China – part 1

Dear friends,

I’ve already spent two weeks in China, celebrated my birthday here, and traveled from Beijing to Guilin (current location). This is what I’ve been up to:

On September 12, Lisa and I went to the Forbidden City in Beijing. To go there you have to cross a huge square that is crowded with (Chinese) tourist groups. With cute matching hats, haha. The Forbidden City is huge! But it’s not really that pretty. A weird thing to notice, though, is that Chinese people just loooove to take photos of non-Chinese people.
Back in the hostel I met Fahim, a guy from London who would also have his birthday on the 13th. We decided to take an evening walk toward the Temple of Heaven. Unfortunately, it was already closed, but we heard beautiful music nearby. It sounded like there was an open air opera and we walked toward the music. The music turned out to have come from a spontaneous karaoke party in an underground walkway. The old people sang really well! We enjoyed the music, bought some birthday cake, and went back to the hostel for a little after-midnight-celebration.



On my birthday, we went to the Great Wall! We had to take two different buses to the Badaling part of the Wall and the first bus stop only had information in Chinese. Great. But we got there and the surrounding nature is beautiful. The walk on the Great Wall is a good hike with many stairs and steep parts. Near the highest part we ran into Bart and Anouk from the Trans Mongolian Express and we ate some ice cream together. There’s even ice cream with peas flavour. So weird.




The next day I rented a bicycle to ride towards the bus station to book a ticket and rode to the Temple of Heaven afterward. There are many weddings at the Temple. I counted at least 10 brides.


In the evening, Lisa and I went to a nice restaurant for dinner. I had a delicious, (slightly) spicy vegetables dish and green tea. I don’t really like the Dutch Chinese food, but boy this was good!

On September 15, I went to the Summer Palace by metro. The system is really easy to use (even better than the Russian metro systems) and there are some high-tech advertisement videos in the tunnels. The Summer Palace is situated at a gorgeous lake.




When I was ready to leave, I ran into Fahim and Abdul who were also heading to the Olympic Sport Center. The stadiums were beautifully lit at night and there were many groups of people dancing and singing.



The next day was moving day. I took the bus to Wutai Shan, the mountain with loads of temples. On the way there were beautiful, pink mountains. The Wutai Shan area has an entrance fee. So we had to step out of the bus, walk through the Visitor Center, and get into the bus again for the last bit of the journey. The hostel I booked is a Buddhist resort, 7 km out of the temple center, and with very friendly owners. There were only four other guests: Danny (a guy from Rotterdam who was very happy to be able to speak Dutch again), Nana (sweet, Chinese girl with good English language skills), a Chinese guy, and Andy (German guy). Because Wutai Shan is located on a mountain it is much colder than the rest of China. To keep warm at night I put 1 blanket under me and 2 on top. Plus I wore a hat, haha.

On September 17, Nana and I hiked to the temples. Only 1,5 km downhill is the Longquan Temple, which has its own water spring.


Then, we still needed to walk 5,5 km toward the Temple center of the sacred Mount Wutai. But the temples were worth the effort. On the way there we got lunch at a Buddhist temple. Everything is vegetarian. Yay! But you have to keep in mind that you have to eat everything on your plate. Which was not that great with the little, sour, disgusting pieces of tofu, but the other dishes were delicious. There was an amazing yellow, sweet soup made with corn, sweet potato and pumpkin.
After lunch, we hiked on to the Tayuan Temple, the Xiantong Temple, and we climbed the steep stairs (1069 steps) to the Dailuoding Temple.





Back in the hostel I said goodbye to everyone and Nana said something that really touched me. She said that she likes me and: “you have a warm heart”. What a beautiful thing to hear!

The next morning, I got picked up by the bus driver himself for the ride to Pingyao. Pingyao is THE ancient, walled town of China. In the center I tried to figure out where I was when someone asked if I needed a look on her map. It was a Dutch girl accompanied by her mother. She was a very pretty, blonde girl, who got photographed a lot by Chinese people. There was the Pingyao International Photography Festival that weekend, so the place was just crowded with photographers.
In the hostel, I ran into Danny again who made friends with Marcus, Peter, Sara (all from California, but worked in Guangzhou for 3 years), and Justine (Quebec).

On September 19, the six of us went to the Wang Family Courtyard and the Zhang Bi Ancient Fortress outside of Pingyao. The Wang Family Courtyard is huge and a big maze. We joked that the family would have probably bragged about the size of their house based on how many people got lost there.



The Zhang Bi Ancient Fortress where they have tunnels. It is a touristic place, but (like pretty much any other Chinese sight) there are still people living there. It has multiple temples and we stumbled upon goats running through the streets.



On September 20, Justine and I decided to go see the Pingyao sights. We went to the Ancient Government Building, the Cheng Huang Temple, the Chinese Commerce Chamber, the Ancient Common People Residence (because of the Lonely Planet picture), the Ri Sheng Chang (old bank), up the Pingyao City Walls, the Photography Festival, and the Confucian Temple. Because the city is taken over by the Photography Festival, there are screens with photos everywhere. Even at the major sights. The photos were really beautiful, though. And they even had photos of the Keukenhof. Funny to see something of your hometown in a country so far away.







In the evening I said goodbye (temporarily) to Justine and two Chinese girls approached me for a conversation. Being non-Asian makes you someone Chinese people want to talk to and being alone definitely makes it less scary. The girls were photography students and they enlightened me that Chinese people do not show emotions. They don’t even say “I love you” or hug the ones they care about. I already noticed that service does not come with a smile here. But if you say “ni hao” or “xiè xie” they usually start to smile.

The next day, I arranged a taxi to take me to the train station for my trip to Xi’an. You really need to set a time 30 minutes to an hour before you actually want to leave, ’cause they’re always late. However, the train ride was nice and fast. The hostel was easily found and really nice. I bought two essential train tickets (before the National-Day-madness) and walked toward the city center. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower are beautifully lit at night and the Muslim Quarter is amazing. It is very lively, crowded with tourists, and they have great food.
Back in the hostel, I met again with Danny and Justine.




The next day, Justine and I went to the Terracotta Warriors. It is very expensive… And the student discount only works for Chinese students. Weird. But well, when in China you have to see the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors. The sight is really nice and a lot has not been excavated, yet. They are still looking for ways to excavate the pits without destroying the figures. There are multiple places where you can see that they tried to do that, but failed. But they’re great at putting the pieces back together.




Back in the city center we walked to the Temple of the Eight Immortals.


On September 23, Justine and I said our goodbyes to Danny and went to the Shaanxi Museum. They also have a few Terracotta Warriors and a nice overview of the Silk Road, that originally started in Xi’an. We walked on to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, said our goodbyes, and I went to the Great Mosque. The Great Mosque does not look like a mosque at all, but more like the other ancient buildings.


That evening I would take the sleeper train to Guilin (27 hours). The train station is really crowded and the train was full. I slept a lot in the train. There is little space to move around and the top bed (3 beds above each other) does not have space to sit up straight. So sleeping and sitting in the walkway were pretty much the only things I could do.

I noticed it before, but you especially notice it in a sleeper train: the Chinese are very loud people. And that always starts at or before 7 AM. Also, when going back to your home country, you should definitely relearn some manners. Chinese people spit, smack, burp, fart, don’t know any personal space, skip the line to get in front of you, and just push people out of their way. And that’s okay here, considering the crazy amount of people that live here. Hygiene, however, could use some improvements. Hand soap at toilets, for example. Just a suggestion. Late in the evening I arrived at my hostel, where I coincidentally ran into Emmy of the Trans Mongolian Express.

For my stories about Guilin you’ll have to wait for my next update. I hope y’all also have a great time and I love to hear what you have been up to (not via Facebook, of course). Talk to you soon!

Lots of love.

4 Responses to “China – part 1

  • Leuk Room om eindelijk die foto’s te zien 🙂
    Wat heb je enorm veel gedaan de afgelopen tijd! Snap dat je ff moet bijkomen op een tropisch eiland! Heel veel plezier! Ik blijf je volgen, xxx

  • Fantastic Romy! Can’t wait till your next update. Stay safe. Xo

  • Ik geniet van je verslagen en ben blij dat ik op deze manier mag meegenieten van jouw fantastische reis. Have fun and take good care of yourself, lieve groetjes

    • Hey Kathinka!
      Hier in Guangzhou is de luchtvochtigheid extreem hoog, dus het is hier erg warm. Zodra je de douche uitgestapt bent, kun je er alweer in 😉 Hoe gaat het met jullie?
      Liefs, Romana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *