Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Adventures By Disney- China Review

Our adventure to China took us to places unlike anything we've ever experienced, and I'm so thankful to have ABD guide us through the challenge of a trip to China!  I'm not sure how we could have ever seen so much, in so short a time, unless ABD had made it all happen.  Some of our favorite highlights include:

·         Explore Hong Kong We fell in love with Hong Kong and its  vibrant harbor with an iconic skyline, world-class shops and exciting street scene.  Since English is one of the two official languages in Hong Kong, navigating was easy and there was so much to see there!
·         Hong Kong Disneyland & Shanghai Disneyland This was really the reason we picked China in the first place.  Book-ending our trip with Disney park visits.  They are both unique and such a treat to experience!  They have rides unique to each park (the Pirates of Caribbean ride in Shanghai is unlike anything I've ever seen in my life... we had to ride it 4 times just to take it all in!), food unique to China (hello, squid cart!), and we found the Cast Members and guests alike to be friendly and helpful.  
·        Great Wall of China Cable Car Ride Of course, ABD knows what they're doing and instead of visiting the Great Wall right near Beijing, we took a coach ride a little farther out which means... less people!    We  traveled  to Mutianyu for an amazing walk atop this iconic structure.  The photo ops did not disappoint... we had nearly an empty Wall to ourselves for miles and miles.  There is something pretty powerful to know you're standing on the Great Wall of China that you've read about and seen pictures of your entire life. 
·         Victoria Peak We loved the  views of Hong Kong’s stunning skyline and harbor from the top of the mountain.  We had a beautiful, sunny day and loved the mountain-top view of Hong Kong & Kowloon Bay below.
·         Beijing's Temple of Heaven We toured this massive temple built for emperors to worship the god of heaven.  If you love visiting EPCOT in Orlando, you'll recognize this temple since it's recreated in the China Pavilion.  Definitely worth a photo so you can put them side by side!
·         Panda Visit It was an honor to get a rare peek at China’s cutest residents on a tour of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.  We were led by a local tour guide who taught us all sorts of panda-related facts and stories.  This was another one of those "something we've learned about our whole lives" moments, because other than a few pandas at zoos around the US, there's not many chances to see pandas.  Not to mention see SO MANY pandas!  Super cute gift shop here too, of course!
·         Sichuan Opera I literally had NO idea what this was, or what to expect, and it was one of my favorite things of the entire trip!  It's advertised as "Enjoy music, acrobatics and the classic face changing act that has delighted audiences for centuries."  But it's SO much more than just what it reads on paper and was such a fun cultural experience!  They offered some chair services like a chair massage or ear picking (traditional Chinese health habit of using small tools to pick ear wax out of your ears!), which I'm pretty sure were targeted at tourists although they ARE traditional Chinese activities (they just get them done at their homes).  My boys chose the massage and I went with ear picking because... it's different and I like new things!  It was definitely an experience and probably not one I would "pick" again (hah!) but I'm glad I can say I did it.  For the record, my ears were nearly spotless.   The show itself was absolutely fascinating and even though none of it was in English, it was easy to understand.  They did have a narrator come out between acts to explain (in various languages including English) what was coming next.  Just all around a fabulous evening and I am SO glad this is on the itinerary!
·         Shanghai Acrobat Show Another awesome live performance show!  These men and women were so very talented and we loved the show.  ABD secured us perfect seats up close, and we had a private meet & greet with the acrobats after the show (not sure if this is able to be done at every show with ABD so don't hold them to that!)  
·         Lijiang River Guilin Boat Tour We Cruised the Li River on a comfortable multi-level river boat and took in the stunning landscapes.  Known for it's "gumdrop mountains" that have inspired artists and poets for centuries, the slow, relaxing boat ride included a box lunch from ABD (familiar food is nice to have in China!) and also some local specialties as a treat to try.  
·         Terracotta Warriors & Horses in Xi'an  This visit was only possible on this busy itinerary because ABD found a way to make it work!  Our Xi'an day was a BUSY one for sure... 3 cities, 2 flights! But it was completely worth all the work it took to get there to see this marvel in person.  Yet another "we've seen it in school books" moment... isn't this trip full of them?  We had a private tour guide teach us so many things about the discovery, excavation, and restoration of the Warriors.  I felt like I learned SO much that day.
·         Tiananmen Square Walking Tour I wanted to include this highlight because it's normally part of the trip.  I had Reese watch some videos about the events at  Tiananmen Square in history, however our visit there was cancelled because of government closures that day.  One of the important things to learn with any travel is you just have to roll with things sometimes, so the fact that we didn't get to walk in the Square wasn't a big deal.  It was a bummer for sure, but what can you do?  Lots of other good things to see and experience!
·          Yu Garden Tour in Old Shanghai   This is another thing we skipped but the other adventureres said it was BEAUTIFUL!  This was the morning activity in Shanghai, which was followed by lunch and the rest of the day at Shangahi Disney.  Since we weren't spending any other time at Shanghai Disney, we chose to take a cab directly there in the morning on our own (ABD had a Cast Member meet us at the entrance with our tickets and fast passes and took us straight to Club 33 so it was just the same as if we had arrived with the group).   That allowed us a full day and evening to explore the park.  

 A few travel notes about China that I think are important to know:

1)  They are VERY serious about flying while sick.  They will stop you from boarding a flight so IF you come down with a fever...find a way to reduce it before boarding :)

2)  In Hong Kong, English is one of the official languages and we didn't have any communication issues.  On mainland China, we found communication in most places to be a huge challenge and appreciated the help of our Chinese ABD guide to write down things for us to take with us!

3)  This flight is BUSY.  There are 5 internal flights and you're on the go a lot.  Be ready for a fun adventure and be ready to roll with things as they come along!  Consider the flights and frequent hotel changes when considering this trip with kids.  If you've got kids that are flexible and good with change, it should be easy.  If your kids need a little slower pace in travel, you may wait a bit.

4)  Apply for your China visa early.  They are very particular about requirements and will deny your application if anything is wrong or missing.  This gives you time to resubmit if needed.  Since there are only 5 Chinese Embassies in the US where you can get your Visa, and they MUST be picked up in person, ABD suggests going through a service like CIBT, however we used CVSC with perfect success (it was cheaper than CIBT).

By: Heather Williams

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