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Trip report: Discovering crazy natural landscapes, fascinating cities and weird foods
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Here below some of the most fascinating photos from China. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary. If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here:

Chinese signs - Hardly understandable to me.


In 2008 I was sent to China for a conference that was the ideal opportunity to visit the country. It was the year of the Beijing Olympics, that my girlfriend and I, travelling in July, missed just by a few days… no medals for us, unfortunately.
Organizing the trip wasn't easy. In fact, on the internet everyone was talking about guided tours, but we really wanted to travel as independently as possible and it was difficult to get much travel info. We did our best and in the end we booked a London-Amsterdam-Beijing KLM flight and some internal flights with China Eastern Airlines. We managed to plan trips to some of the most attractive destinations in China, but we had to miss many others.
For the visa, we sent our passports to an agency collaborating with the consulate. Luckily our passports came back with all the right things attached.
We landed in Beijing in the morning of the 20th of July. The airport was all new and shiny. When we got out of the hall, we were surrounded by thousands of crazy taxis buzzing around like flies. We hailed one, we showed the address of our Bamboo Garden Hotel (that we previously printed in Chinese ideograms) to the driver and we entered the chaotic traffic of Beijing.
Beijing - The 'hutongs' quarter is very picturesque.
It was hot and humid and we were sleepy because of the jet lag, but we were brave and we stuck to our (random) Beijing travel itinerary.
We began our walk from the Lama Temple, fascinating Buddhist complex full of decorations and incense. The Confucius Temple was not bad either.
Buddhist Temple - Lama Temple (in the photo) and Confucius Temple are must-see.
Then we walked through the Hutongs, traditional quarters made of small alleys. The other parts of Beijing were very Chinese too, but in a different way: they were modern, with big, anonymous buildings built by the communist party after having destroyed the hutongs.
Our walk in the old center brought us to the Drum and Bell Towers, very simple but with a nice view on part of the city.
In hotel we asked some info and we booked a day trip to the Great Wall for the following day.
Along the road to the Great Wall we stopped at the Changling tombs. To reach them we walked along the Sacred Way (a grand avenue with big animal statues).
Ming Tombs
Ming Tombs - The sacred way to Ming Tombs.
We stopped also at a jada fabric and shop, with some beautiful and expensive statues.

We reached the Great Wall in the Mutyaniu section, less touristic than the more famous Badaling that is usually included in any China travel itinerary. The van left us in a wooden village that lived on souvenirs. There were green mountains around.
A chairlift (yes, it sounds weird) brought us to the Great Wall, on which we began to walk up and down, up and down, up and down, in that amazing scenery, a small part of the 8850 kilometers of the Great Wall.
Great Wall
Great Wall - The Chinese Great Wall (Mutyanu section in this photo) is very impressive and crazily long... it would be nice to cover its thousands of miles and miles.
To descend from the mountain we could take the chairlift or a long slide (yes, weird). Of course we opted for the slide.
Back from the trip we stopped in Beijing city center. We noticed a food market. For dinner we went to a Tibetan restaurant with typical dances.
Our last day in Beijing we visited some of the most beautiful and famous places of the city. We began from the huge Tiananmen Square.
Tienanmen Square
Tienanmen Square - This huge square also features the entrance to the Forbidden City.
and the Then, the Forbidden City, the big complex of golden buildings that was the Emperor’s residence.
Forbidden City
Forbidden City - Temples, buildings, squares and much more... just for the Emperor.
We also visited the relaxing Temple of Heaven and we relaxed in Beihai park under the shadow of the trees.
Beihai Park
Beihai Park was a beautiful green area in the middle of the city, full of small lakes, trees, hills and panoramic pagodas, which I recommend for your travel itinerary in the Chinese capital.
Beijing Beihai Park - A nice walk in Beihai Park is relaxing and fascinating.
The following morning we flew to Shanghai on a China Eastern Airlines plane. The weather was even hotter and damper than in Beijing. We could barely see the sun through the dense, polluted air.
In a day and a half we visited Shanghai touristy places. We began our tour by walking on the Bund along Huangpu River, that crosses the city center. The Bund is a large, lively road with beautiful colonial buildings on one side and the brown water of the river on the other.
Shanghai Bund - From the Bund (the colonial promenade along Shanghai Huangpu river) it is possible to enjoy this amazing skiline.
The opposite shore of the Huangpu, instead, is home to some of the most futuristic skyscrapers of the world. We reached it by the efficient underground, then we took an elevator to the top terrace on the Oriental Pearl Tower. The view got as far as Shanghai’s grey suburbs.
We crossed the river again and we walked to the old Shanghai, with nice wooden houses, very typical and very well kept, small alleys and water channels. We got to the beautiful Yuyuan gardens. The Chinese definition of “garden” is quite weird, with all those mirrors, corners, small spaces and strange shapes. The result, however, was charming.
Shanghai Old Town - These characteristic buildings are very well-kept.
In the evening we walked through Nanjing Road, the most commercial road of Shanghai, with its shops, restaurants, stores and bars. Walking together with thousands of people we arrived at People’s Square. Around us, big buildings and shiny skyscrapers. Later, we were rapt by the beauty of Shanghai skyline seen by the Bund.
Shanghai center - The city center is modern, full of shops and people and skyscrapers.
We slept in a 4-star hotel (40 euros for a double room). We didn’t spend much time in Shanghai, but it was enough: there are more fascinating places in China. We happily flew to Guilin, in the Southern part of China.
At the airport, my girlfriend and I were met by a guide that we had contacted through a website. We were going to have a 3-day tour with him and a driver. Total cost, 300 euros each, not much considering hotels, car, fuel, tickets, meals, etc.
Compared to the chaotic Beijing and Shanghai, it was almost cool. Guilin was a paradise surrounded by wonderful mountains that looked like Rio de Janeiro’s loafs.
Guilin - Amazing, absurd mountains along the Li River.
From the mountains our tour began. By car first and by feet then, we arrived at Longji, a village made of small wooden houses and mule tracks, positioned on the slope of a hill full of terraced fields. We really liked that village. We had dinner in a panoramic restaurant where we ate some delicious rice cooked in the bamboo and a tofu salad.
Guilin Longji
Guilin - Longji - Longji, in the hills near Guilin, is a very quaint village inhabited by farmers.
The following morning our guide led us to the mountains that stood over Longji while giving us some interesting cultural info. There were spectacular terraced rice fields and bamboo woods and farmers' life.
Guilin Longji
Rice terraces - Its rice terraces offer incredible views.
Guilin Longji
Longji Seven Dragons - And amazing shapes.
In the afternoon we left the mountains and we arrived at Guilin, on Li River. We were shown a cliff with a natural arch that looked like an elephant, then we visited the Reed Flute Cave, a calcareous cave with stalagmites, stalactites and columns made even more spectacular by some well-studied artificial lights.
Reed Flute Cave
Reed Flute Cave - Colourful lights make this cave near Guilin even more special.
Guilin Sunset
In the evening we were left at the hotel. Then we went out and walked in the town center, where we noticed the Sun and the Moon pagodas, artificially lit in yellow and white respectively, thus creating nice reflections on the water.
On the 27th of July we lived one of the highlights of our holiday: the cruise on Li river.
Li River cruise - A cruise is the best way to enjoy the views... but also some trekking or any other adventurous activity would be a good idea.
We could admire one of the most spectacular and original landscapes of the world, a fundamental destination for any China travel itinerary.
Li River cruise
When we arrived in Yangshuo we were enthusiastic. The guide suggested for the night to go to a “theater” show. Luckily we trusted him, because it was an amazing performance. The “stage” of the open-air theater was a large natural lake surrounded by beautiful green mountains. Hundreds of actors played while standing on a boat or on a moving footbridge.
The day after we had a bike ride in Yangshuo countryside. There were cultivated fields, farmers and the “usual” beautiful mountains. It was beautiful and intense.
Yangshuo - A Li River cruise ends at Yangshuo, which boasts a beautiful country, ideal for a bike ride.
Yangshuo fields - More amazing views.
In the afternoon we were driven back to the airport and we flew to Xian where our travel itinerary continued. Here I had to attend a 5-day conference that was the reason I had come to China, even if what really interested me was to travel around. Xian, the old Chinese capital, maybe doesn’t deserve a 5-day stay and we would have preferred to go to Tibet or somewhere else. Still, we had a good time in Xian with an extraordinary highlight.
For start, we were accomodated in a nice 5-star hotel with free bowling and swimming pool – not bad. Moreover, I didn’t really have to attend all conference sessions, so we had time to visit the city.
Xian city center was nice with its big market. We also visited a typically Chinese amusement park. I liked the fact that there were no foreigners. The park was full of gardens, small lakes, water channels and reconstructions of old, historical buildings. The main attractions were paddle boats on the lakes and music and dance shows, plus the usual water/lights/sounds plays in the evening. We were impressed especially by the acrobatic moves of a small Chinese dragon (under which two young boys were hidden) that did martial arts and somersaults on the top of some 3-meter high poles.
Xian Dragon Show - Xian is China old capital and is rich of unusual shows for a foreigner.
We also attended some activities organised by the conference committee. The main one was the trip to Xian Terracotta Army. The hundreds of natural-sized statues of warriors, each different from the others, are impressive, but they are placed in a big dull depot (which is necessary to preserve the statues). From a cultural and historical point of view, anyway, it is extraordinary.
Xian Terracotta Army
Xian Terracotta Army - So famous it can't be missed, despite the unattractive building that preserve the statues.
Always at the conference expenses, that night we had dinner in a nice restaurant in front of typical music and dance shows.
Xian Chinese Dance
Chinese Dance

The last highlight of the holiday was the visit to Xian ancient city walls. Well, the merit was not of the walls (still very impressive being between 10 and 20 metres wide), but of the total solar eclipse that we could admire.
The conference had in fact been organized in the right dates to let participants enjoy this rare and amazing phenomenon. In the afternoon the sun began being partially covered by the moon. Then, suddenly, it became, a tiny black ball in the dark sky surrounded by a subtle, almost invisible yellow line. We were shocked.
Solar Eclipse China
Solar Eclipse in Xian - An impressive way to end a holiday, a very original and slightly terrifying show. The night suddenly came, few moments later the sun rised again, and then it was time for another sunset.
It god dark and cold, but it only lasted a minute or two: the sun quickly reappeared on the other side of the moon.
This experience, the Li river the Chinese lifestyle are all memories of one of the best trips you could have. I hope you you'll use tris travel info and travel itinerary to enjoy a great trip in China too (and if you manage to add a trip to Tibet and Sichuan... that's perfect!).
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