Some years ago we went to China and were able to get a first glimpse of the Middle Kingdom. It is not the most beautiful country we have visited (we will talk about this one later because it is not well known and relatively seldom mentioned by mass tourism), but it is obviously the most surprising… among the forty lands we saw until now.
We had a wrong impression about China, as many Europeans have so far… We thought it was a communist country and, taking into account that Cristina lived in a communist country, we had prejudices and unclear opinions.
Nevertheless we wanted for so long to visit China; not because of the usual clichés (the Great Wall… that we have not seen so far 😉 but we shall fill this gap hopefully very soon), but mostly because by reading books, this people amazed us, this culture so different from ours and – last but not least – we discovered Chinese gastronomy during our studies in France… where many Chinese immigrant families run Asian restaurants.
One day, Cristina (who is always looking for this kind of literature) found a new touristic guide book about China and immediately bought it. She began to read it and, since it had a very practical layout, she made it from one part to the other, literally absorbing information. As it was made by a prestigious editor that we could trust, she made up her mind that it was time for us to head for China because it was clear we had to reassess our false opinions.
As usual, she began to prepare a two-week journey with day-by-day details, hotels, transportation, touristic sites, approximate budget (not unlimited of course ;-)… We won’t tell you here the traveling details, but here are some of our quick conclusions about our first trip through China (there will surely be others):
- China is a beautiful and interesting country to visit
- The communism in China does not have anything to do with the communist form in Romania or in other East-European countries… In China they practice an intelligent communism that constantly evolves and adapts to the capitalist world
- The Chinese are a welcoming people who, even if they do not talk English, French or other European languages (but since the Olympics things must have improved… and when the Chinese decide to solve a problem, the solution takes place at a totally different scale that those we are used to see in Europe!!!) we were able to understand each other (with little phonetic Chinese and lots of signs and smiles). No Chinese fellow whom we asked anything (a destination, an information, etc.) let us down until (s)he made sure we fully understood the answer to what we wanted to know. They even lead us to where we were heading when they failed making themselves understood by us. Amazing!
- Chinese gastronomy is a journey by itself. It was a true pleasure of the senses to eat, each and every day, their culinary specialties. And when I talk about specialties, do not imagine luxury restaurants because we did not have the money for such extravagances. We talk about small restaurants or snack bars or itinerant cookers. It is true that sometimes we had not so good culinary experiences, but it was a rare thing to happen. Truly.
So we traveled through south China from Shanghai to Tibet (Shangri-La) mostly by coach (we took the plane one time to Kunming) and we can assert that Chinese are very well organized at this point: transportation is cheap and comfortable.
Having a passion for gardens and all that it implies (plants, architecture, spirituality), Cristina was also positively startled by all we discovered in China where gardening art is part of the everyday life… so are sport, gymnastics, tai-chi, or collective dancing at dawn on one city’s main place or in the great public park in the surroundings.
It was truly an amazing journey and we long to come back to China very soon!