You are special, different, so worth it !!
What can i say really about you.. not sure our experience was optimised but I think you are a must-to-do in life, and I definitely want to see you again.
Your History !! Your People !! Your Food !! landscapes, culture and much more blabla that could seduce you.. All is gigantesque with you, your capital, your monuments, your cities, you spaces, it is all very confusing but you have this special essence difficultly explainable that makes me want to know more about you..
Beijing is surrealist, super polluted and super populated. Giants buildings and avenues all over the city.. It get crowded and suffocating really quickly.. Not easy to orient yourselves or ask for directions.. It’s INTENSE, it is an other world..
A stroll in the Forbidden City, overview it from the Jingshan Park, step foot on Tiananmen Square were special to me. Peace can be found in the parks, a walk around the National Center of Performing Arts or in the Jingshan Park are refreshing, also sunset is beautiful from the Jingshan park. A walk in the Hutongs (Old traditional Chinese neighbourhoods) is a must-to-do.
It is a lot to see, i admit it was my first country in the beginning of a long and unknown journey.. Beijing might have been too much for a first stop and as much i though this city was vibrating, I shorten my journey there to go towards wider horizons.
Around Qianmen tube station is a good place to look for accommodations, the area has a lot of backpackers hostels and luxury hotels. It has loads of foody options, It is safe, and near all touristic sites and transports systems. It is super easy to move around Beijing by the tube, the tube lines cover well all the city.. but don’t be British, don’t wait in queue, Push !!!
Short bit of history about the stunning Great Wall of China, one of the Wonder of the World.
What the Chinese also call “The longest cemetery in the world” is a tremendous piece of history, its enterprise started over 2 millenniums ago and is extending over 6’000km, simply amazing !!
Originally they were built by the seven kingdoms of China (770-476bc) to protect each territory. It is generally believed that the first parts of the wall were built in Spring and Autumn Period. The first wall was between the states of Lu and Qi around 650 BC. Until the Qin Dynasty (221-206 bc), each kingdoms had extended their state’s wall.
Qin Shihuang became the first Emperor of China and ordered to joined the existing Northern walls of the different states to unified a line of defense against Mongol harassment, it was the first true Great Wall. It took 9 years and a million workers to join the walls. Other state border walls became obsolete in a unified China and were subsequently eroded or dismantled. During the Han Dynasty (206bc – 200 ad), the northern fortifications were strengthened and lengthened, with sections of wall running parallel for hundreds of kilometres. The Han Dynasty Great Wall from the North Korea coast in the East to the Jade Fate Pass in the West was the longest the Great Wall has ever been at more than 8,000km.
Most of the remaining Great Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty, and is known as the Ming Great Wall.. The section of Badaling and Mutianyu near Beijing were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).
I visited the Wall near Mutianyu.. and even if it was super foggy and insanely humid(you could barely see 30meters away during most of the day), It was incredible !!
To access Mutianyu Great Wall, by bus, bus No.936 from Donzhimen Wai Station to Mutinayu Great Wall. The buses run between 7am and 3pm on every hour, and the last bus from Mutianyu Great Wall back to Beijing is at 5.30pm. (single trip ticket cost 16RMB). They are many branch lines 936, ask the driver that he goes to Mutianyu Great Wall.
My best moments in China were for the most often were in train.. Basically, I decided that my journey would be from Beijing heading South to see the Huangshan mountains, and then go towards the West until the Yunan Province.
Part of the travel is hours of transport, they are a beautiful moments to wander, observe and watch the changing landscapes along the road. Depending on the country bus or train might be more convenient, due to massive distances to cover in China and the huge hours i would spend in the transports I decided to do most of the journey by train. It was also the cheapest options, and definitely the most flexible and comfortable to pass from one province to an other.
In China I did face barrier languages and it wasn’t always easy to communicate with the Chinese, to be honest I did feel quiet often that they were trying to flee any interactions with me.. However, in the train, they couldn’t. They were locked up with me for twenty hours or so.. The first two hours are always about observation, but it eases overtime, you eat you smoke like them, soon you become the public attraction in the wagon, and smile and laughs cannot stop. Best moments !!
To speak quickly about the place i visited there. Huangshan Mountains (also called the Yellow Mountains) in Anhui province are stunning. It is a surreal scenery of mountains above the clouds. I recommend few days there if you have time, I wish i would have done more than one day.
Other site looking similar that i really really want to do some days.. Zhangiajie.. It was a hard call to choose between both.. Dig it.
Fenghuang, The city of the Phoenix. It is a beautiful old town located in the Hunan province. The old town is surrounded by a river and canals pass through the town. It is very picturesque.
As all the historic cities i visited in China, it all has been recently refurbished for touristic purposes meaning it has lost its authenticity in the process. It is all very cute and stunning to see, it did conserve part of its essence but it looks artificial at the same time.. I did encounter a similar feeling in the other historical cities of Song Pan, Zhongdian and Lijiang.
I did wander around those cities but one trail that really caught my attention was the Jiuzhaihou National Park in Sichuan. As most of the site it is overcrowded.. The nature there is beautiful, very green, and loads of lakes everywhere. The minerals in the ground give surreal color to the lakes. Superbe !! but it is pricy and crowded, I will try to post later the exact road but once in the region (from Song Pan), ask for trekking options in the area. Tales ‘ve heard it was smooth 4/5 days trekking options doable without guide or agency, with freedom and stunning sceneries similar the Jiuzhaigou Valley.
Anyone interested to go to China, check-out the Gobi desert !! One place i definitely wanna do some days.
I aimed also to go to trekking in the Tibetan Plateau around Degen, unfortunately the Earth shacked the night i was arriving to Zhongdhian and the road were block for a week or so. It has beautiful trekking options around Zhongdian (Shangri-La) but it isn’t the mountains of Degen. Not a big fan of “Shangri-La” but don’t miss the Monastery of …., it used to be the biggest Llamasserie in the world, with 3,000 monks or so..
Weird to mention that after writing about monks, but for the non-vegan, Yack meat is super tasty.. It’s a place in town which does incredible Yacks steak burgers.
*English signs aren’t frequent in China, and very few speak English. Best always have the direction were you go wrote in Chinese on a piece of paper. Maybe if you have a special conditions or diet, best find someone in your hostel who speaks English and that can write it for you in Chinese, notably for person with a special diet in restaurants it will help a lot, when eating in street eateries don’t expect menu in English.
**Mass-Tourism in China.. F*** it is a reality, and it is impressive. Chinese love their country, they are more and more mobile and love to run in Touristic sites. They generally walk few, spend a lot and doesn’t stay long in the same place, then Most of the National Park or Eco Park, Historical cities are set for massive “Chinese” tourism. In other words, it is a bit Disneyland for Chinese everywhere if you go in the peak destinations, set for massive and quick consummation. Can be confusing for Westerners, swallow it and walk in line or skip those places..
Truth is i haven’t met anyone backpacking in China before i went there, and for visa purposes i had to proove an itinerary to the Chinese Embassy ahead of my travel, so i look what should i do there and it brought to those “touristic” destinations. It was all worth it, but it is plenty of alternatives roads as well in China and even if it isn’t so frequented by backpackers, it is an amazing place to see and where to get lost. They are amazing people, take time. Writing that i can’t to wait to come back there.
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