#mychinaexperience with Cathay Pacific
They say, China is not just another country, it is another world! And it is true! Can't tell you how long I have been waiting to visit China again, especially with the kids. Being born in China and lived there until I was in my twenties, China is home to me. But for my kids, it is not. Being born as a mixed race and living mainly in Europe and the U.S, they are growing up mainly under the influence of the Western culture. However, I really want them to understand their Chinese heritage. Even though we celebrate traditional Chinese holidays, eat Chinese food often, read Chinese children books, and speak Mandarin at home, I know it is never the same as taking them to China to see the country for themselves. Nothing will beat the first-hand experience. When I found out in January that Cathay Pacific just started a new direct route from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I was so excited! For years now, my friends, who had flown with Cathay Pacific before, had told me how amazing their service is. Now, I could finally fly with them!
I must say, we were more than impressed! At first, I was a bit worried about being on a 14 hours long-haul flight with the kids alone, but it all turned out really well. The staff were very professional, friendly, attentive and really took care of us. We were given the scented towels to refresh ourselves as soon as we boarded. Since it was a midnight flight, the staff understood how tired everyone is. They served the food and drinks as soon as they could and then dimmed the light for everyone to rest. (But this didn't stop us from getting some Häagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert before going to sleep. ;-)) It is also worth mentioning that Cathay Pacific 's seats recline further back than the standard ones, which made our sleep much more comfortable. To our surprise, 14 hours flight went by really smoothly and quickly.
Our trip to China included three nights in Yangshuo (Guangxi Province), four nights in Lijiang (Yunnan Province) and two nights in Shangri-la (Yunnan Province. We wanted to do three nights, but the high altitude made us change our minds), and finally two nights in Hong Kong.
Where we stayed: Banyan Tree Yangshuo
The beauty of Yangshuo can't be described in a few words. The natural wonder of the thousands of limestone karst mountains, together with the Li River and Yulong River, formed one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights we have ever see. There were so many stunning places in the region and we came to realise that three days were definitely too short. Two of our favourite memories in the area would the hike in Longji Rice Terrace and the watching sunset with the fisherman in XingPing fishing village. The Longji Rice Terrace, which is built over 800 years with the sweat, blood and tears by the locals, is about 3 hours drive (one way) from our resort. We got up at 5 am and started our journey, so we could avoid the main crowds. The view was just unreal! Since the shape of the Rice Terrace resembles the back of a dragon, it is called Dragon's Back Rice Terrace. by the locals. After the hike, we had lunch at local restaruant called "A Mong Jia (meaning A-Mong's Home)" and the food was amazing! Our favorite was the chicken and rice cooked with spices and herbs in the bamboo tube over the open fire. The ingriedents are sealed in the bamboo tube and all the flavors went into the meat and the rice. They tasted so good!
On our last day in Yangshuo, we decided to visit a eighty-years old fisherman to watch him fishing with the traditional cormorants. We were really looking forward to it since it is a very rare skill and very few fishermen can practice it. But then right before we left our hotel for the trip, it started pouring rain. We drove 30 mins to this village and waited in the car for almost an hour for the rain to stop. And it was getting dark. We almost wanted to go back, but then suddenly, the rain stopped and the sky turned pink! The old fisherman lightened up his oil lantern. And everything was perfect!
Where we stayed: Banyan Tree Lijiang
Enjoy getting lost in the maze-like, 800-year-old streets of Lijiang Old Town. Walk along canals, over bridges and through wooden shophouses that selling teas, Chinese wine, flower pastries, silverware, handcrafts, and dried yak meat. The place is so ancients that its cobblestones are as shiny as marble, polished by the soles of daily passersby since the Ming Dynasty. There are plenty of things to do in this ancient town. We loved sitting in a tea house that has been in business for four generations, sipping freshly made green tea and listening to the owner explaining the history of the tea house and their tea origins. There are many tea houses, cafes, bed and breakfasts, bars and local street food shops to try and explore. If you can, try to stay in the Old Town until the evening to see all the lights lit up on the streets. The Old Town has a completely different kind of charm at night time.
Where we stayed: Banyan Tree Ringha
It might be fictional in the book of "The Lost Horizon", but Shangri-La does exist. Located at the edge of Yunnan’s northern border with 11,000 elevation, Shangri-la is at the influence of Tibet, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. Although it is a melting pot of different ethnic groups such as the Naxi, Tibetan and Hui people, the Tibetan culture definitely takes the majority here. The tradtional Tibetan lodges are surprisingly huge, even by Western standards. The reason behind is that they have three, sometimes four, generations living under the same roof. Many Tibetans (even nowadays) have arranged marriage at an early age (around 13 and 14 yrs old) and become parents. Family is incredibly important for them and they all live together. During our stay, we also visited Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan Monastery in Yunnan, built during the Qing Dynasty and established by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679. Inside, you can offer a prayer to the different Buddhas within the monastery. It is customary to walk clockwise within the temple. Donate any amount and you will receive buddhist prayer beads (worn round the wrists) as well as a light knock on the head, a form of blessing by the Tibetan monk. Spin the Tibetan prayer wheel for good luck. Prayer wheels are metal cylinders with mantras written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, each revolution brings as much good merit as chanting the inscription aloud.
Where we stayed: Upper House Hong Kong
If there was a city to visit in Asian, I would say Hong Kong is the place to be. Known for its vibrant atmosphere, Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps. Merging together Eastern and Western cultures, Hong Kong is a blend of seaside adventures, rural settings, mountains and endless skyscrapers. It offers everything from the buzzing nightlight to rich cultural experiences. We particulary enjoyed walking along the streets to watch how the locals live on their daily lives and trying out fancy Dim Sum place that ha thes cuttest buns with animals shapes, staring eyes and some even puke (see picture). We were only there only for two days and would definitely want to go back one day.
Visiting China this summer was one of the most incredible trips we ever had and we would definitely go back again. There is just so much to see and explore. The diffiuclt part is where shall we go next?