“Can you gesture and count up to 10 on one hand? No? Well, the Chinese do exactly that. If a Chinese shopkeeper is signalling his crossed forefinger and middle finger to you, it’s not a wish for luck. He is probably telling you the amount to pay is 10 yuan!”
They’re one…or rather, five steps ahead of us in more than just population.
Variety. That’s what China is about. Variety in landscape, variety in culture, variety in cuisine, and variety in people. What comes out of all this is a wide array of experiences for the tourist. While the Great Wall and the modern skyscrapers of Shanghai do turn up in every thought Chinese, there is so much more to explore in the vast land!
A quintessential holiday in China would be a combo of land plus cruise tour. Make all the regular, albeit, exciting pit stops in Forbidden City and Yaxiu market, and top it off with a cruise along the longest river in Asia!
#1 The Great Wall Of China
There is a saying that goes something like this, “He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man.” This great wonder of the world and an engineering marvel is an enchanting sight to behold. It runs along east to west across northern China, with major parts around Beijing being thronged by tourists. The Badaling stretch of the wall is very popular, and a little south of it is the Juyongguan Pass. There are fewer tourists here, with only a hand-full of hawkers and sellers to disturb your peace. Plus, the view surrounding the pass is quite a show-stealer. If you do not have a lot of time in hand, it is unlikely that you will be able to cover all sections of the wall. In fact, the Juyongguan Pass alone is divided into east and west sections. Each section takes a couple of hours to trek. The west side is more steep with breath-taking views.
#2 Terracotta Warriors
Thousands of life-sized battle-ready warriors guard the mausoleum of Emperor Qin in Xi’an. The Terracotta Warriors Museum has three pits. The first one houses majority of the dug out soldiers. Interestingly, there are around 6,000 warriors in total, out of which only 1,000 have been extracted so far. Every year archaeologists dig out and can re-assemble only around 20-30 soldiers. Turns out of the warriors, no two faces are the same! Quite an answer to those who poke fun at the Chinese for looking like clones of each other. The experience of watching columns and columns of endless detail uncovered by farmers around 2,000 years ago is China’s gift to you.
#3 Yangtze River Cruise
Yangtze region is the cradle of ancient Chinese civilization, and a slow boat ride along the river of the same name is something that should be on your list of things to do when in China. The Yangtze river is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world after Nile and Amazon. China still holds a cover of mystery around it after opening up to tourists in the ’70s and a cruise along the famed river will give you a glimpse into the rural life and pagodas nestled across. Sample the traditionally cooked Peking Duck and mingle with the women at work. It’s typically a three-day cruise which includes a sail through the Three Gorges region, the most dramatic part of the journey. Misty mountains, deep gorges, quiet riverbanks, greenery all around, hanging coffins on rock faces- that’s what’s in store for you! The ships here are typically bigger in size than the ones on European cruises thanks to the sheer size of the Yangtze river. No low bridges and sudden changes in water currents!
#4 Forbidden City
The Ming and the Qing dynasties of emperors rarely ventured out beyond what the world calls the ‘Forbidden City’. A place out of bounds to commoners for 500 years or so, this complex houses the best-preserved ancient buildings of China. A large 100-acre expanse known as Tiananmen Square is the gateway to Forbidden City. Included in the World Culture Heritage by UNESCO, it is the world’s largest public square, situated in the centre of Beijing. The wooden architecture in the Forbidden City is known to impress and lends great insight into the world of Chinese culture. Time your visit because there is a lot to see, a lot.
#5 Shopping At Yaxiu Market
Also known as the Ya Show Market, Yaxiu Market is a famous place for foreigners to stop at. It is a bazaar for the locals of Beijing, thus the prices here are fairly low as compared to other places. Many people compare this four-floored indoor store to the Silk Market. The trade is mainly in clothes, accessories, local handicrafts, electronics, cuisine and snacks, recreation, and entertainment. Those looking for fake designer jeans, bags, shoes, or just great gifts to take back home find the Yaxiu Market quite a spot. It is known for it’s silk and satin products, and tailoring of a Chinese Qipao. The basement is where all leather goods are sold. Keep in mind that bargaining is your weapon here, and the calculator your mode of communication.
China is as interesting on land as it is on water. Plan well, and combine a cruise holiday with a land excursion in this vast mysterious country. No reason to miss out on anything it has to offer!