What you can’t say in China

We have just spent an amazing 4 weeks in China.  Most of the time we followed the main tourist route on the East Coast, and there we have seen the main sights of China:

  • Beautiful Guilin and its waterways and the limestone karsts on the Li River. A night in Yangshuo where we explored the countryside on bikes.
  • Massive city of Chongqing (33 million) and from there a very hazy cruise through the Three Gorges with lots of stops to see monasteries and pagodas.
  • Hangshou, once again in mist, with more temples and pagodas and a glitzy boat ride on West Lake.  A specialised green tea industry.
  • Modern contemporary Shanghai where we ate Thai & French food and tamed the underground  From there we visited Sazhou to see beautiful gardens and the ancient grand canal
  • A tired Beijing 6 years after the Olympics and explored the Secret Garden and joined in Chinese exercises, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City  and the over extravagant Summer Palace
  • We did a day trip to the Great Wall at Badaling and climbed the South Side to get amazing views of crowds on the North Side. The sky turned blue for our cameras. We also visited the Ming tombs.
  • Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors and ride 14km around the ancient wall. We also visited Muslim Street to get a taste of the Islamic culture in China.  Xi’an is the  start of the Silk Road – our destination.

Beautiful, predictable and historically interesting. But then our experiences started to surprised us.

After an overnight train ride to Lanzhou we were surprised to see a substantial number of Muslim people and to eat lamb in preference to other meats. The food is spicy and served with dumplings and noodles.

We drove 260km to Xaihe in Tibet to meet a local family before they moved to winter grasslands, and to see the Labrang Buddhist monastery of the yellow sect and watch prayers there.

We were travelling well, but did spend a rather unromantic 41st anniversary sharing a 4 berth train compartment with two nice Chinese ladies on an overnight train to Jiayuguan. We came here to see the western extremities of the great wall, and experience life in the dessert.  It was hot, desolate and in many parts overrun by windfarms and electronic cables. It was fascinating and exhausting.

Our next overnight train took us to Turpan to see more desert and an amazing oasis, kept alive in past years by the Karez Wells and supporting a massive grape industry.  We continued to Urumqi to see the Grand Canyon of Urumqi and the Heavenly Lake.

And so our 28 day tour of China ended.  There is a lot to write, but China didn’t allow me access to my dashboard, and now we are in catch up mode and relying on hotels here to provide bandwidth.  The stories will take a little while, the pictures longer.

The rest of this journey takes us through the ‘Stans: Kazakstan, Kyrgyrzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, then Iran.  I just hope we have caught up by then.

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2 Responses to What you can’t say in China

  1. Alex Mifsud says:

    Thea, it’s great to be able to “join” you on your trip again through these descriptive posts. I know how frustrated you must feel not being able to illustrate it all with your photos. Your itinerary has taken to quite a few of the areas we visited and it’s nice to re-live it through your eyes. Hope that the images will get restored soon. Looking forward to the Stanstories.
    Cheers, Alex,

  2. Trish Fisher says:

    Thea It’s great to do some armchair travelling with you and Bruce. As you explore places I have never been to and probably never will, I am happy For you to be my eyes and ears. Travel well. Trish

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