China is a fascinating country, and one you can keep returning to again and again.
Home to ancient civilisations and mystical landscapes, China is a delightful country to explore.
I recently returned to this ethereal Eastern country to re-discover the vibrant cities, ancient wonders and wonderful local culture. Here's what I got up to.
I began my trip with a foray into the fascinating capital city of Beijing. The city itself is home to many historic monuments, but the highlight for me was heading out of town to visit the iconic Great Wall of China. As you can imagine, the Great Wall often becomes overrun with tourists. Our guide was excellent though, and took us to a section of the wall which very few tourists visit. It was a beautiful crisp and sunny spring day, which was the icing on the cake and really added to the experience!
Next, it was on to the imperial city of Xi’An via high speed train. This ancient city is packed full of history, and is home to China’s infamous army of Terracotta Warriors. Fascinatingly, the warriors were built to protect China’s first Emperor in the afterlife. These warriors have been around for over 2,000 years and seeing the them standing as they would have done when they were first built was a real ‘pinch me’ moment!
From Xi’An, we then flew south to Yunnan province, where I explored the small town of Dali. This charming town is home to a number of ethnic minority groups, including the Bai people. It was incredible to see local women using a traditional tie-dye method to create beautifully patterned pieces of fabric, which they then sell to make a living.
Continuing our journey by road, we happened upon the tiny town of Shaxi. Once an important trading post on the Tea Horse Road, this town has been incredibly well preserved and still maintains its old world charm. It’s packed full of narrow streets with traditional wooden buildings, transporting those who visit to a bygone era.
One of my favourite parts of Shaxi was a charming roadside cafe that we stumbled across. It’s on the main square in Shaxi, looking across to the historic theatre with its impressive entrance. A great spot for enjoying a cup of tea and watching the world go by!
China is renowned for its food, and for good reason. Chinese meals are all about sharing, and my guide and I tucked into this feast at a simple local restaurant in Shaxi. Stir fried vegetables and meat with steamed rice are the building blocks of most meals, but I particularly enjoyed the potato pancake in this delicious platter.
As we neared the end of our trip, we continued to the ethereal city of Lijiang, which is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. The impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge blew me away – its flanked to one side by the equally poetic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and is home to some pretty terrifying rapids!
Finally, I ended my adventure in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Shanghai, known for its futuristic skyline. It was quite a contrast to the slow pace of life I’d experienced in the south of the country, but the city has its own redeeming features. Looking out across the river from my hotel on The Bund reminded me just how rapidly China is changing.
Shanghai by night is no less impressive – it really is one of the world’s greatest cities and was a fitting place to end my Chinese adventure.
If you'd like to follow in Rachel's footsteps with an epic trip through China, get in touch with one of our Asia experts today.