by Carson Beadle

Mary Elizabeth said, “If we want to see China webetter do it while we still can.” That sounds like alot of folks in Naples, I pondered.

Our Viking tour gathered in Shanghai, some at the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons, we at a The Bund with the architectural, glittering skyline you see in advertisements.

The nearby promenade was like Times Square; neon everywhere; people six across in each direction laughing and having a good time; then on to five acres of Yuyuan Gardens dating to the Ming Dynasty – another world.

By plane to Wuhan, a city of 12 million with clusters of a dozen 60 story apartments; skyscrapers everywhere. Here we board a lush river cruiser with about 350 travelers, gateway to the spectacular Yangtze River and Three Gorges, stopping at the Three Gorges Dam that led to flooding hundreds of towns and now supplies 10 percent of China’s electricity – overwhelming.

Heading back towards Beijing the mighty Yangtze River was closed. Huge containers had fallen into the river confusing traffic.

Doubling back to our last port we bussed to our intended airport missing Chongqing, the town of the giant pandas.

Arriving in Xi An, the capital of China for 12 Imperial Dynasties we luxuriated in a Sheraton hotel of unique design, then on to see the Terra Cotta warriors, thousands standing side by side each with its own face.

At the Beijing zoo we found our giant pandas, then a trip to the Great Wall with its challenging walks. Our kids took the high road, I the low. By the third gate I returned to be sure I could get back. Stunning is the word.

Four thousand miles and, as we learned, built twice. Chinese tourists giggled in the photos they wanted with us Americans.

Seventy and eighty story skyscrapers with truly imaginative facades dot Beijing. Six and eight lane highways criss cross the city. Twenty-two thousand miles of trains connect cities many traveling at 250 mph.

An experimental thirty mile Mag Lev train in Shanghai intended to reach Beijing operates at 350 mph.

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City were next. ‘Be ready for a 3.5 mile walk’ said our guide. What? In the middle of Beijing? Crossing the formidable Square made famous by the resistance youth standing in front of a tank we entered the Forbidden City, with its 9999 rooms, 90 palaces and 980 buildings arranged in squares with those of lesser status at the outer ring until reaching the Emperors quarters a mile inside.

Revolutionary: credit cards and cash are mostly used by tourists. Locals use their cellphones to access bar codes.

Our son-in-law had contacts here and we enjoyed dinner with the Chinese. They and their families were steeped in the moral traditions of the centuries. It was striking that China had come from an agrarian society to one of the most modern in just 22 years with a population of such solid traditions. Something to contemplate!

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