Group Tour to China

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Contiki China Adventure Tour Review

Well, my Contiki days are over now but after traveling with 8 Contiki Tours (Italian Espresso, Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, Greece & Italy, Middle Europe, Spanish Spree, Big Indochina, Thai Island Hopper, and China Adventure, whew!), I feel confident saying that the China Adventure is the very best Contiki has to offer. I loved all my experiences, but this one was especially top notch.

Why? See all the very best of China in one trip, go on and off the beaten path, stay in four-star hotels, and make great friends – all with excellent local guides and the best Tour Manager ever: Luke!

Luke was very knowledgable, professional, fun, and just an all around good guy with lots of positive energy. He made a point to take us away from the crowd at the Great Wall so we felt we had it all to ourselves (a priceless “wow moment”) and also took us to some other places, like a local art district, that don’t attract many tourists.

The trip was action packed with all the sites you want to see: forbidden city, Great Wall, terra-cotta warriors, etc., and even though the group demographic was slightly older and better traveled than you’ll find on a European Contiki tour, there was still plenty of opportunity to explore the Shanghai and Hong Kong night life.

You will even get the chance to relax a bit with a leisurely bike ride along the Xian city wall, a Chinese acrobatic performance, a bamboo raft ride and some spa treatments in Yangzhou. All the optionals were well worth it!

I don’t usually like going to the super touristy shopping areas. I did, however, do a lot more shopping than usual and got some really great items – like my silk comforter that I can’t live without & my pearls that I’m wearing right now! I shipped everything home from Hong Kong to make for easier travel.

Three out of the five hotels were WAY nicer than the standard Contiki tour and much better than my budget usually allows, so this was a special treat – oh, and the breakfast spreads were out of this world, especially in Hong Kong!

I value the friendships I formed on this trip, and I even got to visit a few friends in other world travel excursions.

In sum, just do it!

~ LiAnn

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Like a Rolling Stone

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The best thing about being a wanderer, or at times being consumed by wanderlust, is the stories you collect. In addition to collecting my own stories, I like to hear about other people’s adventures.

I had a 7 hour delay at the Kathmandu airport – which worked out well because I wound up on a direct flight to Bangkok on the very posh Thai Airways flight that would have cost me $900 if I booked it directly.

While sitting there at the airport, I met a really cool chick from the U.S. who just spent a month hiking in the Himalayas. What a story! In addition to telling me about treacherous, life threatening pathways, being soaking wet in the frigid great outdoors, and appearing in newspapers after a theft at the campsite, she also told me about leeches. She showed me her battle scars and described the leeches as if they were featured in a horror flick. Continue reading

Orchha, India

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After a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, we made our way to the town of Orchha. While it was still hot, arid, and dusty, it was smaller and less crowded than the larger cities of Delhi and Jaipur. It reminded me much more of Southeast Asia.

There were six beautiful palaces in Orchha, as well as a number of temples. We went to a Hindu temple (Ram Raja, I believe) and observed a ceremony/blessing. It is interesting to see how much religions have in common with one another. This blessing, in which the priest blessed sweets brought by the followers, reminded me very much of catholic communion. Hinduism also has the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.

After the ceremony, we participated in a cooking class, where we learned to make curries and various other dishes. I literally wrote “I give up” on my recipe notes after too many complicated steps! We all know, cooking is not a talent of mine, although, I certainly enjoyed eating the results! I think I’ll work on fine tuning my toaster oven skills before I tackle curry!

~ LiAnn

A Passage to India

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Arriving in Delhi was a shock to to senses. The air was hot, thick, and smelled of burning wood. The streets were bustling with cars, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, cows, and trucks overflowing with unidentifiable cargo. The electrical wiring hung twisted and dangerous over the walkways. Chickens lay ill and stacked in their cages, and merchants sold spoiled meat in the 105 degree heat.

Intertwined with this madness was an indescribable beauty. Women clad in brightly colored saris walked arm-in-arm down the streets; an overjoyed man shouted praise to Shiva in a Hindu temple; the smell of spices permeated the air as locals shared a samosa prepared on the street in front of us.

Here, I am an obvious foreigner. My strangely pale skin and red hair attract many stares and more than a few requests to pose with local tourists for photos – which I gladly do! Just as we grew up with tales of a far away and exotic India – here, I am a peculiar stranger from a far away western land.

Our second stop, Jaipur, was equally chaotic, but had its own individual personality and charm. Glorious palaces were set between street upon street of markets. The smell of urine, burning garbage, cow, and elephant was interspersed with pepper, ginger, fried potatoes, and roasting melons in the hot sun.

At one point, we stumbled across a wedding ceremony – and we foreigners were fascinated by the tradition. As we watched, the locals watched us too, and we all started taking pictures of each other and then posed together for photos. It was great!

My favorite part was when a little girl rode up to me on her bicycle and very slowly and determinedly said, “Hellloo. How are yooou?” I replied, “I’m good! How are you?” And she covered her mouth, giggling, and ran away!

I have travelled to approximately 40 countries, and I can truly say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like India.

~ LiAnn, 2013