Our time in South Korea is quickly coming to an end. The closer we get to our departure date the more excited we get to finally start our journey. A journey we have been planning and saving for, over the last two years. To be honest, we are feeling a rush of emotions and they come in waves; one moment we are nervous and sad to be leaving Korea, the next second we can’t wait to get on the plane and start our exciting new chapter. Sometimes, we kind of have to hold onto each other to ground ourselves.
Enough about our silly emotions, let’s get on with the 5 attractions we are looking most forward to seeing in China. A place I never thought I would ever get to see as a kid growing up on a farm in South Africa.
I will work my way down the list in the order we will most likely be seeing them. Starting in Beijing and moving our way slowly down in a south westerly direction, visiting Xi’an, Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo and finally to Fuzhou or Xiamen to catch a ferry to Taiwan. Let’s begin.
1. The Great Wall
A freaking wonder of the world, an architectural feat of the ages, the longest man-made wall in the world, ever. That could change if Trump gets his way, then again the border between Mexico and America isn’t that long.
The Great Wall is a place I never thought I would see with my own eyes. In my mind, something that once only belonged in books and on the television. Now, it’s just a short flight, some confusing busses and a ‘detour’ away. It’s so EXCITING!! The Great Wall of China ranks up there with Atlantis, as far as I am concerned and I can’t wait to hike it and capture some amazing photos.
Our plan is a two-day hike from Gubeikou to Simatai West, stopping mid-way in Jinshanling for the night. As far as we can tell, this seems to be the quietest most unrestored part of the wall, with picturesque views and challenging climbs; sounds perfect to us.
We are planning on doing the hike DIY, which many people advise against because of the difficulty of getting to and from the wall as well as navigating around the militarized sections. However, we have found some very useful information and maps on the Great Wall Forum, check it out if you are going to hike the wall anywhere in China. The forum community is incredibly helpful.
We are looking forward to sharing our experience on this adventure so that others can easily accomplish a two-day DIY hike of the wall. (watch this space)
2. Mt. Hua (Huashan)
This mountain, based approximately 120km east of Xi’an city in the Shaanxi province has claimed its name to fame as ‘the most dangerous mountain to hike up in the world’ – I doubt that. It does, however, look like a frightening climb. The boardwalk (nailed planks) attached to the side of a vertical cliff seems hair-raising, to say the least.
When Sophia and I first heard of Mt. Hua from a fellow traveler, we knew we had to do it. The views from the plank-walk and the top must be unbelievable. I imagine the feeling of walking along the edge of a cliff with only a plank to rest your feet on will, in a sense, feel like you’re walking on the edge of the world.
Our plan is to stop at Huashan train station in Weinan Shi on our way from Beijing to Xi’an and spend the night at a guest house at the base of the mountain. This way we can get an early start and hopefully make it to the top in time to enjoy the sunrise from the East Peak.
3. The Terracotta Soldiers
The Terracotta Soldiers will be an interesting feature for us to see in Xi’an. Even if they are around 2220 years old and were discovered by some farmers just digging a well. Their luck! I imagine the one guy sticking his head in the hole and popping out with a “WOAH!” The other guy getting excited and asking if they finally struck water. Only, with the other guy to reply “Nope, but we stumbled upon 6000 life-like ancient terracotta soldiers and what seems to be an underground city!”
The Terracotta Army along with Emperor Quin’s Mausoleum is a unique discovery of Chinese history, and there is still more to discover. It’s been 40 years since the initial discovery of the burial tomb and they still have not excavated Quin’s tomb due to high mercury levels in the soil. It’s fascinating. It would be like getting a huge chocolate bunny for Easter and then trying to wait 50 years before eating it.
We have heard that for most of the famous tourist sites in China, including the most significant archeological excavation of the 20th century, it’s imperative to arrive early morning just before the actual site opens. Arriving anytime after 10 am can apparently lead to a day wasted as you struggle with the crowds. We really don’t enjoy crowds, this is something we have come to realize we will have to face when traveling through China.
4. The Giant Pandas
From Xi’an we will be traveling overnight by train to a place called Chengdu. Chengdu is famous for tea houses and the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. Yes, that’s Right PANDAS! This is one of the very few places in the world you can still find Giant Pandas, with less than 2000 left in the wild. It is a sad statistic, one we hear too often these days with many different species. China is, however, trying hard to save the Giant Panda, and thanks to the breeding research bases, they have started to see a rise in the population.
We are both animal lovers and would easily choose to spend more time with our favorite animal than with our favorite person. Being each other, of course 😉 When we decided on visiting China, we both almost immediately shouted, “PANDAS!!” after saying, “the Great Wall” when thinking of what to do.
Making the trip out to Chengdu is rather out of the way, as opposed to going straight down to Guilin from Xi’an. However, we decided it was worth it for the opportunity to see a giant panda, perhaps get close to one. Definitely worth it! We are also looking at applying to volunteer at the research base. It is a little pricey, but we are seriously considering it. Here is a link to information on the volunteer programs, which I believe is just a short drive from Chengdu.
5. The Li River
This is a scenic area that stretches from Guilin to Yangshuo. In order to enjoy the unique mountain scenery and beautiful Li river valley, one has to take a river cruise to Yangshuo. I believe that Guilin itself is not a fantastic town to visit regarding distinctive beauty, however, Yangshuo is worth staying at for a few nights, and cycling around to enjoy rural China.
I am really looking forward to photographing the traditional cormorant fisherman on the Li River, as well as the unique scenery. The jagged mountains with the river passing through is what you see in the posters advertising China. I have read that Yangshuo has beautiful natural landscapes, which works great for me because I love photographing landscapes.
Lastly, in this area, one can also visit Longsheng rice terraces, actually, the world’s largest man-made rice terraces and is also commonly known as the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. These are some of the most beautiful rice terraces in China according to chinahighlights.com. I would love to see these and get some great photographs, but I fear we might be visiting at the wrong time of the year.
These are only the five main attractions we are looking forward to seeing in China. We will, of course, be seeing many other interesting things in each area as well as enjoying the local culture and cuisine. I can’t wait to eat some Peking duck in Beijing and spend some quality time relaxing in the various tea houses.
Have you been to China? If you have any recommendations about things to do or see surrounding the areas we will be visiting, please leave a comment or email us, we are looking forward to hearing your suggestions.