I didn’t manage to visit all that many places in China. After all it’s a huge country and I only had less than 2 weeks there. I still think I did a good job as I was able to see most important sights and these less popular too, I’ve been to big cities, to smaller places, I’ve seen true historical gems… Like it’s on every trip and in every country, I found some places more interesting than others and below you can see which spots in China made my heart beat faster.
The Great Wall of China
I visited the Mutianyu section of the wall and it seemed like a perfect choice. It was crowded at parts next to the cable car station but further I went less and less people were around and at times I found myself wandering on my own, with no one to disturb me. This over 2kms long section of the Wall was first built in 6th century and now there’re 22 watchtowers from where you can admire the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. I didn’t manage to climb them all as it was pretty steep at times and it just wasn’t my day. But it didn’t stop me from enjoying the place so very much. The Wall itself was really amazing but I was more impressed by the beauty around. Before I went there I thought only about the Wall itself but to my greatest suprise the place is so much more than that. The breathtaking mountains scenery makes the visit in Mutianyu perfect. Sun on my face, wind in my hair and the feeling of endless space made this visit really special and worth remembering. Also, not every day you walk on such an unique, important structure, the one that almost everyone knows.
After exploring busy Beijing I was more than ready to move to some calmer destination. My choice was Pingyao, a fairly small in Chinese standards city (with around 500.000 inhabitants) famous for its walled ancient center that is listed on UNESCO World Heritage List. I arrived there early in the morning and fell in love immediately. Behind the walls the city was slowly waking up, the dust rising up in the first sunlight. At that point only local people could be seen, driving around fast on their motorbikes or quite the opposite, siting in front of the houses and sipping tea. Soon I found out that I should have bought the ticket to be able to explore the city inside of the walls, if I had been caught I’d have had to pay quite a big fine. After fixing that situation I went off to walk around the walls. The gave a really great perspective of the town, I could see lots of destroyed buildings and the overall impression was that it’s dirty and dusty everywhere. But I actually liked it, a lot! It gave me the feeling that it’s not another tourist attraction but the town that lives in its own pace. Still, slowly the town started to fill up with tourists but it wasn’t too hard to find isolated lanes. I spent good few hours aimlessly walking around, getting lost in narrow streets, exploring hidden backyards, visiting old temples and having the awesome time! Pingyao was definitely the highlight of my trip to China as it felt the most real of all the places I’ve visited there!
Luoyang Longmen Caves
The whole idea of visiting the caves with over 100.000 Buddha statues was so tempting I just had to include Luoyang in the itinerary. The city itself isn’t all that interesting but the Longmen Caves, located few kilometers outside of the center, along the River Yi, compensate that very well. It’s hard to fully realize how many Buddha statues are there as they are everywhere, from a tiny ones carved into the wall to the as huge as 17 meters, standing proudly on the mountainside. Every few steps I was amazed by the beauty of the statues. China was the first place where I could see Buddhism and I was still absorbing every single aspect of it. Sadly there were slightly too many people around (but I haven’t seen any other non Chinese, besides me so that was interesting) but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this fascinating place. Besides it was best seen from the other side of the river where not too many people got. I stood there for at least half an hour, just admiring the enormity and greatness of the Longmen Caves.
It was love at first sight. There is just something about big, modern cities that overwhelms me, in the positive way, and Shanghai was no exception. When I stepped into the Bund for the first time it took my breath away. Shanghai is fancy and modern at first but it takes only one turn into the backstreet to see it’s still China. I loved that mix and from all the Chinese cities I’ve visited this was definitely my favorite one. I enjoyed (almost) every part of it: elegant Bund, cosmopolitan Business District (the view from the highest viewing platform in the world was quite spectacular) or the quirky French Concession. And I was so excited when I was aimed for the famous tea scam! ;)
And that’s it. The rest of the places were fine but I might have been too overwhelmed or tired to fully enjoy them. Even if China is not on the top of the best countries I’ve visited still I’m glad I was able to explore it and see how it really is and how our image of it is different from the reality. I’d love to return there and explore it a little more, better, deeper but I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon.
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Have you been to China? Would you like to visit any of these places?
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