China – the sleeping giant- as it was once known, is no longer sleeping. We all know that!
Our first taste of China was Hong Kong a few years earlier but our first visit to ‘Mainland’ China was in Shanghai and from there we traveled to Beijing (the great wall of course) and then on to X’ian to see the Terracotta Warriors and the ancient tombs in the surrounding areas.
Shanghai, the ‘Old’ section on one side of the Huangpu river and the ‘New’ and spectacular futuristic architecture on the other. In Shanghai we stayed on the ‘Old’ side , at the Peace Hotel on the Bund (the strip that follows the Huangpu river where lots of locals and tourist congregate during the day and beautifully lit at night). Classed as one of Shanghai’s ‘Grand Old’ hotels, the Peace Hotel features some of the historical aspects from the colonial past from the 1920’s and 1930’s. It may not be the best hotel that we have ever stayed in but it has character. You definitely feel the vibe of the pre-communist period.
The ‘Great Wall’ speaks for itself with so much known about it but what probably surprised us most was the incline of some sections of the wall. It was near vertical in parts and required a deal of effort to traverse – more energy on a hot day than I could muster to be honest but plenty of others showed that is was worth the effort, going quite a long way and reaching some very lofty parts of the wall.
Xi’an was one of those gems that you see rarely in a lifetime. To think that the tomb contents were only a relatively recent discovery was even more amazing. The work that has gone into their restoration has to be seen to be appreciated. Each soldier having his own distinct look and face was astounding – no cheap template mass production work done back then. There are many more tombs to open but the Chinese are being sensible and only opening those that they think that they can care for adequately – each tomb has a huge amount of relics held within.
We enjoyed seeing China but be warned – every person on our trip was given counterfeit money as ‘change’ when they purchased goods from street vendors. Some paid large amounts for goods due to the large denomination notes that were being exchanged. So carry an amount of small denominations to reduce the need for change. I was the only person in our group that did not encounter fake money because I did not purchase anything from street vendors unless I paid the exact price (no change). The locals know you are not used to dealing with their currency and even after looking closely at the good and the bad money I could still not pick it – they are excellent forgers. Be careful. Note: you will not be able to pass the bad stuff off either – they are not going to take it off you somewhere else – you won’t fool them.
Hope you like these….