China is a land of contrasts that offers both thriving modern metropolises such as Shanghai and Beijing as well as cities steeped in tradition and history such as the ancient city of Xian, the first capital city of China.
We spoke to Gate 1’s own Maria Metusela who recently returned from the 11 Day China with Chengdu tour and asked for the lowdown on her time in China.
What was it about China and this tour that made you want to go on the trip?
I am fascinated with ancient history and architecture so the thought of seeing the Terracotta Warriors and walking the Great wall of China was very attractive to me.
I also thought it would be interesting to see how a country of 1.4 billion people work, live and operate.
Add real life pandas to the mix and I was hooked and ready to go.
What was the highlight of the trip?
What stood out to me the most on this trip was our visits to the local parks in Xian and Chengdu.
The parks in China are quite different compared to Australia with regards to how they are used. The local park we went to in Xian was a park that many seniors/retirees would visit each morning. They go there to exercise, play games and for dance and singing rehearsals. We got to join in on all these things which was fun and gave us a glimpse of how their day starts off.
We even went to a park in Chengdu that had a matchmaking corner. Parents would write their child’s name, date of birth, occupation, education and such on a piece of paper and pin it on a board. The parents would then walk around looking at other resumes on the board, chatting with other parents to see if their children would make a good match.
I enjoyed these visits very much as it gave me the opportunity to interact with the locals and to get a true understanding of their way of life.
What was your favourite meal or what food did you have that you really enjoyed or felt was very authentic?
I thoroughly enjoyed the food in China. All the restaurants that we went to on this trip were local and authentic. There were no other tourists in there but us.
Most of the meals were Lazy Susan style with such a variety of dishes and so flavoursome that you couldn’t help but try them all.
The Peking Duck dinner for our orientation night in Beijing was amazing and was definitely my favourite meal. I also enjoyed the food in Xian especially one of their local dishes “biang biang noodles”.
What surprised you about China that made it different from other places you have visited?
What surprised me about China was that each city that we went to was different from the other. No two cities were the same which made it feel like a whole new experience.
Even the food we had in each city, although the dishes were the same, they were cooked in a slightly different way with different flavours.
You can see the influences from the different dynasties in the different cities. Xian had a more historical feel to it being the ancient capital of China. Beijing was a mix of old and new.
Chengdu had a very commercial and industrial feel to it whereas Shanghai was very modern and cosmopolitan.
What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip?
Always carry tissues around with you as you will need it when touring during the day.
It can get crowded when visiting some historical sites so always keep your Gate 1 whispers on so that you are aware of where your guide is at all times.
What did you enjoy the most about the Gate 1 escorted tour?
The organisation of this tour was simply outstanding. Everything was taken care of so I did not have to worry. Joe our Tour manager was exceptional and called us his family. We were never too late or too early for anything on the itinerary so nothing was missed out and the day ran smoothly. I also learnt so much about the history of China, the people and the culture through Joe and our equally informative local guides.
If you’re thinking of touring China you can browse our website for a whole range of options to suit your preferred travel style and budget. If you book a Gate 1 China tour by the 31st of December you can save $200 per person when you quote the promo code FBCHINA200A. Simply quote the promo code at the time of booking to receive the discount. Call 1300 653 618 if you have any questions and we look forward to welcoming you to China soon!