For a long long time China meant Bruce Lee and the Great Wall. My first glimpse of China was through a Ladybird book on Marco Polo. A large part of this illustrated book contained images of the Mongol invaders and the Great Wall. As I grew, I got to learn more from Bruce Lee and later on Jackie Chan. With such stereotypes, I set out with my family on a trip to China in 2015.
My parents and I share an aversion to group tours except when it involves family. In this regard, I do prefer the backpack approach in a group not larger than four, but Mum decided to make things interesting and added her sisters to our China trip. And it turned out to be real fun. So you had Aunt Gemma and Uncle Vivian and Aunt Jovita coming down from the States and the four of us on a 10-day trip.
Via Hong Kong, we reached Chongqing (famous for the Chonqing Express) and got onto the Yangtze River Cruise. The cruise was amazing and we were on board for three nights going through the largest river in the world. So large, that even small ships made their way through its waters. With stops on the way at historical monuments and finally the entry through the Three Gorges Dam gave us an insight into this marvellous engineering feat.
Xi’an and Beijing were equally brilliant and I must say the guides assigned to our group were really fun. They were English students who were moonlighting as guides for foreign tourists. Aunt Jovita took a real shine to our guide Lucy who helped her get a Hello Kitty case for her iPhone. We were really fortunate to have guides who were patient and really warm to us. Having reached Xi’an, a few weeks after PM Narendra Modi, we were privy to the terracotta warrior selection backdrop against which he had posed for shutterbugs. There’s one thing about China, it’s history is meticulously chronicled and maintained. Their monuments are preserved carefully and restored wherever possible.
Beijing meant the Great Wall – that magnificent edifice against the Mongol invaders or dragons? The journey through the cable car gives you a wonderful view of the mountains around Beijing. And then you have the Wall, an exhausting and steep climb to the scenic spots, but definitely worth the effort.
All in all it was a memorable trip and a real fun episode with the gang. From bargaining with vendors, to negotiating the menu in restaurants, this was a real Swiss family Robinson adventure with a few more pleasures and comforts thrown in.