The Great Wall of China, Terracotta warriors, the Forbidden City, Shanghai- I wanted to see all of these sights on a trip to China, but with only a couple of weeks to spare I wasn’t sure how to fit it all in. That was why escorted tour were so appealing, enabling me to see some of China’s most spectacular sights over ten days with all the visits, travel and accommodation taken care of. All of the famous Chinese sights were included, and there was nothing for me to worry about except enjoying the ride.
Chinese cities have an interesting mix of modernity and tradition. We began in Beijing, where some of the most beautiful palaces in China are located. The city is also the gateway to the most impressively restored sections of the Great Wall. Once the summer residence of China’s imperial rulers, the Summer Palace in Beijing is an extravagant place where traditional buildings stand within landscaped Oriental gardens.
The following day we journeyed to a section of the Great Wall in Badaling. The wall is over 2000 years old and was built as a line of defence against invaders, stretching for a massive 5,500 miles across China. Meandering across mountain scenery, this section of the wall is magnificent. Watch towers stand at 15 meters high and the worn steps, once trodden by warriors, are open to the public, the battlements providing spectacular views across the hills. Later we walked the nearby Sacred Way where stone animals including life-sized elephants and camels line the path to palatial Ming tombs. The dead emperors were said to return to heaven via this road.
The Forbidden City was another Beijing highlight, once off limits to the common people earning it its name. The eight hundred buildings here are all intricately designed with traditional Chinese motifs and colours, and the city was built to be a replica of heaven itself. Our tour offered a deeper insight into the history of the palace and the many beautiful artefacts that are displayed there.
The Terracotta Warriors stand at the Yangling Han Tomb Museum in Xian. We travelled there on the sixth day of the trip to view these life-size warriors, each with its own unique facial expression. Realistic horses stand proud in battle formation and the staggering collection of 7,000 pieces date back to 246BC. That night we watched a traditional show of Chang’an music and dancing, bringing to life China’s past with extravagant costumes and masks.
We ended the trip in and around Shanghai, a stunning modern city with ancient roots. Temples, floating markets and tranquil gardens are set against skyscrapers. The old town was my favourite part, where traditional Chinese crafts and lanterns are sold. There are some wonderful tea shops here too.
The ancient city of Suzhou provided a tranquil contrast to the city at the end of the trip. Some of the most decorative gardens in China are found there, with plants and rockeries creating mini worlds.