To say that I was mesmerized by this amazing country is an understatement. Never In my life did I think I would be so captivated by this ancient country. Again, I embark on a 14-hour flight from Houston to Beijing on Air China. Rusk upgraded our seats to business class so that I could manage to at least sleep most of the time, of course, I didn't complain : )
There is a surreal feeling when you arrive 14 hours later and you're in a completely different world...yes it's our planet but the cultural shock can be halting. We lost a whole day on our flight there, we were welcomed into the country at 4 am in the morning by a sweet tour guide who spoke a little English.
Our tour started in Beijing an ancient city that hosted the Olympics in 2008, a city with 22 million inhabitants. Despite the alarms people set in my head, I did not encounter nasty pollution, dirty people peeing in the streets or wild food on a nondescript corner. The food and art scene was vibrant, the people extremely polite and welcoming and the system for transporting 22 million people quite organized and clean. I'm so glad Rusk and I don't listen to the distractors, most of the time they follow alarmist media and only hear one side of a story.
We first imagined taking this trip in August of 2016 when Rusk read that there was a tour exclusive for DEPARTURES readers, The Wonders of China Tour! American Express was inviting its card members on a journey through the magnificent sights of China with Peninsula Hotels. Rusk was especially hooked by the idea of having dinner on the Great Wall which we did have and enjoyed immensely!!
Once in a lifetime climb up the Great Wall.
After an exhausting walk along the ancient walkways of the historic Great Wall of China, Rusk and I enjoyed an exclusive private alfresco dinner prepared by Peninsula culinary team atop the Great Wall.
Following our journey we ventured off to Shanghai, my favorite of the three cities we visited. Shanghai has an indescribable energy that was exhilarating. I couldn't catch my breath at the magnificent modern buildings, it felt like walking into a scene of The Jetsons cartoon. I wanted to remember this place so badly, I never wanted to forget that feeling of wonder. The city is huge, but it has a very unique mixture of old buildings and new modern ones literally next to each other. Shanghai is considered new and modern more youthful in comparison to Beijing. There is a crazy amount of wealth in the city, prices for small apartments can go as high as in the millions. Young Shaghai Boys and Shanghai Girls are very savvy in business and investments, they have a level of education that we could only wish for here in the states. I was super impressed!
Sir Elly’s Terrace, enjoying cocktails and canapés on the roof of The Peninsula Shanghai.
Of course par for the course is shopping for my boutique. I headed out to the local markets to look for freshwater pearl necklaces and silk scarves! The locals were thrilled to share the process for making each of their products. They are so proud of their craft and that in turns makes me so excited to share it with my customers in Houston. I can't imagine a better thing than to support local business when you travel and taking an interest in what they do and how they do it. I always say handcrafted items have a story and you take a little piece of it with you on your return!
Following our tradition of trying new things we headed to Hong Kong and decided on a detour to Macau. A Portuguese town that boasts as being bigger and better than Las Vegas, it was a real treat for me. The lights, the action and the energy was intoxicating. You can tell the the players come to PLAY! We spent half a day there and tried local Portuguese cuisine..so amazing!
Heading back to the states was tough. I wanted to stay longer, much to my surprise it was a wonderful trip for the ages. I'm thankful that I get to go all over the world but I never forget how much I love my city of Houston!