Places to Visit in China from From Beijing To Hong Kong
September 7, 2019
by Elena Lavrova
My journey to China started several years ago when I visited Chinatown, the Chinese district in London.
London’s Chinatown is located in the heart of the city, and it is incredibly easy to get ‘from Europe to Asia’ just by turning from an adjacent street into the quarter itself. I always liked watching narrow streets of Chinatown, with their hieroglyphs coming to life, sensing the scents of Oriental food gradually filling the air…
Every time I come to London, I visit this “little China”, and every time I find it more fascinating however, with time it became too small for me. Thus, my friends and me started our trip to Great China.
We tailored our own route to include historical Beijing with its Imperial palaces, monasteries and temples, and, of course, the Great Wall of China. We also wanted to stop in Shanghai, to see the natural beauty of China; walk along the streets of one of the country’s ancient cities and to visit Hong Kong.
Beijing turned out to be an unexpectedly spacious green city. It was not crowded at all but there was a great number of tourists willing to enjoy the cultural heritage. We were surprised by the fact that the majority of tourists come from all over China. On some tours, we were the only non-Chinese tourists and we were the centre of attention – everyone wanted to take a picture with us.
Beijing was sunny, bright and friendly.
After a two-hour flight from Beijing to the south-east of China we hit the edge of the majestic mountains and age-old forests: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It is a reserve famous for its rock formations, which look like giant candles. There are mountain peaks covered with dense canopies of trees over a century old. When the morning fog rises from the lowlands, hiding the foot of the mountains, they seem to begin to float in the air. We can see such mountains in paintings by Chinese artists. They served as the prototype of floating mountains in the Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar”, it was a photo of these mountains that I wanted to bring home from Zhangjiajie!
However, the sun shone for our two days. There remained a hope for drizzling rain, which would have created an atmospheric haze and provided the desired effect. I prayed for it to rain.
On the third day it started raining. However, it was a downpour, which made the mountains became nearly invisible! The weather in the mountains is unpredictable, but the mountains themselves, of course, are always perfect! Although I did not take the shots I was hoping for, the mountains taught me a very important lesson- to suspend my activity and reverently contemplate their greatness.
The next day the rain accompanied us on the road to the old town of Fenghuang, and it only stopped the next morning. Fenghuang Ancient City is located in China’s Hunan Province, on the banks of the river Tottszyan. The city is over 450 years old. It has never seen wars or natural disasters, it is not touched by modernization, and many of its buildings have preserved the urban layout and aesthetic of the Ming Dynasty. Wooden boats, traditional food and clothing, narrow streets, cobblestones, Chinese houses built on stilts.
In the evening on that day we arrived in Shanghai. The emergence of modern Shanghai started at the end of the 20th century, and now it is a bright, westernized busy metropolis, which can be seen from the Oriental Pearl TV tower. However, there is another face to Shanghai – the Old Town. Part of it is developed and turned into a tourist quarter. Another part resembles a large overcrowded communal apartment. Here narrow streets transform into arches and lead to cozy courtyards cluttered with bicycles and household items. Clothes hang on electrical wires, which cover facades of the buildings and the clatter of dishes and the sound of the game mah-jong come from windows.
Suzhou impressed me with its beautiful Chinese gardens. A typical Chinese garden includes several man-made ponds, surrounded by a group of rocks and trees, elegant pavilions and pergolas, winding paths and beautiful bridges.
The trip to Hangzhou took a whole day. And it was worth it, despite the incessant rain. On the contrary, the rain came in handy! It reduced the colours of the shores of the famous West Lake and clouded pagodas. The rain darkened the stone grottoes carved with sculptures of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, surrounding one of the most famous Buddhist temples in China: the Lingyin Temple.
We spent our last day of our tour of China in Hong Kong. Although today Hong Kong is actually part of China, it still feels like it is practically a separate country. Its inhabitants call themselves Hong Kongers and prefer to speak English to Chinese. Hong Kong impressed us with its skyscrapers and omnipresent advertising, struck us with its dense population and chaos, knocked us over with its indefatigable pace of life and surprised us with its contrasts. In the city a western way of life is closely intertwined with the ancient culture and traditions of China. For example, many Hong Kongers worship dragons and believe these exist. No wonder people of Asia have given Hong Kong the nickname “little dragon”. One day was definitely too little time to get to know this city-state, and flying away, I deliberately left my umbrella at the airport to return there once again.