I’m not really sure where this idea came from, but I acted on it very quickly. One moment, I was planning on going to Australia in September. Then I decided I might as well go to China in July as well. Next thing I know my ticket to Beijing was booked.
It’s not completely random – my stepmother is Chinese and my family go there every year, so I’ll probably be spending three of my seven weeks with them. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Chinese culture first hand and connect with my distant family.
After spending a bit of time in my stepmother’s city, I’m planning on travelling down to Hong Kong via trains. This is where it will be interesting. I’ve been assured that the trains (like most of China) are perfectly safe and are efficient and fast. However, I’ve also been told that there will be some slight issues if you can’t speak any mandarin.
Well, I wouldn’t say I can’t speak ANY mandarin. I can say ‘this is my foot’, I can ask for a cup of tea and I can tell someone that they are very beautiful. Let’s hope the Chinese like flattery and have plenty of hot beverages to give out. I also, very strangely, know the words for zebra and hippopotamus. Useful.
It’ll be an interesting journey, my first proper solo journey in a country where I don’t speak the language (bar the above three very useful phrases), but interesting is what makes the world go round, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve been busy planning my Chinese itinerary/ ‘wish list’ of places I want to go and it’s looking pretty exciting.
No visit to China would be complete without a trip to Beijing, the capital of the nation and one of the most important cultural hubs of the country. I want to stroll around the forbidden city, visit the Temple of Heaven and enjoy some proper Chinese street food. Beijing is where I’m flying into, and granted that it will take me a couple of days to get over the jet lag, I’m planning on spending about six days here.
The Great Wall
Of course, I’ll be taking a day out of my Beijing stint to check out that wall everyone talks about – I’m really looking forward to exploring China’s iconic 2200 year old monument. I’m hoping to visit a couple of the less explored parts of wall (a sentence that could only sound exciting if you’re talking about the Great Wall of China specifically) using my stepmother’s guidance.
Like most travellers to Xi’an, I’m keen to see the nearby terracotta warriors. I’m also intrigued about the history of the intricate city that was one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, and am excited the pagodas and temples of the city. Lastly, the countries’ Western placement interests me; I’m looking forward to seeing ‘another side of China’ as it is fused with Muslim culture. And I’ve heard that the food is amazing!
Shanghai, with its modern skyline and famous river, appeal to me in a different way than the rest. I’m always interested in visiting a famous city and exploring the ins and outs of it, establishing what makes it so renowned. However, I’m looking forward to tapping into Shanghai culture itself – its thriving music, dining and arts scene.
Apparently spice is nice in Chengdu! I’ve already racked up a list of restaurants I want to visit in this city. Chengdu’s most famed attraction is probably the Chengdu Panda Base – one of the only places in the world where you can meet and greet one of these endangered species. That’s an offer I can’t miss!
Check out some great things to do in Chengdu here!
Photo by Paul Martin. All rights reserved.
Google ‘Liaoyuan tourism’ and you won’t get much of a response. My father has visited there before and has found himself to be the only non-Chinese person in the city. But, it’s the city where my stepmother is from, and where her mother, sister and niece all live so of course I have to pay it a visit. While there might not be any iconic architecture or famous landmarks, I’m looking forward to taking some time to get to know my stepmother’s heritage and learning about her life in China before I met her. Plus, I’m a sucker for going anywhere where there’s no other tourists.
When I look at photos of Jiuzhaigou, I have to scrape my jaw off the floor. These multi-tiered colourful waterfalls don’t look like they can be real, but I have been assured that they very much are and are available for tourism, despite being undiscovered until 1972.
Photo by Paul Martin. All rights reserved.
Known as the ‘Venice of China’, Zhouzhuang is China’s oldest water town. All houses are built on the river, and each has it’s own port. I’ve been told that the town on the water feels like stepping into a postcard, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it!
I’m interested in touring Guilin’s elephant trunk hill, the ancient Ming architecture and the famous Li River. I also want to use Guilin as a base for exploring a bit more of the region, such as the rice terraces of Longsheng.
My last stop on my Chinese tour will be Hong Kong (although I’m aware that this isn’t really China…) as I’m flying from there to Singapore, and then onwards to Sydney. I’m interested in seeing the difference between Hong Kong and China, and of course I’m looking forward to seeing the Big Buddha in person.
This list is certainly not exhaustive; it’s just what I’ve discovered so far. I’ve got seven weeks to get from Beijing to Hong Kong (although will be going to Chengdu/ Jiuzhaigou first with my family and then returning back North to Liaoyuan) and I can take any route permitted, really. I’ll keep on researching, but it will also be a case of following my nose and seeing what happens – and everybody knows that’s where the best travel stories come from!