Have a save trip! – Yilu shunfeng!
You know Marco van Basten, soccer? This was the only thing my parents could communicate with their fellow traveller on the night train from Beijing to X’ian 25 years ago. No cell phones, no Google Translate, Chinese people spitting on the street and rudeness to foreigners. These were the memories of an indescribably beautiful country. In 2018 we took this trip again as a family. And one of the joys this time is its diversity and receiving a friendly and warm welcome almost everywhere!
Time has not stood still; China has one of the largest economies in the world. Exploring is made abundantly easier by China’s vast high-speed rail network. The golden triangle Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai connected by high-speed trains making it easy to swing between the major sights. Our trip starts in the metropolis of Shanghai arriving by Maglev train from the airport in just 8 minutes. Besides the skyscrapers and the Bund, one of the things which is most memorable is the marriage market, a must see. Walk into People’s Park on a weekend, and you will find a son-and-daughter meat market (BaiFaXiangQin), promoted by mom and dad. We wondered why? One-child policy created a discrepancy between male and female, busy schedules of young adults, and pressure to marry before one is thirty are the main reasons. They just don’t have time to deal with it, but their parents do! It is interesting to see, going back in time to the tradition when parents arranged the marriages of their children. Compared to the modern society, China has become.
Next stop is Beijing, travelling by train, a ‘quiet’ megacity with lots of electrical scooters. As we know that the great attractions are no secret, we woke up at 5 am to have a ‘stroll’ on the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Mutianyu is relatively untouched, it is less commercialized, has fewer tourists, and has undergone less restoration work. We went up with the chair lift and downhill tobogganing. A once in a lifetime and fun experience! The Forbidden City was our next visit. At first, I didn’t understand why it was forbidden, then we couldn’t get in anyway! From the audio tour I understand that you could face the death penalty if you entered without permission, and the areas behind the high terrace from which the emperor welcomed his guests were off-limits to all. The Forbidden City was a symbol of China as a major power in the region. Take metro lines 10 and 6 (exit C) to Hujialou station to get to Chaoyang Theatre and enjoy ‘The flying acrobatic show’. This will be a nice end to Beijing.
Before visiting Xi’an, the city Pingyao was our destination. A visit to Pingyao gives you insight into what China used to look like. The historic city centre is surrounded by a gigantic city wall. In the centre of Pingyao, you will find old houses, temples, inns, and other ancient remains. The centre is also car-free, which gives you the feeling that time has stood still here. Showing the history of Pingyao people and the legacy of their ancestors (story about the banker Mr. Zhou), You Jian Pingyao interactive show should be on your itinerary. It feels like you are in a film studio walking through different sets, make sure not to miss this. Then take the high-speed train to Xi’an the last city of the golden triangle, famous for its Terracotta Army, a 2,000-year-old life-size army of clay statues. Purpose of the army was protecting emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. A must-visit attraction, although crowded most of the time, arriving at noon is a good option. Biking Xi’an city wall is easy to do. It is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Stopping at the different gates and watchtowers, and just watch the residents doing their daily routines is amusing.
This is the first of three China travel experiences. Curious about the other parts we visited (see map below), and more information and imagery (photos and video’s)?