Posted - 13th August 2018
This blog is about the second part of our road trip in China. If you want to read the first part of our holiday, go ahead and read out A Week in: China (Part I) blog. The first part of our trip was mostly driving through the countryside and mountains, and really seeing the rural part of China, whereas the second part of the trip was focused on seeing the urban side of China. We visited as many cities as we could, and saw some of the most touristy spots in China.
Day 1 – Lijiang
As much as Lijiang was a city, it really felt like a big town due to it’s cobblestone streets, small canals and beautiful small houses. We were told that Lijiang was one of the most important place of the Ancient Southern Silk Road.
The Hotel we stayed at was magical. The interior was so well designed and decorated, it felt like we were staying in a museum.
We spent the morning looking around the city, and found a nice cafe at the top where we could find the best view over the city.
It’s a great place to just do some shopping, see how the locals live, learn about their culture and just relax.
In the main old square, it was very busy with locals dressed in very traditional clothes, doing their daily exercises and practicing some tai chi.
We had dinner at a very lovely restaurant overlooking the nice canals. It’s a MUST to find a restaurant by the canals, as it just makes the atmosphere so romantic.
Day 2 – Lijang to Xi’an
We took a flight from Lijiang to Xi’an. It’s only a two hour flight, so really easy to go between the cities. Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi district of China. This is one of the oldest cities in China and used to be the starting point of the Silk Road.
The old part of the city of Xi’an was surrounded by a 13km wall. We chose a hotel that was within these walls, just at the North gate. We spent the next part of the day cycling around these walls and viewing the entire city from the wall. I thought it was a genius idea to rent bikes to be able to cycle around. You can attempt walking, however, 13km is quite a long walk!
This is the best way to view some of the nicest parts of the city. We passed by some schools, some temples, and actually, the wall itself was well made with towers along it and beautiful lamps.
One thing we weren’t used to was the weather.. Although it looked very cloudy, it was so humid and hot. It felt really sticky and yucky, so when we went into town to visit an old bell tower. Next to the bell tower, there was also a drum tower. In the past, these towers were used to tell the time, so they were struck each hour that passed.
Day 3 – Xi’an and the Terracotta Army
If anyone thinks of China, first thing you would expect to go and visit is the Terracotta Army. Before we made our way to see the army, we first stopped over at the Huaqing Pool. This is a bathing place that was originally built by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty, and uses the natural hot springs to warm the pools.
We were very unlucky with the weather, so we didn’t stay too long, as the pools and baths were both inside and outside. What was great, was that we could actually touch the hot springs, and wash our faces and hands with. It is said that it makes the skin better.
We finally made it to the Terracotta Army, and it was oh so amazing!! The large army was built for the first Emperor of China, and it was buried together with the emperor, to serve as protection for the emperor’s afterlife. The whole army was discovered by a farmer digging a well in 1974 when he found a helmet of a terracotta soldier. We got to meet this farmer and let him sign our book.
This site is now a museum, which consists of three large rooms where excavations took place. The first room had the mixed army consisting of archers, swords men, lancers. This room was the least dug up because the archeaologists left everything as they found it without any restorations.
The second hall had the headquarters, with the meeting of the officers, all without weapons, and bones from types of sacrifices.
In the last hall, we saw all the soldiers lined up. Out of 6000 soldiers that were there, the archaeologists restored 2000 soldiers and these are now redistributed around the world for exhibition. It was a truly amazing experience to visit.
For dinner, we decided to go to a show at the Xi’an Opera House. And we were so happy we did, because it was a really great experience. Together with the delicious food that we were served, we also had a chance to see a performance about the most memorable moments of the Tang Dynasty.
All the actors were wearing beautiful traditional clothes, they were playing instruments we’ve never seen before and danced along to the music. It was really entertaining, and we could see that everyone in the crowd was enjoying themselves.
Day 4 – Xi’an to Beijing
We took the plane from Xi’an to Beijing in the morning. Luckily, it’s one a 2 hour flight, which again, was really simple to do, and we would strongly recommend flying domestically in China. Once we landed in Beijing, we realised how hot and humid it was there! We needed to get use to the hot temperatures again.
First thing we did was go to the Summer Palace of the Emperor. The summer palace was huge, and it was based next to a few lakes. It had the longest corridor in the world, of 80 meters long, just by the lake.
We struggled to take photos as there were just so many tourists there. But it was very beautiful!
Within the summer palace, we took a little boat to an island in the middle of the lake. There were exhibitions of the emperor and the queen. The queen was the mother of the emperor, and as he was knighted as the Emperor at 3 years old, the mother would make all the decisions for him. She was a very cruel person, and tortured and killed many people in that way.
Once we finished our visit at the palace, we went to our lavish hotel in the centre of Beijing. We were staying in the nicest areas with the most expensive shops around.
It made us think how we went from being in the middle of nowhere just a few days ago, to the heart of civilisation.
Day 5 – Beijing | Forbidden City | Temple of heaven | The Square
First thing in the morning, we went to the main Square in Beijing. This square was HUGE, and I really mean HUUUGE. This is where the the parliament and Mao’s grave was placed. As a tourist, you are able to visit Mao’s open coffin.
The queue to see his grave was really long, and we were told that people have to some times wait for 8 hours in the boiling heat to visit the coffin. We decided against the wait, and chose to go and see the Forbidden City instead.
The Forbidden City is well known all over the world. This complex was constructed to act as a home to the ruling emperors, their wives as well as their concubines.
The entire city was very large, and we could spend an entire day just walking around every building and every corner of the complex. It had about 8,000 rooms and it was all completely styled according to Feng Shui.
The entire complex was painted in red, with many colourful decorations on the roofs. There were even little statues of dragons and other mythical creatures.
As well as the buildings, there were some buildings that served as museums and housed many collections of vases, bronze ware, jewellery and ceramics.
After our visit to the Forbidden city, we went to visit the Temple of Heaven, which wasn’t too far away. Unfortunately for us, the temple was closed, so we were only able to look at it from the outside.
The emperors and locals would use this temple for ceremonies and prayers to heaven for good harvest. The decorations of the temple were stunning, bright, colourful, and each drawing would symbolise different things.
We spent the evening walking around Beijing city centre, and strolled through a food market which had insects for snacks! Yes, INSECTS! Surprisingly, they were crunchy and tasty 🙂
Day 6 – Beijing | The Ming Tombs | The Great Wall | Bird’s Nest Stadium
We set off early morning to The Ming Tombs with our tour guide. On the way, we stopped at a jade factory where they showed us how they extract jade and transform it into some beautiful statues. We got some small jade sculptures as souvenirs, that meant different things. One was for money, one for good luck and the last one was for longevity.
The Ming Tombs are made up of 13 tombs in total, but as tourists, we were only allowed to visit one of the tombs. The main entrance towards the tombs was a large road with beautiful white statues on both sides of different animals and army men statues.
To get to the actual tombs, we decided to drive up close to them, as the walk would be far too long. The tombs that we were allowed to visit were those of the emperor’s concubines. The only thing that was left in the tombs was the coffins, the decorations, jewellery and other treasures were stolen when the tombs were first opened, and for this exact reason, they do not open the other tombs.
Next on our schedule was The Great Wall of China. You can’t go to China without going to see this UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s so great, that astronauts can see it from space, so while being there, we just HAD to visit it.
There are many points along the wall where you can reach the top of the wall, to walk along the pathway. Going by foot can be quite exhausting and in that heat, we would really struggle. We decided to take the lazy way out, and chose to go by elevator up.
Surprisingly (or not?), the pathway at the top of the wall was very uneven, and actually, it was a struggle to walk along. It was very packed with people where we were, so we had to walk away from the elevator entrance to have a nice view of the wall.
Some parts of the wall are forbidden to walk on, but I can imagine it must be great to walk on it where there are NO people at all. We only stayed for 30 minutes, as it was quite tiring, but that was enough for us to experience the greatness of this stunning fortification.
On our drive back to the hotel, we stopped over at a viewing point where we could see the Chinese Olympic Stadium, also known as The Bird’s Nest.
Day 7 – Beijing | Bell and Drum Tower | Rikshaws | Old City
This was our final day in Beijing and most importantly in China. We decided to stay local to the city and take it easy in the day. Our first stop was the Bell and Drum Tower. These towers are right next to each other, and very similar to the ones we saw in Xi’an. In the past, they were used to tell the time.
To be able to get to the top of the towers, we had to climb some crazy steep stairs, but it was well worth the effort, as from the top, we got a stunning view of the city.
This one was much larger than the one in Xi’an. As the top had a collection of drums and bells.
We then went into the Old Town, and were treated to a nice ride on the Rickshaws. It was great fun, nice and breezy, and our poor feet really appreciated it.
The old town was really impressive, it has not been renovated in a long time, and it really depicts how people used to live, and actually, they still live there now.
One family was kind enough to show us around their house. The family was telling us that the house when they bought it at first (well, their ancestors did), was worth barely anything, but if the house would be sold now, it would be very expensive, as it is right in the city of Beijing.
It was really impressive how such large families could live in such small houses, with no comfort at all. These houses did have really nice courtyards in the middles, where the family said they spent most of their time.
That was the end of our second week in China. We hope you enjoyed reading our adventures and itinerary, and hope this inspires you to travel to China. If you’d like to read the first part of our trip, go to our A Week in: China (Part I) blog.
Xoxo Ani and Sam