Visiting China in the early 1980s for the first time was an experience I will never forget. The contrasts with today are enormous as this country has made outstanding progress to catch up with the rest of the world. On a recent China vacation, returning to this country, my mind went back to memories from those days. Back then, vehicular traffic consisted almost totally of bicycles and trucks compared to the many modern cars to be found on the roads now. The style of dress consisted of both men and women primarily wearing the very practical but drab Mao suits. Today it would be hard to differentiate between Western and Eastern fashions. Living quarters were either prefabricated, dull-looking apartment buildings or attractive, traditional courtyard residences located in narrow alleyways. Now, in most major cities, the sky is often pierced by tall modern buildings towering above the remnants of older dwellings.
Before you come to the conclusion that the old China has disappeared from sight and progress is inevitable, let’s quickly say that many things don’t change and are preserved for posterity. The Chinese are well aware of their great heritage and have fondly preserved not just buildings but their inherent culture.
On Goway’s 17-Day Splendours of China & Tibet – Holiday of a Lifetime, the old and new are both front and centre. Here are some examples using some of China’s attractions. In Beijing, on entering the Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City, you step back immediately 400 years to the time of the omnipotent ruling emperors and see exactly how life was lived by them. Then, take a stroll down one of Beijing’s main thoroughfares, Wangfujing Street – with its modern shops, smart hotels, and numerous restaurants and cafes (also known as “Snack Street,” for the tasty as well as bizarre delectables).
The city of Xian was once the ancient capital of Imperial China, and its many treasures from that time are on display here including the 2000 year old Terracotta Warriors, originally made to symbolically protect the First Emperor of United China. Contrast this with some modern gated communities one can find here.
Shanghai will absolutely astound you with its modern infrastructure and exciting, pulsating ambience. Yes, the city has the look of a major Western contemporary metropolis, but there are still many traditional elements to be found such as the Bund on the waterfront, with its early 20th century grand architecture.
These are just three examples of with fascinating differences you will find on your China vacation.
However, not everything is as contrasting. On arrival in Lhasa, Tibet, you will come to a place which has not radically changed. Here, it is not unusual to see ethnic Tibetans walking down the street in colourful, traditional dress. Bustling street markets, the imposing late home of the Dalai Lama, the enormous Potala Palace located high on top of a hill overlooking the city, and traditional Buddhist temples and monasteries, all represent the old.
The Chinese countryside naturally doesn’t really change. The majestic beauty of the Yangtze River scenery is easily absorbed while relaxing on a modern river cruise ship. However, wait until you reach the huge hydroelectric dam towards the end of the cruise. This is a piece of modern engineering which will amaze you with its size and dimensions.
Suzhou is known for its serenity, and this is made evident while cruising through its network of narrow, ancient canals, entering one of the traditional and beautifully-laid out ornamental gardens which will once more transport you to another era. You will get the opportunity to visit a silk factory where the methods of producing silk haven’t changed very much from the way it used to.
There is so much more to China where the past and the present intertwine. What hasn’t changed is the friendliness of the people, the tasty and varied cuisine, and China’s pride associated with its long and eventful past.
On our 17-Day Splendours of China & Tibet – Holiday of a Lifetime, you will enjoy an exclusive, fully escorted tour which offers unique dining experiences, first class accommodation and a “promise of something special”.
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