When you think of China, you might think of The Great Wall or the Terracotta Army as one of the major highlights of the country. And while this is true, both The Great Wall in Beijing and the Terracotta Army in Xi’an are fascinating places to visit, I would like to tell you about some of the unexpected highlights which I experienced during my recent trip to China.
1. Old City Wall of Xi’an
Xi’an is the ancient capital of China, and its city walls represent one of the oldest and best preserved city walls in the country. The existing wall was started by the Ming Dynasty in 1370 so it is steeped in history. After a short climb of approximately 70 steps you reach the top of the wall and from there can enjoy lovely views of Xi’an. The wall is just under 14kms long so you can walk it at a leisurely pace or for the more adventurous you can rent a bike and cycle the circumference of the wall. The Grand Metro Park Hotel, which we use for our groups, is located within the Old City Walls of Xi’an, offering it a prime location. At night the Old City Wall is lit up with tiny lights and lanterns which is an extremely beautiful sight.
2. Tea House in Xi’an
Following my excursion to the Terracotta Army, myself and our local guide in Xi’an, Joe, stopped off at a Chinese Tea House for some lunch. This particular tea house likes to give European visitors a little taste of home by providing a lunch of a simple soup, sandwich, yoghurt & a fruit plate accompanied by some local Chinese tea of your choice. There is a vast selection of teas on offer from black tea, to green tea to Ginseng tea. But don’t worry there is help at hand from the staff to help you select your preferred tea if the choice is too much. I tried some Jasmine tea as well as some Lychee Black Tea, which both had delicate, sweet tastes. There was a very welcoming, friendly atmosphere in the tea house which made for a very enjoyable afternoon. There is also the opportunity to purchase some teas as souvenirs to take home with you to Ireland.
3. Kung Fu Show in Beijing
While in Beijing, I was lucky enough to attend an evening performance of a Kung Fu Show. This is an optional excursion which we offer to our clients and I would highly recommend it. The show is packed with energy and leaves you on the edge of your seat at times. You can even enjoy the show with some Chinese popcorn like I did!
4. Food in Beijing, Xi’an & Shanghai
Some people may be nervous about the food when travelling to China but I think the main thing is to be open to trying new things. I enjoyed some really tasty local dishes during my trip – the noodles in particular were absolutely delicious. In Xi’an one of my favourite things was a simple side dish of cucumber, chillies & garlic in a white vinegar dressing – very refreshing! While in Shanghai I enjoyed a beautiful potato dish served in a wok over a flame, with chilli, ginger, tomato and scallions. If local food is not your thing there are plenty of European options on offer at the hotel buffets. I even spotted some mashed potato, although it was served at breakfast!
5. Bullet Train from Beijing to Xi’an
In order to get from Beijing to Xi’an I took a 5.5 hour bullet train journey between the two cities. The bullet trains reach up to speeds of 300 kmph and there is a screen in each carriage which will tell you how fast you are travelling. The seats on the train are extremely spacious and offered more leg room than an internal flight seat! While the thoughts of spending such a long period of time on a train may seem a little daunting to some, I must tell you, the bullet train journey was like an excursion in itself. I spent the majority of the journey looking out the window, admiring the changing landscape and catching glimpses of local farmers at work.
6. Receiving an autograph from the farmer at the Terracotta Army Museum
During my time in Xi’an I was lucky enough to meet the farmer who accidentally discovered the Terracotta Army while digging a well in 1974. Yang Zhifa, now aged 75 years old, can be often seen in the Museum of the Terracotta Army, often signing books about his famous discovery. I felt it was a real honour to meet the man responsible for one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century. If you would like your chance to possibly meet Mr Zhifa then I highly recommend a trip to see the Terracotta Army with Travel Department.
7. Learning Calligraphy at the Chinese Art Museum in Xi’an
Learning traditional Chinese calligraphy using rice paper and ink was a wonderful experience during my visit to an Art Museum in Xi’an. After a tour of the museum, with information from a local guide on the different styles of Chinese art throughout the ages, you are invited to get artistic yourself and create different ancient and modern Chinese symbols. An added bonus was that I could take my creations home with me as souvenirs.
We have departures to China throughout the year. If you have any questions or would like to book please call us on (01) 637 1600.
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