china

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 

Tiananmen Square is such an interesting place. Harsh, brutalist buildings enclose a vast empty space right before Chairman Mao. It’s true grandeur.

We made a couple of rookie mistakes purely because we had no idea what we were doing and we couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin. We alighted the subway at Tiananmen Square and planned to see it and the Forbidden City in one venture. When we reached street level, we saw enormous queues and security check points cutting off any direction remotely leading toward where we wanted to go. We couldn’t check if we were in the right place or where to go, or why there was security because we couldn’t speak the language, so we walked around. We walked a full length of the Forbidden City, through a local community until we reached the side entrance and entered there. It took us some time to figure this out.

When we came back to Tiananmen Square, it was sundown and the queues were less, so we went through the security check point. Lo and behold, both the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are right there before you.

Moral: follow the crowd.

In a serendipitous coincidence, dusk was the perfect time to be here. The major road was blocked off for a slow of military might as the army marched in to lower the flag. Be there for that if you can.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Muslim Quarter, Xi’an, China

The Muslim Quarter is a labyrinth of food stalls and trinkets. In all my travels, I found this area to be one of the most interesting food scenes for sizzling squid, chilli tofu, dried spices and vats of mystery broth. It was cold, so we walked through mists of steam and smells of roasting delicacies. There seemed too many options to choose from, all of them pungent, all of them packing flavour. We found respite from the cold in a cute little bakery and ordered hot chocolate; which was a whole squeeze of Hersey’s chocolate sauce into warm milk.

This whole area is absolutely worth exploring, at no cost to you. It’s a full sensory experience of lights and sounds. Plus you can do all your souvenir shopping here too!

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai, China

The Oriental Pearl Tower is iconic Shanghai. It can be seen from The Bund and marks the skyline. Going up the Tower is a must-do and I would urge you all to be a child for a day and to have fun.

We went up to the viewing platforms, even though the visibility wasn’t great. The queues were long but crowd control made it a painless wait for us. You could spend hours up there just learning about the cityscape and landmarks.

Once you’re done seeing the city from a great height, there’s a 4D roller coaster, glass floors, virtual reality visions of futuristic Shanghai and more. Some of these experiences costed extra and were knaff and gimmicky (but fun).

Our whole experience at The Pearl Tower was slightly pricey, but an essential tourist experience.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Xi’an Bell Tower, China

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The Xi’an Bell Tower is an important landmark in Xi’an. It adds to the historic flavours of the city, coupled with the City Wall and Temples peppered throughout. Right in the centre of a bustling intersection, the bell tower is overlooked by modern hotels and shopping precincts. It’s a poignant testament to the dichotomy of this place.

At night, it’s ablaze in all lights and glory. There are night markets nearby in the Muslim Quarter, and you can’t help but be drawn there by the crowd.

The Bell Tower is worth seeing, I think, as part of your exploration of the area. Go inside, look around, watch the drum show. You’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted by me on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Summer Palace, Beijing, China

The Summer Palace in Beijing is a must see, regardless of the season. It’s easy to navigate to via subway as a non Chinese speaking tourist, and it’s worth a good few hours of your time.

The palace grounds are massive. There are temples, shrines, lakes, theatres, all dating back to ancient times, all perfectly preserved.

It’s a major tourist attraction, so expect crowds all year round. I went in the middle of winter and found the grounds to be truly magical. Crisp air, frost on the grass, frozen lake. You can ice skate if you wish.

Get yourself a map, but don’t expect it to be useful. The paths here twist and wind. You’re never sure if you’re going where you mean to, but there’s surely something of interest along the way. Take your walking shoes, you’ll be there for hours.

We paid extra at the ticket booth to see some of the special attractions, and I would recommend doing so. For instance, the Tower of Buddhist Incense charges entry (on top of your entry fee), so I’d suggest buying an all inclusive ticket in the first instance. These attractions are really quite exceptional so it’s worth paying extra.

Definitely take a day to see the Summer Palace. It was a highlight of my trip to Beijing.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Xi’an City Wall, China

The Xi’an City Wall is culturally very interesting. The City Wall was constructed in the Ming Dynasty, around 600 years ago, and remains one of the oldest, largest and best preserved testaments to China’s history. You pass through it to get to the main hub inside Xi’an, so it’s inevitable that you’ll see the wall while you’re here. I do, however, recommend taking a tour that includes this site because there’s a lot of little facts and local knowledge that make your visit to the wall more interesting.

I found the contrast between the modern city and the ancient relic to be quite nostalgic. On one side of the wall there are local markets, all noise and colour. On the other side is steel and glass. Right on top, is silence. The birds sway and dance in their dozens. The air is fresh. There are garrisons from times of war.

The wall provides a great view of the city. It’s a ticketed entry and has bathrooms if you need them. It’s quite big, so go for a wander and stop by the historical plaques, or ride a bike along the top.

It’s well worth it, even if you’ve already seen the Great Wall of China.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an, China

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is part of the sightseeing experience in Xi’an. With an active monastery attached to the precinct, this pagoda is rich with history attached legend. There are many alcoves to explore which outline local culture and Buddhist philosophy, so it’s accessible to non-Buddhists as well as practicing. It’s beautiful and peaceful, I recommend it to all as it will flavour your time in Xi’an.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.