Swarthmore travelers are coming from all over to meet up in Beijing, but here’s what the itinerary looks like for those of us who are starting out in Philadelphia. After we all meet up, we’re all traveling together to Shanghai. Then some go on to Hong Kong, but for me, it’s a long return flight from Shanghai to Chicago and back home to Philly.
Oct. 12 (Friday) Depart mid-morning for Chicago/O’Hare, from which our nonstop flight to Beijing leaves in the early afternoon, crossing the International Dateline (IDL) sometime in the night. About the IDL: Traveling east results in a day (or 24 hours) being added to your starting time. Going west, subtract 24 hours. It’s all so confusing, but what I think it means is that we’ll be on this plane for a really long time. I’ll let you know just how long after we land. I’m hoping for an aisle seat because I like to get up an stretch a lot.
Oct. 13 (Saturday) Arrive Beijing. Clear customs and immigration. Head for hotel. What day is it? Dinner … sleep … tomorrow.
Oct. 14 (Sunday) Time to look around. A full day of sightseeing including the Ming Dynasty Temple of Heaven and a Peking (not Beijing?) Duck dinner. Quack!
Oct. 15 (Monday) Beijing is a big city. We can’t see it all, but we’ll try. Highlights: historic Houhai district with its “hutong” streets. Then the Qing Summer Palace with that totally ridiculous stone boat (it seemed like a good idea at the time). Finally, Beijing University (no joke here), where we will get to meet the contemporary author Yu Hua, an friend of our faculty leader, Haili Kong.
Oct. 16 (Tuesday) Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Imperial Palace Museum, antiquities collections. Say, if the people running this place are revolutionaries, why glorify the imperial past? Same deal in Vietnam. Modern revolutionaries appropriate their country’s cultural/historical heritage and make it part of their own mythology.
Oct. 17 (Wednesday) The Great Wall. What more can I say? Pretty great. Can’t wait.
Oct. 18 (Thursday) Time to blow out of Beijing. Fly to Yichang, take a quick look around, then get on board the Victoria Queen, a river liner. Hope the cabin’s cozy and comfy, because we’re on this boat for the next four nights on the Yangzi River. (See roommate description page. I am sure there will be no complaints unless I snore.)
Oct. 19–Oct 22 (Friday to Monday) The Victoria Queen, which sounds British but is actually operated by an American company, takes us up the Yangzi from Yichang to Chongqing. Day one: the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping, with a look at one of the world’s most enormous—and controversial—construction projects. Above the dam is the famous Three Gorges. Day two: Shore excursion to Wushan. If water levels permit, a look at the Three Small Gorges on the Daning River. Back on the Yangzi, head through the Qutang Gorge. Take lots of pictures. Day four: Shore excursion to Wanxian and the “ghost city” of Fengdu. (Not sure what this is about.) Next morning: Disembark at Chongqing, the WWII capital of Nationalist China. Tour Dazu and its 1,500 year-old Buddhist sites.
Oct. 23 (Tuesday) Visit history museums, including one devoted to Gen. Joseph Stilwell, and zoo in Chongqing. Fly to Xian.
Oct. 24 (Wednesday) Visit the excavated tomb of Qinshihuang, the first Chinese emperor, and the 2,300-year-old terracotta warriors who were buried with him for protection in the afterlife. Contemplate afterlife. Contemplate peasants who dug holes for warriors and, 23 centuries later (in 1974), plowed up warriors. Wonder why no one found them before that. Contemplate time, fate, and (once again) afterlife.
Oct. 25 (Thursday) Morning: See newly excavated Han Dynasty burial site. Afternoon: Fly to Shanghai.
Oct. 26 (Friday) City tour, urban planning exhibit, Shanghai Museum, Buddhist temple, farewell dinner. Acrobats optional.
Oct. 27 (Saturday) Depart Shanghai. Language from brochure: “Check-out of the hotel before noon and drive to the Pudong area and visit the observation deck of the TV Tower. Continue to the Terminus of the Mag-Lev Train while the luggage will continue to the Pudong Airport. For the airport transfer take the magnetic levitation high speed train at speeds up to 260 mph floating to the airport in about 7 minutes for your return flight to the States.” The faint of heart can only envy the luggage.
The return flight arrives in Chicago at 5:55 pm CST. Philadelphia 9:03 pm EST. But by then, who will know what time it is?