Monday, June 11th, 2007 | Author:

After my great trip in Japan last October, I decided to go to China during almost one month with three friends (Jean-Baptiste, Joël and Cédric). The World talk about China, everybody want to make business with China, because China is becoming more important every day.

After that, how do you don’t want to go to China ?

Departure from Amsterdam with KLM ((I advise against KLM, the aircraft was old, no personal screen, food not good, …)) to Beijing ((I don’t like western name like Peking, Pékin, …)), I arrived in the capital of the People’s Republic of China on 18th May.
During the flight , I was lucky, because I was seated next to a nice person (her name is Yining). She is Chinese, so we talked a lot and she gave me some advices about my trip in China. Funny how time flies when you’re having a long conversation.

Arrived at the airport at the morning, I did my first steps in China ! Outside the airport, everything was in chinese, and so difficult to find people who speak english. If I can give you an advice, look for girls, they speak better english than guys, especially students (it’s same in Japan).

Our hotel in Beijing, Hao Yuan Hotel, was a good hotel. The price is not cheap, especially if you compare with the rest of China, expect big cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, … The rooms were clean, quiet and the staff were nice, helpful.

The afternoon, we started our visit plan. Beijing has many sights to visit :

So you can imagine how long you need, at least 4 days.

I don’t want to describ every places (too long), but only the most impressive things.

Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City

Everyone know Tian’anmen Square, one of the most famous place after the protest of 1989. It’s really amazing place, so huge and with big government buildings. It’s also the beginning of the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City is also amazing and very interesting. It houses the ancient imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Club Central & Club Mix

Nightlife is always interesting after long day of visiting 🙂 The most famous nightclubs in Beijing are Club Central and Club Mix. Easy to find, because near the Workers Stadium. On weekends, lot of young people go there. You can meet foreigners or local people.Travelling is not only to discover places, but also to discover a new culture, and I think, meeting people enable you to discover new culture.

On Friday night, we went to Club Central. I spent a great night, my first night in China 🙂 I met few foreign and local students. One good thing is the price of bottles : around 40 Euro ! If you compare with Europe, it’s between 5 time cheaper.

On Saturday night, we went to Club Mix, it’s opposite Club Central. The music is a little bit different (R’n’B), but the atmosphere was very good. I prefer Club Mix than Club Central, but both are very good nightclubs.

We went also once to Suzie Wong’s, a posh club for foreigners. I recommend also this club, the decoration is very neat, but the prices are expensive. It’s also a place to see beautiful chinese girls, so you definitely should go there once 🙂

Bike Tour

I like bike, I’ve often done bike, but never like in Beijing. Because in Beijing, there are lot of traffic jam, many people get about by bike. Cycleways are the same size than western roads, so you can imagine how many cyclist there are !Bicycling is one the best ways to visit Beijing, we rent bikes for one day. It’s an unforgettable experience, you definitely should try it.

Great Wall

The Great Wall, maybe my most amazing visit in China ! Unforgettable day on the Great Wall !It’s crazy to see (just a little part) this human-made structure. I said “a little part”, because I walked 10 km on it, but the actual length of the Great Wall varies from different authors, but its length is around 6,000 km. The actual length of the Great Wall was at one time km long. After lots of vandalism and erosion, the wall has reduced to become what it currently is now.

Because of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing government is going renovation work on many temples. Sometimes, we were not able to visit some temples, or the visit was not complete. But I’m happy to visit Beijing (and China) BEFORE the Olympic Games, I can not imagine how the prices will grow up after this event !

Another bad thing, it’s the pollution. Because of the traffic jam and economic growth of China, big cities are polluted. I was not able to see blue sky in spite of a sunny day.

Anyway, Beijing is a very good city to visit. It’s really the center of the chinese government. I don’t think I can leave there like Tokyo or Sydney, but if once I can return, I will !

Xi’an

After the capital city of China, we moved to Xi’an. Xi’an is famous for the Army of Terracotta Warriors, but it’s also becoming China’s fashionable hub and promote brand marketing of clothing enterprises. If you want to do clothes shopping, I recommend you Xi’an. You can find lot of shops, and it’s cheap.

When we arrived at our hotel, we were surprised : four backpacker guys in 4-star hotel, Royal Garden Hotel 🙂 We did not that when we were booking this hotel, because the price was cheap, if you compare with Beijing or Shanghai. So I think, this hotel is the best hotel in Xi’an, location is really the center of the city. Only one minute by walk between this hotel and THE nightclub of Xi’an 😉

Xi’an is the new city for young people. Lot of students, trendy shops and it’s cheap ! But in Xi’an, there are many things to do, to visit :

So if you want to see these places and do shopping, you need 3 days, at least.

Tomb of Qin Shi Huang

Located outside the city, as many interesting touristic sights in Xi’an, the tomb of Qin Shi Huang ((first emperor of a unified China)) is “impressive”. It must have been one of the grandest mausoleums the world had ever seen. Historical people describe the tomb of Qin Shi Huang as containing palaces filled with precious stones and ingenious defences against intruders. But yet all there is to see nowadays is a mound.
If you are lucky (as us), you can see a show with typical costumes ((I especially liked the queen 😉 ))

City Walls

If you want to do bike in Xi’an, you should try that : rent a bike on the city walls. Crazy ? Not really… The walls form a rectangle with a circumference of 14 km ! So good luck by walk ! You can have a nice view of Xi’an city.

Army of Terracotta Warriors

It’s really an amazing sight to visit ! Army of Terracotta Warriors is ranked with the Great Wall and the Forbidden City as one of China’s top historical sights. Taking about 37 years to complete, the army consists of over thousands (7,000) individual and life-size soldiers, and their horses in battle formation, with weapons and different facial expressions. Just crazy !

1+1 Nightclub

1+1 is amazing – it’s the poshest nightclub in Xi’an. I don’t really like poshest nightclub in Europe, but the atmosphere in 1+1 is unique. I spent 3 nights in Xi’an, I went 3 times in this nightclub, every night until 4 o’clock. I really spent great time there. No foreigners (except us) contrary to Beijing, it was a good opportunity to meet chinese people. I don’t really remember ((30 Euro for a bottle of vodka)), but I met and talked with many students. Some of them invited me to their table and offered me some beers. I discovered a chinese game with dice and beers…I love it 🙂 I had the chance to dance with few chinese girls, and I was surprised…they dance very well !

If you are a little bit used to the western club scene, you definitely should go there. The music is mixed between odd western music along with chinese dance and recent US music. Because everything was different (music, people, atmosphere) I really liked it. I would like to return there just for this nightclub 🙂

As Beijing, Xi’an is also polluted. It’s pity, because I’m sure the seneary in Xi’an is really nice.

Anyway, Xi’an is maybe my best city in China. It’s really a young city, I want to return there !

Guilin

Arrived in Guilin airport by plane, we decided to go directly to our hotel. Contrary to our hotel in Xi’an, it was difficult to find it. It was not a hotel, but a hostel. The location was “good”, the main street in Guilin. This hostel looks like a backpacker hostel, but in the middle of real flats. If you want to try different kind of accommodation in China, you should try this hostel : Guilin Oasis Inn. The staff is nice (especially He Hong-Chun who is very nice and funny) but only one girl was able to talk in english…it was quite funny.

South-west China is famous for its karst mountains. These magical limestone pinnacles were the reason for us to go to this part of China.

Rong Hu & Shan Hu

Just few minutes by walk from our hostel, and located in the city center, RongHu & Shan Hu are two lakes, with two beautiful pagodas, especially at night. It’s a nice place to take a stroll, during the day or at night.

Restaurant

The food is another famous thing in Guilin. It’s possible to try snake soup or bamboo rat. I did not want to try these animals (extinction), but my friends wanted to try snake once in their life. In the restaurant, we were able to choose different animals alive, into a cage. After chose a snake (the size of the smallest was 3.5 meters), the waitress cut the head of the snake and get his blood into a glass. Few minutes after, she brought a glass on the table….it was the blood mixed with alcohol !

Guilin is also the beginning of the Li River, the famous river between Guilin and Yangshuo, so it’s a good stop for few days.
Because of a friend of Joël, we changed our planning, and we decided to go to Longj, before going to Yangshuo.

Longji

Longji, near Longsheng is famous place for rice terraces. It was for me a good opporunity to discover where the rice grow up. From Guilin, it’s about 2 hours by bus and then 2 hours by walk through the rice terraces to our hotel.

Arrived to the village of Longji, we took a walk along the narrow stone foot path to a small village of Longji. The foot path is about one meter wide, sometimes less in places. Often there is water and mud running over the stones so it’s a bit slippery. Occasionally I get a whiff of pigs, ox, dogs or chickens. We were in the countryside, so different than chinese big cities.

We spent one night there, lost in the countryside. It was so relaxing, no noise, no pollution, no trafic jam…the food was really chinese food, so it was difficult to find something to eat 🙂

The scenary is beautiful, so green (because it’s often rain, rice need lot of water). We were lucky, we had two heavy showers, once just after arrived to our hotel, once just after our return by bus to Guilin.

I really took beautiful pictures, as you can see here. It was really a great and unique experience ! I recommend this place to everyone who visit Guilin.

Yangshuo

Yanghuo, the backpacker city in China. Many backpackers, young people…I really liked this city. Sometimes, I remember my time in Australia, when I was travelling only with backpackers with big bags. The atmosphere is friendlier, funnier.

Arrived in Yangshuo by bus, we easily found our hostel, Sihai Hotel, in the main pedestrian street. The staff were nice, the rooms clean with air conditioning (the region near Guilin is very hot and humid).

Yangshuo is well known city for activities and sights :

Bike Tour

Many sights are outside the city, so the simplest way to visit these places is the bike. So we rent a bike. This bike tour was not intense as the bike tour in Beijing, but we had some surprises. Bikes were in a terrible state, so Jean-Baptiste broke his bike chain in the center of main crossroads. We had lot of laugh, except him 🙂 A unforgettable moment !

Li River

One of the famous river in China, with a popular boat ride trip from Guilin to Yanghuo. Because we were not in Guilin, and especially because it’s really a tourist attraction, we decided to leave Yanghuo by bus, take a “special” boat and have a trek along the Li River. It was again a great idea.

Our trek was beautfiul, as you can here, here or here. More than one hour on a bamboo boat, it was a great experience.

Impression Sanjie Liu

One of the most creative social show I have ever seen is Impression Sanjie Liu. It is a grand musical night show directed by Zhang Yimou ((Zhang Yimou who is the most famous chinese filmmaker, with excellent movies like Hero or House of Flying Daggers)). This is a major production with a cast of 600 dancers, bamboo boats and cormorants. Helen Wang, from China Daily, wrote an good article about this show.

I saw few shows in China (Beijing, Xi’an), but this show is really the best I have ever seen. It’s really a beautiful and impressive show : a must !

Nightlife

The nightlife in Yanghuo is very different than other cities in China : lot of foreigners, especially backpackers, many restaurants, small pubs or bars make nightlife interesting.

As usual, I met a group of girls the first night who were drinking a glass next to our table in Meiyou Café. They were on holiday for few days. The second night, I saw again two of them, they invited me to their flat to have a drink. They offered local sweet food from Guilin / Yanghuo, and I offered Swiss chocolate ((I take every time with me Swiss chocolate when I travel)). We had a long talk together, it was very nice and interesting.

Yanghuo is really a good place to go to meet some young people.

Suzhou

After Yangshuo, we went back to Guilin airport by bus and we took a flight to Shanghai. Arrived there, we directly went to Suzhou by train. Western people don’t take train, only bus or plane. The reason : the train is very cheap, the cheappest means of transport I think. Only 15 RMB ((1.5 Euro)) for 1 and half hours ! So we were like an attraction for passengers 🙂 Funny and interesting while.

Our hotel, Suzhou Pingjiang Lodge, was pretty good. The atmosphere is ideal for relaxing. The hotel is located on the edge of canal. By night, it’s really nice !

Suzhou is renowned for these meticulously designed garden ((These garden remember me Zen gardens of Japan)) It is also famous for “silk road” :

Suzhou Gardens

Suzhou gardens are really beautiful, but you can visit many of them. So don’t forget to take a guide book, and check which are the best. I especially recommend you Humble Administartor’s Garden and Master of Nets Garden.

Restaurant

If you like dumplings, you should try this restaurant : Yangyang Shuijiaoguan, also known as “Authentic Chinese Dumpling House”. This very popular restaurant has fresh dumplings. There are very good and cheap !

Atmosphere

Atmosphere in Suzhou is very nice : many people said “Venice of the East” or “Venice in the Orient”. It’s true ! By night, lot of canals, temples are floodlit, it’s romantic. The first night, we went to one of the most famous pub in Suzhou : Pulp Fiction Australian Bar. We saw sports on Sky TV and drunk few beers, almost the same atmosphere than Australia ((You can only find the real one in Australia…)). I also met a really nice girl, she showed me different local pubs and brought me to a beautiful night place ((Sorry I don’t remember the name…)).

You want to go with your boyfriend / girlfriend in a romantic city in China, Suzhou is the place for you !

Tongli Town

Located on the eastern shore of Taihu Lake, just 18 kilometers from Suzhou, Tongli town, also known as water-town, is really wonderful travel destination where you can see traditional chinese culture. It’s also a place where you can have fun. A place to visit !

Hangzhou

I spent only one night there, so I did not have enough time to visit lot of places. You should visit the West Lake. If you want to go round the lake, you need few hours, but do it, it’s really nice !

I remember my night in Hangzhou on a pub : it was the winning of Roger Federer against Tommy Robredo in Roland Garros 🙂

Shanghai

My last stage in China : Shanghai. Shanghai a huge and developed city, a economic center of China ((recently with Hong Kong too)). This city is very different from the rest of China. Lot of western people work and live there.

The hotels prices are expensive, especially if you compare with the rest of China. So we decided to stay in a hostel, the Captain Hostel. It’s a backpacker hostel, well located near The Bund. Good place to meet youth people and travellers. By night, you can have a drink upstairs into bar, and admire a very nice view on The Bund. For beginning a night, you should go there during the happy hours.

Four days are not enough to visit everything, but you can visit :

The Bund

Maybe the most touristic spot in Shanghai. The Bund is particularly beautiful at night. You should see Shanghai city from upstairs, you have two choices : Jinmao Tower or Oriental Pearl TV Tower ((as known as TV tower)). My friends have chosen the first and me the second.

Jinmao Tower is the tellest building in China (420.5 meters) and in the top 5 tallest building in the world. The view from upstairs at night is amazing, as you can see here or here.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower is 468 meters high and is the world’s third tallest TV and radio tower. The view is almost the same as Jinamao Tower, the towers are quite near.

Nanjing Road

Do you want to do shopping ? So Nanjing Road is where you have to go. Nanjing Road is the main shopping street of Shanghai, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. It starts from The Bund and finishes, 6 km after, to People’s Square.

People’s Park

Located in People’s Square ((as known as Renmin Square)), People’s Park ((as known as Renmin Park)) is really the city center. You can find few museums, the most famous is Shanghai Museum.

Nightlife

One thing you should definitely try is Shanghai nightlife. It is really good, I spent great time. You can see beautiful chinese girls ((I know I was lucky 🙂 )). I also visited during 2 days many spots with a chinese friend, discovered very good restaurants with local food. If you need a local guide, please ask me 🙂 ((of course I’m jokking)).

Shanghai is really a wonderful city, a must where I would like to return ! But due to rapid industrial and economic development, Shanghai, as many cities in China, has recently been ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The End

It’s difficult to summarize my trip in few lines. It was a GREAT trip, like my trip in Japan. But it’s not possible to compare China and Japan, it’s just totally different ! In China, every day is a new adventure, a new experience, a new discovery ! It was really a new life experience for me, an unforgettable trip.

My best cities are Xi’an and Shanghai ((I did not forget Suzhou, because it’s a romantic city 🙂 )) If once I have an opportunity to return there, I will take it. I also would like to visit once Hong Kong and Guangzhou (also known as an older english name, Canton).

If I can have a regret : I was not able to speak chinese ((no worries, it is the same now)). But why a regret ? Because only few people can speak english, and as you know, to meet local people is always interesting. But chinese is so difficult, but nothing is impossible…maybe one day.

I really would like to thank my three backpacker-friends : Jean-Baptiste, Joël and Cédric. We spent great time together ! Thank you guys !

But I can not forget few chinese persons I met during my trip :

  • Yining on the plane
  • Xin Hui and Howard from Xi’an
  • He Hong-Chun from Guilin
  • Una and Lisa from Yangshuo
  • Keke from Suzhou

Without them, my trip would have been different, so I also really would to thank them ! I hope I can continue to keep in touch with few of them !

Category: China, Travel
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  1. […] night stop in London before leaving to Beijing in China. After two unforgettable trips in China in 2007 and 2008, I’m really looking forward to return […]

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