Uncover the Beauty of China Beneath the Fog
Despite the negative slack China continues to receive on mainstream news, this doesn’t stop me from wanting to look beyond bad impressions.
As curious travelers, we owe it to ourselves to form an an intelligent opinion based on personal experiences and not only what’s said in a brochure or on TV.
This is very similar to my impressions of Russia, which I featured on the VLOG, only to fortunately be wronged in so many levels.
I also believe it’s my role as a travel enthusiast to share with my viewers those said experiences in the hopes of peaking your own curiosities, inspiring wanderlust goals and learning to see the world with new eyes.
Today’s episode is all about the highlights of my wonderful three-week trip to China in April 2015.
While I know it’s sometime back, that’s not to say it isn’t worth sharing because as you’ll see, it truly is.
You’ll get to see not only its more popular cities, Beijing and Shanghai but also Guilin and my personal favorite, Xian.
As the oldest and one of China’s four ancient capital cities, there is so much fascinating history to uncover in Xi’an (See-Yan).
If I had to make a correlation to perhaps make you better understand, what Kyoto is to Japan, Xi’an is to China.
Imagine digging a hole in the ground with the intent of making a water well.
Instead you discover this…. This is but a fraction of what farmer, Yang Zhifa found by accident in 1974: the Terra Cotta Warriors from the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).
To give you an idea of how vast this one area (or PIT as it’s referred to) is, take a look on both sides, how tiny the people are.
In certain ancient civilizations like Egypt and China, burial grounds replicate the life that certain person lived in order to properly prepare for the next life.
So in this case, the first great emperor to unify China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, built a massive terra-cotta army complete with horses, military supplies, chariots, among others.
What makes it extraordinary is how well-preserved they considering they are over 2000+ years old! Not surprisingly, the Xi’an Terracotta Warriors Museum is considered to be one of the Wonders of the World.
Fun Fact 1:
Pardon this next photo as it was taken in the dark through a very thick glass. But these figures have an interesting backstory…
If you are an avid Game of Thrones fan like myself, you will know what a Eunuch (Lord Varys) is… by the way have you seen that episode where I got to visit GoT film locations in Iceland?
Eunuchs were imperial soldiers who were castrated so they cannot sexually violate the empress.
In some cases, also so concubines cannot cheat on their Emperor.
In Xi’an, there are two Terra Cotta Warriors sites:
The first few photos are from the Qin Dynasty. Soldiers are 1.8M tall, grandiose with tough features.
This photo is from an all-glass-enclosed site from the Han Dynasty where the soldiers were smaller, slimmer with softer features.
If you take a look on the lower right hand side, one soldier has a grayish-colored groin. The painted area is to signify that this soldier is a Eunuch.
Fun Fact 2:
My family and I got to visit the same Terracotta factory where props from the Hollywood blockbuster film, “The Mummy,” from 1999 were made.
The brick oven here are for the small to medium pieces while the stacked statues on the right are the rejects from the lot.
Historical Fun Fact 3:
Chairman Mao Zedong of China is called Chairman because a chair, is the symbol of a throne. A powerful man is seated on that throne. Therefore: Chair+Man
This photo is from our hotel in Xi’an, Hilton.
Historical Fun Fact 4:
The bicycle is an integral part of Chinese life and transportation.
Both young and old are encouraged to bike despite the booming effects of economic development, not only for better health but to lessen environmental pollution and traffic.
Everywhere you go, even the widest and busiest of city roads have dedicated bicycle lanes and parking lots.
As the capital of China, you can only imagine how much there is to see and learn.
For starters, at Yuyuantan Park, they have a cherry blossom festival and while I may have the most serious face in this photo because my mom made me wear this fake wreath all throughout the park, lol.
The beautiful, clean and manicured garden is not exactly what you would expect as China is always said to be filthy. NO WAY! Just watch and you’ll see what I mean.
These photos are but a very tiny snippet of what’s all on today’s wonderful episode!
And of course, no trip to Beijing would be complete without hitting up the Great Wall!
I still recall being so excited and in my adrenaline-filled steps made me trip so hard that my knees bled through the 2 layers of thermals + pants and I didn’t even feel it until I removed them back at the hotel.
The blood froze from the 4C weather and got stuck to my thermals! So try and imagine peeling them off my banged up knees?! I actually still have the 3-year scar as my souvenir.
I also shared a very rare public photo of me with my dad, as seen on Instagram.
Take a Bite Off Beijing
Of course there will be your hot pots, clay pots and other traditional foods.
But if you know me well enough, I have an appetite for adventure – not just figuratively but also literally!
One of my favorite episodes on the vlog is enjoying Beijing exotic street foods like scorpions, snakes and more! You have got watch it, I promise it’s good!! No pun intended, haha!
China Travel Tip 1:
If case you’re unaware, China blocks social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc. So before setting foot, I suggest downloading VPN apps (there are free ones), which help you access these sites and have no problems posting online.
China Travel Tip 2:
When flying domestic in China, local airlines are notorious for changing flight times constantly without prior notice and just like the Philippines, flights are always delayed.
It is mandatory to confirm your flight prior to departure. Ask your hotel concierge to help you at least 24hrs before.
On the other hand, the domestic airport is impressive: free wifi, wide range of restaurants, bookstores and even a free internet gaming center while waiting for your flight!
China Travel Tip 3:
As they say, the Chinese are very good in business. So always expect to put up a good bargaining “fight” when shopping in public markets and from street vendors.
Prices, most times, can be jacked up to 10x if you are unaware.
They KNOW you will haggle. So they start high.
We were advised to haggle at LEAST 60-80% off the retail price.
The patent parka hoodie vest I’m wearing started off at Y175 or P1,085. I got it down to Y40 or P248!! While the Red Army cap, only the most common tourist item, I got for Y20 or P124.
Should’ve haggled it down to Y5!
If Xian is all about culture and Beijing is the capital, we move onto to the beautiful province of Guilin known for its picturesque scenery.
This unique rock formation called the Elephant Trunk’s Hill because the edge looks like an elephant’s trunk is the city’s landmark to symbolize the beautiful Guilin scenery.
Li River Cruise
Very similar to Vietnam’s Halong Bay, the scenic river cruise is truly worth it as my family and I enjoyed this one. I even shared it back then on Instagram:
Do You See What I See?
Of the 30,000 hills scattered like “jade hairpins” all over Guilin, with a vivid imagination, one can see several figures and familiar images.
Look at the white stone on this mountain…
Do you see a horse?
Do you see a man riding with his back facing the head of the horse?
This is one of many where even the hill formations strike a resemblance to a cat with its tail pointing to the heavens, an apple, Buddha, a mother holding its child and more.
The Shangri-La Guilin Hotel is considered the #1 hotel followed by The Sheraton in Guilin.
This hotel is further away from central area while Sheraton is located at the city center.
Whichever you choose, Guilin is definitely an oasis from the bustling city life.
Lastly, it’s onto the metropolitan city of Shanghai. It’s kind of like the New York counterpart of China.
Back in 2015, this photo was taken with an iPhone 5s and admittedly edited as the smog nearly made the view but a blur.
But not to worry, lots more to see in today’s episode, including the ancient water town that literally blew my socks off: Zhujiajiao (1700yrs old)!
And when touring the sites came to a close, there’s always room for silly fun.
Beauty Beneath the Fog
Every country will always have its mysteries and negative aspects but I have always believed that just like people, they all deserve a chance. Our perceptions are not the truths.
Underneath the veil of perceptions is beauty waiting to be appreciated and valued.
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it.” ~ Confucius
There you have it… my travel diary of China! I hope today’s episode will inspire you to explore this great culture and civilization as I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Perhaps for some, a face mask may help but I never wore one and I am healthy as a happy bee.
Wishing you all more amazing travels to places you’ve never been to before!
Love & Light,
NOTE: This written post is merely an introduction as the main content is in the video. I highly encourage you to watch it for the full experience on what the episode is truly all about.