That is something that everyone should experience, from one end to the other it is just a constant flow of culture, cuisine, character and comotion.
Arriving into Beijing airport, you are in awe at the size of this place, I mean I have spent hours and hours at plenty of airports around the world but this is one airport that will stick in my mind. Just the sheer size.
Even though we arrived in on Saturday the afternoon the traffic was still intense, I could only image what peak hour traffic was going to look like. With 20 million people in one city it was going to be interesting.
The first thing that I was surprised at was how green Beijing was, not to sure why in my head that I thought it wouldn’t be, but there are lush green tree’s and grass everywhere you look.
The next morning the sight seeing began, after meeting everyone in our tour group we we were off to the centre of Beijing including the massive Tiananmen Square and the sprawling Forbidden City. Boasting some 9999 rooms, the city within a city was once the sole preserve of the Chinese emperors. I simply can not explain in words the size of this place, you are walking through a huge gate to another part of the Forbidden city and just when you think you are at the end, there is another gate with another area.
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government. Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2
Next stop afternoon rickshaw ride through the Hutongs of Beijing. I love the old Rickshaw’s whichever country I’m in, it’s just a cool way to see the locals.
The Hutong’s are narrow streets or alley, it was great to see them as there aren’t many left. There is a great area here known as Bar street, popular for tourists.
After our Rickshaw ride we got to see the mind blowing Chinese Acrobats, then we got to experience authentic Peking Duck, it was amazing. It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it.
After a good sleep, it was the day that I’d been waiting for The Great Wall. We drove from Beijing to Badaling, to walk a section of the famous Great Wall. Built in the Ming Dynasty, a 6m wide pathway makes a formidable defence, following the highest contours of a steep range of hills.
Nothing could have prepared me for the steep steps, high temperature and extreme humidity, not to mention the volume of people climbing the wall.
It takes around 1.5 hours to get up to the top, the view is worth the effort but you really need to be in fairly good shape.
I had a rest about 3/4 of the way up and felt like the tourist attraction, the locals love taking photo’s of us, felt like I had around 100 photo’s taken – you can image how sweaty, red faced and plain exhausted I would have looked, all in a days stride though.
The overnight train is comfortable and clean, we all sleep in 4 berth soft sleeper cabins to Xi’an.
Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang’an before the Ming Dynasty. It’s now one the most populous metropolitan areas in inland China with more than 8 million inhabitants.
Of course we were here to see the Terracotta Warriors.
It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over.
The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
Every single sculpture is individual, you will not find 2 of them same. Interestingly they were all colour painted, out of the 8000+ sculptures that were found only approximately 62 were undamaged, so now the Archaeologist are slowly and painstakingly putting the pieces back together.
I’m such a huge animal lover, every country I visit I try and see their native wildlife as much as possible, and this was no exception. The Panda’s diet is 99% bamboo, but they will eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion.
Next we visit the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the pagoda currently stands at a height of 64 m (210 ft) tall and from the top it offers views over the current city of Xi’an. One of the pagoda’s many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China.
After the Pagoda we’re off to the medieval city wall for a 14.8km bike ride, the ride was slight bumpy due to the cobbled stones that path the whole wall, but it was still enjoyable. The size of these city walls is hard to describe, it is great to see this wall in all it’s glory preserved perfectly. Another overnight train to the sizzling Shanghai.
We had so much to see, we had to focus our eyes on spectacular Shanghai. Perhaps China’s most modern city, its amazing Pudong skyline is stunning. We were taken on a great tour of the many city sights including Yuyuan Garden, Jade Buddha Temple and The Bund, with a cruise on the Huangpu River.
If you go to Shanghai you must do the cruise on the Huangpu River at night, to see the
whole city lit up was fantastic. Being school holidays there were lot’s of families from the China countryside, it is hard to image that they have never seen anyone like us before, we had plenty of photo’s take and it was really rewarding to see the smile on all of their faces.
Our last stop was Suzhou. We took a high speed train journey to ancient Suzhou, with speeds of around 300km/hr we were there in about half an hour. Suzhou is a sort of oriental Venice, ancient Suzhou is interwoven by a series of canals and pretty waterways which feed a series of classical gardens, laid out here since the Song dynasty, a thousand years ago. They are justly famous across China. Suzhou sits very close to the Grand Canal. We enjoyed a cruise on the Grand Canal, toured the Humble Administrator’s Garden and visit a silk workshop.
My favourite garden, The Humble Administrator’s Garden. It was so peaceful and with so many Lotus flowers it was hard not to see why this was a famous site in Suzhou. Tourists flock to Suzhou and constantly ask their tour guide to show them the famous Suzhou Garden, it’s hard for the locals not to laugh as there are over 204 gardens spread around the city.
All in all another amazing trip, I love travelling to countries that really push you out of your comfort zone, immerse you into their culture and you can really appreciate the local people for how they are.
I would highly recommend China to my clients, there are some fantastic tour companies out there that would suit all travellers.
Don’t just dream it, do it…