CHINA IS NEAR
Enrico Emanuelli wrote his travel diary in 1957 “China is near”.
Now it certainly is more than then.
I have been to China twice, arriving in Beijing both by plane and with the Transmongolic from Moscow.
To move in China I have always chosen the plane, quite cheap.
And it’s an experience that needs to be done.
Incredible and absurd to see practically all the passengers get up from the seat to take the luggage from the parcel shelf while the plane had taken off for 1 minute.
Comical to see that when a person with a seat near the window or in the first rows got up to go to the bathroom, at least 10 passengers jumped up and ran to fill his seat.
And all in the indifference of the hostesses.
WHERE TO GO
Beijing is an incredible metropolis.
I remember the loss at the exit from the central station after the Trans-Siberian journey. Thousands of people walking fast from side to side, cars, buses, taxis, bikes looking for a passageway in the chaotic traffic.
I took the taxi to go to the hotel but the taxi driver, with Formula1 gloves and a hat he probably imagined as a helmet, after having reached the area of my hutong slapped himself several times because he couldn’t find the right address and was wasting his time.
I got out of the taxi and walked to the hotel.
It should be noted, however, that Beijing is more than half the size of Belgium but has almost twice as many inhabitants.
Imagine having to go to a little street not shown on any map, in a metropolis 50 km from your home. Would you be able?
To see Beijing they definitely need a few days.
For the Forbidden City at least half a day is required.
Mao’s Mausoleum is in Tien’anmen Square, the exact center of the capital. Beyond the visit, one remains almost hypnotized in the enormity of the square and it is nice to stop and watch the world pass before one’s eyes.
You can’t go to Beijing without getting lost in its tight hutongs. The old Beijing is here, among the elderly who play Chinese checkers and the market where you could eat grasshoppers, scorpions, cockroaches and much more.
For sports fans, going to the Olympic Stadium (the famous Bird’s Nest or to the National Aquatic Center (the Water Cube) makes you imagine being an athlete of the 2008 Olympics Games.
The Temple of the White Cloud is the symbol of Taoism.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall runs along the mountains and the Chinese plains for at least 21.196 km. There are many characteristic features, more or less original.
The options will be endless and choosing the best excursion is almost impossible.
I chose to go to the most authentic part of Jinshanling the furthest from the center of Beijing and therefore less beaten by tourists. In this section, reachable on foot or by cable car, there are 31 guard towers with different shapes and features.
And do not believe in legends: the Great Wall is not visible from Space.
The metropolis of Xi’an is very lively even at night, thanks to the night market where you can eat typical dishes at very reasonable prices.
It is located near the historic walls of the ancient city. The city develops around this protective barrier, 12 meters high and 15 thick.
Two other symbols of the city are the towers of the Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose and the Pagoda of the Little Wild Goose.
But Xi’an is known everywhere for the Terracotta Army.
On March 29, 1974, peasant Yang Zhifa, digging a well in his land, found a terracotta statue and a bronze arrowhead at a depth of 15 meters.
He advised the government that it immediately became active in the archaeological excavations, bringing to light the Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang. The first emperor wanted to bring his army with him to the afterlife. The Terracotta Army is made up of life-size statues, one different from the other, built and painted by hand, general representatives, foot soldiers, archers, crossbowmen, carts and horses.
The Army is positioned exactly in the precise military battle array.
Finding yourself in front of him, even if in terracotta, gives you a certain awe.
On the outskirts of the capital of Sichuan, reachable by bus, stands the Giant Panda Research Center.
The emotion is so great when suddenly, in the forest that recreates their natural habitat, a giant panda appears intent and eating bamboo.
And immediately after another, and another, and another.
Here there are many giant pandas, from the big ones to those just born in the incubators.
They can be seen eating, playing among each other and sleeping. Funny and unfortunately constantly at risk of extinction.
And walking in the avenues one incurs even in the smallest red panda.
Here you will certainly spend pleasant and exciting hours.
At about 150 km, near Leshan, there is the Giant Buddha Statue.
The largest Buddha statue in the world, 71 meters high, represents the seated Buddha with his hands resting on his knees.
The statue is directly carved in the rock, in front of Mount Emei and at the point where the rivers Dadu, Minjiang and Qingyi meet.
In 713 the Chinese monk Heitong started the work so that the Bhudda would make the waters calmer for navigation.
And the Bhudda, along with the enormous mass of rock excavated and deposited in the rivers at the foot of the statue, has really lowered the water level making the navigation safer.
So much so that the Buddha can now be seen either from one of the many boats that stops nearby, or by going down the stairs to the side of the statue.