Posted: August 24th, 2007 | Tags: | 2 Comments »

China was stunning. The mix of the modern, the traditional, the bizarre and the delicious is almost too much to take in. In some ways, it’s very, very Chinese (tea pickers, bicycles, temples, mountains, bad translations, pollution, great food) but it’ll still surprise you (high speed trains, good western food, clean streets, shopping malls and electronics everywhere, good bars). The food was incredible and the culture shock kept going. Everyday there was something new to thrill and we had a great time altogether.

We visited 4 cities. We spent most of our time in Hangzhou, where our hosts have been living for 6 months. Marco Polo described this city as “beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world.” We did most of our must-see sightseeing here: night markets, temples, pagodas, parks, lakes, tea tasting, supermarkets, eating strange things and general gawking at everything, as well as taking in the local ex-pat bar scene.

We visited Suzhou (“the venice of the east”) to see some traditional gardens and Nanjing, the ancient southern capital with some grand city walls and other sights.

Then we took the bullet train to Shanghai. Arriving in this city almost knocked me out – so this is the 21st century. We spent most of our time here with sore necks from looking up at the Jetsons architecture everywhere. We also visited the old French Concession part of town, an insect zoo, some city history museums, the old town and an indoor ski slope.

My general impression of the country is Gadzooks!. Granted we were in the richest part of the country, but you can still realise how far they’re going to be in 20 years. The people are smart, good-mannered and hard working. They’re growing smart: high speed transport everywhere and proper planning of new, green cities. It’s an interesting time to visit.

I have slapped some photos up on Flickr. As I’m a pretty crap photographer, the photos are mostly of sightseeing stuff and things that don’t move – I haven’t captured much of the little details and experiences of everyday people and places that made the place so much fun.