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The China of opposites is attractive

Article published
18.2.2016 at 07:00
Lit up Chenghuang Pavilion in the evening.
Once you have seen Beijing, I recommend a river cruise on the Yangtze or a visit to the lesser-known cities around Shanghai. On these trips, the vastness of China and the riches of its history and culture become increasingly evident. The natural scenery makes a great impression on the way down China’s longest river.

Cruises start at Chongqing, a fast-growing industrial city of 30 million inhabitants. The city and its surroundings have plenty to see, if you have the time.

The river boats are of a high standard and typically provide full board, as well as various activities. You should keep your camera at the ready when the boat glides between vertical rock walls before reaching the Three Gorges Dam.

One of the world’s largest hydroelectric plants was completed in 2006, and the dam hides behind it a reservoir more than 600 kilometres long. The project has invoked diverse opinions, because when the lake has flooded, it has drowned entire villages and towns whose inhabitants have been forced to leave their home region.

At times, the boat takes passengers to visit cities on the coastline. One of them is the rebuilt Fengdu Ghost City.

Shanghai is the Paris of Asia

Cruises land at Yichang, where the trip continues to Shanghai by air. In Shanghai, the traditional Chinese way of life and rickshaws swerving in traffic mix with the latest trends and state-of-the-art technology.

Skyscrapers co-exist with colonial-era architecture, and monuments hark back to past dynasties. The city is also a shopping paradise.

Many people buy silk clothes or home textiles in China. Tailor services are also very efficient, and you can have a suit made during a one-week journey, for example.

China has four different cuisines. The Eastern cuisine in Shanghai is famous for its seafood and sweet tastes, whereas

the Western, or Sichuan, cuisine is feisty and fiery. I once thought I had made a safe bet asking for mildly seasoned Sichuan food, but its spiciness was just too much for me!

Go on an adventure in the rural Chinese towns

From Shanghai, it’s easy to visit “small towns” in the countryside and their rich atmospheres, taking you on an adventure hundreds of years into the past.

Hangzhou, the tea capital of China, is a paradise on earth, according to an old Chinese proverb. Did you know that according to local lore, Shen Nong, the father of Chinese agriculture and herbal medicine, discovered tea and its health effects by accident?

Some dried leaves had dropped from a tea bush into the boiling water and Shen Nong, intrigued by the scent, tasted the drink. He took a fancy to the taste of the drink, and found it had health-promoting effects.

Suzhou, along the Grand Canal, is known for its silk and glorious gardens. Back in the 13th century, Marco Polo likened it to his hometown of Venice.

It is easy to travel to China with the efficient flights of today. The most important thing to bring along is an open mind. In China, everything really is different.

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