China - a very different culture to what we know here in the West. If you’ve never been there or fully researched it, this country can seem like a bit of a mystery you know nothing about. If you’re sat there thinking “I know China” then stop because Chinese takeaway does not count…the food they eat in China is actually very, very different to a Chinese takeaway in Ireland or America (for more information on Chinese food there is another blog on this website called “The Ultimate Guide to Food in Qingdao” which is all about food in a popular part of China). This mystery and contrast to what we know here is all the more reason to find adventure there. Find a Chinese adventure. However, another thing caused by the mystery is, how? How do I find adventure in China if I have no idea what it is fully like or what to do? Well, keep reading, my friend, because this blog will act as a sort of guide to help you pluck up the courage and go on an adventure in China.
With over 9,000 rooms, covering 74 hectares, has two huge sections, a 10m high wall and a 52m wide moat, what does that make you think of? No, not Donald Trump … a castle. This huge palace complex is the biggest in the world and served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors during the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qin (1644 - 1911) Dynasties. Fun fact: the palace took over 14 years to build during the reign of Emperor Chengzu. You can go to the palace that had all the power, North of Tianamen square in the city centre of Beijing. Back to that 10m high wall, there are two gates in this wall, one on the North side and one on the South, these gates are 961m apart which just proves how big this palace is. There are also structured towers on all four corners of the wall that enable you to see over the wall and over the city around it. The whole palace is split into two sections: Northern and Southern, these two sections served different purposes for the emperor. Northern section: the outer court, this is where the Emperor used is power over the nation of China. Southern section: inner court, this is where the Emperor lived with his Royal family.
LESHAN GIANT BUDDHA
Just a little clue: “giant” is in the name of this sacred attraction, the Leshan Giant Buddha is 71 metres/23 feet/10 stories tall, making it almost eye to eye with the statue of Liberty and by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world, as it was made 1300 years ago. The shoulders are 28m wide, the eyebrows are 5.5m long and there are 1,021 twists in the hair (I wouldn’t want to be his hairdresser). Just to add to how big this is, allegedly 100 monks could sit on the foot of this giant and anyone can sit on the little toe. This ancient wonder of the world is thought to be Maitreya - a disciple of Sakyamuni (thought to be the founder of Buddhism) and between the 4th and 7th centuries, worshipping Maitreya was very popular. Lots of Buddhist pilgrims come to this site because of it’s value to Buddhism, therefore making it a sacred place. Built into a cliff face of Mount Lingyun and made from stone, this truly is a unique thing to see at the meeting of 3 rivers (Min River, Qingyi River, Dadu River) in the East of Leshan city. The Leshan Giant Buddha is built into a cliff face in Leshan city, which is where you have to get to if you want to see this magnificent creation, the best way to get to Leshan city is to get the bus/coach from Chengdu for RMB47. These buses leave Chengdu’s Xinnanmen bus station (south of the river) every 20 minutes or so and the journey is about 2 hours 30 minutes.
The fact that you can get there from Chengdu makes the plan out of your adventure very easy because another place you can go to from Chengdu (on a plane this time) is Xian. Why is this important? Well, in Xian there is another absolutely incredible tourist attraction called the Terracotta Army, you might have heard of it before. This makes it very easy for you to plan out where and when you will go to the specific places that you want to see in China. For example: you can fly to Chengdu and take a break from planes by going on the bus to Leshan and see the Giant Buddha, get the bus back and hop on a plane to Xian to see the Terracotta Army. For an example plan of what you could do for your adventure scroll down.
It only makes sense to now move on to the Terracotta Army. We’ll begin with a bit of history but don’t worry this is not a history lesson, I assure you it will be short and sweet. The Terracotta Army was found as a chance discovery in 1974 - after over 2000 years buried secretly underground. This life-sized army of Terracotta warriors took 37 years to secretly build, for the purpose of guarding the tomb of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shin Huang. Part of this Army is in the live museum: Emperor Qinshihunag Mausoleum Site Museum in Xian. This museum doesn’t just let you see this ancient Army but shows the life story of the emperor and the Qin empire (221-207 BC). Just as a warning, you do need your passport when buying tickets and when entering the museum so don’t just leave it in your luggage for your flight home. The price of a Xian one day Terracotta Warrior tours is $57. The best way to probably get here is by plane because the train takes about 6 hours from Beijing and Shanghai - which are two cities that would be worth the visit. By plane it would only take 2 hours to get to Xian from Beijing, 3 hours from Shanghai and 1 hour 30 minutes from Chengdu.
Want a terrifying but undeniably amazing experience that can’t be replaced in any way? Fancy actually being able to go all the way up a cliff face and see all the views available that could have been wasted. Well, when you’re on your adventure in China go have a little peak at the Bailong elevator in Zhagjiajie, a lift that goes all the way up a cliff face in a beautiful scenic national forest park. However, this does go 335m/1099ft high so if you have a phobia of heights this may not be for you, but going on a Chinese adventure is all about facing your fears and going out of your comfort zone so give it a try. I’m afraid to say that, like most things, this experience is not free: for an adult it costs RMB72 or £8.21 to go on this lift up a cliff face. I think some facts about this lift are needed: the maximum capacity of this lift is 50 passengers at a time and it’s speed is 5m/s, there is a one way travel time of 66 seconds. These two facts lead to this next one, with 3 lifts running simultaneously, 400 passengers could go up the lift in 1 hour. It seems a bit stupid just going to Zhangjiajie just to go a lift for 66 seconds, so after your trip up the lift - or before - you could have a look around at the national park surrounding it. For all you tree-lovers out there, Zhangjiajie National Forest park has 97% of it covered in trees, so there’s no shortage of oxygen for you out there.
Since the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) this natural phenomena has been known as the “First Wonder of the World”, but how did this come to be? The stone forest is a typical example of Karst topography - about 270 million years ago, the region that is now the stone forest was covered in sea and movements in the lithosphere caused this water to retreat to create a limestone landscape, after constant erosion by different elements, what we know today began to appear. Due to it’s magical appearance, there are many myths and legends about the stone forest, learning these stories could help make your Chinese adventure even better. A 3 hour drive from Kunming (there’s another blog on this website all about Kunming if your want to know more about the city) in Shilin Yi Nationality Autonomous County, there’s plenty of ways you can get there. Get the bus from Kunming airport that has a specific line that goes to the stone forest. The bus leaves at: 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00. Or you could get a bullet train from South Railway station to Shilin West which only takes 20 minutes and only costs RMB29 for a first class seat and RMB18 for a second class one. After you’ve got off the train jump on bus 99 to the scenic area directly for another 50 minutes - the bus leaves at an interval of 30 minutes from 7:50 - 22:30. Once you’ve got there the admission fee is RMB175.
EXAMPLE ROUTE FOR THE ADVENTURE
We begin in the UK and fly straight to Beijing to see the Forbidden City and have a look around the capital city of China, spend as long as you like here, there’s plenty to see in Beijing. Then you can get the train or fly to Chengdu:
- 2nd class, $117.39
- 28 hours
- 27 hours
As mentioned before, once in Chengdu, you can get the bus to Leshan to see the Leshan Giant Buddha and back. I think that the easiest way to do this is fly to Chengdu instead of the train because you can get the bus from Leshan airport.
The bus journey:
- 2 hours
As you know, next you’ll be going to see the Terracotta Army by flying to Xian
- 1 hour 35 minutes
After seeing the brilliant Terracotta Army, you’re now on your way to see the Bailong elevator, but you need to get to Zhangjiajie. You can fly or get the train:
- No direct train so you need to transfer
- Total time of journey: 15 hours
- Places you might need to transfer at
- Pingdingshan West
The next journey will be a flight as well because the bus station is at the airport so, like before, it makes it easier. You will be flying to Kunming to then get the bus to see the magical stone forest and then back to Kunming. Information for the flight to Kunming:
- 1 hour 40 minutes
Information for the bus to the stone forest is written in the stone forest section.
After a lovely walk around the stone forest you can hop on the bus back to Kunming airport and fly home, full to the brim of unbelievable memories.
Obviously you’re not just going to full-on trek across China for days without sleeping therefore you’re going to need to sleep at some point and places to stay, so you know where and when to book hotels or hostels (where ever you want to stay). Here’s a little guide on when you could stay in a specific place overnight.
Places you’ll be going to:
Beijing - Chengdu - Leshan - Chengdu - Xian - Zhangjiajie - Kunming - Stone forest - Kunming - Beijing
I think that you should stay over night here, because Beijing is one big and stunning city and you need to see more of it than just the Forbidden City, so spend a day looking around and then have a good nights rest ready for your long journey to Chengdu.
The journey from Beijing to Chengdu is 27 hours so if you leave early in the morning from Beijing you’ll get to Chengdu the next morning, ready to go to Leshan, see the Buddha and get back to Chengdu for the night. After two bus journeys and a visit to the Leshan Giant Buddha - it’s time for a rest.
In Xian you’ll be at the museum all day and the next journey is 15 hours, so I think it’s best to stay over and leave for Zhangjiajie in the morning.
If you leave Xian, lets say at 7:00, you’ll get to Zhangjiajie at around 22:00, which will be too late you to see and go up the Bailong elevator. So after staying over that night, go to see the Bailong elevator and have a stroll in the national forest park. Then have another night there as well, you can stay over the night in Zhangjiajie ready to go to Kunming and the stone forest.
Remember this is just an example of an adventure, you can do whatever you want on your Chinese adventure and just make sure you enjoy it and come back with new skills and new memories because that’s what an adventure is for. Hopefully, this blog has helped you decide what to do on your Chinese adventure and maybe calm a few nerves you might be having.