As most of you know, Devin and I took a vacation to China last month! Our goal is to travel the world so we are slowly checking destinations off of our list. We found an amazing deal for a two week guided tour to China through the company Sinorama and couldn't pass it up! We normally aren't the type of people who choose to purchase guided tours and normally like to explore the different locations on our own but we decided to give it a go and I'm so glad we did. Sinorama was amazing throughout the whole process and there was literally no way we would have been able to see everything that we saw without them! Plus the John, our guide, was great!
On to the things I learned and experienced.
China has so many things to explore!
There are literally so many temples, pagodas, museums, throughout China that it's impossible to see them all in one trip. Along with all of the historical sites there are also so many neat shops and streets that you just want to stop and explore everything.
I ended up loving squat toilets.
Before going to China I was prepared that I would have to get used to using squat toilets but I was pretty apprehensive about it. However, they are actually super easy to use and really are a lot more sanitary. When we got back to the states, I found myself kind of missing the squat toilets. However, the normal Western style toilets were still available at hotels and some restaurants so you only had the squat toilet in public places. If you're going to China definitely bring along toilet paper, public restrooms do not normally have it.
Skyscrapers are EVERYWHERE.
There are a lot of people who live in China, and I mean A LOT! One city that we visited only had 1 million people but the rest were around 6-10 million people, craziness! Due to this fact the government builds skyscrapers to house all of the people. They have been tearing down the small buildings and houses and replacing them with skyscrapers. The only time they keep the original buildings is if it's a historical area. Apparently the government builds the skyscrapers and then people buy them and rent them out. One of the people in our group had family who lived in Wuhan and they said that the average lifespan of a building is 25-30 years. They don't really do maintenance so once the building becomes so bad they tear it down, relocate the residents, and build another building. While driving around you will see a ton of skyscraper frames that are waiting to be finished.
You will be a celebrity!
On our first day we were told that we would be asked to take photos while we were out and about. We all kind of laughed it off and didn't think much of it until it actually happened. Our guide told us that Chinese people who live in the countryside do not get to see a lot of Westerners so it's a big thing when they see us. You will see them stare and watch you and take photos from afar. The ones that aren't as shy will come up and take a photo with you and practice their English. Devin and I took photos with children, teenagers, and adults. We also received hugs and kisses and were told we were beautiful.
China doesn't have cemeteries like we do.
In the city they have small plots that people can buy, however, in the country people are allowed to bury their relatives in the backyard. When we were on the train we would see small decorated mounds in the fields and our guide told us those were burial plots.
We exchanged our money when we landed in China but we also attempted to use our Discover card (Discover doesn't charge you exchange fees!) on bigger purchases so we would have cash for the smaller shops. However, we found that the card machines did not really work at a lot of places and it would take them about 20 minutes to get the card to actually go through so cash is really the way to go!
Now on to the photos and the locations we went to!
We flew into Beijing so our first stops were all the Beijing staples like the Great Wall!
Our first day was gorgeous weather and was still fairly warm. We took some photos in the hotel's courtyard before we headed out with our group.
Our first stop was the Temple of Heaven and Tiantin Park. This place was HUGE. We visited the temple as well as a bit of the park.
Once we saw the temple we went out to explore part of the park. In China, the older people will go to the parks in the morning for their exercise. You can find them singing and dancing and it's a lot of fun. Right after we took the photos below we found a huge group of people singing. They invited us over to sing and took our photos.
Next stop was Tiananmen Square. It's really neat to see all of the different walls and learn how segmented China used to be.
After Tiananmen Square we stopped for lunch and they had this amazing gold throne so of course I had to take a cell phone photo in it!
Next stop was the Forbidden City. It started to rain at this point and got super cold pretty fast! The city was amazing though and our favorite part was the rock garden. Fun fact (or gross fact): they originally got the the red color for their buildings by using animal blood mixed with some minerals. When the Olympics came to China, they repainted the first buildings of the Forbidden City and stuck with the original paint methods so they used animal blood again. (Once they old us this Devin touched the wall and I backed away from the walls! haha)
And of course some cell phone shots! If you can't tell we were pretty frozen at this point!
The next day we woke up and were greeted with snow as soon as we went outside. This was a day at the Great Wall and we weren't really prepared for the wind and cold!
The Great Wall was amazing!!!!! We climbed up one side of the wall and then stopped in the coffee shop for some coffee and cookies to warm up. It was soooo cold that day and super windy so it was unbearable but it made for super light crowds at the wall and we pretty much had the place to ourselves which was awesome!
You can see how windy it is here, just look at my hair! haha
I ended up buying a scarf at one of the shops at the wall since it was so cold so in these photos I look like your grandmother. :)