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Why China? I went to China because of my brother. He had a meeting in Hong Kong and asked me to join him on a trip through China afterwards. I couldn’t resist that offer, so off I went to Hong Kong on the 22nd of February.

(Sometimes I mention photos in the descriptions below. Those photos can be found here.)

Day 1: The first flight of the trip #

It was a ten hour overnight flight from Schiphol Airport to Hong Kong airport during which I couldn’t sleep. I arrived at 9.30 in the morning some 9000 kilometers (around 5600 miles) from home. From there I took a shuttle bus to the hotel where my brother stayed.

Day 2: Hong Kong #

I didn’t do much for the rest of that day but keeping awake to avoid a jet lag (there is a time difference of seven hours between China and The Netherlands). Because my brother was on a tour that day and didn’t get back till five in the afternoon, I went for a small walk to experience a bit of the lifestyle there. Not much interesting to tell here. When my brother came back from his tour, he took me out to eat something. To get there, we took one of the trams. Hong Kong Tramways is the only tram company that operates double-deck trams exclusively. After eating, we went out to the water and watched the light show that’s given every day at 8PM.

Day 3: The Peak #

At this day, our real adventure into China begins, but not till the afternoon. So we went to The Peak with the Peak Tram. From the top, you should get a nice view of the city, but because of the weather we had, it wasn’t that great. But still, it was nice to go there in the tram. Later that day, we took a ferry to Shenzhen airport to get to our first location in China: Yangshuo. We flew from Shenzhen to Guilin. From there, we had a private transfer to Yangshuo. This was our first experience with the way people drive over there. That was quite a shock: overtaking other cars with no visibility, signaling with lights, sounding the horn and speeding (on the other hand, there was almost no speeding in the rest of China). Oh well, we survived that bit and we arrived at a nice resort called Paradesa Yangshuo Resort.

Day 4: Karst peaks #

Yangshuo is surrounded by Karst peaks and to see them we went on a small boat with some other tourists. I made a bunch of photos (numbers 14 through 43), so I leave it with that.

Day 5: Karst peaks by bicycle #

To get another view and to do something different, we hired to bikes for the day. Not much to tell about, but it was nice to get some exercise.

Day 6: From Yangshuo to Ping’an #

In the first real traveling day in China we went to Ping’an, which was about three hours driving of Yangshuo. You can’t get to Ping’an by car, so we had to walk the last bit…I mean, climb up stairs for half an hour. Ping’an is situated in the midst of the Longji rice terraces. Because of this tiring walk, we only went to explore the small town.

Day 7: A walk through the Longji rice terraces #

A four hour walk between the rice terraces was a great way to see what’s out there. The route took us up to a pair of viewpoints where we really could see how extensive the fields are. On the way we came across some women from the Zhuang minority. They are very willing to show there very long hair (photos 61 through 66) for a small reward. When we came back from the walk, we noticed, just as the day before, that there was no electricity in town. During the first day, we had no electricity till 6.30PM and during the second day till 7.30PM. That shouldn’t be a problem, were it not that it was cold. Luckily when the electricity came back, we could warm our room again and sleep all right.

Day 8: From Ping’an to Dali #

Probably the worst day of the whole holiday: because our original flight of about an hour from Guilin to Kunming was cancelled, we had to use two flights of about an hour each to get from Guilin to Kunming via Chingqong. Therefore we had to leave the hotel at 6AM. And because of that, it was dark. It was quite charming to walk back down with flashlights to get the car that brought us to the airport and was not that tiring as getting to the hotel. So it started early, but not bad at all. We knew we had a long day ahead, but we didn’t know it would take us that long. Our first flight, from Guilin to Chingqong had no problems at all and we landed perfectly on time. In Chingqong we had to wait three hours for the next flight, but that flight was delayed by 1.5 hours. Eventually we flew to Kunming to get into a bus. About an hour later, that bus left heading for Dali. That took us another four hours, but eventually we got there too.

Day 9: Three Pagodas #

From the cold in Ping’an to the very nice weather in Dali where we visited the Three Pagodas (photos 72 through 101).

Day 10: From Dali to Lijiang #

Nothing special happened at this day only that when we stopped halfway, we stopped in the middle of nowhere…next to a huge jewelry market. Because we were early in the afternoon in Lijiang, we walked a route through the Old Town. It’s a really nice town with lots of beautiful buildings and sights (see photos 108 through 118). At night, we walked a bit through Lijiang to see the lanterns (see photos through 124). Lijiang is the place to go for Chinese tourists an even is this time of the year it was crowded.

Day 11: Dr. Ho #

In a nearby village called Baisha, a Naxi village, there lives a famous doctor called Dr. Ho. We went there by bike to meet him. When we entered his place, we were greeted by him and got some of his famous health tea from his wife. He showed us all kind of articles about him in either English or Dutch. He gave us some health tea for a small donation and off we went, back to Lijiang. A truly remarkable man and that while he past the age of 80 some years back.

Day 12: From Lijiang to Chengdu #

We had the first flight of the day at Lijiang airport, at 8.20AM, so we had to leave the hotel at 6AM. The day before, we asked someone at the reception of the hotel to arrange a taxi to get us in time at the airport. It took some time before they understood what we actually wanted, but we managed it. But when we wanted to leave the hotel at 6AM, we had to get our deposit back and leave the key. Shouldn’t be a problem, but there was no one to be seen so early and the front door was securely locked. We had to leave, so we knocked on the first door with Chinese characters on it and someone moaned in that room. After knocking another time and a minute or so later, someone came out of the door looking a bit grumpy, but he helped us to leave nonetheless. It was another one hour flight to Chengdu where we were picked up for a private transfer to our hotel. We noticed both that Chengdu isn’t a nice city. It’s quite big and just plain ugly and polluted. We arrived early at our hotel and went for a walk through the city to do something. There is not much to do there besides the Panda Research Centre and visiting a tea house.

Day 13: Drinking tea with pandas #

Early in the morning we left for the Panda Research Centre to see Red and Giant Pandas. Because we went early, we could see them having breakfast (see photos 136 through 152). Our chauffeur would pick us up three hours later, but it took us no more than 1.5 hours to see the whole park so we wandered through the park waiting for the other 1.5 hours to pass. In the afternoon we went off for another walk through Chengdu and entered one of the tea houses. One of the employees started explaining and describing all sorts of things about tea and asked us for a tasting session. I’m not such a big tea drinker, but spending at least two hours just tasting different kinds of Chinese teas was great. It’s a real ritual for them to drink tea and we learned a lot about it.

Day 14: From Chengdu to Xi’an #

The flight to Xi’an was nothing special, but the ride from the airport to the hotel was a bit. We came through the suburbs of Xi’an and it seems that the people that live there are quite poor. It was not a great sight, but nonetheless another experience on the journey through China. Our traveling agency had booked us a room at the Diamond International Hotel, a four starred hotel next to the city wall and the train station. We had a very nice suite, the biggest in our journey with lots of space.

Day 15: Terracotta Army #

If you go to Xi’an, you go to the Terracotta Army. The excavations are spread over three pits and we followed the advice to start at pit three (see photos 159 through 161). Pit two was closed, but they took the best artifacts to an exhibition hall. We then went to pit one and that was a shock. It’s huge and absolutely magnificent (see photos 162 through 166).

Day 16: City wall and a train to Beijing #

The last day in Xi’an we got up the city wall and hired a pair of bicycles to ride on top of the 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) wall. A nice way to spend an afternoon. Around 6PM we had a night train to catch to Beijing. I’ve never been on a night train and I can say it’s quite an experience in China. Because many Chinese get back to their work, it was extremely crowded in front of the train station and inside the train station. We checked in early, but we were in no hurry: our seats were booked. My brother and I are both around 1.9m (6’ 3") tall and we had some problems fitting into beds earlier during our holiday and we both wondered if the beds were long enough. By our surprise, they were. On this photo you can see the layout of the carriages. Three beds on top of each other. You have to survive the twelve hour ride by trying to sleep and rest somewhat, but I couldn’t really.

Day 17: Beijing’s Beihai park #

At 6.30AM we arrived in Beijing and were brought to our hotel. To do something, we walked to the Beihai park, which is quite nice with some ponds and a lake were we hired a pedal boat (see photos 172 through 177).

Day 18: Temples and the Forbidden City #

An English speaking guide brought us to the Lama Temple (photos 178 and 179), the Temple of Heaven (180 through 183), Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (184 through 189). The Tiananmen Square was closed down because of a big political meeting. We learned a lot about the temples and the Forbidden City and we had a great morning. Our guide took us for lunch at one of noodle restaurants where is was very crowded and noisy, but the food was great. He suggested us to go to a Kung Fu show in the evening. I must say, that was fantastic! What a great show!!

Day 19: The Great Wall #

Our last day in China before we got back to The Netherlands, was spend walking over the Great Wall (see photos 191 through 202) and getting to and from it. The ride to and from the Great Wall was around three hours, the walking took us about four hours. It was a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) walk with many steep stairs. It was very exhausting, but also very impressive. I just can’t imagine how they build it, because even walking over it is so tiring. The last kilometer (0.6 miles) could either be walked or crossed hanging on a cable. We both chose the cable ( photo 202, my brother).

Day 20: The flight home #

What to say, another ten hours back in a tin can…

Just a few words to describe my journey to and in China: wow, fantastic, wow and somewhat tiring!