First of a series
All images by Greg Gross and property of I’m Black and I Travel unless otherwise identified. All rights reserved.
There are places in the world easy to digest, absorb, explore on your own. China is not one of them. And that’s only one of the things that makes it worth seeing.
The things we hear from a distance about the culture and philosophy of China lead us to believe that serenity reigns in this place. So much emphasis on harmony — the balance between yin and yang, the subtleties of feng shui, the slow, gentle gracefulness of tai chi.
Even the country’s traditional name, translated in English, means “Middle Kingdom.”
It’s all authentic and it all dates back hundreds or even thousands of years, but none of it prepares you for the 21st century realities that hit you the moment you land in China.
There are places in the world that you can easily explore on your own, without the aid of group or a tour guide. For most folks, this probably is not one of them. On so many levels, in a great many good ways and one or two not-so-good, this country can leave you absolutely swamped in sensory overload.
It starts the moment you land in China’s capital, Beijing. It kicks up a few gears when you hit Shanghai, China’s architecturally bi-polar coastal mecca of business and commerce and all-around swag. It’s on the streets, in the restaurants, in the shops, in the people, in the very air that you smell and inhale.
It’s a place where you can float on canals in a water village a thousand years old and take a ride on the world’s fastest and most state-of-the-art passenger train, all in the same day.
Even the countryside beyond the major cities, the vast distances, the seemingly endless ranges of not quite vertical mountains with ridge lines sharp and rugged enough to shave the beards of giants, defy any attempt at relaxed contemplation.
For both better and worse, but mostly better, almost everything about this country seems to be intense, overpowering, over the top.
China does not do subtle.
There’s nothing you can do about it, and no amount of pre-trip research will prepare you for it. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to get your head around it. Just roll with it and ride the waves of awe.
It’s okay to be overwhelmed when you travel.
And in China, it starts the moment in you land in the city where most of the world’s introductions to China begin:
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