Chinese hustle and an unexpected encounter
China is crazy, China is different, China is challenging, China is beautiful. To talk about China in a few lines is impossible. We´ve been in China for five weeks now and we have about three weeks left before our visa expires. We might prolong our visa however, since we are really enjoying farm life right now and having a bit of routine and continuity after months of travelling. But we´ll talk more about that in another post…
The first week in China we spent in Beijing. To be honest we didn´t see very much of the city. After one month of traveling through the beautiful remote nature of Mongolia, we had our difficulties to cope with this enormously big city of nearly 25 Mio. people, the traffic, the congestion, the heat, and the restlessness of China´s capital. So we spent a lot of time in our AirBnB-apartment, where we rented a room in the studio of a Chinese artist, which also had a big balcony – chilling, relaxing, and digesting our experiences. When we did leave the apartment, it was mainly for food. Chinese food is absolutely delicious by the way. No matter if it´s the rice noodle soup for €1,50 at a small street restaurant or a table full of veggie dishes and rice for €6,- per person. Of course we also got a glimpse of the vibes of the busy Chinese capital. We strolled through the famous hutong-alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences, visited the famous Temple of Heaven, an imperial complex of religious buildings, we were part of one of the first free walking tours in Beijing, we met some random Chinese tourists, who were visiting the capital themselves and who took us to a utterly expensive restaurant, which totally blew our daily budget, I got my first ever pedicure (pretty nice) and we walked through several parks unsuccessfully trying to find a nice green area to lay down and relax. As it turned out, China is not a country where you chill and relax in public, especially not on the grass (!).
After one week in Beijing, we decided to visit the famous Great Wall, just north of Beijing. Both of us were reluctant at first and we contemplated whether we should actually go, but retrospectively we are very glad we did. It was indeed such a great few days, especially for us as a couple, that it is worth a separate post. So stay tuned.
Our next stop was Pingyao, around 500km west of Beijing. Pingyao is one of the few remaining antique towns in China, with old city walls, antique buildings, and small cobbled streets. While the town is quite neat and pleasant to explore, it quickly becomes obvious that it is also a major tourist attraction. It´s high season in China and while we didn´t see a lot of western faces, domestic tourism is booming. The town is full of souvenir shops, overprized restaurants and other shops that want to lure you into spending your money. The pleasant surprise in Pingyao was an encounter with another German couple in their thirties who – like us, quit their jobs, travelled overland from Germany to China and don´t know where and when they will settle next. It´s actually quite rare to meet long-term travelers in their thirties, as most travelers are in their 20s, in between studies or just finished with their studies. Actually only one of us is in his thirties. But we decided to take our average age, so we are both 31 :-P
We instantly got along well with Judith and Hendrick, had dinner and a few beers together, shared our travel experiences and quickly passed the usual superficial chitchat you have with other travelers. We talked about politics, sustainable living, our dreams, our decision to leave the so-called save harbor, the difficulties we´ve been facing and much more. Everything was easy going, no judgment, none of the exhausting conversations you sometimes can´t get out of, no bad feelings. Since we both planned on continuing our trip to Xi´an, China´s former imperial capital for eleven dynasties, we met again in this historically significant setting. Xi´an has an extraordinarily long history dating back to 1000 BC. We explored the city together and tightened our bond. It is those random encounters with people, be it locals or other travelers, which leave a lasting memory and connection to the places you traveled to. We will for sure keep in touch and maybe our paths will cross again, somewhere on this beautiful planet we call our earth.