Made in China
10 Nov 2017
Made in China, but have you been to China? Brace yourself for an authentic travel experience so rich in culture, colour and fun.
Ancient, yet contemporary, commonplace yet unrecognisable, outwardly urban but quintessentially rural, conservative yet ground-breaking, space-age but antiquated, China is a vast land of mesmerising and eye-popping contradictions. Trek around Tiger Leaping Gorge, range across awesome dunes at Dunhuang, witness Muslim traders doing business at Kashgar, island-hop in Hong Kong, be mesmerised by the Three Gorges, discover Qufu – birthplace of sage Confucius. China is all this and more. Then there’s the food. Wolf down Peking duck, gobble on noodles and other relatively conventional chow. Yet, for those blasé about Chinese gastronomy, there are always more Avant garde morsels such as fried scorpion, jelly fish, sea cucumber and the ‘delicious’ silk worm kebabs from the food market near Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai.
Tapping into a rich seam of antiquity ponder the legends and myths of the Forbidden City, a palace of some 980 buildings, which ceased being the political centre of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, last Emperor of China. A walk across Tiananmen Square will put into perspective the approach to all things civic. The Chinese build big.
Rediscover a sense of wonder at the gargantuan Great Wall. Snaking some 6700 kms from east to west across hills, deserts, plains and mountains, this enduring symbol of Chinese genius built to protect China against marauding invaders from the north is believed to be the longest man-made structure on earth. Although the present wall dates mainly from the Ming dynasty, some 20 states and dynasties were involved in its spellbinding construction over a period of 2,000 years! The most accessible part of the wall is best visited at the Mutianyu or Badaling sections beyond Beijing.
West of Beijing is Xi’an – location of Emperor Qin’s simply extraordinary Terracotta Warriors. For something unique consider cycling atop Xi’an’s medieval city walls, before the trip out to see the warriors. In China’s south, visit the southern city of Guilin and Yangshuo – a delightful riverside town set amongst karst limestone mountains.
East of Guilin is what was once a playground for adventurers, socialites and opium traders – Shanghai. Like a set piece from the film Blade Runner, with eye-popping architecture and super freeways, modern Shanghai fuses with the Shanghai of old. Nestled between glass and steel structures are temples, street markets, classical Chinese gardens and the enduring British architectural sweep of the famous riverside Bund. Shop in Nanjing Road, stroll through Yu Yuan Gardens (if not eating the fried scorpions) and take tea in the Chinese tradition.
Last but not least is the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic, the city state of Hong Kong comprising Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and surrounds. One of Asia’s greatest cities, ride the train to Victoria Peak or the famous Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, dine at Jumbo Floating Restaurant (world’s biggest), haggle for electronics and other glitzy goods on Nathan Road, enjoy afternoon tea at grand dame – The Peninsular and, if you’ve got the kids in tow, take them to Uncle Walt’s dream – Disneyland Hong Kong.