Review: China – Part One

Zuleika from the Cruise Factor team recently headed off to take part in the Great Wall of China marathon and she spent time in China, Hong Kong and after the event headed off on a Royal Caribbean cruise aboard Ovation of the Seas and finished off with one night in Macau. Today she is going to talk about her experience in China.

We were headed to Beijing and flying Air New Zealand from Auckland and then Cathay Dragon from Hong Kong to Beijing. The flight was 11 hours from Auckland to Hong Kong and pretty uneventful, albeit long as we departed late. It was a short stopover in Hong Kong and then onto Beijing. There isn’t a huge amount to do at Hong Kong airport, but there is a food court where you can get something to eat while you wait for your next flight.



Beijing Airport

Arrival into Beijing was not as overwhelming as I was expecting, the airport was easy to navigate and although the main signs were in Chinese, there were signs in English also. There was a huge line at immigration but the line moved quickly, the immigration staff were quick and efficient and we were through to the other side within about 45 minutes. We then had to catch a train to the baggage carousel and our bags were there waiting when we arrived.

One thing that struck me is how clean everything was, there was no litter anywhere. People are employed to sweep the streets and we saw many people doing this as we were driving around.

We then left Beijing and headed out to Tianjin, this is where we were going to be staying for the next three nights. We stayed at the Marriott Jixian which is a fantastic property.



Great Wall of China, Huangyguan Pass, Tianjin District

The day after we arrived we headed out to Yin Yang Square at the Huanguaguan Pass in the Tianjin district to get a close up look at the wall before the Marathon the following day. It was about 35 degrees on this day and just to get up onto the wall was a workout.

At over 21,000 kms long the Great Wall is a breath-taking piece of architecture. Standing on the wall with the knowledge that this structure was built by hand hundreds of years ago and that many hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives building the wall and were subsequently buried in the wall is overwhelming.  Apart from a few locals walking the wall, our group of 88 were the only ones on this part of the wall. It is a surreal experience and I can definitely recommend visiting a less traveled section of the wall.

Marathon day arrived and we had to bus for an hour from our hotel to the start line at Yin Yang Square. With a maximum of 2500 competitors there weren’t a huge number of people, so I was still able to stop and enjoy the spectacular scenery. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stairs and they are not your normal type of stairs, in some places each step would be up to knee height, so this was the most challenging thing I have ever done, in one of the most awe-inspiring locations.


Once we had completed the marathon it was time for the team to head back to Beijing to check out the sights and sounds of China!!

Peking Duck banquet lunch - 25%
Pedal cabs in Hutongs - 25%
Silk worms - 50%
Tiananmen Square - 25%

It was a whirlwind few days, we experienced a Peking Duck banquet lunch, got to visit a Silk Factory and see/touch silk worms, which were so soft. We spent an afternoon visiting the Temple of Heaven, built in the 15th Century, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and then the evening in the Hutongs in Beijing where we got to take a Rickshaw ride around the district and then we headed out for dinner at one of the local restaurants. We also got to spend a morning at Tienanmen Square.

Temple of Heaven - 50 %
Bell Tower - Xi'an
Xi'an Railway Station - 50%
Terracotta Warriors - 25%

Some of our group were then booked to head off on an extension to visit the Terracotta Army. We left Beijing on the overnight train heading to Xi’an. As there was a big group of us we basically had two whole carriages on the train, with sleeper cabins that slept 4 in bunks. This was a very comfortable journey. If you are looking at cruises out of China, or travelling in China I would recommend heading to Xi’an to visit the Terracotta Warriors, our team at International Rail will be able to help you with train tickets to get you there. If you are going to take the train I have some advice for you so don’t hesitate to make contact with us!!!

The Terracotta Army was about 45 minutes drive from our hotel, it was a nice drive though, China is surprisingly green – well I was surprised how green it was. Once we got there we were able to meet the farmer who found the very first Terracotta Warrior, we then went through the different sheds to view the different pits, there are a number of pits which have different figures, from the soldiers to the horses and chariots. Then we all went to lunch after our tour, this was included. When you head back to the car park you head through a market, so make sure you bring some extra money with you to buy some of those souvenirs you were wanting to buy for family back home – and don’t forget to barter!

It was very hot in China in May, we had days that were up to 30+ degrees but also experienced rain and cooler days. I would advise if travelling at this time of year, have a lighter jacket and take layers, so if you have a day where it is going to be a bit cooler you will be comfortable.


China is a fantastic destination to visit, whether you visit for a day on a cruise or spend longer, I would recommend visiting at least once in your lifetime. If you are thinking about a visit to China give us a call and we can help you arrange a fantastic holiday!!

Check back for the second half of my blog in two weeks time where I talk about my Royal Caribbean cruise, Hong Kong and Macau | 0800 60 82 60 |







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