It was my first trip to China (excluding my foray to HK a few years back) and I must say that it was pretty incredible. My mom and I flew into Beijing and hit the ground running. Over the next 2 weeks we visited: the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the Great Wall (Badaling section), Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube, Xiemen and Quanzhou (to visit my mom’s cousins and aunts), Shanghai, the World Expo, Suzhou, Hanzhou and Wuxi. Phew, it’s exhausting to even type that out!
We did the tour thing in Beijing and Shanghai and I’m not quite sure that I would do it again. In theory, it’s a pretty good idea. Pay about $200 for a hotel for 3 nights, 3 square meals a day and explore a city and its main attractions. You get to meet a bunch of people (some cool, others not so much) and make quick friendships. However, you’re constantly on the move and always on someone else’s schedule. I like to take the time to explore a city on my own – do what I want to whenever I want to and that’s virtually impossible when you join a tour. Plus anyone who knows me knows that I take my sleep quite seriously… and I wasn’t quite happy with the amount that I got during the tours 😛
It was also really nice to spend some time with our relatives. It was too bad that they didn’t speak English or Cantonese and that I didn’t speak Mandarin or any of the other 4 dialects that they all spoke quite fluently… it made for a lot of non-verbal communication – some of which I’m not 100% sure they understood.
Ps: If I had to choose between Beijing or Shanghai, I would definitely choose Shanghai. While Beijing has all of the popular attractions, it was really dirty and old fashioned in its culture (not in a good way). I was expecting a more modern city after the Olympics but that wasn’t the case at all. Shanghai, on the other hand, is a very typical Asian metropolitan city. However, it has a certain charm and vibe that I didn’t find in Jakarta or HK – closest comparison I think would be Tokyo. Lots of glitz and shiny lights but also a lot of Chinese culture mixed with international flair. It has a really unique vibe and pulse that I quite enjoyed. I guess it also helps that my mom and I had a few days to really explore Shanghai on our terms and on our schedule… that probably had a huge factor in the city charming us both.
Also, I’ll upload photos as soon as the image uploader on blogger starts working again..