China will forever remain a country i closely identify with, as it was there that I had my first ever overseas assignment where I was among the Kenyan delegation that launched the Kenya Tourism Board Marketing Campaign – Magical Kenya which was inaugurated by the then President Mwai Kibaki and then Minister of Foreign Affairs Raphael Tuju amongst others in Beijing. Now is when it dawns on me how big those “shoes i wore” then were! So heres here to literally the BC of Mainland China – presenting Beijing & Chengdu.
China is home to the famous Chinese philosopher and teacher Confucius; whose many quotes resonates with most today. His teachings were based on ideas regarding wisdom and emotional intelligence otherwise called the school of life. Ever heard “Confucius says – if at first you don’t succeed do it like your wife told you”. Men please take notes! But that’s a story for another day.
Thing I noted most about Mainland China is that you have to be really aware of the place your travelling to as there are many cities and provinces which are so similar even in wording you may just end up in the wrong town. And to make matters worse, most local people there speak Mandarin and are not familiar with English or other foreign languages. They however have portable devices they use to translate English to mandarin and vice versa in order to communicate and that requires a lot of patience. A place like Chengdu which is home to the Panda can be quite a challenge communicating with the local people. Getting around though is easy as metros, buses and cars are readily available and besides you can just bike around as you tour the city.
In Chengdu Some of the places to visit include the Chengdu Panda Research base center where a lot of conservationists visit to learn about the breeding of the giant Panda which is done to save it from extinction. The red Panda can also be seen at the centre and its also considered an endangered species. Pandas are bears if you like.
Some other touristic places include the worlds tallest and largest stone Buddha statue carved on a cliff known as Leshan Giant Buddha and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the creativity and its size. Viewing of the carving can be done by going down the cliff then climb back up which is what we did or from the ferry though at a cost. If you choose to hike be ready for some intense climbing. Ohh it hurts!!
Beijing, the communication struggle is not as bad as its cosmopolitan but some English speaking Chinese take advantage and pose as tour guides who extort you money if not careful. You will find them at the metro stations where they target tourists who seem not familiar with the city. For us we bumped into them at the metro stop to Forbidden City. Speaking of which is also a UNESCO declared World Heritage site and was known as the home of the emperors. You can listen to all that history through headphones they provide inside the museum.
It’s also in Beijing that you get to climb the Great Wall of China which is almost one and a half hours drive away from the city. There is no direct metro train therefore to get there you can use a private car or a tour bus. The peaks at the Great Wall are highlighted by tiers and the higher up you go the more windy and steeper it gets. They have a small brief mounted at the base regarding the history of TGW.
The tour bus offered us a complimentary visit to the Chinese theatre to watch some theatrical shows which are so hilarious. Also visit to the Silk, Herbal Tea and Fine China shops is complimentary where you can make your purchases if interested. As for food options, this is very dependent on a person’s choice because Chinese menu is “quite colorful” and if you’re like me maybe you’re better of at McDonalds for a vegetarian meal.