My wife and I recently returned from a trip to China. We flew out on Saturday morning January 19th non-stop to Shanghai and returned on Saturday, February 2nd after a non-stop flight from Beijing. We were part of the Worldwide Explorers’ photography tour (https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/ ; https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/blog ) – a very small group, only six of us plus three guides, one of whom was our Chinese interpreter.
We went from Shanghai to three “water towns,” old villages east of Shanghai unchanged for a thousand years. Then we went east to Zhangjiajie, China’s first national park, a UNESCO heritage site and the location for the movie Avatar. When we returned to Shanghai, the photo tour was over but we had hired the Chinese interpreter as our guide for Beijing. We took a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing and then got to see the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo and the Great Wall before heading back.
China is a fascinating country; it should have a sign when entering that says “country under construction.” Everywhere we went, even in the rural areas, buildings were either being built or torn down. Sometimes it was hard to tell which one it was. Shanghai is a city of contrasts – the very modern skyscraper city, the elegant old Bund and, just a few blocks away, the old, old back streets of an earlier Shanghai. The water towns were very interesting. I expected to arrive at them in a rural setting. Instead, we drove and stopped in a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city. Very strange.
I could have spent days at the Forbidden City. Supposedly, it has buildings whose rooms total 9,999. Even during the off-season (January), it was very crowded. By contrast, we went to a sparsely visited section of the Great Wall. Most of the pictures you see of the Great Wall are probably taken around Badaling. This section has been completely restored and is only a short hike (5 minutes) from taxi to wall. We went to Simitai which is much less traveled and also not restored. We had an hour hike to get to the wall but we were the only ones there.
A few pictures of Shanghai at night; more photos of the trip will follow.