Welcoming 2013 in China
As the new year approached I had decided long ago that I didn’t want to spend Christmas and New Year in the same city. It was definitely a stange experience having Christmas here but the adventurist side of me wanted to celebrate the turn of another annum elsewhere.
First Stop – Nanjing
Trains in China are really good for high speed travel and there is a large network in place. Since I have been here they have also just released a new high speed rail link between Guangzhou and Beijing which takes just eight hours. For a country the size of China that is incredibly impressive. For myself however I went from Fuzhou to Nanjing, one of the old capitals and victim of a major massacre during World War Two. With this, I packed my bags and set off. It takes just seven hours to get there and I was in a good amount of comfort. Nanjing is a beautiful city, with a lot of history intertwined in its small roads, city walls and museums. For all the culture however, once it started to get closer to midnight on December 31st I did edge my way closer to a cold Guinness and a heftily priced western meal. I loved every minute of it.
Then Up To Beijing
From Nanjing it is then very easy to get to Beijing, to the north. The train ride again was just four and a half hours and once again passed in a breeze. The prices are also much cheaper than what I am used to. Including my train journey from Beijing to Xi’an, a total of 23 hours travelling and two thousand miles covered, all in all it cost just 120 pounds. Not too bad for high speed and modern travel.
Beijing was easily the most amazing place I visited. There is so much to see and do in the city that you could probably spend a month without thinking too much about it. I managed to fit in the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Chairman Mao’s corpse, the Birds Nest and Olympic Park, the famous hutongs, saw my friend performing in a national singing competition and of course take in the Great Wall of China. The latter was easily the best thing that I have laid my eyes on in quite some time. I went to the Mutianyu section and although it is a little harder to get to this part, it is well worth the effort. Me and a friend from the hostel I was staying in (at this point I have to say the hostels here are cheaper, yet better than hostels in Europe to every last detail) trekked for about five hours up and down this excellent spectacle. Even in the icy harshness of the China snow it was truly breathtaking.
On To Xi’an
Onwards from Beijing, I travelled to Xi’an for the final leg of my journey. I didn’t know much about this city, aside from the Terracotta Warriors, but here too there are city walls and plenty to see through the day. There is a famous Muslim quarter serving rich and delicious food all day long – something you need after an exhausting day of sightseeing. For as little as 3 pounds you can rent a bike and cycle the entire distance around the city walls and take in the atmosphere from up high. I just about managed to circumnavigate the entire thing in 90 minutes, but I wish I had taken it a little bit easier because by the point I got to the hostel I went straight to sleep.
Flying back the following night, having seen the Terracotta Warriors – which too were fantastic to see after seeing them on TV so many times – I knew I had been on a trip I would never forget and thoroughly recommend.