Beijing was cold when we arrived - a max of 6 degrees C for the day , but properly rugged up we went exploring in the afternoon , with the highlight being the infamous night market .
We fought a mass of humanity in the lane ways where one could purchase delicacies such as fried scorpions , spiders and other creepy crawlies on a stick.
The smells were overpowering!
Sunday night we dined at reputably the best local Beijing Chines restaurant - right in our hotel
The food was very good - with plenty of fresh vegetables.The Chopsticks got plenty of work!
Monday we woke to another grey day in Beijing with a top temperature of 4 . Brrrh
Our itinerary took us to Tiananmen Square , and then the Forbidden City in the morning , and then after a lovely Chinese restaurant lunch we headed out to the Summer Palace in the afternoon
In one day we had done quite a lot of walking , and seen many of the famous buildings in Beijing
And we learned a lot along the way . Our delightful guide for the duration of our stay in Beijing introduced herself to us in her English version name .
She called herself Julia Potter after Julia Roberts - her favourite actress - and Harry Potter .
Julia knew her history inside out , and communicated very well , so we not only saw the sights , we learned the stories behind Beijing's history and the dynasties that ruled China.
We also observed the amazing traffic in Beijing . Our bus driver whizzed through the traffic , and we could only watch in awe at the road chaos around us .
And I don't just mean the sheer volume of traffic - a combination of bikes , scooters , cars , buses all going different directions .
It was common to see bikes with boxes 10 feet high strapped to the bike moving through the lanes .
Julia explained that no one uses indicators to change lanes , because if you intend to change lanes successfully you need the element of surprise to do so .
Indicating would only alert everyone to speed up and block you .
She also explained that pedestrians need be especially careful - a driver might get a red light , but would only see the red light as perhaps a suggestion that they might consider stopping
And we had another offence for Master of Fines on Monday night..
After dinner as headed back to our rooms Graham ( call me Rock ) Harris was momentarily delayed at the lift foyer , and Donna let him out of her sight .
So Graham was all alone in the lift foyer and engaged in conversation with an attractive young Asian lady who asks him if he would be interested in a massage .
Graham was delighted - after the trip over- he thought a massage was a great idea , and on receiving her card , her enquired as to the premises that she conducted these massages from
Fortunately a very dim light finally went on in Graham's head when the reply came back - IN HIS ROOM!
Donna was impressed .
And the fine was imposed...
We woke to blue skies and a top temperature of 8C , after an overnight -2C .
Our first stop was the Temple Of Heaven , the bulk of which were large pubic access gardens .
It was delightful to see all the locals gathering in groups all over the park to sing , dance , play cards , play sports or join in other community activities .
It was a smorgasbord of happy Chinese pursuing their hobbies and passions with obvious fervour.
The atmosphere was infectious , and we had permanent grins on our faces as wondered through the park .
At one stage Donna joined two elderly locals in a game of hackysack - these old gents loved the interaction , and so did we
Then Nigel took up an offer to play the 2 stringed Chinese violin - managing to manufacture the sound of several cats screeching with aplomb .
We all left enriched by the experience , and feeling like we understood the local Chinese people a little better .
Next we moved down to the historic Hutong district with it's very narrow lane ways . We broke into pairs and enjoyed a rickshaw ride around the district before dining with a local couple in their own home .
The food was good , and it was interesting to converse ( via our guide Julia ) with our hosts . After lunch we visited the Lama Temple , home of Buddhism in Beijing .
There we found people worshipping a large gold statue of the Happy Buddha - the resemblance to our own dear Gregory was striking , and we now all see him in a different light
Late afternoon we took the opportunity to see an amazing show - The Chinese Acrobats .
It was just the BEST show and we all came away quite exhilarated!
Linda had done her research well - and she had also recommended the best Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing , so that was our dinner venue for the night .
The restaurant was huge , and we had a room to ourselves .
The food was delicious - another pat on the back to Linda for her research..
I had my moments that night , I must say
On arrival I was presented with a couple of voluminous folders - the menu and the drinks list .
I was expected to order for all 18 of us in quick time - a somewhat challenging task given the language barrier and the size of the menu . However with input from all and sundry and a dose of good humour we managed to feed everyone satisfactorily . When it came time to pay we collected from everyone , and when the cash was counted a couple of notes had rips , and I was consequently "accompanied" to front office to rectify the matter..
We had had a wonderful day
We came to China to play some golf , see the sights , and get a feel for the Chinese culture - something we all felt we had achieved this day .
And it had been a nice contrast to the previous day's sightseeing
For our final day in the Beijing area we headed to the mountains to the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China.
The local temperature for the day varied between a low of -6C and a high of 6C , with a significant wind chill factor .
We spent a couple of hours walking this section of the wall , which was quite steep in places , and had lots of steps .
But what a surreal experience to be actually walking the Great Wall!
It is such a historic and dramatic site , and very picturesque .
The cameras were working overtime , as we took "happy snaps" from every vantage point.
In the afternoon we headed to the Ming Tombs where we visited the tomb of the 3rd Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and learned more from Julia about the stories behind the history of the dynasties that ruled China.
Our brief visit to Beijing was now drawing to a close.
After a very early brekkie , we headed for Beijing International airport for the domestic flight to Kunming
We learned a little more about the Chinese people this morning
Our instructions the night before were to put our bags out in front of our hotel rooms for the bell boys at 5.30 with a 6.05 departure in mind..
We had been also instructed on how much to tip the bell boys.
Unfortunately we got away late at 6.35am after the bell boys failed to load our bags on the bus. Instead we all pitched in and packed our own bags on to the bus. The lesson here was tip the bell boy , but do the bags ourselvesâ¦we would have saved over half and hour
Now running late we had a potential problem in getting the group checked through in time to catch our flight, and an overweight baggage problem given all the golf bags .
It was an education to see our guide use her contacts to get us a priority check in . We paid her contact a fee, and he then paid an official to get us throughâ¦
So we saved a bit on overweight baggage charges, the wheeler and dealer made some money and the corrupt official made some money on the side - at least that's the way I understood it .
In the end everyone was happy.
Kunming is another very large city - a 3 hour flight from Beijing - and situated south west in the Mountains .
It is known as the Spring City because of it's year long temperate climate , and relies on tobacco , flowers , and other agricultural pursuits for trade .
It was fascinating to observe the traditional farmers tending their tiny plots surrounded by modern highways and high rise apartments.
Most of our group boarded a bus for a 90 minute trip to the Jiuxiang Caves , but 4 headed for the resort for a little R & R.
We started our visit to the caves with a very pleasant paddle down a picturesque gorge , and then headed into the caves .
The caves are one of the biggest and most extensive limestone caves in the world , and certainly by far the most spectacular I have seen .
I will let the photos do the talking , but it was another exhilarating experience for the group .
The only exit from the caves was a 336 step climb , but Terri elected to carried up by sedan - she looked like royalty as she lay back in the sedan .
Our group became a bit of an attraction ourselves - it is clear that not many Aussies come this way - and several locals asked for photos with us!
After exiting the caves we still had to get back out of the gorge to the bus - we had 2 options - a chairlift , or a horse ride
The horse riders were slow but steady and avoided a very long queue. They beat the chairlift by half an hour
Then it was off to Spring City Resort , where we were to stay 4 nights
March 9-10 , 2012
Golf was now the focus as 18 players limbered up to play the 2 courses at Spring City Resort .
The resort was completed in late 1998 , and has been consistently rated as the best golf resort in Asia since - although the competition is hotting up with Mission Hills now a big player .
First up we took on the Lake Course , designed by Robert trent Jones Jnr . This course has been rated as the best course in China and Hong Kong , and as high as 58 in the world outside USA , by Golf Digest USA .
So it was a pretty decent course to start our little competition .
The course is sited on a number of terraces on the hills overlooking a massive lake - and was exposed to strong gusty winds .
It is a spectacular course with plenty of variety , and some drop dead gorgeous skyline greens - with lake behind
No one starred today , with Helen's 29 its best in .
Doc however completely lost his head.
Displaying uncharacteristic power for a near septageneranian , Doc unleashed a drive only to dispatch the head of his driver into the Chinese jungle in front of the tee .
And it couldn't be found , although the caddy went back after the round , and eventually found itâ
Everyone liked the course despite the tough day
Day 2 we played the Mountain course designed by Jack Nicklaus which was rated as high as 64 in the world outside of the USA .
Most of the course played in valleys protected somewhat from the winds , and so conditions were much kinder - and scoring much better
Again Helen led with a brilliant 41 points - not bad on a world rated course - one she had not seen beforeâ¦
While the Mountain course did not have the WOW factor of the Skyline greens , the Nicklaus design used the valleys and lakes very well - a couple of the par 3's used the smaller mountain lakes beautifully . I thought it was a particularly pretty course , and typical Nicklaus in respect of strategy , bunkering and greens .
Nicklaus courses are consistently very good
I thought the Nicklaus course the better of the two ( both very good ) , and the group was evenly split on their favourite
Gary Cook incurred a fine today for a freak occurrence . I had just completed setting up to putt for birdie on the 9th hole , and was about to take the putter away when my ball disappeared and a bright yellow ball belonging to Gary ricocheted around my feet .
Big hitting Gary had hit from 230 metres out , and it hit my ball square on before I knew what was happening .
One minute my ball was there - the next it was replaced with a yellow one!!
One thing we did notice about Kunming was that the food and service levels were not as attuned to western standards .
Presumably Spring City and surrounding areas do not see as many western tourists as places like Beijing and Mission Hills , and it showed.
Initially some of our group struggled to find food they were happy/comfortable to eat , but that was part of the adventure
March 11 , 2012
What a wonderful day!
Initially this day was set aside to explore the Unesco/World Heritage Listed Stone Forest Park .
However when word came through of the new golf club built in the Stone Forest area I rearranged the itinerary to squeeze in golf as well - so it was a big day
The Stone Forest National Park now sees 3 million tourists a year , and the infrastructure is similar to a theme park
The cameras were on overload as we all got driven around in a motorised trolley through the massive stone formations
The laughter levels rose when a number of our girls donned the locals SANI people's traditional costumes for a photo shoot
Stone Forest was magnificent , and we were 18 very happy campers as we headed off to our local restaurant for a simple lunch
The restaurant was a pretty ordinary looking establishment but the fresh food just kept coming - with a variety of scrummy dishes - all tastes covered .
Then it was on to Stone Forest International Golf Club
This was an experience that none of us will ever forget
How a golf course was allowed to be built in the Stone Forest area is beyond me - it would be like building a course on Ayers Rock!
But there it was , not unlike those crazy golf hole calendars we used to see
The course was young , the greens and surrounds were not firm enough , but the WOW factor was extreme
And this is a very well designed course in it's own right with plenty of variety , strategy etc
WE LOVED IT
All in all it was just the best day!
Our stay in Kunming had been short but oh so sweet..
March 12 , 2012
After an early start , we headed to Kunming airport for the 2 hour flight to Shenzhen . However after gathering our baggage at Shenzhen airport we ran into our first real glitch of the tour .
There was nobody there to pick us up!
First up I rang the Mission Hills resort , and with some communication difficulty over the phone was finally told that they had no booking in the name of Peter Wood , or the Pullis McNutly Golf Tour .
( I later found the booking was through a group called Destination China - who were our agent on the ground , so the booking was in their name )
I tried calling our contact at Destination China 6 or 7 times but was told she was not in for the day , that nobody else could handle the issue , and I should call her mobile .
I called her mobile but got a message each time.
We also rang our agent in Australia - Voyager - but it was Labour day holiday , so no joy there
Eventually Helen had an airport official ring and speak to our contact at Destination China , and a bus arrived to transport us to Mission Hills , albeit nearly 2 hours late
Most of the group took the opportunity of a free afternoon to go back into Shenzhen for the afternoon - SHOPPING - yeah!
Shenzhen is renowned for it's shopping , and the group came back with plenty of parcels . Apparently Frank was king of the hagglers...
Shenzhen is a huge city , and growing very quickly - you can drive for an hour and not ever lose sight of massive high rise developments going up before your eyes.The growth is so extensive , it is hard to get your head around..
And now the golf gets serious!
If you are a non golfing reader , you may be inclined to change channels at this point
Mission Hills is the biggest golf resort/complex in the world , boasting 12 quality courses over two sites - which are not very far apart ( 20 mins in a shuttle ) , on the edge of Shenzhen
In recent years Mission Hills has been a regular site for the staging of the World Cup which is to be held again late in 2012 at the Olazabal Course
Mission Hills has also built a new 10 course complex on Hainan Island , and plans are underway to build Mission Hills 3 near Spring City .
Over 4 days we played:
- the Olazabal Course
- the Norman Course
- the World Cup Course ( Jack Nicklaus )
- the Annika Course
The scoring for the Pullis McNutly trophy was topsy turvy as we encountered some very tough conditions - particularly on the Olazabal , and Norman courses
Basically the fairways were so wet balls were just plugging , as they were also in the steep faced bunkers . Scoring became very difficult..
Any ball in the bunkers was pretty much a hole lost
Nevertheless spirits were high and we had a wonderful few days together
The cumbersome systems each player must go through to get themselves and their golf bag to the first day resulted in half an hour of chaos each morning for me as I had to overcome the language barrier to get the right people and their bags with the right partners for the days play all in position..
I would have loved to have sat back and watched/video the whole procedure each morning as I would turn up with player groups and times , and the caddy master , caddies , starter all had input on getting us to the tee .
Each day I would rearrange the information I documented to adapt to the Mission Hills system , and each day it would be slightly different
And each night we would meet for dinner , results , and some laughs
On Friday night we all headed off - most of us back home , and some for a few days in Hong Kong
This had been a memorable trip , and one of the very best I have been associated with
We had seen many of the wonders of China , come to get an appreciation for the people and their culture , and to play some competitive golf on good courses .
We achieved all of the above in my opinion - BUT what really set this trip apart was the touring party themselves
The group was full of happy campers - everyone got on so well , and we had so many memorable moments together
The Travelling Golfer can tailor golf tours to China to suit your group. For suggested itineraries see Great Golf Destinations: China