Chinese Soujourn

Kishor Krishnamoorthi was feeling adventurous when he decided to spend two weeks in China all alone. Read on as he tells us about his experiences.

When I decided to travel across China solo for two weeks, I had no clue what to expect. I wanted to see what life was like in the most populous country in the world, so I took an open mind with me. That fortnight, I was intrigued, surprised and amazed by the range of experiences the country had to offer.

I landed in Beijing on a foggy winter morning, and was greeted by gaggle of cheery and helpful Chinese people on the bus from the airport. They were more than happy to give me directions to my hotel. After familiarising myself with the surroundings, I decided to walk to Tiananmen Square which was only a couple of kilometres way. During the walk, I had a firsthand experience of being a stranger in a strange land. But in a weird way, enjoyed it. Tiananmen Square was exactly what it said on the tin: a vast open square filled with patriotic Chinese families taking photographs of each other. However, the pièce de résistance was the large, conspicuous entrance on the opposite side of the square, leading to the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City was a stunning place with so much to see that it is physically impossible to take in every detail of it within a day. The abundance of parks, monuments and relics definitely kept me occupied during my stay there. Before my final day in Beijing, I took a train to Badaling to see the highlight of my trip - the Great Wall of China. And boy, was it breathtaking! I spent a good few hours walking across both the north and south sides of the wall, and got to watch the sun setting across the impressive structure of the wall.

The second pit stop of my trip was Shanghai - a complete contrast to culture-rich Beijing. Skyscrapers, bright lights and endless crowds sum up the atmosphere of the city. Unlike Beijing, there aren’t many historical structures, but the fast developing city had lots of activities to keep me occupied. Over the course of the week, I enjoyed the views across the river in the evening, followed by a bit of clubbing with fellow members of the international community. The inequality in this rapidly growing city was also quite evident. The main shopping street is filled with stores of high international brands – from Rolls-Royce to Breguet – but just a few streets down you’ll find large families living in tiny rooms with minimal conveniences. While Shanghai promises a few streets that offer an old-world experience, every place is filled with tourists and touts waiting to sell you replica watches and fake Louis Vuitton bags.

The next and final stop of my trip offered a remarkably different environment and experience. Suzhou, also known as the Venice of the East, has canals running through it and is dotted with peaceful gardens, creating a very picturesque atmosphere. The main canal has plenty of tea rooms on its banks, where you can easily spend a few hours sipping tea and flipping through books left behind by fellow travelers. I loved my leisurely walks through the streets of Suzhou early in the morning, watching the town slowly come to life. However, Suzhou is also caught up in China’s massive development surge. Only a few minutes away from the quaint city centre, skyscrapers are starting to come to life and dominate the horizon. The people of Suzhou are extremely friendly, always ready to answer my curious questions even if they’re not comfortable with English.

At the end of my trip, I realised that China and India are not that dissimilar in terms of culture, attitude and rate of development. While the language barrier initially proved to be a slight challenge, I quickly learnt the importance of pointing, sign language and smiling. There is so much more to see in the vast nation, and I hope to visit again in the future.               -  Kishor Krishnamoorthi