A Journey Across China and Hiking The Chinese Great Wall

May 20, 2011

Getting Lost in Guangzhou

I headed over to Mainland China on a Tuesday morning. My exciting journey across China began with a half an hour subway ride. First I took the subway for about 45 minutes to the border of Hong Kong, then I walked across the border to ShenzhenThe Great Wall of China

Crossing The Chinese Border

Crossing The Chinese Border

I wanted to stay in Shenzhen for a day to explore the city, but I quickly realized that there was not much to see there. It was just another big city with shopping malls. I hopped on the train to Guangzhou. Guangzhou is the third biggest city in China after Shanghai and Beijing with a population of about 6 million people. It took an hour an a half to reach Guangzhou by train from Shenzhen. When I got there I quickly realized that nobody spoke any English at all and no one understood me and I was so lost. I was wondering around for about an hour with my heavy backpack until I found a person who could help me find my hotel. I was staying on the main street of Guangzhou called Tianhe Beilu, which is like the 5th Avenue of the city, but noone could understand me and point me to the right direction. I was so frustrated at that point. I had to go to a 7/11 and eat a few candy bars to relieve the stress that I was going thru. In the end I found a girl who walked me to my hotel. She spoke no English at all. She grabbed me by the arm and took me to my hotel. It was weird to follow someone who could not communicate with me at all. Next morning I realized that there was not much to see in Guangzhou either so I got a train ticket for the night train to Guilin. I spent the day walking up and down on the main street (Tianhe Bei Lu). The skyscrapers were all very new and they were bigger than any skyscrapers I had ever seen before. I felt very little and intimidated when I was walking around in the big city. The city was not very exciting and I was afraid that I would get lost again so I did not venture out to see more. Guangzhou had an amazing modern subway system. I took the train at 6 o’clock to the railway station and it was one of the scariest moments of my whole trip. There were thousands of people on the train station and they were all trying to get on the train. When a train arrived, nobody waited for the passengers to get off the train, as soon as the door opened thousands of Chinese people started running to the doors and tried to squeeze into the train. It was scary. It was obvious to me on the first day in China that the infrastructure was absolutely amazing. They have the best railway system in the World. Even the night train was great, clean and convenient. It was very easy to travel from one point to the next.The Great Wall of ChinaGuanzhou China

Guangzhou China

 Guilin, China

Guilin and Yongshou are one of the most famous sites in China, because of their famous karst formations and beautiful landscapes.
I arrived to Guilin early in the morning and checked into a hotel near the railway station. After that, I spent the day watching the rain outside from my hotel lobby. By the afternoon it cleared up and I decided to venture out to see the city. I quickly realized that it was impossible to find anything in the city, because nobody spoke any English. My map was in English too, so it was pretty much useless, because the street signs were in Chinese. So, I hopped on a double decker bus and rode it on the main road of the city to see the town. The city was not very exciting to be honest. I found a big park with a big lake and two Chinese towers and some pretty bridges. The Great Wall of China

Park in Guilin

Park in Guilin

Chinese Towers in Guilin

Chinese Towers in Guilin

I hung around there for a while, but then I headed back to the hotel, because I realized that there was not too many things to see in Guilin. The next morning I hopped on a bus to Yangshuo. The Great Wall of China

Yangshou, China

Yangshou is probably the most touristy place in the entire China. I loved that little town. I love touristy places. The bus ride from Guilin took about an hour and a half. Then I was lost again for an hour until I found my hotel. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away from the bus station, but took much longer to find it. At this point it was no surprise to me any more that no one spoke any English. Yangshou is a small town built around beautiful karst mountains situated by the Li River.

Landscape of Yongshou, China

Landscape of Yangshou, China

The scenery is very beautiful. On the first day I decided to explore the city on foot. West Street was the main street in the center of town with a huge market. You could literally buy anything there from food to clothing to Chinese goodies. I loved that market. It was a great place to buy souvenirs and street food.

Girl in a Traditional Outfit in Yongshou, China

Girl in a Traditional Outfit in Yangshou, China

In the afternoon it started raining and from that point on it pretty much rained for the entire time I was in Yangshuo. It was a bit annoying because I did not get to do any hiking or rock climbing as I planned. I still had a good time hanging out on the rooftop bars every night playing drinking games with the other tourists. I also frequently visited the market to get food and souvenirs. I spent my afternoons in the McDonald’s reading Orwell’s Burmese Days (that I bought in Burma) waiting for the rain to stop so that I could go out. The interesting thing about McDonald’s in China is that there is one on every corner and they are all totally packed all the time. I think Chinese people love McDonald’s. On the last day I rented a bike and biked around the outskirts of the town, but I was getting wet all the time so I was not happy. After two days I had enough of the rain and hopped on a train to Shanghai.

Shanghai, China

It took me about 22 hours on the train to get to Shanghai. The night trains in China are superb, so I didn’t mind the ride. This time my compartment was next to the wash room and I could hear Chinese people spitting in the wash room all night long. Chinese people spit all the time. I found this to be totally gross. In Shanghai I stayed at my German friend’s place. Ivo is the coolest German I have ever met in my life. We had much fun together. On the first night we went out for dinner and to several bars. He showed me the Shanghai skyline and the Bund.

Shanghai by Night, China

Shanghai by Night, China

 The Bund is a strip right by the river where people walk around and they can see the entire skyline of the modern Shanghai. I was so impressed by Shanghai. Imagine a city that looks like Paris on one side of the river and looks like New York on the other side. Shanghai was super cheap and incredibly modern. I ended up spending four days there. I took my friend’s bike and biked everywhere. I visited the Yuyuan Garden and the Old Town.

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, China

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, China

 Outside of the Yuyuan Garden there was a really big market. It was a great place. At night Ivo and I went to the fake market. It had an incredible collection of designer bags and everything else you can think of. So I shopped and shopped and shopped. Next day I visited the Antique Market and lots of shopping malls. I partied at Xin-Tian-Di at night with my new friends. I shopped so much in Shanghai. It made me so happy. I also took the ferry over to Pudong. Pudong is the modern part of Shanghai.

Pudong, Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

It looked like New York with all the skyscrapers. The architecture was super modern. I also saw a Chinese Acrobatic Show.

Shanghai Acrobatics Show

Shanghai Acrobatics Show

Shanghai Acrobatics Show

Shanghai Acrobatics Show

It was impressive. After 4 days of parting and shopping and biking around Shanghai, I took another night train to reach Beijing, my last destination on this trip. The railway station in Shanghai is the most modern railway station I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a futuristic airport. I got on the train and the train was superb as well. Each bed had a flat screen TV.

The Bund of Shanghai, China

The Bund of Shanghai, China

 Beijing, China

In Beijing I stayed at a beautiful hotel that had a big aquarium in the lobby and lots of flowers. It was a nice treat in the end of my trip. After checking in, I went to the modern district to have lunch with a friend of mine from New York.

Modern Architecture in Beijing, China

Modern Architecture in Beijing, China

My friend was so nice, he took me to a fancy restaurant to have Peking Duck. After that I went to see the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Forbidden City, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City is used to be the Imperial Palace for hundreds of years and it was forbidden for any common people to enter. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was huge. I met an American boy while I was exploring the Forbidden City and I ended up hanging out with him for the next three days. He was a fun guy. After that I crossed Tiananmen Square. It was almost 5 kms long. I actually did not walk all the way to the end. I was too tired. The Great Wall of China
Next day I went to see the Summer Palace.

Summer Palace, Beijing

Summer Palace, Beijing

The Summer Palace was about an hour away by subway. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was a huge lake in the middle and there were different palaces and buildings around it. I spent half a day walking around these buildings. I also took a boat ride on the river. After the Summer Palace I visited the Beihai Park. It was a humongous park. It was pretty but so windy. While walking towards the park I realized that Beijing was actually an ugly town. It is a huge, polluted industrial town. It wasn’t a very exciting place at all. The Great Wall of China

Hiking The Great Wall of China

On my last day in Beijing and on my last day on this vacation I hiked the Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

It was a wonderful experience. We hiked for about 3 hours. It was a pretty easy hike.
At night I went out with my new American friend to get dinner and some drinks. He was a fun company told me much about life in China. Next day I took the plane back to Europe. The Great Wall of China

Spending 3 months in Asia was absolutely incredible. It was a life time experience and I am so glad I was able to do it. The Great Wall of China

Read more about hiking and camping on The Great Wall of China.

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About Barbara

Barbara is a London based luxury travel and lifestyle blogger. She started traveling through Paris, London, New York, Milan, Tokyo at the age of 17 to conquer the World as a model. Ever since, she has visited 67 countries. She writes about the most exclusive jet-set destinations such as Cannes, Venice Film Festivals, Monaco Grand Prix, Oscar Parties in LA, Fashion Weeks in Milan or Paris as well as yacht parties in St-Tropez, Miami Art Basel, Biennale in Venice, Frieze in London or the Royal Wedding in Monaco.

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