Monday, September 05, 2016
We had planned to go to India to visit Mukul and his family in September of 2014. We were going to spend some time in Agra and then go to Kerala in the south to enjoy the serene backwaters. When Mukul announced that his only child Sukumar and his wife Sonam were expecting their first baby in September, we suggested postponing the trip. Although Mukul was far too polite to suggest this himself, he was thankful that we were flexible. We certainly didn't want to intrude on this important family time for them. So we decided to postpone that trip for a year or two, which left us in need of a new trip for autumn of 2014.
We contacted our trusted friend Toni at Myths and Mountains, who had arranged our previous trips to India and Bhutan and Vietnam. We explained the situation and asked where she had a guide who was as excellent as our dear friend Cuong in Vietnam. She said that she has a fantastic guide in China named Wang Jun, and that if he was available to guide us, she knew just the trip that we would love. We trust Toni very much because she knows how we like to travel and what we enjoy doing. She knows about Craig's multiple sclerosis, and understands that we want to do a private trip so that if he gets ill or has particularly low energy on a certain day, we can adjust the itinerary as necessary.
She talked to Wang Jun and when she found out that he was indeed available, we signed up for the trip "China: Guizhou and Guanxi - Festivals, People, and Their Land." This trip would take us to the less-visited southern provinces of Guizhou and Guanxi, where we would visit ethnic minority villages in the mountains and learn about their ways of life. We had visited minority hill tribes in Vietnam last year, on the other side of the Chinese border, and had really enjoyed it.
We would be able to take advantage of Hainan Airlines' new non-stop service from Boston to Beijing on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was quite appealing. Round-trip non-stop tickets from Boston to Beijing cost us less than $1000 each...it was less expensive to fly to China than Ecuador! We decided to add several days in Beijing at the beginning of the trip, so that we could experience some of the important attractions there, including the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, and the Great Wall of China.
Toni put the trip together for us, and we applied for our Chinese visas. The process was painstaking and took the better part of a Saturday to get the paperwork in order, but all went smoothly and we received our visas quickly.
We always like to believe that everything works out for a reason, and this was no exception. Mukul's granddaughter Sara was born healthy during the time that we would have been in India. And our dear friends Jared and Dave wound up getting married in New Jersey over Labor Day weekend. If we had been in India as originally planned, we would have missed the wedding. Luckily, we were able to attend, and they even asked me to participate by doing a reading at the ceremony.
We had an excellent time in China, and we were able to meet adorable Sara when visiting Mukul and family in India in 2016!
Our detailed China travelogue is now available at Craig and Steph's Vacations.