Reviving its golden days in the 1930s, Shanghai is grabbing the world’s attention again as the most dynamic metropolis in China. From the jaw-dropping skyscrapers in Lujiazui to numerous cosy cafés in the French Concession, this is where East meets West, traditional meets modern, and the grassroots coexist with the luxurious in harmony. Whether you’re a backpacker or a jet-setter, you can always find what suits you best.One of the most distinct building in the world and the Shanghai skyline, the Oriental Pearl Tower houses many restaurants and observation decks with interesting views over the Huangpu river.
Hopping off the Chinese bullet train at Hangzhou Station from Shanghai, a few things that are distinctively Hangzhou have struck me right away.
And so, my journey begins... Arrival Day [Feb 8, 2016] The flight from Kuala Lumpur to the provincial capital of Hunan, Changsha was approximately 4hrs 15mins. The flight arrived at midnight and my tour group of 22 fellows are warmly welcomed by a local tour guide, Siao Tang. We checked-in to a very decent hotel called Ramada Plaza and called it a day. Day 1 [Feb 9, 2016] I woke up to a cool and foggy morning with some sunshine in Changsha. The tour began by taking a coach to the village of Shaoshan.
The capital of Yunnan province and the starting point for travelers headed to Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, Kunming will be our stop for a day to rest and stock up on anything we might need for the long train journey (20 hours) to Yangshuo.
Exotic. Mysterious. A pulsating maze of colors, sights and smells, more Middle Eastern than Chinese. How do you begin to describe this mesmerizing 3000 year old oasis and trading mecca along the Silk Road?? An ethnic blend of Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Han Chinese, some things in the Old Town of Kashgar haven’t changed since medieval times. Every narrow lane beckons you to explore the bazaars full of shimmering silk, knives, jewelry and carpets all moving to the rhythmic beat of metalworkers, cobblers, and weavers producing quality wares by hand; trades passed from generation to generation.
The land of the abominable snowman,they call it.Our first major destination in Lhasa was the Potala Palace.The entire site was as clean as it was touristy. We were limited to a visit of only 1 hour due to the integrity of the structure (it could risk collapse from the weight of too many visitors) but all in all it was absolutely gorgeous. The temples were just breathtaking and I enjoyed watching the monks walking from room to room continuing their daily tasks all the while examining the hundreds of different rooms, shrines and statues.After taking in the Potala Palace, we were set free to enjoy Johkang Temple and the surrounding vicinity that’s known as the Backhor Streets. It was quite interesting to see the layers of culture in such a small place. Lhasa was a much larger city than I had anticipated. Shops and stalls lined every corner and were filled to the brim with Tibetan prayer beads, necklaces, singing bowls, yak blankets and many other ornaments. Tibetan & Chinese restaurants filled the streets with an almost intoxicating smell of yak meat, bread & other cultural foods.We then explored both the Drepung Monastery & Sera Monastery. The Drepung Monastery, which happened to be the Dalai Lama’s old winter residence (up until the 5th Dalai Lama moved it to the Potala Palace), happened to house the largest amounts of monks in Tibet. We were very lucky to arrive just as many of them were gathered for their afternoon lunch and meditation sessions. The energy that protruded from them was nothing short of intense!Later, we passed through Gangbala Pass with a quick pit stop at Yamdrok Lake where we took some very scenic pictures of turquoise blue waters that were overlooked by snow-peaked mountains.
I loved Xian. I had always wanted to see the Terracotta soldiers and I was finally there. The visual highlight was pitted 1. Nonetheless, the actual story behind the Terracotta warriors was even more intriguing. Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, had an army of life-size warriors fabricated to battle with him in the afterlife. These artifacts, produced around 210 BC, were not discovered until 1974; local peasants who were searching for a new well site accidentally unearthed the archaeological site. The terracotta warriors varied in height depending on rank, generals being the tallest. Since the excavations had commenced, warriors, chariots, and horses had been uncovered. The estimated quantity of warriors in the three pits amounts to eight thousand soldiers, one hundred and thirty chariots, and five hundred and twenty horses. Inconceivably, the majority of these estimates still lay below ground. In fact, Pit 1 was impressive because of the massive quantity of warriors that had already been uncovered. Pit 3, in contrast, was relatively small. Pit 2, although massive in size, was only excavated in one small section. Only in Pit 1 were hundreds of terracotta warriors visually lined up and prepared for battle. Apart from this we also visited, the Emperor Jindi’s tomb and museum. The excavations have been glossed over so you can WALK above the items left in the ground. In his tomb, all things are 1/3 size. I loved the layers of pigs, sheep, dogs and goats. We also walked on the wide intact city walls and enjoyed the Big Wild Goose Pagoda with its free water and light show.