Hong Kong was all about food for us. In addition to the local food, we found prosciutto, Dr. Pepper and mooncakes. We did Macau as a day trip. It's a quite unique mix of Chinese and Portuguese culture with a bit of Las Vegas thrown in. Our entry into to China was through Guangzhou where we spent a few days visiting with Mary's family.
Xi'an was our base to visit Jiuzhaigou and Huashan. The old walled city itself is pretty nice, although we didn't spend nearly enough time checking it all out. We did make it to the Fruitymix juice bar, eat a lot of Pizza Hut, buy some cold weather clothes for Nepal and still find time to make it out to the nearby Terracotta Warriors.
Take a pot of boiling Yellowstone, add a dash of Yosemite and throw in some Zion. The only thing missing is Ansel Adams to photograph it all. Jiuzhaigou is possible the premier Chinese national park and Chinese tourists flock here by the thousands. Fortunately, they all take the park buses between waterfalls and lakes. All we had to do was walk the paths in between to avoid everyone and get nature to ourselves.
Just a couple hours away from Xi'an is the holy mountain of Hua Shan. The five peaks here make for a great hike and diversion from the smog. We did a tour of the peaks and then spent a cold night in a hotel at the top so we could catch sunrise off the eastern peak. It's popular for college aged locals from Xi'an to come here and start hiking before midnight so they can get to the top just in time for sunrise. For a bit of excitement, I took a walk down the "Plank Path" that juts out of the side of several thousand foot sheer drop.
The impetus for heading back to Beijing was so we could gorge on Peking Duck. We were horrified to find that the restaurant we absolutely loved was in an historic hutong next to Tianenman Square that has been razed by the government to make a more touristic neighborhood in time for the Olympics. So sad. We still ate a lot of duck, but it just wasn't the same. Mary's brother John showed up a couple days later and we headed out to the Jinshaoling section of the Great Wall for a little walk.