Thursday May 16, 2013
I'm in the midst of planning another trip, this time back to Gansu Province to tour the southern region called Gannan which is a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture within the province. It is home to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, ancient Buddhist grottoes, beautiful grasslands and incredible scenery. It's a reprise of our group from last year when we went to the northern part of the province to visit Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves.
If I can, I like to find a local agency who can help us out in trip planning and guiding services. I think I've found a gem of one located in Xiahe. The manager has been incredibly responsive and informative so we're looking forward to following his suggested itinerary through the region.
Right now I'm trying to research as much as I can about not only the region but the nature of Tibetan monasteries and Tibetan Buddhist symbolism. When we visited Kumbum Monastery outside Xining last year I felt like I missed a lot and wished I'd been able to ask more questions about what some of the art meant and what some of the things we saw were for. (That was a different trip, one with two pretty sick kids along so I wasn't able to take as much in as I would have liked.) After the Qinghai trip I ordered a fabulous guidebook called Tibet Handbook that covers the entire region, not only the TAR but also parts of other Chinese provinces that have large Tibetan populations. So I'm studying that one as well as anything else I can get my hands on to be prepared for the trip.
We're also considering getting some altitude-sickness medicine. Xiahe sits at about 2,900 meters (9,500 feet). Considering I didn't feel great during our trip to Qinghai where we made our base in Xining at 2,275m (7,465 feet), I'm thinking this is not a bad idea. But I'm going to have to purchase it in Hong Kong as it doesn't seem like it's available in Shanghai.
I'll reveal our itinerary once we've gotten it fixed, now I've got to go back and continue researching.
Photo: a Tibetan Buddhist monk from Golung Monastery, Qinghai from my trip there in October 2012. © Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
Saturday May 11, 2013
If you're in this market and planning on visiting Shanghai, now is the perfect time to try the Mandarin Oriental and take advantage of one of their summer offerings:
Your Second Night On Us package includes two nights' accommodation in a guestroom or suite - the second night is complimentary. The package also includes complimentary wireless internet access.
Discover Shanghai package includes one night's accommodation in a guestroom or suite, complimentary wireless internet access, a credit of CNY888 for room guests and CNY1,888 for suite guests that can be redeemed at the hotel's spa or restaurants, plus complimentary butler service for suite guests.
The MO Shanghai is offering these packages between now and September 30, 2013. For bookings contact the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai.
Tuesday May 7, 2013
One of the great pleasures of my job is, on occasion, getting to visit new hotels when they open. The Mandarin Oriental Pudong showcased its new offering and I can happily report that the MO is a welcome addition to Shanghai's broad market of luxury hotels. Even if you're not planning on staying in a luxury hotel in China, you should make note because in Asia, many fabulous restaurants and bars are located in cities' upmarket hotels. You might very well find yourself enjoying a cocktail, a meal and even perhaps a meeting in the luxurious surroundings of the Mandarin Oriental.
The MO Pudong, Shanghai is special because it is located not in one of the city's towering skyscrapers but in a new building right alongside the Huang Pu River in Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial district in Pudong. Guest rooms have dramatic views of both the fabulous Shanghai skyline and the busy river - giving guests a true sense of location. Furthermore, if you're a runner or like to walk around where you're staying, leisure-seekers will enjoy walking or jogging along the riverfront and business people might find they don't need to wait in a taxi queue, as many of Shanghai's office towers are located at the MO's doorstep.
Another special point about the hotel is its exclusive collection of art curated by Tokyo's Art Front Gallery featuring 4,000 original artworks by Chinese artists displayed throughout the property. The hotel transforms into a gallery with magnificent pieces from your guestroom living space to the function area, from the lobby to the restaurants.
For bookings & inquiries contact: Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai
Check back to read about their special summer offers.
Photo: a fantastic work of art welcomes guests to the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai.
Sunday May 5, 2013
On Friday we didn't get as early a start as I would have liked but we hit our favorite market, Panjiayuan, for some bits of Earth for my rock-collecting son. On weekdays not all the vendors get there early - or come at all. So we had to scour the market for the things my son was interested in. Still, there's plenty to see during the week but if you really want to see Panjiayuan in action, go early on a Saturday. With pink beads for the little one and a big chunk of lapis lazuli for my big one, we headed over to my favorite Beijing attraction, the Temple of Heaven.
I love the Temple of Heaven because the scale is somewhat smaller than other main attractions such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. And the architecture is so unique. We all enjoyed the walk through the garden, a stop for popsicles midway and the grandeur of the main temple. By the end, after a grand total of four hours of walking (including the market), the kids were exhausted so we had to cut our sightseeing short and head back to the hotel for R&R.
We rallied again in the late afternoon for a walk over to Tian'anmen Square but the little one didn't make it around the block before she fell asleep while I was carrying her. We took turns carrying her all the way to Tian'anmen Gate and around the Forbidden City when finally she woke up when we caught a cab to dinner. This episode made me regret not bringing a stroller as Beijing is decidedly a stroller-friendly place.
We met up with our friends again for dinner at Southern Barbarian Beijing, a Yunnan Province cuisine restaurant in the heart of Baochao Hutong near the Drum Tower. We had a fun rickshaw ride from the Forbidden City there (our cab driver dumped us out and refused to take us to Baochao but we managed to convince a rickshaw driver) through some of the old neighborhoods that have survived development. The kids ate all their favorites and we enjoyed Southern Barbarian's signature Basil Drop cocktails and their amazing beer selection.
After three days, there are a lot of things on my list I didn't get to check off but I do have to remember to manage my expectations when my kids are along. Making it a fun trip for them makes it a better trip for me, even if I don't get to spend twelve-hour days sightseeing.
Photos: top - my kids choosing rocks at Panjiayuan Market; middle - the main temple at the Temple of Heaven; bottom - refreshments at Southern Barbarian, Beijing. © 2013 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.