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Asia Itinerary 2011 – China, Thailand, Cambodia (and Pakistan!)

Chengyang Wind and Rain bridge


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:

Li River fishing
 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:

Yangshuo, map
Our first stop is the Yangshuo area situated on the Li river in the Guangxi province.  It’s considered, after the great wall, the archytypal Chinese scenery and imagry.    In addition to the li river, the area is dotted with karsts, which are the limestone walls of caves that have deteriorated.  In fact the entire area is slowly sinking as the limestone erodes, making the Karsts talller and taller.

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.

Yangshuo impressions
At night there is a light show by Zhang Yimou, the film director and Olympic opening ceremony choreographer, that is either going to be beautiful or cheesy, maybe both.  And if we are lucky to squeeze in a cooking class or a balloon ride, we will feel lucky.

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.

Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces
Our goal is to see the rice paddies, which are only flooded with water in june, in the sunrise.  The reflections creat a view that  is supposed to be one of the great experiences of China.  Longsheng is also a center for the 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.

Xi'an map
It’s claim to fame are the terracotta warriors, the greatest collection of funerary statues on earth.  Now housed with an airplan hanger overhead, are 8,000 life size terracotta statues of army figures with another 1,000 chariots and horses.  it was built by 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.

Yes, a stretch really looks like this.
On Day 9, we will travel to Hua Shan, dubbed by some ‘The worlds most dangerous hike”   It’s one of the 5 sacred Taoist peaks and we will climb in the afternoon for an overnight at the top and sunrise the next morning.   The mountain, about 6,000 feet, is and famous for it’s views but also for some pretty narrow staircases with a lot of Chinese tourists, which are particularly scary in the rain and snow.

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.

Dunhuang map
Dunhuang is also a true oasis in the desert and we’ll do some sand dune adventures like boarding, paragliding and plain old hiking.  We’ll also visit a creepy desert park and see one of the oldest and Westernmoast parts of the Great wall of china.

And the local specialty is Donkey meat noodles, which we will feed to Emma.

Day 15-21 Beijing, China

Beijing Hutong
This is where our China vacation ends, and I spend a week in Beijing working.  There will still be time to do some touring, though.  Beijing is filled with sites and could take weeks to do on it’s own, but we will definitely see the  Great wall at Jiankou for a spectacular hike.  And of course the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City will get a visit.

The watercube waterpark at Beijing
But if we can take in some modern adventure, we will.  Beijing has turned the former Olympic Games water sports complex into the watercube water park, where thousands of Beijing kids go daily in the summer to escape the 100 degree heat.  And ‘Happy Valley’, an amusement part built in 2006 is China’s homage to Disneyland.

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.

Phuket Marriot

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.

Royal palace, Phnom Penh

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.

Angkor Wat from the air
The main temple at Angkor is what you see on postcards, and it is the grandest of the 12’th century temples built first for the Hindu gods, then converted to Buddism.  But there are hundreds more, some fully excavated and some still buried in jungle, to explore.

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.

Komphong Phluk, Floating Village in dry season
With luck we will also do the day trip to the rural city of Kompong Pluk, which during the rainy season, is flooded by 15 feet of water.  They have adapted by hoisting the entire village on stilts.

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.

ELephant farm in Chiang Mai
We’ll only have a Saturday to play around and we’ve chosen to splurge one of Chiang Mai’s most famous activities – an elephant center where they breed and care for elephants. Each of us will get an elephant for the day and learn to wash them, train and ride them in the mountainous jungle of the Chiang Mai provence..

Day 34-35 Bangkok, Thailand

Our final days are in Bangkok, the original urban jungle, where we have one day to see the sites and another to work.  And then maybe we’ll get a Thai massage for our creaking old bodies!  (No, not THAT kind of massage you pervert.)

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!

2 thoughts on “Asia Itinerary 2011 – China, Thailand, Cambodia (and Pakistan!)

  1. Bev

    Thanks for posting!!! I’m living vicariously through you guys, so own up to the responsibility!
    Enjoy and look forward to more posts. (Sorry you’re not able to get FB)

  2. Trisha

    Thanks Bev! It’s an amazing trip already and we’ve only barely started!


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