China

China – The Good, The Bad And The WOW!!

China – The Good, The Bad And The WOW!!

Reminiscing – The China Trip – October 2016

Let’s start with the bad

Days on the China trip were filled with great activities, and tours were not to be missed. The very clever organisers (Thanks, Julie and Suzy!) had planned alternating  ‘chill-out’, and ‘out-and-about’ days that provided just the right amount of rest, in between hectic tours. But the one thing that put a damper on our travels, whether it was an ‘in’ or ‘out’ day, was the weather.

Great Weather For Ducks…

It rained! And it rained. And it rained. Not enough to stop us from doing anything, but enough to cover a lot of the photos I took with ‘drops’. Some photos would have been fantastic – if you could have seen through the raindrops on the window of the bus, which is where I took most photos from. There wasn’t enough time to stop for photos at every bridge or building along the way, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera to capture moments as we sped by. This usually worked, but not when the windows were covered in raindrops.

The colours of Shanghai shone through the rainy night

Shanghai, through a rain misted window

But I learned a lot about umbrellas and weatherproof jackets on that trip. Did you know that Starbucks at Zhujiajiao have little bags to put your wet umbrella in? It beats the heck out of water dripping all over the floor because you don’t want to leave your favourite (or only) brolly in the container at the door.

Now That The Bad Is Out Of The Way, Let’s Move On To The Good

Our first big excursion was from Shanghai to Nanjing on the Bullet Train. Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu Province and is also known as the Southern Capital, with Beijing being the Northern Capital. The replica of one of Admiral Zheng He’s Treasure Ships, reportedly built in the 15th Century, was amazing. The beauty of the wooden structure conjured up images of ancient seafarers travelling the high seas, risking life and limb. I wonder what they would think of the luxury liners we travel on now?

Sailors must have been brave - back then

A replica of the 15th Century ship

Replica of the 15th Century ship

As old as it is, the design is still beautiful

Shanghai City

Another big day out turned into three big days (and two nights). Shanghai is a big city! There are more people living there than in the whole of Australia (2016).  We didn’t meet them all, but we felt like we’d seen most of them. They were driving on the highways. Nearly all of them! Well, it certainly felt that way as we made our way slowly through the traffic.

The population of Shanghai is higher than Australia in 2016

It was a slow trip through Shanghai traffic

Our accommodation for two nights, while exploring Shanghai, was at the Radisson Blu, a seriously nice hotel. The famous Bund was not far away and a coach was at our disposal to get us around the city, which is just as well because it rained!

Shopping Vs The Harbour

I’d heard the shopping was good at the Bund and was looking forward to checking it out, but we sacrificed shopping for a spectacular view of the harbour at night. The view was the better deal because the rain held off long enough for some great photos.

Window shopping in Shanghai

Shopping in Shanghai was sacrificed for a view of the Harbour by night

The colours of Shanghai Harbour light up the darkness of the night

The lights from Shanghai Harbour on an overcast night

And Now For The WOW!!

One of the highlights of the trip was a day in Suzhou, one of the most popular tourist towns in China. I thought that Zhujiajou was spectacular, but Suzhou was even more so.  A boat ride along the canals of this ancient town exceeded any expectations I had of what China had to offer. It was like looking over the back fences of the neighbourhood. Seeing locals going about their daily chores; kids waving from the pier; barges hauling their cargo. There is no better way to get up close and personal with Chinese culture than skimming past their back door on a boat. It was magic!

Water Towns of China are a must-see

We drifted slowly by the homes of local people

One of the Water Towns of China

One of the canals in Suzhou

There are eight significant Water Towns in China and my Travel Bucket List now includes visiting each one of them. But that’s another adventure, for another time.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 3 comments
Travelling The World

Travelling The World

When I was very young someone made the comment that I would travel because I had a gap between my two top teeth. Back then, living out of town on almost 20 acres of land, with electricity the only modern convenience we had, I thought the 35-mile journey into Sydney was the ultimate travel experience. Oh, how my life has changed!

My journey’s since then have taken me to:

  • Europe (twice)
  • Penang – lived there for two years
  • Singapore – can’t remember how many times
  • Vancouver – spent almost a year there (2005) and visited in 2016
  • San Francisco – spent almost a year there (2006) and many visits since

  • China – 2 fabulous weeks; fell in love with the Ancient Water Towns

Zhujiajiao

  • India – 17 amazing days, including seeing the Taj Mahal

All of the journeys have been amazing and hopefully, I will be able to expand on each one through the posts on this site.

 

 

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment
China Trip – The Beginning

China Trip – The Beginning

With all the tripping around I’ve done this year, my blogs are all over the place. The China trip has been fleetingly touched on in other areas but has somehow missed the dedicated space it so truly deserves. So, here it is!

In The Beginning

img_8867It all started with a conversation with Molly, the sales agent, in July 2015. Settlement on my new unit was due to happen around September – we hoped – but Molly was going to China to visit the Aveo campus in Shanghai and hoped to be back in time for settlement. She wanted to be able to hand over the keys in person when I took ownership of the place I’d call home in my retirement years. As Molly talked about China, my mind went into overdrive with thoughts of potential travel opportunities – but the idea slipped quietly onto the back burner – there were more pressing things that needed my immediate attention, not the least of which was actually buying the unit, packing up my world out in Central Queensland, and making the long haul back to civilisation. Oh, and somewhere amongst all that, actually securing a transfer with my job. Even though I was buying my retirement place, I wasn’t ready to sever my ties with paid employment just yet. I figured I had another 5 years, at least, before I needed to think about hanging up the chalk (whiteboard markers to be politically correct) and close the door on my long teaching career. After all, I still loved my job.

So, no more thoughts of China entered my head until I had moved in and was a few months into being settled in the unit. By this time I’d even committed the unthinkable and resigned from my job, but that’s another story. So when I opened the mailbox that cold day in July and found a note about a meeting to discuss a trip to China, for anyone who was interested, I was in. I put the date in my diary and when the big day arrived, armed with my trusty new camera, drove to Robina for the meeting.

It all sounded good, and I was pretty sure it was something I really wanted to do, until Suzy, the presenter, mentioned there was a Starbucks right next to where we’d be staying. That was the game-changer for me. My next question was ‘where do I sign?’. I love Starbucks, but again, that’s another chapter, for another time.

The plans slowly unfolded. There were emails back and forth between the travel agency and AVEO organiser (Suzy). There were numerous forms to complete, more dreaded passport photos for the Visa and thoughts (a few anyway) about what to pack.

Since then, the plans have unfolded, the itinerary is finalised, and the packing is about to start in earnest. With the departure now only days away, the packing is slightly overdue, but I’m confident that I’ll get there. Morning will come a little earlier on Tuesday, with the bus picking me up at 6 am. From Murwillumbah, we’ll travel to Robina to collect the Gold-Coasters, and then it’s on to Brisbane Airport. I’m guessing the day is going to be very long, as we make our way to Hong Kong to meet up with the travellers from Sydney and Melbourne. We will all then board the flight to Shanghai, where we’ll be met by our tour guide for the drive to our accommodation at the Shanghai Campus. From then on it will be full speed ahead, with every day being packed with great things to do.

So, back to the packing…

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Posted by Maureen in Travel
Seeing the world – one port at a time

Seeing the world – one port at a time

Having arrived home late on the 1st November from China, with barely enough time to unpack, there I was on the 7th November at the Gold Coast Airport waiting for a flight to Melbourne, then Abu Dhabi, and on to London. From there, a bus to Southampton for a 2-night stay before boarding the Navigator of the Seas for a 13-night cruise to the US, stopping at Boston, New York, Cape Canaveral and arriving in Miami on the 23rd November.

One night in Miami, and then a flight to San Francisco via Atlanta on the 24th (Thanksgiving), and then Vancouver on the 27th. The final leg was a Qantas flight from Vancouver to LA, LA to Sydney, then Sydney to Gold Coast on the 3rd December. Phew! There was a lot to pack in on this trip. My retirement travel plans seemed to be all unfolding at once. The original idea was to pace myself over a few years, working my way through the list of places I want to see, but life has a habit of stepping in and making its own plans, with little regard for any plans you might think you’ve made. And because of this, the comfort zone I’d felt restricted by at the beginning, was slowly expanding, and it was starting to get too easy to just plan and go.

Southampton

Heathrow to Southampton was an easy coach ride – so comfortable in fact, that I slept most of the way. Two nights at the Novotel and then ready to start the sea part of the trip.

Embarkation was a very easy process. Having arrived a few hours before my designated time, I took a chance on being able to board early and was actually given preferential treatment by being ushered through the Diamond and Platinum lines, with only two people ahead of me. This saved me from taking a cab to the Titanic Museum to fill in the time; not a good idea when about to sail the same seas as that famous, ill-fated voyage. Every creak I heard on the first night sent flashes of scenes from the three-hour epic movie of the Titanic, shuddering through me. Having a balcony on the cruise may not have been the smartest choice – putting me so much closer to the water’s edge.

 

A Skoda Yeti (Jungle Green) in Southampton – gotta love this car

Six Days At Sea

Eat / Read / Eat / Sleep / Eat

You’ve got to love Johnny Rockets…

Boston

The sun rose that morning, as it does every day, but this time I was awake and ready to take it on. I made an early morning dash to the coffee booth on deck 5 and was on my balcony, coffee in hand, as Boston came into view.

Boston, on the horizon
Being the first port of call in the US, we had to clear Customs before disembarking for the day’s excursions. I kid you not, the queue to reach the Customs Officer, started at one end of the ship and ended two hours later, at the other end. Needless to say, the scheduled time for departure for our excursion to Salem, was long gone by the time we reached the front of the terminal. Fortunately for us, the bus had waited. The delay had made the excursion a little rushed, but certainly worthwhile.

Seeing Boston in Autumn (or Fall) left me almost speechless. Mother Nature had turned on her charm and splendour, and changed green leaves to red and orange, in every hue imaginable.

New York

At Last!

I had wanted to see New York for so long and I was finally there.

At night, the Cotton Club was on the agenda. I’m not a big fan of Jazz, but this was of the very mellow variety and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It felt like such an honour to be there, being entertained by very talented people and in such a fantastic place.

While Boston and New York were definitely the highlights, the other ports had their special charm as well, not the least of which was the much warmer climate. I opted to do my own thing in Port Canaveral and Miami and was very glad for the downtime after such a busy schedule. And I have to say the beaches of Miami don’t have much on our Gold Coast beaches. Having once lived within walking distance to the beaches of Surfers Paradise, I feel qualified to make that comparison, but I would welcome your thoughts – maybe I missed something?

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments

Ni Hao China – On My Way

After months of planning, the trip to China officially starts tomorrow. I’ll be up VERY early in the morning, and off to the airport. I’ve even debated the benefit of just staying up all night – but I know I’d live to regret that decision, so I will try to get some sleep – even if it is only a few hours.

Have you ever packed for a trip, thought you’d been really careful about not over-packing, zipped up the bag, only to find you can barely lift it? Where did I go wrong? Was it the chocolate biscuits I bought as gifts for my hosts in China? Or the souvenirs I’ve packed to share with my new Chinese friends? Or the two very special gifts I’m taking with me for some very special people? It must be the combination of all those things because it couldn’t possibly be the few clothes I’ve packed. I was really careful not to pack too many – just enough that I won’t have to be washing every other day. I reckon I’ve got enough to last about four days before I have to consider finding the laundry. Oh I’m glad I mentioned laundry – that reminds me – I was going to pack some washing powder. But wait a minute – won’t that make the bag even heavier? Well, perhaps I’ll just have to buy some when I get there. In fact, maybe I should check the bag one more time – perhaps I could leave a few of those extra shirts at home.

I’ll let you know soon how the trip eventuated, but for now, I need to think about one last check of the packing and then try to get some sleep.

 

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The Places I’ve Seen

Because I’ve been a gypsy most of my life I’ve seen some pretty amazing places; from drought stricken outback towns to bustling major cities, and everything in between. I’ve lived in four countries and backpacked through Europe in the middle of winter. Some of the places I’ve seen looked best in the rear-view mirror as I was leaving, but most are high on my list of places to go back to. When I think of future travel, it’s those familiar places that call the loudest. While going back is tempting, moving forward means taking new risks, seeing the places I haven’t seen, and have no connection to. It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone, even if only to the inner circle, but always with a view to going a little further each time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tumbulgum – One of the nicest spots on the Tweed

Sunrise

Sunrise – while cruising the great Pacific Ocean

Travel, in my life, isn’t usually planned  – it just happens. And that’s how a trip to China  eventuated in 2016. I didn’t  have China on my radar, but because the trip was organised by someone who knows what they’re doing, and because I would be travelling with people I have a lot in common with, I couldn’t resist. I had never travelled on a guided tour before – my modus operandi is usually an impromptu, impulsive, plan as I go method.

The trip was fantastic – and luckily I took my real camera with me, as well as my trusty iPhone camera. You can read about the trip on my Travel Blog.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments