Guilin 2

On our way to YangShuo, we pass rice fields. Depending on the time of the year, they are watery patches, watery patches with a few blades sticking up, verdant lush green, yellowing at the top (almost ready for harvesting), or just harvested fields. They are exquisite no matter what the time of year. This one is partially harvested.

Rice fields

Rice fields

Once in YangShuo, we board a boat for a cruise on the Li River which has some of the most beautiful, breathtaking views of anywhere on earth.

Li River

Li River

Li River

Li River

We return to West Street for some really excellent shopping. Here it is before the tourists arrived.


One of the other places we go when we visit Guilin is Longsheng where we see the rice terraces and two groups who are counted among China’s 55 ethnic minority people.

Rice terraces



Here we see one of the Yao women, known for their long hair, demonstrating how she piles her floor-length hair on top of her head!
Doing her hair

next step


Come join us on this or one of our other fabulous trips!


I was shocked to find that I never wrote a post about Guilin! Guilin is one of the gems of China. A small(by Chinese standards) city, located in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, it has a population of about 600,000 with an urban area of about 4 million. I is the home of many of China’s 55 ethnic minorities which make up about 7% of China’s population.

Guilin’s income comes mostly from tourism, and a look at its sights explains why. It is a beautifully landscaped city, named “Forests of Osmanthus” after its city flower, the osmanthus. Osmanthus flowers are used to make perfumes and wines.
One of the most famous places in Guilin is Elephant Trunk Hill.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill

There are a number of other sights nearby that are fun to see
The Elephant Bridge

The Elephant Bridge

Elephants to ride on

Elephants to ride on

There are a number of lakes in the city. Over them are a variety of bridges and the area around them is landscaped beautifully. People love the sun and moon pagodas by day
Moon and Sun Pagodas

Moon and Sun Pagodas

and by night.
Moon and Sun Pagodas

Moon and Sun Pagodas

Although they look very ancient, both were built in the 1990s and are not real pagodas, but places where one can go to the top to look out or eat dinner.
Another beautiful sight in Guilin is the Reed Flute Cave, a magnificent cave that resulted from the Karst formation that is all around the city.

Inside the Reed Flute Cave

Inside the Reed Flute Cave

New York skyline inside the cave

New York skyline inside the cave

Of course we can’t leave out the gorgeous YaoShan, Yao Mountain. The chairlift to the mountain is 20 minutes of relaxation and beauty!
Chair lift to Yao Mountain

Chair lift to Yao Mountain

View at the top

View at the top

From Guilin we love to travel to YangShuo and from there take a cruise on the Li River. It is beautiful! On the way, we see rice fields. But more about that next time…

Trek 2013 – Tsetang Tibet, Day 3

We woke up in the morning to another beautiful day in Tsetang.  However, before we finished breakfast, it had already started raining.  It was a fairly light drizzle, so aside from needing to wear our rain gear, it didn’t interfere with the day.

And an amazing day it was!

We started off at Traduk Temple, an 8th century temple and monastery.  It was finely decorated.  Having been destroyed and refurbished many times over the years, the wall mural is only about 20 years old.
Wall mural

While researching the temple, I found this wonderful video (click on the word “video”) of the restoration showing the traditional Tibetan way of working on such structures.  Tibetans have songs they sing for specific types of work and in this clip, you see them working almost as if they were a chorus line of singers and dancers in a show.  It is not a performance.  It is how they work!

Later we went on to Yumbulagang Palace. It is the first palace built in Tibet, according to legend, in the 2nd century BCE. Tibetan folklore holds that the first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo was seen descending in this valley from a ladder from heaven. Herdsmen told the story and he became the first king. Over time, the palace retained its significance and it became the summer palace of the 33rd king Songtsen Gampo and his wife, the Chinese princess Wencheng.
The palace

Riding up to the palace

The palace was high on a hill and the local people took advantage of the opportunity to profit. There were horses that one could ride to the top, guided by the people who owned them. Sadly, never having sat upon a horse, I had no clue as to how to mount one, and so after I almost caused the poor animal to fall on his side, I decided to walk up the mountain. My faithful husband and a few of our travelers walked with me, but most went up by horse. You can probably see them in the distance in the picture above.

The palace

The rooms inside serve as places of religious rite and pilgrimage rather than as rooms in which people dwelled. However, we did see some monks having soup, noodles, and yak butter tea in some of the rooms.

Here we are on the mountain with the palace behind us. Our raincoats were bought for us by kind travelers on a former tour who wanted to be able to find us in a crowd.

From the top of the mountain we were able to see the first cultivated field in Tibet. It is called Zortang. It is considered to be a very special field and until this day, there are farmers who will sprinkle soil from Zortang on their own fields to ensure a good harvest.

Here is Zortang


and yes, it is small.

Later in the day we made our way to Lhasa. But that’s a story for another day.

Trek 2013 – Tsetang Tibet, Day 2

On our second day in the Tsetang area, we went to visit a Buddhist Temple, something we did quite a lot on this tour. Although one may think that they all look alike, we were amazed to see real differences among them. But we didn’t even have to get to the temple to begin enjoying our Tibetan adventure that day.

As we drove along the road, we saw a cow beauty pageant. Well, of course, not really, but we did see cows adorned in various manners. We thought it interesting and picture-worthy.

Cow fashion show IMGP0911 IMGP0912 IMGP0914 IMGP0917

Of course, it was only after we all had taken our photos that our local guide explained that many of those who owned the cattle were involved in other labor- whether farming or construction or any of a number of jobs, and that they hired people to tend their cattle while they were at work. The adornments on the cattle were to identify the ownership!

After a short ride, we arrived at the Samye Monastery. It was located in a small town. We saw people approaching the monastery and temple with offerings. Mostly they had either thermoses filled with yak butter or vegetable oil that would be burned in the temple or with grains that were burned outside of the temple.

Women walking toward the temple

At the time I photographed them, I didn’t even realize that the woman in the foreground had a parrot on her hand! Notice the aprons in the front of the skirts. This is the dress of the Tibetan women. The skirts all have attached striped aprons. These are for married women only.

Waiting by the entrance

Here are some people waiting by the entrance. Notice that one has a stick on which there is a circular attachment. This is a portable prayer wheel. Every time the wheel turns, it is as if the prayers on it have been said.

Inside the fence

The Samye Temple

Here are the offerings being burned… such an unpleasant odor in a place where the air is otherwise so very clear and clean.
Burning the grains

Here is a look at the wall surrounding the temple/monastery complex. At the top are miniature stupas! A stupa is a structure in which there are sacred relics, often the ashes of monks. I assume these were for decoration and did not contain any relics.

Wall with stupas
This is the town just outside Samye Monastery. Notice that although it is far from any large area of population, they took pains to make sure that it has the appearance of a traditional Tibetan town including intricate artwork and attention to detail.


a door

And a taste of home in Samye, Tibet

Holyland brother restaurant

Next time: the Teletubbies visit the first palace in Tibet. Don’t miss it!

Trek 2013 – Tsetang Tibet

We arrived in Tibet fairly early in the day. Unfortunately, seven suitcases- including all four of ours- didn’t. While we were trying to find the right office in the airport, we found our guide, Jim. Jim was our guide throughout or journey in Tibet and to say he was excellent would not even give you a hint as to how good he was.

Jim had never guided a kosher group before and so when my husband started explaining our requirements in terms of being in the kitchen at all times when food was being prepared, using our own utensils, cutting boards, pots, pans, etc. etc., he had a bemused expression. It turned out that his bemused expression was one that we saw a lot both in relation to us and in relation to the other Tibetans and Han Chinese people we encountered throughout the time in Tibet. His light and easy manner, his warmth and bemusement served all of us very well going through the numerous checkpoints, negotiating with the kitchen staff, and helping us deal with hotel reception desks. He was completely with us from very early in the morning until very late at night with never a word of complaint. He was willing to help us in any way we needed him. Having him with us was a wonderful gift.

The first thing he did was to deal with the airport bureaucracy. It finally turned out that our luggage had been put on the next flight which meant that we spent some unexpected time in the airport near Lhasa. That was not altogether unfortunate since we were coming from near sea level in Beijing to an altitude of 3,570 meters (11,710 ft). For us to have some time to just sit and relax as our bodies began to adjust to the altitude was a good thing.

Once we had our luggage, we headed toward Tsetang. On our way, we stopped at the Mindroling Monastery, the first of several monasteries we visited during our time in Tibet. Although there were similarities, each one was unique. One of the first things we saw was this
Rest rooms at Mindroling Monastery
Yes, a beautifully decorated restroom. Unfortunately, like all of the public restrooms in Tibet, the toilets are Asian toilets and unless one has been squatting from early childhood, one may find them, shall we say, challenging. They also were not always sweet-smelling. Our travelers tried to avoid them whenever possible.

Outside of the monastery, we saw a woman filling water from a communal tap.

Woman at well

The monastery itself was a complex of buildings, as they all are. This one was also undergoing major renovations.

Mindroling Monastery

The complex as seen from the roof of the main building

Atop the roof of the monastery
It was a beautiful sun-filled day with the skies so very blue after the smoggy skies of Beijing. Despite the relative lack of oxygen, the air felt very good to breathe!

We left the monastery and drove along a rural two lane road until we arrived in Tsetang, a lovely town with a surprisingly nice hotel.

Our hotel in Tsetang

Tune in to the next episode where we answer the question on everyone’s mind: “What does the well-dressed cow wear when she goes out for a walk?”

Trek 2013- Tour to Beijing, Tibet, Nepal, & Bangkok. part 1

This summer we had an incredible opportunity.  We were able to travel with a group of people who we knew from previous tours who shared our love of adventure and who we knew we would enjoy traveling with- to a place we had not yet visited.  We all knew two things: that we were trailblazers, and the tour was not going to be easy.

Our tour began in Beijing, a city my husband and I have visited many times and which we really enjoy visiting.  We were lucky enough to arrive as the lotuses outside the Summer Palace were blooming and they were a beautiful greeting for what turned out to be a miraculous tour!

Outside of the Summer Palace

Outside of the Summer Palace


Dragon boat at the Summer Palace

Dragon boat at the Summer Palace

Over the next few days we visited the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Each place is really amazing and we derived a lot of pleasure from showing these sights to our friends.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

But all of this was just a prelude of things to come. The rest of the story is as magnificent as our intrepid travelers who were as excited as we were to go where relatively few tourists have gone.

So join us on our adventure, but first, you must get a good night’s sleep because we had to rise long before dawn for our flight to Tibet!

Getting ready for China

Although I am currently getting ready for China, I am having the experience I always do when I am getting ready for any of the tours I guide- whether to China, to Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand, or to Ecuador/Galapagos/Peru. There are about a million pieces of data: information, equipment, communication with providers of services, scheduling, purchasing, packing, communicating with the travelers- that swirling around in my head simultaneously. At this point in the preparations, I am unable to think a full thought or make a complete sentence because there is a conference going on in my brain at which the pros and cons of all sorts of things are being discussed: what sights should we add? what food should be bring along? what written materials shall we distribute? how do we get people to meet at the initial gathering of the group as they arrive on 7 different flights on two different days? In discussing these things with my husband, I find myself starting in the middle of a thought and am sometimes so wrapped up in what I am thinking that a solution he offers, no matter how logical and obvious it should have been to me, is something I hadn’t even thought of. Sometimes I wonder why I do this.

Then I remember: I love traveling. I long to see China again. And mostly, I love seeing my travelers being amazed, sometimes astounded, by the sights I show them. For two weeks, my husband and I work harder than one can imagine, day and night, but for two weeks, we are able to provide one incredible experience after another for our people- the sights, the entertainment, the experience of being with a group of people who are there to see and to enjoy something totally new.

So as I prepare, I also remind myself that in under two weeks, a wonderful adventure begins!

Two of our travelers enjoying the Great Wall of China

Shanghai and the Jews

There are signs of a Jewish presence in China from about the 8th century on.  Jewish traders traveled the Silk Route and some spent significant time in China.  Others married and settled down there.  The synagogue in Kaifeng was built in 1163 and from then on there was a Jewish community there.

Sephardi Jews from Bagdad started arriving in Shanghai at the end of the 19th century.  Among them were the Kadoorie family, the Hardoon family, and the Sassoon family.  These wealthy businessmen rose to the top of the Shanghai society of the time and established communal institutions and built notable buildings, among them the famous Cathay Hotel, now known as the Peace Hotel.  It still stands with pride along with other European styled buildings on the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront on the Huangpu River.

The Peace Hotel on the Bund, Shanghai

In the beginning of the 1900s, Jews began arriving from Russia.  The two groups of Jews did not mix, but all established schools and newspapers and and restaurants, of course, synagogues.  Their communal life was rich.

When life became dangerous in Russia and Eastern Europe, Jews began flowing into China.  Between 1937 and 1939, over 20,00 Jews flowed into Shanghai.  At the height of World War II, Shanghai housed between 18 and 20 thousand Jews.  They lived in a ghetto area called Hongkou and the Chinese, who themselves were under attack by the Japanese, protected the Jews.  After the war, and with the establishment of the State of Israel, virtually all of the Jews left Shanghai.

Today, in Shanghai, there are still some locations where that experience is remembered.

Plaque in park in the Hongkou area of Shanghai

In gratitude for their treatment of the Jews during World War II, the Chinese received contributions from Israeli companies and the State of Israel to build a community center in the park.

Plaque thanking the people of China

Across from the park is the building that was used by the Joint (JDC) which provided social services to the people in the ghetto.

Former home of "the Joint"

Here is one of the roads where the Jews lived during that time.   Each building house several families.  Life was not easy.


Homes in the Shanghai ghetto

There is an excellent documentary about the Shanghai ghetto that shows how bad life was and how the Chinese and the Jews helped each other in times of privation.  Information about the film can be found here.

The Ohel Moishe Synagogue has been restored.  It is no longer in use because there is no longer a Jewish population in this area of the city.  However, the synagogue building itself is used as a museum and behind it, two more buildings have been constructed that show a phenomenal picture of  Jewish life in Shanghai, highlighting several families’ stories.  Visiting there is very moving and quite a relief from most museums that talk about Jews’ experiences during World War II.

Ohel Moishe Synagogue, Shanghai

Inside the synagogue


Inside the museum

You can read more about the Jews in Shanghai at this site.


Currently, Chabad has three locations in Shanghai with three rabbis working to enrich the lives of Jewish residents and visitors to Shanghai.  Their wonderful monthly magazine is on line here.

Come join us in China! There’s so much more to learn and to see.

Shanghai, China

If you have never been to Shanghai, get ready for some amazing surprises! Shanghai is a big, modern city with an estimated population of about 20 million.

It is a city with striking contrasts.

The Pearl of the Orient Tower as seen from the YuYuan Garden

It is a city with an intricate road system, sometimes comprising 5 levels of road!

and famous shopping areas like Nanjing Road

It is the home of the YuYuan Garden which dates back 400 years and has all of the elements of a traditional Chinese garden- plants, rocks, buildings, and water.

The Jin Mao Tower used to be the tallest building in Shanghai. Although it is a skyscraper, it contains some elements of Chinese design. You an read more about it here. From its observation deck, one can have a bird’s eye view of the city on a clear day. These school children are attempting that…

The current tallest building in Shanghai is the Shanghai World Financial Center.

The Shanghai World Financial Center building is very impressive and seems to change shapes as one drives around Shanghai and sees if from different angles. You can learn more about it here.

China is still growing and under construction is the Shanghai Tower that when finished will have 128 stories.

Here is a poster that depicts the skyline when the new tower is built.

From left to right: Jin Mao, World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower

Next time: Jewish Shanghai, remnants of Jewish history in China

Tea Garden, Yad Natan, Israel

Live in Israel? Want a get-away that relaxes without having to take out a mortgage? I may have found the place for you.

We purchased a night at the Tea Garden in Yad Natan (located on route 35 between Kiryat Gat and Ashqelon) and were very pleased with what we got.

The ride was pleasant and when we arrived, our cabin was waiting. We entered the reception area and saw immediately that there was a Chinese theme. Of course, I love all things that remind me of my trips to China, so I immediately felt at home. We were told to go and deposit our belongings in the cabin and to come back sans jewelry for our massages.

We entered this room

The camera lies a bit since there was very little light in the room and everything was very quiet. There were two massage tables in the room. We got ready for the massage, and then the masseuses came in. Since we had never done this before, we had only our experience of a Cambodian massage to compare it to. This was quite different. They used warm oil to massage us, a very pleasant sensation, and although I am the kind of person who usually doesn’t like other people touching me, I became totally relaxed and really enjoyed the experience. After a couple of minutes, they switched on some very relaxing music as well.

Once finished with the massage, we were given silk Chinese robes and slippers to wear back to our cabin.

This is my husband in the living room of the cabin, wearing the Chinese silk robe. Since we had left home late because of waiting for a repairman all day, I thought that instead of looking for restaurant once we were at the Tea Garden, I would bring some of the food we had left over from shabbat, namely some roast beef, sandwich makings and some fruit, so I grabbed some food and put it into a cooler. When we got to the cabin, we ate dinner.

Waiting for us after dinner was another treat, a jacuzzi in the bedroom with rose petals and candles and wine.

After a long soak in the jacuzzi and a glass of the sweet bubbly wine, I was as relaxed as I have ever been in my life. Even thinking about it now gives me a relaxed, calm feeling. Of course they had balloons there too, maybe in celebration of our anniversary. In the living room was a wide screen TV that received YES satellite programs as well as an efficiency kitchen with fridge, microwave, and hot pot. There were tea bags, instant and Turkish coffee, sugar, sweeteners, and coffee lightener. Already prepared for us was a pot of tea warming over a candle and some lemonade. There were some cookies as well.

In the morning, they served us breakfast on our porch- omelettes, salad, cheeses, and bread. We had coffee from our room. It was quiet and relaxing.

Although the place was not luxurious, and the decor was pleasant, though not elegant, we had a wonderful time and plan to return. It is charming and a wonderful place to just get away.

You can reach them at 0773312633

Note: We were paying guests and were not asked to write this.

Pin It on Pinterest