Back to the Middle Kingdom

Sometimes in life, fate strikes and it becomes clear that certain things were just meant to happen.

This trip to China was one of those moments.

My little brother (Tom) and I had been planning an end-of-HSC backpacking trip around China since June. We’d booked almost everything, timed it to be across the Schoolies period and were pretty much ready to go.

Then, two days before his first HSC exam, he lost a close friend. Our holiday was scheduled for three weeks later and, as it turns out, the trip we’d booked six months earlier came at the perfect time. Escaping to the one place in the world without Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat gave both of us a much-needed break from Sydney.

Anyway, onwards to the trip. We had 3 weeks and I wanted to hit everything. It was going to be fast paced, constantly moving cities, hostels and everything on transport ranging from overnight trains, planes to buses and taxis.

I’ll stretch this into a few posts so that I can really describe this trip. Here’s an artistic map I made of our itinerary:

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 4.01.52 pm.png

We landed first in Beijing, then went to Xi’an, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Yangshuo, Guilin and Guangzhou. Hitting 8 cities in 18 days was going to be a challenge, but one we were certainly ready for.

We had pre-booked most stuff, mainly because internet can be dodgy in China and it seemed easier to book everything before we went where possible. I think also it gave us a rough guide on how long we had in each city which meant when we got there, so we knew what we could see and do. 

I’ve done both pre-booked and more YOLO travelling before, and overall I prefer booking at least most of my accommodation before I go. Knowing that you have somewhere to stay in each place is good, and it also means you usually end up staying in a pretty decent part of the city. It also helps to make sure that you end up going everywhere you want and see most of what you want to see. In China particularly, the airports and train stations aren’t always close to the city and having emailed instructions from the hostels came in handy more than once. 

In terms of travelling in China, a lot of people seem to think it’s hard, the language barrier is too much, we can’t get around, the food is different, etc etc. I’ve personally never had these experiences. 

Even Tom occasionally navigated in China…

Yes, it’s not as easy as Europe to travel around. However – most people speak English, if they don’t they’ll usually point you to someone who does. Travel is easier than Sydney in many ways thanks to an efficient, cheap metro system in almost every city. If you suspect you might be eating dog – don’t order it! Stick to what you know if you’re not sure of the food, or just eat vegetarian. China is a country that is huge on vegetables so they’re easy to come across. 

China is a unique travel experience. The people are incredible, the cities overwhelming and the sheer size and operation of the country is unbelievable when compared to Australia. My advice to everyone is to give it a go at least once. And if you feel like a fish out of water, head to Shanghai – you’ll feel at home in no time. 

Next up: Our adventures in Beijing and Xi’an including an overnight train, getting lost in Beijing, Tom’s Thanksgiving on top of the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors.

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