Having already travelled to and fallen in love with many places in Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Bali, Sunét our South Africa Business Development Manager was excited to explore another Asian country – China. On our Great Wall and Warriors tour she got to experience all of the highlights of China she’d heard glowing reviews about – they definitely did not disappoint.
1. Blossoms all around
I would definitely recommend April to visit China. It was lovely, not too hot or humid – perfect sightseeing conditions. Many different trees were in bloom which as a keen photographer was an absolute dream, capturing the cherry, peach and plum blossoms all over China.
2. Terracotta Warriors
Dating back to the late 3rd Century BCE, over 8000 life sized statues were buried in Xi’an along side Emperor Qin Shi Huang to protect him in the afterlife. What absolutely amazes me is that nobody knew about this till 1974 when the army was discovered by accident. There are many fascinating features of the army with it believed the craftsmen who created the statues copied their own face on to the sculpture.
3. Old City of Beijing
While in Beijing we visited the Old City which was my favourite part of the city. It’s a lovely place to spend a relaxing day taking strolls alongside the river and enjoying coffee with a bite to eat at one of the cafes or restaurants. The area comes alive at night, a great fun place for drinks and dinner.
4. Bicycle ride along the City Wall
The medieval City Wall in Xi’an divides the old part from the new and is the perfect elevated viewing platform to look down and observe both. Cycling along the 14km was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, with plenty of time to cycle at my own pace and stop to take photos.
5. Tranquility inside the city
We were lucky enough to visit three different gardens, each one as beautiful as the next. They were all peaceful places to retreat from the hectic pace of the city and wander the meandering paths admiring the elegance of the parks.
6. The Great Wall
The second New Wonder of the World ticked off my list, having already been to the Taj Mahal, the thing that amazed me the most about the Great Wall is how it literally stretches for as far as the eye can see. We climbed two sections of the Wall, the Badaling Pass as well as the Juyongguan Pass – the Badaling Pass is the most popular and is far easier to climb then the much steeper Juyongguan section. This one is not for the faint hearted as it is quite steep but it takes you away from the crowds of tourists and the views are amazing! We stayed at a hotel at the Juyongguan Pass which was ideal for our early start to watch the sun rise over the mountains.
7. The food markets
Whilst in Beijing we visited one of the food markets that are open during the night where we got to see, and for the brave of us, taste their exotic and bizarre culinary delights. You name it, it was there on a stick ready and waiting for us to try - star fish, frog, tarantula, centipede and even lamb testicle. Some of people on the tour tried these specialities, whilst I wasn’t so keen to taste.
8. Celebrating love
If you are out and about in China on a Saturday, you are bound to see beautiful brides in their bright red wedding dresses having their photo shoots all around the city. They get married in the traditional white dress but for the photos and celebration afterwards they change into the most stunning red dresses. I was lucky enough to capture this beautiful couple while I was cycling on the City Wall in Xi’an. Traditionally they also light fireworks once the bride and groom get to the reception, so be prepared!
9. Peking duck anybody?
Food, food and copious amounts of delicious food! We had our first taste of peking duck at our welcome dinner in Beijing, which was absolutely amazing. Thereafter, our taste buds were tantalised with the amazing cuisine that China has to offer. What I enjoyed is that each region and province has a different style of cooking. My favourite meal was at the Juyongguan Hotel, situated in the Sichuan province where they cook more spicy dishes. If you are feeling adventurous, ask your guide to take you to one of the local restaurants who will help you to order as the waiters don’t speak English. We stayed at the Ramada in Shanghai and the guide took us to a little place just behind the hotel where we had dumplings and won ton soup – they were so good we went back the next night. The stalls at the market place also offer very cheap yet good food, another dining experience best enjoyed with the help of your guide.
10. Sizzling Shanghai
Shanghai is an incredible city, one of the newest in China with dozens of skyscrapers where you can enjoy beautiful views from up top, a bustling global financial centre and one of the busiest ports in the world. Take a stroll on The Bund, the waterfront area with loads of hotels, restaurants and businesses lined along the riverfront. Included on the tour is a night time cruise on the Huangpu River which will leave you in awe as the city lights up.