My 8 day trip to China has been nothing short of a blast. I don’t mean that I was 100% happy all the time. There were so many times when I felt that I was blasted by some invisible forces of nature (of the unlucky kind).
The experiences, with varying levels of comfort across all spectrums, has brought forth a new perspective to life. And it does seem that travelling, a luxury it may sound, is never easy (for me at least).
I made some last-minute changes to my itinerary, so instead of travelling to Beijing from Hangzhou, I decided to go from Shanghai – Hangzhou – Huangshan – Train – Beijing – Shanghai in 8 days. Will document more information of these places in time to come.
I was in the company of Friend H and her colleagues in Hangzhou – the Xi Hu is pretty nice, just that it was swarming with tourists (as with most tourist destinations in China).
Huangshan was epic – I followed a local Chinese tour because 1) I didn’t want to make the trip up the mountain alone – heard that it was easy to get lost, and 2) the Chinese tour package the hotel offered was very affordable, 460 yuan (SGD92) for a 2 night stay including admission tickets. The admission ticket was already 230 yuan (SGD46) so I concluded that it was a good deal. Well, it was nice to climb the mountain with some company, which I did – four guys in their 20s/30s from Wu Han were there on a work trip) and an uncle from Hei Long Jiang. They were pretty nice and in a sense indirectly saved me from getting lost. But the accommodation was nothing short but terrible, but that’s for a separate story.
The reason why I included “Train” in the itinerary is because a train ride took up approximately one day of my time in China (19 hours). And that itself, it’s an experience on its own. During the 19 hour train ride, I spent 6 hours in the lowest class (硬座）as the rest of the tickets were sold out. Later, I had the opportunity to upgrade to the first class berth (软卧）which I paid SGD50 extra, and it was lovely. In between which, I met interesting people with a different story to tell and that is again for a separate blogpost.
When I reached Beijing, I wasn’t in the best of health – stomach cramps. But there was no time to lose and I had to see the must-haves of this China trip – the Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. And my conclusion? These monuments are majestic. The Great Wall especially. It’s a sight to behold, though the truth is, there’s probably more people than wall at the beginning of Ba Da Ling (one of the tourist entrances to the Great Wall), and you’ve got to walk really far beyond to finally shake off the crowd and tour groups blasting their microphones.
Shanghai took me by surprise – Unfortunately, the lasting memory I have of the city will be the time I had food poisoning after eating instant noodles. I arrived at my hotel at 9.30pm, went to take some night shots of The Bund and headed back to the hotel. For dinner, I decided to have some instant noodles. The security guard pointed me to the hot water dispenser at the lobby, which I happily used to cook my noodles. Not sure if the water was the cause, but I woke up at 5am later that morning with a sharp pain in my stomach and rushed to use the toilet. In total, I had to use the toilet 8 times and puked twice, each time vomiting out the water and medicine I had consumed to stop the pain. And the story of my survival, is once again for another day.
In essence, I want to point out that this trip to China, despite being very heavy on the wallet, tiring on the body and taxing on the spirit, is nothing short but awesome. Looking back, I never thought I would enjoy China that much. Though travelling in China can be quite a breeze compared to India because I know the language, getting the best out of China can be an uphill battle too.
I must say, that while India has made me moved, sad, frustrated, angry and exasperated at times, China made me laugh.
And like what Friend H aptly points out, good people are everywhere, undivided by nationalities or borders. In every country, city, village or Hu Tong 胡同, along with that mean, obnoxious person who shoves you to one side without uttering a warning or an apology, a person with a heart of gold sits in the shadows waiting to be discovered.