first time china

NEWS & VIEWS FROM THE RAILS

OUT AND ABOUT ON TOUR IN CHINA

As this was my first time in China I was keen to see as much as possible. Yet I was aware of our limited time. Our China tours adviser guided us through our options and that whatever we wanted he could make happen. He gave us so much confidence, that we went for it and visited not only Beijing but also Xian and Shanghai. Although the possibility of where you can travel are endless, after talking to a few people they all said as these cities are so diverse, the best way to explore the culture is to visit all 3.

Beijing full of excellent restaurants and the Forbidden City

This turned out to be accurate. We found Beijing not only to be full of culture and history but also beauty. Our guide had been in the business for many years and was very informative, funny and friendly. Beijing through its capital history has accommodated emperors, governments and then me. We were impressed with the coming together of the old world with the new. Although people do tend to push to get photos of the inside of buildings, a little patient’s pays off. Our guide gave us loads of time to explore. At the wall traders can be very overpowering, however if you can barter it can be one of the best places to get a bargain. This surprised me as I normally find prices at sites elevated. 

After the wall we had a lovely lunch in a garden restaurant.  It was important to us to try and use chops sticks and respect Chinese manors and culture. Restaurants are so helpful when ordering, that you know your manors are necessary.  You also need to be aware that you might have trouble getting onto your face book account or other social net works, as this is band in China.  On our second day, as our hotel was so central, we went to the Forbidden City alone. After looking around for 10 minutes for the ticket office we realized it was signed the museum office. We also hired an electronic tour and at first got lovely and lost but this is a very modern device that follows you with satellite navigation.  It also took us a while to realise there is a map on the back that tells you where you are and where you’ve been, (I’m not even blonde but was in holiday mode).
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Tour to Xian and the Terra Cotta Army

Xian is a different city altogether. Even though it has been the capital city in times gone by. Other than the historical sites, like the terra cotta army and city walls, it is in a very bad state. From holes in the pavements to run down buildings. Even crossing the road can be dangerous as there doesn’t seem to be any rules on who has right of way. It is however still worth a trip out to the Muslim quarter for lunch on the street and in the evening. As Xian is famous for its dim sum, we visited a restaurant near the bell tower known for its dim sung buffet. We were ushered into a side room on our own to enjoy the meal, it was a great experience and the dim sung not only looked good in their different shapes and colours but tasted good as well.

Modern 21st Century Shanghai

Shanghai is a modern city that is pushing forward to keep in line with cities such as LA. With mile high sky scrapers and 21st century idea’s it shows a side of China that is evolving. This is not to say that there are not hidden Gems.  Within the city is a garden dating back hundreds of years that a son built for his father to rest in and “the bund” area shows different architecture throughout the years. We took a river cruse that showed the diversity of this city and it becomes easy to forget the culture and beliefs of this country. However you need to remember it is still deep routed, even here. Even our hotel was modern. This includes a state of the art shower!! It took me 10 minutes to figure out how it worked. It also boasts a wonderful night view of the city and a top floor restaurant. This made breakfast a whole new experience. However their dinner menu seemed expensive. So we headed off down the night market opposite the hotel and soon found ourselves in a nice restaurant.

All in all we found our trip to be a great experience and did so much that we will be remembering things for months. Many of the things we had worried about, like pollution in the cities were tenuous. We were glad we’d included transport and tours within our trip, as it takes away a lot of stress. This reassured us because as we left the train at Beijing; we become part of a massive crowd moving as one. Although security is always on your mind, everyone seemed to move in their own space. There was no pushing and shoving but it was still a relief to find our guide waiting at the exit. You really do feel that should anything happen, this company is there for you, even thousands of miles from home.

Guest blog entry

This is the fifth and last in a series of 5 articles written by guest blogger Louisa Howard who recently completed a Trans-Siberian tour with us from Moscow to Shanghai via the Trans-Mongolian, Beijing and Xian.

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