As a young enthusiastic traveller, I expressed a desire to go to China before it changed.
So way back when, just after China had opened its doors to tourists in the ’80s, my husband and I joined an expensive, small tour of China. This was the only way you were allowed into the country then. Our group of eight, all American except for us, thought we had paid for the best accommodation available at the time!
The Chinese government controlled the itinerary, they controlled what we saw and they controlled where we stayed!
Shanghai was our first introduction to this mystical land. In these days everyone wore blue Mao suits and rode bicycles. There was no resemblance to the Disney land that Shanghai reminds me of today. I do remember being the object of fascination from the Chinese…my long blond hair and pale skin was new to the locals. I remember the crowd that followed us to a camera shop and came inside whilst we bought a battery! The few who were learning English wanted to chat to us whilst the others just wanted to hear us speak.
I did enjoy Beijing….the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, Tianamin Square all made up for the hotel that wasn’t quite finished and still had wall panels in the room missing!
It’s probably best we don’t talk about Guilin….going up the river against the current in a less than safe boat and then staying in a cockroach infested camp was something I do not want to remember!
Finally we made it to Xian…I’m not sure how….for a moment I thought our Russian prop jet plane was going there by road….it must have been the heavy, old Kelvinator fridge plugged in a the back of the plane that was necessitating a long, long takeoff!
Unfortunately for Xian, my memory is again of the dreadful accommodation we had there! We were getting excited as we passed a brand new hotel on the way into town! At last …but, no, we kept going….off to the local sports ground and the few meagre rooms they kept for eager students! But I had other plans! My husband headed off to see if he could get a booking in the hotel we had passed.
Nothing beats a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed with no cockroaches running around on the floor, a flushing toilet and a warm shower. The only room left…the honeymoon suite may have cost us a fortune but it was worth every penny!
I was now ready to see the famous Terracotta Warriors….
We entered one of the pits and there they stood….some of the 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses and chariots that were buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 210-209BC to protect him in his afterlife. Local farmers found the warriors in 1974 whilst they were digging a well. Some remain uncovered to protect them but the sight of this army is amazing.
Xian’s Terracotta Soldiers and Horses were given world heritage status by UNESCO in 1987.
Have you been to China. What was the highlight of your trip?
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