The Birmingham-Bloomfield Chamber is providing its members and the general public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit China and learn about the history, culture, commerce, and politics of this rapidly changing Asian nation.
The trip, scheduled for April 11-19, 2018, incorporates four cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and takes in some of the greatest and most historic sites of the world’s most populous nation.
I know the trip is fantastic because I was fortunate enough to take it this past April. The trip was made possible through a group called CITSLINC, an organization bringing Chamber groups from the United States and Canada on this amazing trip. While our trip included an economic development and international trade opportunities component, the public trip is strictly tourist in nature.
The best way for me to tell you what you will experience on this trip is to share what I experienced with one major change. Our travel group of eight Chamber professionals from Michigan, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Georgia departed from JFK airport in New York necessitating a connecting flight. The trip we are hosting next April will be direct, nonstop flight from Detroit to Beijing, a huge travel advantage.
Our flight took us from New York to our first destination, Beijing. We were greeted at the airport by the CEO of CITSLINC, other staff members and our tour guide for the first portion of the trip. While in Beijing, we started the sightseeing with a trip to the Ming Tombs. From there we went to the Great Wall. I think I got enough exercise climbing the top of the wall to last me for a while. It was a strenuous climb but worth every step when you make it to the top.
Later we toured the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty and were offered a traditional Peking duck dinner, a delicacy originating in Beijing. A highlight of the Beijing portion of the trip was taking a rickshaw tour through the Hutong Village. This area is considered a historical area where the outside of the buildings must remain the same. A local family opened their home to us for a traditional lunch and we were able to converse over the meal about traditions and their daily lives.
Before ending the Beijing portion of the trip, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, both of which were fascinating with their history. The final stop was visiting the Temple of Heaven, a three level traditional Chinese building.
While we did plenty of sightseeing in Beijing there was also time to shop. We visited the Jade factory and saw the workers hand-carving ornate Jade items, stopped by the pearl factory and learned about the different types of pearls many harvested locally and visited a cloisonné factory to see the employees working on the ornate pieces.
When our Beijing tour was over we boarded a flight to Shanghai and then took a chartered bus to Suzhou, the name meaning silk city and the city that opened up China to trade with Europe. Suzhou is approximately 2,500 years old and is also a city full of canals. While here, we toured the silk factory, visited the Hanging Gardens and took a boat ride through the famous canals.
Suzhou is also the epicenter of innovation in China. 25 percent of all laptop computers worldwide are produced in the Suzhou Industrial Park.
After the tour, we then proceeded to the next city, Hangzhou. Hangzhou means “boat city” receiving its name from the boat of a former emperor who brought his boat to build canals to prevent flooding. The city is a very wealthy city and is home to Alibaba, a worldwide eBay-type website. It was also the host of the G20 Summit last year. Growth and innovation abound in Hangzhou but there is still a peaceful countryside. The famous pagodas along the river leading to the West Lake and the many tea plantations producing the majority of the world’s green tea are highlights of this city.
The hillsides were full of tea bushes and workers diligently working to get the early harvest of green tea. After visiting the tea plantation and having lunch, we took a boat ride on the West Lake, a peaceful lake with breathtaking scenery all around.
After Hangzhou, it was time to head back to Shanghai for the final few days of our trip. Shanghai is a city comparable to New York and is full of skyscrapers and worldwide economic prosperity. We took a leisurely stroll along the famous Bund and walked the area full of European hotels. We also visited Chinatown which is a market area that has anything you may be looking for.
The best part of the trip, in my opinion, was the final stop of the tour at the Chinese Circus. This is a Cirque du Soleil-type venue with acts that leave your jaw dropping in amazement.
One pleasant surprise of the trip was the amazingly friendly reception we experienced from the Chinese people. The people of China were fascinating to talk with and very friendly everywhere we went, many wanting to take pictures with us. For many, we were the first Americans they had ever seen in person. While we may live on opposite sides of the world, we are still closely connected with a simple smile or a hello (Ni Hao).
The Chamber will be hosting a special reception for interested travelers in September, and we soon will have all of the details and promotional materials on our website. The trip will be all-inclusive, including your flight, three meals a day, tour guide, entrance to the tourist attractions and five-star hotel accommodations.
View a flier for the trip with agenda and signup/orientation information here
Stay tuned for more details, and we hope to see you in China next April. Also, view this article online here
Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com