China is one of the Four Ancient Civilizations (alongside Babylon, India and Egypt). It covers a large geographical region in East Asia with customs and traditions that vary greatly between provinces, cities, and even towns.
We visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Wuhan, Yangtze River, and Guilin in 1998 as part of a 2-week China trip. We visited Balingzhuang near Guangzhou in 2006 as part of a quick 8-day trip to our ancestral village, Hong Kong and Macau. We visited Balingzhuang, Guangzhou, Kaiping and Zhuhai in 2008 at the end of our first Southeast Asia trip. Then we visited Shanghai, Beijing, Wuxi, Nanjing, Suzhou, Huangshan, Guangzhou, Balingzhuang and Kaiping in 2010 as part of our family reunion and Shanghai Expo trip. Then we visited Xining, Chengdu, Leshan and Emeishan in early 2011 as part of our Tibet and Bhutan trip. Then we visited our ancestral village Balingzhuang again, along with Guangzhou and Kaiping at the end of 2011 with our children as part of the Southeast Asia trip. We visited Balingzhuang in 2016 as we had a 22-hour layover in Guangzhou as part of Vietnam and southeast Asia trip.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. It is a place with multiple personalities as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and having been under British colonization for 150 year before transferring sovereignty to China in 1997.
We visited Hong Kong in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011.
Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet it has been quick to adopt and create the latest modern fashions and trends. Just close enough to mainland Asia, yet far enough to keep itself separate, much of the Japanese history has seen alternating between periods of closeness and openness. Japan is very homogeneous. Almost 99% of the population is of Japanese ethnicity. The largest minority are Koreans, around 1 million, many in their 3rd or 4th generation. There are also sizable populations of Chinese, Filipinos and Brazilians, although many are of Japanese descent.
We visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, Yohoyama, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, Kobe, Kamakura and Hakone area in 2012 of part of our 3-week Japan and Korea trip.
Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Until 1999 Macau was an overseas territory of Portugal. One of the world’s most densely populated spots, Macau generates more revenue from gambling than anywhere else on the planet, including more than seven times the revenue generated by “The Strip” in Las Vegas. The Portuguese and Macanese populations continue to maintain a presence but, as expected, most of the population is native Chinese.
We visited Macau 3 times, in 2006, 2008, and 2010.
South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Soviet forces occupied the northern half of Korea while US forces occupied the southern half. North and South each declared independence as separate states in 1948. South Korea is now a liberal democracy and an economic powerhouse. South Korea is a very homogeneous country, with nearly all native residents identifying themselves as ethnically Korean and speaking the Korean language. The largest resident minority are the Chinese.
We visited Seoul, Gyeongju, Busan, and Jeju Island in 2012 of part of our 3-week Japan and Korea trip.
Taiwan is an island nation with more than 23 million people and is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Besides its crowded cities, Taiwan is also known for steep mountains and lush forests. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations (UN) but it aspires to participate. China opposes this, as it claims Taiwan as part of its territory and denies that Taiwan is a sovereign state. The present people of Taiwan are 98% Han Chinese with the remaining 2% indigenous tribes.
We visited Taipei in 2008 as part of our first Southeast Asia trip, and again in 2011 when we had a 12-hour layover at Taipei airport, and we took advantage of a free 3-hour city tour.
Tibet is an autonomous region of China. It is sometimes described as the “roof of the world” as the entire region is on a high plateau and there are many large mountains. The traditional Tibetan culture remains strong and central to the region despite economic development and migration of other Chinese ethnic groups.
We took the world’s highest train ride at the time from Xining to Lhasa in 2011, and then went overland on a 4×4 SUV to Mount Everest basecamp on the Tibet side, passing through Gyantse, Shigatse, New Tingri, Old Tingri, Rongbuk and Zhangmu, and eventually crossing over to Kathmandu, Nepal.
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