China

So I didn’t blog about China whilst we were there as promised! The itinerary was full on and at the end of the day we just fell into bed! Below is an account of the trip.

PEART TOUR OF CHINA 2017

Nî hâo!

Recently we were lucky enough to go on a sixteen day tour of China; this included a four day cruise of the mighty Yangtze River. I was thinking about this post whilst I was there and how I could wax lyrical about the Great Wall – which was like stepping onto a time machine and took your breath away, or seeing the giant Pandas which was amazing, or one off my bucket list – the Terracotta Warriors, which, as I walked into the huge pit one, I shed a tear of joy.

wall

The Great Wall of China.

panda

An adult panda at the huge Panda Sanctuary.

army

The incredible Terracotta Warriors

But, actually, what I want to tell you about is the experiences we didn’t expect to have.

The Chinese appear to be obsessed with Western faces, the country’s borders have only been open to foreigners for a few decades so most of the older generation, and a lot of the younger, have never seen Westerners. Consequently our tour group were minor celebrities, we had our photo taken everywhere we went – sometimes they’d ask for a selfie with us, sometimes the picture was taken sneakily – shoot and run. At first it was annoying and we’d all turn our backs, but after a week we all joined in and posed for the photos to the joy of whoever had asked for our picture at the time. A young boy with a selfie stick was trying to get a sneaky selfie of me with himself in the foreground, so I lent over his shoulder and smiled for his picture. The kid was delighted!

The Chinese call Westerners, Big Noses, because they think we have huge noses in comparison to themselves. One lady we came across collected pictures of Big Noses as a hobby and followed us around for most of the day. Here she is below with a fellow tourist taking her picture in return.

photo

Simon taking a picture of the Big Nose collector.

Shanghai and Beijing are polluted. I was told this before I left but I thought, oh it can’t be that bad, yes it is. When, or if, the people who live in these cities see blue sky then it’s a big event and everyone goes outside with their cameras to take pictures! By the way, Beijing is the size of Belgium!

bund

The Bund waterfront in Shanghai – smog-capped but strangely beautiful.

What I found fascinating in the two major cities we went to was the juxtaposition between the ancient and the new. And many times hemmed between the ancient temples and sparkling skyscrapers were shanty towns made of wood and tarpaulin.

teahouse

Ancient tea house and skyscrapers.

Tea is a big thing in China – trying to find coffee is like trying to find gluten-free bread – impossible.

tea

We went to a fascinating tea ceremony.

We found the translations on the signs to be a daily source of amusement.

sign

A sign in one of the stunning temple gardens.

And colourful wish strands, which were tied to everything. Foreigners were not allowed to wish!

wishes

These colourful strands are wishes and I thought them enchanting.

umbrella tree

These trees were everywhere; they are called umbrella trees because when they are in leaf they offer complete shade. The Chinese do not like to tan. However, I thought the trees were stunning just as they were. And coincidentally there are umbrella trees on Abaytor!

Whilst having tea (not coffee!) in a park in the beautiful city of Xi’an a lady came round offering to clean your ears! A few of the group took her up on the offer but she just wiped the instruments on her trousers between customers so I declined!

ears

Peter having his ears cleaned.

sunny

This young Chinese girl was called Sunny – her English name. Most Chinese in the tourist industry choose an English name because Westerners cannot pronounce their Chinese names. She wore a wicker basket on her back, in her culture when the basket is full of flowers she is available for marriage, and when it is empty, she is engaged. Eventually the basket will carry a baby. I asked her if it was uncomfortable, and she said, yes!

coffin

You can hardly see it but in the crack on the left-hand side of the above picture is a hanging coffin. The ancient Chinese hung their dead from the cliffs at the side of the Yangtze River. The higher the coffin the more important the person was in life. Over the years the lower coffins have washed away.

fruit

This photo is of people washing vegetables in the Yangtze to sell in the market.

clothes

This photo is of people washing their clothes in the Yangtze.

tout

Arranged marriage is still common in China and this photo – taken from a respectful distance – is of parents ‘touting’ their children to other passing parents. They lay out on in front of them sheets of paper with details of their children written on – age, gender, occupation, character. If another parent is interested they set up a meeting between the families. Our young and modern guide, Allan, said he would have been mortified if his parents had done this for him but he understood the tradition.

market

This is a meat market and the smell, to our Western big noses, was horrendous. The floor was covered in guts and blood and the tiles were really slippery. The fish were kept alive and then killed for the customer.

sq

I never thought I would stand in Tiananmen Square but stand in it I did, and then we walked under the painting of Chairman Mao into the Forbidden City.

sq1

I could go on and on and on and on, we took thousands of pictures on four different devices but I think you’d be bored stiff, if you’re not already. So I’ll finish on a picture I love – the Great Wall of China stretching off into the distance.

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