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A foreigner's thoughts on some places in China (I was there briefly in summer 2001, just for a few weeks, and then again in 2004-2005 for 9 months): |
*Beijing--I was attending Beijing University, so I spent most of my time there. It's a big, crazy, dirty city, and I was homesick by the end of my stay, but it truly is/was my home away from home in China. It's a big mix of old and new, there's always something going on, and every foreigner I know who's been to Beijing has some weird story that seems like it couldn't happen anywhere else. Beijing is sort of like one of your best friends who is a little bit wild (not all the time, but enough to know that any adventures outside of the daily routine run a 50-50 chance of having something strange happen)--you love her, and even though she might drive you a little crazy sometimes, you don't want her to change because she's just so much fun.
*Shanghai--A great city for shopping and being cosmopolitan, but not so good for cultural activities. However, xiaolongbao are delicious, and almost worth a trip just by themselves! Shanghai seems to think it's New York City.
*Nanjing--Sort of like a watered-down version of Beijing. I wasn't very impressed. To make things worse, the train station was undergoing construction and it was total anarchy in there. Ack! But I liked all the people flying kites.
*Kunming--So pretty and welcoming. I was there in January, and the weather was beautiful. It has a very cozy, neighborhood-like feel to it. Plus it has some surprisingly good Western food (I know, I know, I should be savoring the local cuisine, but I'd just spent a while in Dali and Lijiang, and I was ready for a little taste of home). The lake in the center of town is pretty, and the Flower and Bird Market is great to go and look through.
*Lhasa--A world away from the other cities I visited in China. Breathtaking at every turn. Worth all the nuisance of travel permits and expensive plane tickets. A must-see.
*Dalian--A clean, proper little city. People did speak very clear putonghua, which was nice. Maybe it was just where we visited, but the city felt a little too organized and somewhat lacking in real substance. Also, I don't know who named it the fashion capital of China, but it definitely wasn't. The sea air was very nice, though.
*Guilin--The weather was a little foggy, since it was winter, so our views weren't great, but it was still a nice city. My friend and I lucked out and found a cabbie who helped us find a hotel room and even took us around to see the sites virtually for free. The food was a little scary sometimes (a chicken head on my plate? Eh, not really to my taste), but overall I enjoyed it.
All the other places I've been (either not cities, or I didn't stay long enough to get a good impression):
*Tianjin--Seemed nice. I went to some temple where they had statues for every birth year for the last 60 years (full cycle of the Chinese zodiac), and that was neat. However, gobuli baozi tasted like regular baozi to me...
*Xi'an--Was there on my first, brief trip to China. I liked the terra cotta soldiers and the Wild Goose Pagoda(s)(?), but I don't remember much else.
*Hohhot--Also was there on my first trip to China. We spent a night out in the grasslands in addition to some time in the city. It was absolutely amazing and I want to go back--I've never seen the sky so clear with stars at night.
*Wutai Shan/Datong--Wonderful temples to see, but the highway getting there was very scary--long drops off of high cliffs with not much to keep the bus from going over... Still, I'd do it again.
*Yangshuo--Backpacker's heaven not far from Guilin. I was only there a night and I wish I'd stayed longer.
*Dali/Lijiang--Both beautiful places, with those mountains nearby and with the colorful towns. We went up (partway) Yulong Shan and Cang Shan, and we went to Tiger Leaping Gorge, and we took a tour around Er Hai. Even though it was cold (January), I still enjoyed myself. Well, except when I got a little altitude sickness in Lijiang; that wasn't so fun, but it was gone the next day.
*Suzhou--We did a day trip from Shanghai. We only had time to see the Humble Administrator's Garden. If I go back, I will stay longer and see more. That one garden was very pretty, though.
*Huang Shan--Like hiking in a scroll painting. Absolutely beautiful. We got lost on the way down and spent more time going up than down, but it was worth it.
Whew... I think that's everything!