As I didn’t like Vietnam a lot last year, I was not really sure what to expect from China on my journey taking me from Hong Kong to Beijing via Emei Shan…But during this trip China fascinated me, made me smile and is in my opinion way worth a visit than super hypered Vietnam…
The journey started off in Hong Kong getting via subway to the border in Shenzhen one of these free economic zones- a no man (or more a migrant, overpopulated, weird) land between communism and capitalism where we borded an overnight train to Yangshuo a town popular among tourists on Li River. The scenery reminded me of Halong Bay in Vietnam with a lot of things to do: kayaking Li River, hiking Moon Hill, cycling the countryside, trying tai-chi and kong fu, eating local (avoiding dog…yep…you can buy dog and cat on the market there) and just having a good time before heading off to a more remote area near the town of Chengyang- home to the Dong minority. The main attraction is the Water and Rain Bridge built buy the locals without nails…took them a couple of years. My favorite story there happened in a restaurant. Basically like in Russia the menu is always bigger than what they really have. After my desperate attempts to order some juice my friend Prav tried it with banana-milk shake. The guy looked around, asked her for a second, went to the neighbor table where some girls having lunch had in their bags some bananas they bought on the local market. The guy bargained with them, bought the bananas and made Prav one of the most disgusting milkshakes ever. But hey- appreciate his pragmatic spirit!
Next destination: Chengdu- home of the pandas (very cute and really lazy little bastards, loved them) and apparently best city for old people in China known for its high living quality. And you know why when you go to the People’s Park there: old people organize themselves into little groups taking dance lessons, doing aerobic, singing or just playing mahjong. You want to be a retired person there! Seriously. On top of that you can admire there one of only 3 remaining Mao Statues in China…there used to be one in every town…
Then off to some more spiritual experiences. After visiting the Giant Buddha in Leshan, we were off to Emei Shan, went up to the Golden summit and hiked to a remote monastery. To get there you had to cross a forest of aggressive coke and sprite addicted monkeys…and you love the owners of the little Hard Wok Café just a bit further down the hill from the monastery because believe me you don’t want to eat in the monastery…and when you go to the toilets you regret not having picked a monastery run by nuns (way way cleaner).
After enjoying some Hot Springs, off to a long long train journey to Xian famous for the terracotta warriors. But what I really loved in Xian was the Muslim quarter: the old mosque, the busy street life, the small streets full of vendors and street food. With Nic and Prav we decided to spend the afternoon bargaining with the vendors and eating delicious street food. I still don’t know what I ate but I always went where the queue was the longest and pointed at what the people in front of me ordered and it was just delicious!
Last stop Beijing: went to a not so touristy part of the Wall (3h away from Beijing) on a gorgeous October day. One of the best days on the trip. Just crazy, impressive and wonderful…I didn’t want to climb down again. Besides the obligatory Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square my favorite place in Beijing is certainly the Summer Palace where it is delicious to just spend an afternoon getting lost.
As I like also to point out the low-lights of trips…here you go to finish: the Chinese spit everywhere. It’s disgusting, the sound haunted me. Worst experience. We were on our way to an Opera and behind Prav and me this guy kept spitting every 2 seconds. We started to run away because it was so gross. Even women do it…Second low-light never try to send a parcel in a Chinese post office:
1. they check the content, unwrap everything, check everything meaning it takes ages
2. they don’t understand that you want to send things by air. Not even me imitating an airplane helped
3. they hand you 3 times the same customs form without any explanation
Actually in the end it started getting really really funny….