When we arrived to the vast and sparse industrial city of Datong, we could not quite believe that it held some of the most beautiful caves and stone statues we had ever seen. The grottoes hail from 450 BC, a relic of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) absorbing Indian Gandhara Buddhist art, sculptured and developed with traditional Chinese art melded with social features of the time.
After exploring these decorative 20 metre high caves, we decided it was time to scale new heights, so we headed to the capital of the Peoples Republic of China…Beijing to climb The Great China Wall.
Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) running over 373 miles and containing about 827 city wall platforms, 71 passes and countless towers, they forgot to add one thing, a ‘BEWARE, YOU MUST BE IN VERY GOOD SHAPE’ sign!!! We visited the more popular part of the wall, Badaling, which is also to said to be one of the easier sections and although Stephen and I had managed to keep in good shape during our travels, there was a need for many pit stops along the way. It is also quite amusing to see many Chinese trying to scale the walls in platform shoes, flip flops, thick synthetic clothing and not forgetting lace frills!
Beijing has a lot more to discover apart from The Great Wall, we also visited the infamousTiananmen Square, where you can visit Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes and The Great Hall of the People. Whilst in Tiananmen Square we popped across to The Forbidden City (north of the square), which was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
With this overdose in ancient history and culture, it was time to end our trip through China with a final stop by bullet train in Shanghai.
Shanghai was the most westernised destination in China (to my relief as it meant a lot less spitting and peeing in the roads)! It is a fun, eclectic city full of lights, sounds and lots of shopping. During our stay in Shanghai, the Chinese were celebrating The Mid-Autumn Festival also known as The Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest. It is also one of the only public holidays that the Chinese can enjoy, As a result, Shanghai was absolutely packed with people buying moon cakes, visiting the intergalactic looking Pearl Tower, gathering at the river front to see the full moon and generally delighting in some very rare time off!
One of the highlights for us was experiencing the ‘ERA’ Shanghai Acrobatics Show, where performers combine traditional Chinese arts in the form of acrobatics and martial arts with modern technologies such as lighting, music and crazy motor bikers driving 8 at a time in tiny cages. Performers also tossed giant urns in the air and caught them on their heads and petit women contorted their bodies into shapes that would make anyone wince.
All in all, China was an experience never to be forgotten, well most of it was anyway. Ste and I learned how to communicated by pointing at pictures and miming like charades, we ate one of the most delicious cuisines in our entire trip and also got to explore the most beautiful and ancient countries in the world.
Next stop…South Korea