The land of cute pandas and pagodas

Reporter Bev Creagh in the Forbidden City
Reporter Bev Creagh in the Forbidden City

I’ve had a yen to go to China ever since I can remember.

And thanks to a generous cheque from an honorary aunt, I booked the trip of a lifetime in October – one that had an intriguing hook for an elderly hackette like me because it was topped and tailed by the Daily Telegraph’s correspondents in Beijing and Shanghai.

It also covered everything I wanted to see in this vast, mysterious and exciting country . . . the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, giant pandas, a cruise down the Yangtse River, the Three Gorges Dam and Shanghai’s Maglev train to name but six of the most memorable

It ticked every single box on my wish list - and then some. Even now, two months after my return, I still get a delicious shiver down my spine thinking of all the magical destinations we visited. And I have to pinch myself all over again that I’ve been. And seen. And would go back tomorrow, given the chance.

It was the first trip I’d done solo since my husband died 10 years ago. But I wasn’t apprehensive - I thought my fellow travellers would be like-minded people, and they were.

Our guide Link Lee was the lynchpin – he called us the Link Family, had a great sense of humour and was hugely intelligent and well informed.

He joked his fellow countrymen eat everything with four legs – except chairs and tables. It was slighlty disconcerting to see your dinner in water tanks or cages outside some restaurants but the food generally was delicious and nutrituous. Not so the wine . . . be warned.

The hotels were five star all the way, the sort you see in glossy magazines and dream about staying in. But English isn’t spoken as much as I’d imagined. You really need to book a tour to concentrate on the amazing sights and breathtaking scenery that never fail to fascinate.

China’s national treasures – like the Terracotta Warriors – are situated in serene landscaped gardens. We visited the Great Wall on the Water because it was off the beaten track. The path leading to it is festooned with lanterns in centuries-old chestnut trees planted during the Ming Dynasty. And I’m now a bona fide hero, according to legend, because I’ve climbed the Wall. Wowser!

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