On one side you are at ground level, the other, thousands of feet from it. Exhausted from the climb and breathless from the views, it was truly awe inspiring. The silence and the beauty unite the quintessential Chinese belief of the harmony between man and nature. Stretching over three thousand miles of farms, mountains and highways, the Great Wall of China is a spectacular sight and truly one of man’s greatest achievements. However, it is only one of China’s numerous wonders.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
I will admit a thirteen hour flight from New York is quite a doozy, but with a good book and some long naps, it was over before I knew it. Upon arrival in Beijing, the Capital Hotel was the place to stay. The best ice cream in all of Beijing was in the main lounge, I could practice my bargaining skills in the small shops before I hit the serious city shopping, and although he was not great at English, the doorman was quite the comedian.
I began my journey the following morning in Tian’anmen Square. The square is not only the embodiment of modern Chinese culture, but a portal to the past. Adventures wait behind every statue and within the entrance to the two millennia old Forbidden City. Festooned with local vendors and memorials to various political figures, the square truly is the essence of China.
One could admire the ancient relics in the Forbidden City for years. It is filled with the extravagant possessions of the past emperors. Among them, the ancient scrolls and paintings are the most astonishing. Beyond the city palace is Cixi’s “country-side” summer home. Designed for China’s beloved Qing empress as an escape from the city, it contains the most beautiful gardens from China’s lengthy history and is situated on the scenic KungMing Lake.
The list of things to do in and around Beijing is nearly as long as the Great Wall itself, but the experience I still value the most was the opportunity to spend the day with a local family. In the morning we visited the park outside of the Temple of Heaven, where the older members celebrate the new day as a community. Classic local dances are preformed to the music of the traditional instruments. Ribbon twirlers, jugglers and Erhu players are always ready to teach their skill and history to any young person who passes by. Later, I visited a kindergarten class for recess and learned how to cook the most exquisite white rice. Finally, over dinner we discussed the art of cricket training and fighting – one of China’s truly most unique cultural hobbies.
Meanwhile, my visit to Shanghai displayed a different side of China. During rush hour, millions of men ride race their bicycles down the streets to get home before dark. Once night falls, the commercial part of the city is lit up with the most dazzling display if lights on every building. Although there are billions of futuristic lights, the city strives to remain eco-friendly.
Outside the city, lays the small village of Suzho. Suzho, built along the river, it was once known as the Venice of the East. Here the culture of the Chinese country side becomes evident. The locals told us their stories of the Chinese New Year as we cruised down the river.
The wonders and beauty of China and her people are displayed thousands of times throughout the vast country. It truly is the perfect destination for the traveller who is searching for an up-and-coming, innovative nation with a heap of old world charm and a dash of adventure.
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