bill, although I couldn’t leave it any longer and was worried it would ruin our holiday. We see at the end of the cruise part the damage!

Just after 9 am, we left the ship to board a little Sampan. It’s a traditional boat which would take us through the gorge. The views were outstanding. Our guide talked about her peoples culture and the area around us. She treated us to some traditional folk songs. She had such a lovely voice. The trip lasted about for just under 2 hours and was a great way to see the views.

Back on board we soon set sail and Elliot gave us a commentary on Wu Gorge and the mountains which we we were passing through, enroute to Shibaozhai.

As we came out of the gorge we passed under a large bridge where there before us was a huge city suddenly coming out of nowhere. Thankfully this coincided with lunch so by the time we had finished eating, the beautiful landscape had returned.

This afternoon we are going to be sailing through the Qutang Gorge. Elliot will again give us a commentary as we sail through.

As you come to the gorge, the beautiful scenery hits you again. In the mountains you can see natural caves. They were used by the Ba people, who would place coffins inside the caves. The coffins would be sticking out and so they got the name ‘hanging coffins’. Sadly, the Ba people no longer exist and their culture gone with them.

When the dam was built the government removed the coffins and placed them in museums. If they hadn’t done this, they would have been destroyed by the rising waters.

You may have noticed on some of my photos how clean and white the lower part of the mountain stone is. This is where the river rises to. I’m amazed by how much water comes into the river to cause it to rise that much.

This is only a short gorge – about 5 miles long but it is stunning.

These mountains reminded me of a certain chocolate:

Did you get it ? A Toblerone!

This gate marks the end of the Gorges and once again the landscape has changed.

There is a lot of debris in the river. Old shoes, plastic bottles, polystyrene and lots of twigs pass by constantly. It’s sad to see so much going into their river.

On this stretch we have seen a lot of passenger ships. Apparently this area is very popular with Chinese tourists, who take short cruises to see it.

I have to see the doctor again soon so hubby and I are just going to chill out on our balcony.

Tonight we have a briefing on our disembarkation in 2 days time. Afterwards, we have a special dinner presented by Chef Danny! We are not sure what that is but I’m sure it will be stunning.

You may have noticed that when I talk about the staff they have English names rather than Chinese. When they are learning English at school they are asked to choose an English name for themselves. It does make it a lot easier for tourists.

On the ship everyone is called by their first name. The companies ethos is that everyone is part of one big family, and you certainly feel like that.

After a briefing on what is happening tomorrow and when we leave the ship the following day, it was time for Danny the chefs Chinese menu. As expected it was amazing. I had king prawns for starters followed by seabass for main a a sweet coconut and mango rice pudding.

We decided that as we have an early start tomorrow we are going to chill on our balcony with our gifted champagne and listen to the sounds of the evening.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 6 – Jingzhou – school and old wall

I woke up around 6.20 am and looked through our patio doors. The sun was just rising over the Yangtze River, it was so beautiful. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.

Today we are mooring in Jingzhou where we will visit a school in the morning then this afternoon visit the old wall.

We dock just before 7 am so I watch the boat as it moors. Our balcony faces the port side so after breakfast we sit on the balcony watching the comings and going’s. Men are fishing on the bank, others just walking around.

Each day the staff give us a small booklet with has the latest news from home. We obviously get one on Britain which is a great idea.

Our bus is leaving at 9 am to take us to the school so we have plenty of time to sit and read before we need to leave.

We are just back from our school visit. I wasn’t sure what to to expect. When we arrived we were greeted by 100’s of children ranging from 6-12, all waving at us. They would come up and high 5 you.

We were treated to a little show where 3 groups of children performed different dances. We were then taken to see them in their classes.

Each child came and took one of our hands and asked us to sit in their seats. They are grade 2 children so haven’t learnt English yet. We tried to talk to them. My hubby was across the classroom from me and I could see about 4 children around him, fascinated by his camera and beard!

Many of the children board at the school while there parents work in Shanghai or Beijing. They only get to see them about once a year. The little girl with me was a boarder too. It broke my heart to think of her not going home to her parents each night.

Their grandparents would be playing a big part in their lives, but there is nothing like a mothers love and I’d imagine she must have missed her parents so much when first sent to school.

She was so cute. When I left she gave me a big hug and I can’t help but wonder if she is missing affection? I have nieces her age and I couldn’t imagine them not seeing their parents for long periods of time!

In China the parents devote all their money to make sure their children get the best education possible, so I can see why they have to board their children if they want to earn good money in the city for them, but it is still very emotional.

When you leave you can give a donation to the school which of course we did.

Now back on board I’m chilling on our balcony after another great lunch of prawns on toasted bread to start, pork ribs for main and green tea icecream for dessert. I mustn’t forget my glass of fizz!

When we returned to our cabin we had a lovely surprise. We have got friendly with another couple on the boat. They have a suite which also came with a bottle of champagne. As they don’t drink it, they had it sent to our room. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful they were. Hubby and I will certainly enjoy it, so thank you Joe and Kellie.

As I sit here on the balcony I notice a women on the bank. She is washing her laundry in the river. If you look at my photos above you will see how dirty the water is and I can’t help but wonder how clean she gets her clothes.

She first wets the item in the river then lays in on the bank where she takes what looks like soap and scrubs the items, first with her hands and then her feet. She takes a long time with each item before rinsing them in the river. It seems sad that this is her only way to wash her clothes.

I could sit here forever watching the world but I need to head to the bus again to go to the old wall.

It’s only a short trip but gave us an opportunity to visit the city walls and experience some of the locals selling fruit. It was nice just to walk around and see how they live. A man was carrying 2 buckets of water hanging then on either side of a plank of wood balanced on his shoulders. Little moped trucks were piled high with boxes or scrap metal etc.

The county really fascinates me.

We get back to boat around 4 pm so we have time to chill in our room catching up on the BBC news before we have to get ready for dinner. It’s a western menu tonight.

As I look out from the balcony there are now some men swimming. I give them a wave and they happily wave back. They swim over towards our boat for a closer look. Others are fishing. We decide to go up to the top deck for a walk and people watch more.

It was perfect timing as we were just setting off again down the river. We stayed a short while just soaking up the quietness and reflecting on their way of life. Eventually it was time to shower and change for dinner. But not before watching a he sunset.

Before dinner there is a briefing on what is happening tomorrow, as we travel through the 3 Gorges. I am expecting a huge change in the landscape tonight as we sail towards them.

After dinner there is a show where we will be shown different traditional dress. Sadly hubby has come down with a cold today so I’m not sure if he will make it.

We decide to go to get he shied after all and it’s good fun. The staff are dressed in an array of costumes and perform traditional dances for us. It’s all bright and colourful. A lovely end to another good day.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 2 – Free day to explore Shanghai

Phew I’m exhausted! Today is the only full day we have free on our tour of China. My hubby and I have decided to make the most of it.

The alarm went off at 6am. I’ll be honest, I could have quite happily put it onto snooze for a while if it wasn’t for the fact there was so much we wanted to see today!

I put the kettle on and used the time it took to boil to get a few more minutes of shut eye! I have to say though, I am really enjoying the Chinese tea in our hotel room. It’s funny, at home, the tea is in bags and the coffee loose. Complete opposite to here.

After a quick shower we head for breakfast. I decide to try some of the local food as well as some traditional food. Sorry but I really can’t resist baked beans! I’m loving the eggs boiled in tea especially though and great steamed corn bread.

The fresh fruit is lovely too although I don’t know what the purple things were and they were not my thing!

After breakfast we walk down to the water front. It’s quite quiet right now so great for taking photos. The beauty of starting early is you miss the crowds.

It was lovely just walking along the waters edge watching the boats sail by and looking at the landscape. Today though we are also heading to the Pearl Tower.

The Pearl Tower is on the other side of the river. You can take the ferry for 2 yuan each way or like us, you can do the tunnel for 70 yuan return. Yes it is a lot more expensive but it’s quite fun. You get into glass trams and as you travel through the tunnel you are treated to an amazing light show. I’ll show it to you on my YouTube channel when I post my video on it soon.

The whole trip only takes less than 4 minutes, but it is worth it.

We headed straight to the tower. As it was early – around 9.30 am there was only 1 person in the queue before us. The entrance fee is 220 yuan each. It seems a lot but it is absolutely worth it.



Initially they take you up in the lift to the sightseeing tower which is 263 m high. You get stunning 360 degree views of the city.Next stop is a little lower! Don’t be fooled though! This is where you find the glass floor! I have to say it took me a few attempts to get my legs to stand on it! When I did I kept to the metal joints just in case. My hubby told me later he could feel it move. I’m not sure if that was true or not but if I’d known that I wouldn’t have gone near it!

There were people lying down and posing, taking selfies. Not me, no way!

You can then take a lift up to 351 m where you get even greater views, on a solid floor, before coming down to the outdoor viewing level at a reasonable 90m.

I have to say, the whole experience exceeded my expectations!

After getting my feet onto solid ground we headed to the cruise port for an hour trip down the river. You can pay 130 yuan each or for 160 yuan you can go on the upper deck. This is what we chose as you could go outside and get better views and of course photos!

Afterwards we took a lovely walk along the waters edge before heading back through the tunnel.

We walked our little socks off, taking in the beautiful buildings and people watching, although many Chinese seemed to be doing the same with us.

We headed up Nanjing Road East, passing the Peace Hotel which seemed to be getting a lot of attention. I must ask Terry out Viking guide why that is. Carrying up the road we came to the shopping area. It was fascinating seeing the types of shops and habits of the Chinese.

Finally the humidity got to us and we decided to head back to our hotel for a quick shower and rest for an hour before heading out for the evening.

A quick check of my Fitbit shows we have already done over 22,000 steps today with more to come!

We head off about 5.45 pm to get a good spot before sunset. The lights on some buildings have already started to come on, so it’s taking on a whole different landscape. We find a great spot opposite the Pearl Tower and wait. During the hour wait, the skyline starts to change. Rain was forecast for 4 pm but there is so far nothing! We are keeping our fingers crossed it stays dry long enough for the photos.

Boats are passing us now illuminated with brightly coloured lights. It’s so beautiful. We have waited an hour and hubby is getting frustrated as there are still no lights on the Pearl. I have a theory. We can see the tower from our hotel room. Based on the time we arrived, I think lights go on at 7 pm. Just a few seconds before we are asked to move as professional photographers need our area to take paid photos of tourists. It was so annoying as we had a great spot and had stood patiently for over an hour.

We walk down the promenade a little. It is packed with people but I manage to find us a small gap. We finally get the photo opportunity we wanted and the buildings didn’t disappoint. It was spectacular and well worth the wait.

We decide to head back to our hotel via the shopping area where we were earlier. Oh wow! I have never seen so many people in one place, apart from when leaving a major concert. It is well organised though with each side of the street going one way only.

We arrive at the shopping area which has now really come to life. We decide to take some quick pics before heading back to our hotel for something to eat and a hot bath.

It has really been a full on day with over 27,000 steps in total, but what a day! I love China.

Tomorrow is back to the tour programme with an 8 am pickup, so I will say goodnight for now.