Off we go. As you read this we are probably already on our first flight. Packing was orderly, but a lot of work. I got to be around 2am again, and will be up at 6am for the pick-up.
I let them stay up late because it’s better to begin shifting timezones a little. Lily was gushing about how great it’s going to be in China, and we all look forward to being together as a family. Then she passed on on her beanbag chair.
And so here is our (nearly) complete 36 day itinerary. Many of the sights we will see are pictured in this post. See you on the road!
Day 1-3 – Travel to Asia:
Our trip begins with nearly 3 days of plane travel. We fly from National Airport to O’Hare, where we catch a long flight to Tokyo. Our girls are very excited that they will be in Japan for a few hours, but sadly Japan will be another trip. With the time change, it’s already Wednesday evening and the best we will get is an airport sushi bar.
From Tokyo we fly to Bangkok, Thailand and arrive around midnight, where we will stay at the hotel airport because the next morning at 8am we fly to Ghuanzhou, China, where we will pass through passport control and customs. Then from Guangzhou, we take our final flight to Guilin after which we drive to Yangshuo.
Day 4-6 Yangshuo, China:
The two main things to do here are trips up the river and back. We’ll be biking north several miles along the li river and then taking little bamboo boats back. And the other is spelunking. The area is dotted with caves, some with waterfalls, mud pits and always tons of Chinese tourists from their rapidly emerging middle class.
Day 6-7 Longsheng, China:
Travelling north back through the largest city in this area, Guilin, we spend an afternoon at the Chengyang Wind and Rain bridge where we will swim. It’s a remarquable bridge built entirely of wood. Afterward we head to the ‘bread basket’ of China, the longsheng terraced rice paddies of the dragon’s backbone rice terraces near Tiantou, where we will stay in a tiny guest house. These terraces were built 500 years ago in the Ming dynasty.Yao people and culture, one of the 55 recognized ethnic minorities in China.
8-11 Xi’An, China:
Xi’an is, along with Beijing and Shanghai is one of the major tourist attractions of mainland China. It was, after all, the center of the Chinese world for many centuries until around 1000 AD.Qin Shi Huang, the first emporer of China, presumably to continue fighting after death. Amazingly each statue is different, possibly modeled on actual infantry. There are other ancient sights in Xi’an that we will visit, but none as important as this one.
12-14 Dunhuang, China
Our most exotic destination in China, Dunhuang, is in the Gobi desert and centuries ago marked the last stop of civilzation on the silk road. As a result of it’s virtuous position among the rich traders of the silk road, who used this oasis as a spiritual center, Dunhuang is home to the Mogao caves – the greatest collection of ancient buddist art in the world.
And the local specialty is Donkey meat noodles, which we will feed to Emma.
Day 15-21 Beijing, China
Day 22-25 Phuket, Thailand OR Islamabad, Pakistan?
‘And I took the (road) less traveled by, and that made all the difference.’ At this point, our paths diverge. You can judge who gets the better end of the deal.
My destination is Islamabad, Pakistan to visit one of the worlds most talked-about countries. I have a glamorous, direct flight from Beijing to Islamabad; taking only a few hours to cover what used to take silk traders months of trekking. And I’ll be conveniently limited only to travel between the office and our guest house.
Trish and the girls will have to fly all the way to Phuket, Thailand on TWO flights, to the hideously over built capital of Thai beach, resort towns. The Phuket Marriot resort will host them, with it’s boring, corporate style and endless pools. And they have nothing to do all day except swim in the warm ocean. Suckers.
Day 26-27 Cambodia, Phenom Penh
We meet back up in Cambodia and again begin some vacation time in the charming, beloved country of South East Asia. In the capital we’ll see the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda and enjoy the food and boutique hotel.
But we’ll also try to explain the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng, the infamous torture prison of the Khmer Rouge, both symbols of the second (or maybe third) largest genocides in modern history.
28-30 Cambodia, Siem Reap
Perhaps the highlight of the trip will be Angkor Wat, the world largest religious building and the national symbol of Cambodia. Angor Wat is only a few kilometers from Siem Reap, where we will stay for a few nights.
There are lots of tourist activities here, and we’ll do the microflights over the temples in the early morning of the second day. A microflight is a hangglider with a small engine and propeller attached. It only seats the pilot and one other, so we’ll take turns seeing Angkor Wat from the air.
Day 31-33 Chang Mai, Thailand
From Siem Reap, we travel to Bangkok and then on to Chiang Mai, where again I’ll work at our local office. Chiang Mai is the northern mountain city with a deep heritage to the Burmese and Siamese kingdoms. The kids will play in the pool for a few days as Trish and I work.
Day 34-35 Bangkok, Thailand
Day 36 Travel Home:
And then it’s over. We’ll pack our filthy clothes around the souveniers so they don’t break, grab some bottled water and step onto the last four flights of the trip back home.
And then we’ll need a vacation!