The below set of galleries are a compilation of pictures from my first to last trip to China spanning 2001 to 2008.


On my first business trip to China when, the St. Regis was only $150/nt with butler, I hired a driver to take me out to the Huánghuāchéng section of the Great Wall, in the Huairou District, of Beijing.  Per the Lonely Planet Guide this section of the wall was still accessible.  The driver arrived and it was a kid, about 16 years of age, in his economy sedan and off we went.  It became apparent on this trip, that the young people were learning English.  It was in the middle of January and the lakes were frozen and the wind was howling. After about a  The driver wouldn't even get out of the car.  In some casual loafers and my long think wool business coat I headed off  across a damn that was frozen over, hiked up a hillside to where there was a ladder to climb up on to The Wall.  An amazing feeling to be all alone, no one in sight, standing on top of this massive historical wall.  During the hike, the only person I saw was a lone farmer in his peach orchard raking rocks.  In the 2004, I brought John, my now husband, to the same area (2004 pics follow this photo gallery) and you can see the significant transformation with all the refurbishment of the wall and during the summer.


Street scenes from the early trips ... fyi, the haziness in the pictures are from smog.  We would have days that were so smoggy that the building next door was just a shadow.


Forbidden city 2001 - 2003


A park that is accessed from behind The Forbidden City.


These pics are most likely 2002, there used to be an old hutong (original Chinese neighborhood) that had an entry into a portion of Mao's underground tunnels. His administration could leave the Forbidden
City through underground tunnels to the Summer Palace and a military base.


In 2004, John joined me in China for a personal trip through China.  In about 2.5 weeks we tried to see what we thought would be the most interesting for John's first trip to China.  


Since my first visit the government had started to restore this section of the wall.  At the end of this section of the wall, there is a small village where our driver met us.  We had a beer at the local restaurant and the owner was very social.  She showed us the section of the wall we had climbed was in the Lonely Planet guide and that her restaurant was listed.  She was so cute, she escorted us to the car and waived good bye.  We couldn't speak each other's language but sign language and lots of smiles seemed to make her very happy.

(Click on pictures to enlarge)


The heaven temple:  The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. Jia ging also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of the Sun (日壇) in the east, the Temple of Earth (地壇) in the north, and the Temple of Moon (月壇) in the west.

(Click on pictures to enlarge)




Shaanxi Province


(Click on pictures to enlarge)


Sichuan Province

Note: Pictures of Lèshan's street scenes can be difficult to see if you're an animal lover.

Lèshan UNESCO World Heritage Site - The Giant Buddha & Scenic Éméi shān

Éméi shān is overwhelmingly beautiful.  During Mao's reign most of the religious temples were destroyed.  Somehow the leaders of the Cheundgu Provence managed to save most of their religious sites.  The monastery on  Éméi shān  definitely leaves an impression on you.  Also, in this gallery of pics are Lèshan street and market scenes.  Lèshan is considered a small town with only 2 million people at the time we were there ... 'small' is definitely relative to each country.  

"The Lèshan Giant Buddha (Chinese: 樂山大佛) is a 71-metre (233 ft) tall stone statue, built between 713 and 803 (during the Tang dynasty), depicting Maitreya.[1] It is carved out of a cliff face of Cretaceous red bed sandstones that lies at the confluence of the Min River and Dadu River in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near the city of Leshan.[2] The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. It is the largest and tallest stone Buddha statue in the world[3] and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

The Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996." Wikipedia:  Leshan Giant Buddha - Wikipedia

The Giant Buddha

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

Scenic  Éméi shān

Lèshan Street Scenes

Chengdu - Capital of Sichuan

Chengdu is very different than the other cities and regions we visited.  He Ming is a famous tea house in the center of the city next to a Taoist Monastery, a great place to hang out, drink tea and people watch.  Chengdu has the most universities in Southwestern China. As mentioned before Mao destroyed all religious temples in China except for those in the Sichuan Province. It's said that philosophers to scientists would have tea at the He Ming Teahouse and discuss their interests for hours.  "Founded by the state of Shu prior to its incorporation into China, Chengdu is unique as a major Chinese settlement that has maintained its name mostly unchanged throughout the imperial, republican, and communist eras. It was the capital of Liu Bei's Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Era, as well as several other local kingdoms during the Middle Ages.[12] During World War II, refugees from eastern China fleeing from the Japanese settled in Chengdu. After the war, Chengdu's importance as a link between Eastern and Western China expanded, with railways built to Chongqing in 1952, and Kunming and Tibet afterwards.[12]"  Wikipedia  Chengdu - Wikipedia

Anhui Province

Huàng Shān  黄山,   Yellow Mountain

What to say about Huángshān.  It is breathtakingly beautiful and frustrating all at the same time, but so worth the effort.  It is best to hike up the 1800 meters (5,900 ft.) to have the full experience and increase your appreciation for the natural beauty.  The night before we arrived at the base town.  We went for a long walk through a local village, then stopped in a hotel to grab a bite to eat.  There we somehow met a driver, I can't even remember how we knew he was a driver.  He only spoke Mandarin so using Chinese hand signs we negotiated for him to pick us up at our hotel in the morning at 7 am to take us to the starting point.  We also somehow explained for him to return to 3 days later to pick us up.  Miracles do happen because he was at our hotel in the morning and he brought along his cousin, Daniel, who spoke English, lol.  Daniel confirmed that yes, they will pick us up in 3 days at the temple where the trail ends, yay!  The driver, John and I piled in the driver's car and off we went.
We arrive at the starting point and waive good bye to 'The Driver' ... we never did learn his name.  Now before you start your trek, it's fun to purchase a traditional wood walking stick from one of the street vendors ... what the heck, all the locals did it.  It's good to note that the 99% of the tourists are Chinese! As you start your trek you soon realize that some very poor souls cut granite slabs to make stairs all the way to the top of the mountain.  I don't want to even contemplate the lives that must have been lost on the endeavor.  You will also notice porters with bamboo sticks across their shoulders with cases of beer, vegetables, etc. hanging on each side, say what?  There is a tram to the top, but the hotels instead pay porters to lug supplies up the mountain.  The tram is saved for the tourists who don't want to hike, which is probably why there are so many people at the top.  If everyone had to hike there would be far less people up there. The Porters were carrying everything from hotel supplies to tired tourists who didn't want to walk anymore.  We made our journey in early May so the crowds weren't that bad.  Along the way the natural beauty is stunning with waterfalls, lush forest, rock spires, and flowering trees.  It makes the hole experience.  When you reach the top, yes, there are 5 hotels and 5 bars on your cell phone ... but look past that and you see towering rock formations and spires.  The mist rolls thru and you can no longer see a peak, then the mist rolls past and the peak is suddenly in front of you, so vivid and immense that you think you could reach out and touch them.  
Lonely Planet describes it best, "When its granite peaks and twisted pines are wreathed in spectral folds of mist the idyllic views of Huangshan ... easily nudge it into the select company of China’s top 10, nay, top five, sights. Legions of poets and painters have drawn inspiration from Huangshan’s iconic beauty. Yesterday’s artists seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of the temporal world have been replaced by crowds of tourists, who bring the hustle and bustle with them ... But Huangshan still rewards visitors with moments of tranquility, and the unearthly views are simply breathtaking."
(Click on pictures to enlarge)

Touring With Daniel

When we arrived at the bottom of the mountain we ducked behind the temple buildings and changed into dry clothes; then waited for The Driver and Daniel.   They arrived right on time!  Then we learned that Daniel was a guide and we were going to tour real local villages and have a tea ceremony.  Daniel was our ride so off we went with Daniel with full trust and not really knowing where we were off to nor for how long ... that's what makes traveling so fun!  He also had a homemade bottle of Hooch with a wax cork to warm us up from the cold and wet hike down the mountain, lol.  He thought of everything, best guide ever!!!