China Travel diary

Our arrival in China was via Shanghai, during the rainy season and in suffocating heat…but the warmth of the welcome and the striking contrast with France are such that in any case one was left breathless! Shanghai therefore, where everything is on the move, its myriad of tiny streets still thoroughly authentic, full of tiny stalls overflowing with goods, open 24h a day, its hardworking craftsmen, its gigantic worksites demolishing the past, its construction sites of the future defying all laws of gravity and seismic activity, its countless “boui-bouis” – a thousand flavours for a few pence, its traces of a history which has been mingled with the West… We then depart for around ten days in the south, Yangshuo, the dream honeymoon destination of the Chinese. The charm is instantaneous. The natural surroundings propose geological surprises of which one could never tire, sugar loaf formations as far as the eye could see. Each karstic mount characterizes a unique silhouette, an extraordinary reflection in the mirrors of the Li river. And if one distances oneself from the town, one is instantly in very rural China at its dignified best. Back to Shanghai for several days…already the feeling of “home sweet home”. Then, off to Beijing by night train. Beijing. The air is dryer but dustier. We’re lucky, not one single sand storm, but the city is in the throws of a radical face lift (courtesy of Olympic preparations) and, the demolition of thousands of ancient hutongs generates clouds of dust. Beijing is vast, it’s streets, as large as motorways, it’s monuments…monumental, it’s housing still mainly ‘horizontal’ rapidly becoming vertical. The city still possesses vast green spaces – it’s lungs! Here, daily life is lived in the open air: barbers, cooks, players of mah-jong, gymnastic and tai chi sessions take place in front of our amazed eyes. As a souvenir of this too short a stay in China, there remains the simplicity and extreme kindness and dignity of its people, images, sometimes medieval, sometimes futuristic, a country not easy to read – certainly for a tourist – but fascinating in its symbolism A huge thank you to Elisabeth, Philippe, Laetitia, Marine and Anne-Laure for the invitation to discover such a new world.