While in Laos - only a week ago ... And it seems like a century ago! - We met a very peculiar character. Ernst is a 68-year-old German, whom World War left an orphan of father and mother being left in charge of his grandfather in a small town. He grew up reading books of discoverers and adventurers, studied Eastern philology and became fluent in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Something not very common in the 60s. After 24 years teaching English at a university in Seoul, he now uses his pension to continue his travels around the World, which he has been doing all his life.
It was Ernst who told us something very important for when you are going to visit China: “When I travel in a country I value its people, its culture and customs, regardless of the political regime that is governing the country. They don't have to like their politicians, but I can fall in love with their people”.
And although, as everywhere else, there are more and less friendly people in China, I think in general - and especially when you are traveling as the only Westerner on a train, bus or lost town - the Chinese are very friendly people, of ancient customs And willing to help when you're lost.
As always, you should rely less on people who deal directly with and live in the world of tourism, but that happens throughout Asia and abroad.
The Big Wall, the Xian Terracotta Warriors, the mountains of impossible profiles of Yangshuo or the cosmopolitan Guangzhou They are the perfect geographical and historical complements for a country so different from the one I came from.
Capitalism is present in all the big cities but still a lot of people live in the countryside and that is the part that amazed me most about China. The farmer who gave me the mandarins in Yangshuo, the ones who invited us to have lunch with them, the ones who helped us find the way between signs and laughter while they pulled away a map that they couldn't read even in Chinese. That is the China that I think one should know.
The oriental cuisine lovers They will be found in a paradise of spices, spicy flavors, noodles, rice and animal parts that you would never think of eating in Europe.
If what you like is the trekking High mountain Kunming - close to Tibet - is your region, deserts, steppes and frozen landscapes complete the orography of this giant that was pasture of the conquering delusions of Mongols and Japanese in other times and that today stands as a totally untouchable giant.
The country is immense and we left wanting to have known the mountains of Kunming, the ice city of Harbing or the areas near Mongolia so often razed by the Khanes.
But hey, life is long and there will be time to explore China again. Come to China!