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Prime Timers in China - A Dream Come True

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by Michael Stone - Photographs by Robert Rosenthal

Twenty five Prime Timers returned from our 21-day trip to China less than one week ago. In April of 2010 Robert and I went on this trip; we loved the trip and we loved everything we saw.

 

About a year ago Robert had the idea that we return to China but this time take along fellow Prime Timers. We had a great, very compatible group of guys. In addition, my good friends Cindy and Diane joined us and were immediately welcomed as honorary Prime Timers for this one time only! I worked with Cindy for years in Denver and Diane had joined her on previous cruises we escorted. 

 

I like to think of our group as a magic and miraculous group because we all came together as strangers and returned home as friends. I watched people pitch in to help others with luggage, walking, and always thinking of each other. We couldn’t have picked a better group. Some days were long and tiring but everyone made it and celebrated and embraced each new adventure. Have you ever seen a group of 23 men form into a spontaneous chorus inside a Chinese building singing “Hello Dolly” together. It happened and Jay has the video to prove it!

 

Our Chinese guide, Kevin, was the best guide we could have ever had. He was there for us 24/7 when needed and always the ‘mother hen’ counting us and sharing historical background materials. When someone lagged behind he’d go back and round them up. When anyone fell ill he would make midnight runs to the pharmacy and be right back to help us. 

 

I think most of us will agree that we all now have a Chinese best friend. I plan on always keeping in touch with Kevin. When we left China and embraced he asked just one favor: could I send him a Prime Timers shirt? He promised to wear it and send us a picture of him leading a group wearing the shirt.

 

China Spree has received high marks from each and every one of us. Everything they provide is going above and beyond expectations to give us the experience of a lifetime and memories that will last forever.

 

What did we see and do? During our 5 nights and 4 days in Beijing we toured Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, a rickshaw ride in the Hutongs (old living quarters) where we visited a family for a ‘home cooked’ lunch, the Imperial Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, the old shopping district of old Beijing (and culinary delicacies I dare not mention) and a grand Peking Duck Banquet dinner. In addition we toured the Temple of Heaven and the famous ‘Birds Nest’ Olympic stadium.

 

Our time in Xian was well spent touring the Terra Cotta Warriors; 6,000 life size soldiers and horses, each depicted in his own way. We walked the streets of the Muslim quarters and toured the grounds of the great mosque. 

 

From Xian we flew to Guilin; one day was spent hiking up the 2,000 ft. peak to see the fabled minority villages and the rice terraces. We enjoyed a great meal near the summit and even visited a family in their home. The second day was spent on the Li River, cruising the 52-miles as it twists and turns through lush green valleys and the soaring karst pinnacles peeking through the mists. To me, this is the China that we all remember best.

 

From Guilin we flew to Hong Kong for 2 days and met our local guide, Eric, there. The shopping was great at the Stanley Market and lunch aboard the Jumbo Seafood Floating Restaurant was super. The clouds parted enough on Victoria peak in order for us to get some great pictures of the city and its harbor.

 

From Hong Kong we flew to Chong Qing (pronounced Chung King) the world’s largest city (33 million people), which sits in Szechuan province on the Yangtzee River. Here we visited the zoo with its Pandas, the bird and flower markets and, yes, even a ‘strange’ Wal-Mart store! 

 

The next day we boarded our ship for 3 days on the Yangtze river where we enjoyed our stateroom balcony views of the new, shiny cities built along the hillsides, recently relocated when the river was dammed and flooded the valleys. An excursion took us up a narrow tributary in order to better appreciate the scenery. We visited the 3 Gorges Dam and locks and power plant.

 

Near journey’s end we flew to Shanghai for our last 4 days. This was, is and always will remain my favorite city in China. It brings the best of the old world into the present and shakes hands with China’s future. Shanghai is a ‘world class city’ in many ways with a mixture of European and Asian cultures. One day we took an excursion to Suzhou, the ancient city of gardens at the end of what was known as the ‘silk road’. We visited a silk factory and watched the workers spin silk from cocoons. On the return to Shanghai we spent the afternoon in Tongli, a preserved ancient canal city where our gondola rides took us far into China’s past.

 

I’m probably a little jaded (no pun intended) because this was my third trip to China. However, this was, without a doubt, the best one. Kevin will always cast his warm and wonderful glow over my memories of this trip, as will the good friends we traveled with. Hey, I’ve heard one of the fellows is throwing a reunion party. Now we’ll have a chance to practice our Chinese recipes and wear those strange ‘tiaras’ we bought in China.

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Last modified on Monday, 18 June 2012 23:47