The Travelling Teacher: Asian Gems
In my last entry from The Travelling Teacher I wrote about the fantastic sites I visited whilst in Beijing but my Asian sightseeing didn’t stop there! Following this, I explored The Great Wall of China, The Terracotta Warriors and made my way to the metropolis that is Shanghai. Read on to find out more!
These iconic sights were just a few of the many on my ‘Must See’ list and I know they may well be on some of your lists too! Perhaps you have some questions about these places? Or, maybe you’ve already seen them? Why not share your questions and experiences in the comments box.
The Great Wall of China
In my personal opinion you can’t visit China and not make a trip to the renowned Great Wall of China. There’s also no excuse as pretty much all of the tour operators offer this service or you can make your own arrangements for the visit.
There are many parts available to visit, the most popular is the Badaling section which can, at it’s peak, have up to 70,000 visitors PER DAY!! We decided to go to the Mutianyu section, only around a 1 hour and 30 min drive from Beijing, and we were not disappointed! We were also extremely lucky, as it was raining the day we went (can you see a theme of rain during my time here?) there was literally a handful of us at this part of the wall and for most of the day, we had it to ourselves!
***TOP TIP*** Look at what each section of the wall has to offer before you visit so you can pick a section to suit your needs/ interests.
We ended up booking ours through a random street sale. We met a man on the street who offered to arrange a private trip for us, with no up-front cash payment. Although a little sceptical, with no deposit necessary we felt safer knowing our money was in our pockets! We had such an experience visiting the wall but my word of warning is to be cautious of these organised trips. We had specified to the man that we didn’t want any ‘extra’ activities and he assured us we would go to the wall and then come back to our hotel….however this was not quite the case! Though there was a positive to this, one of the ‘extra’ activities was a Chinese tea tasting session. Now, for anyone that knows me, I don’t drink tea unless I really have to but this tea…it is something else! They have an array of flavours so there is most definitely one to suit all palettes. My favourite was the dried fruit tea, as an added bonus there were bits of dried fruit in it that were edible and so delicious! Yum!
The Great Wall is an ancient fortification that was created to protect the Chinese states and empires against raids and attacks from nomads. Today as a result of natural erosion and human damage, sadly 30% + of the wall has gone and much of the wall has been restored as a big by the Chinese government to try and protect the wall. It snakes around and its size makes you feel like an ant. It truly is an extravagant piece of architecture. I was surprised at how steep and high some parts went, I even got a little nervous climbing up the highest point.
The Terracotta Warriors
When I first told my family I was going travelling, one of the questions my Dad asked me was: ‘Are you going to see the Terracotta Warriors?’. It’s one of those sites I’d heard of but never knew much about, once I researched online it was added to my list of what I HAD to see. And, they did not disappoint! What’s on your travel ‘must-see’ list?
We basically went straight from Beijing to Xi’an, taking around 6 hours by plane, purely to ensure we would see the Terracotta Warriors. We only spent a night here and had the outlook that if we managed to see anything else, then that would be a bonus. It all happened very fast, we landed, checked into our hotel then got a taxi to see the warriors and the very next day we were off to Shanghai. Talk about short but sweet. Like I mentioned in my previous blogs, there are plenty of tasty places to eat in China and this place was just as good! Right next door to our hotel there was a street filled with restaurants and street food, all at affordable prices!
At the site of the Terracotta Warriors they have a number of different ‘pits’. We decided to start with the pit to our right, Pit 2. They had informative museums filled with artefacts from over 2,000 years ago from weaponry to statues. Though extremely interesting and fascinating to see things from the past, we were itching to see the warriors!
Then we found them, in Pit 1. This was the largest pit of them all with over 6,000 warriors housed here. A huge open area filled with them! Each of these hand-made warriors has a different feature or facial expression and clothing that also show their rank. Even their haristyles are a reflection of their social status. It’s not one of those places you quickly whip around. We took our time, got up close to the barriers to see as much of the detail as possible and take in how each one was unique! It’s unfortunate that due to 2,000 years of erosion and humidity most figures have lost their vivid colour.
The life size models represent the arm that united China at the end of the Warring States Period! I looked closely to see the joins as they life-size models were moulded in parts, fired then assembled and painted. We even saw an old terracotta horse cart and some old beams. They are in here to remain protected and to serve their initial purpose to safeguard the first Emperor and it does have this solemn silence which you can’t help but contemplate in. I found myself thinking a million and one things! It’s unbelievable to think that these men were made by order of the First Emperor Qin and it only became an archaeological site of interest when it was discovered by local farmers while digging a well in 1974.
After a wonderful day of exploring the Terracotta Warriors the whirlwind continued and we were off on another flight of around 2 hours to Shanghai. At the airport we thought what could be a better way to get to Longyang Road than to go aboard one of the fastest trains in the world and the world’s fastest commercial high-speed maglev Having watched a documentary on how this train uses magnets to hover upon and reaching speeds of 430km/h, it was definitely worth a try! Even better, with our flight tickets we also received a discount! Aboard the train it felt so weird watching the speedometer go up…up…up…and up! The train also leaned to one side due to its high speed.
***TOP TIP*** Keep your airline ticket to receive a discounted ticket to board the Maglev.
For me Shanghai had a sort of magical feel about it. Particularly in the Bund area, the waterfront area in Central Shanghai, which is filled with lights as well as the Pearl Tower . The Pearl Tower alone adds to the fantastical feel of this city. We’d only intended to walk around and take shots of it at first. After looking with amazement at this building that could be a prop out of a space fiction movie we decided to go in! Not only did we go in but we went up and decided to eat there! What an experience! You get such an awesome panoramic view of the Bund area. What made it even more spectacular is that as you eat in the restaurant it is actually slowly rotating so you get to take in ALL of the view! Such a great idea although each time I went to the buffet I had to try and find my seat again. The food from the buffet is varied to suit all tastes and tastes yummy!! Want to experience a view that means you know you won’t miss out on anything? …Then this is the place to go!
Zhangjiajiao- Shanghai’s Venice
For a slower day with less of the flashy city lights we headed to Shanghai’s Venice, the peaceful Ancient Water Town of Zhujiajiao, also known as ‘The Pearl Stream’. We took a walk around this town and even took a peaceful boat ride along the river for a small fee.
There’s so much to see here from cute shops, to restaurants, temples and pretty bridges to walk over or even strike for a pose on. It’s said that to visit Zhujiajiao without seeing the bridges means that you have not really been to Zhujiajiao at all. There are a number of old bridges here that vary in shapes and styles. It makes for a relaxed day admiring the sights and you can even stop for a cheeky cake here, just like I did - I just couldn’t resist!
Shanghai Disney – When your inner big kid gets the better of you!
Our last day in Shanghai and before heading for our flight to Zhangjiajie we could no longer resist the temptation of Shanghai Disney and after hearing raving reviews….we found a discounted ticket price online and decided to go for the day. What could be a better way to kill time waiting for your flight by having a magical time at Disney? What about all of our bags?...No problem! They had a bag storage area and for a small fee we were able to leave our giant travel bags there. With no loads to slow us down we hit Disney at 100mph!
At first I was a little reluctant to do this particularly touristy point but I do not regret it at all! In fact, almost instantaneously I got right into the Disney spirit and had such a fun day. Walking through the doors my first thought and feeling was…I NEED TO BUY SOME EARS! Once I had purchased my Minnie Mouse ears (I managed to find the cheapest pair of the ones I wanted) I was all set to get my Disney on! These are some awesome rides I definitely recommend and that were my fav rides:
Tron (this is just pure high-speed fun and thrills..whilst pretending to be riding a light cycle- cool right?!).
Pirates of the Caribbean ( this ride has some super graphics! Be prepared to hear lots of ‘Oooh’s and ahhh’s’).
Once we had rode until we felt sick at the bottom of our stomach (or could that have been our Disney cookie and ice-cream brownie cone?) we collected our bags and went to the Disney taxi area. Time to fly to our next destination!
What’s up next?
Time to take a break from typical tourist spots and get back to nature! In my next blog entry, I’ll be hanging up my Minnie ears and heading to Zhujiajiao. Here I’ll be exploring more mountains and national parks. Followed by marvelling at the Stone Forest and finally taking time off our feet and heading to a relaxing Chinese island that before now, I hadn’t even heard of! This is definitely not one to be missed, with luxury at a small price on this island this could be your next holiday destination! You’ll also hear about my final Asian stop and how I nearly didn’t make it there!
Want to hear about it? Keep an eye out for my next blog, I’ll be posting a blog every Sunday!
Remember, if you want to find out more or have any questions email me at email@example.com.