There are countries that encourage independent travel and others that are almost impenetrable without the help of a local guide. China is definitely one of the latter, which is why Australian Morag Grealy decided to book her first ever tour there in March. Lost & Found spoke to Grealy about the food, The Wall and counting on your fingers, Chinese style…

“Before visiting China my general impression was that it’s an Asian superpower, so I was expecting to see a lot of development and opportunity, which we did. There was an impressive amount of construction going on all over the country.

As soon as you land, you get a feel for the huge population, and that you’re in a communist country – different things like the colours of the building exteriors and being blocked from using websites like Google, Facebook and Instagram.

I was most excited about trying Peking duck and seeing the Great Wall. I know they’re clichés, but they didn’t disappoint. After seeing so many photos of the Great Wall, it’s amazing how the scale really hits you when you’re there. You also realise the great challenge it is to walk up, because the stairs are varying sizes and it’s crazy steep.

I loved learning how to count on my fingers the Chinese way, which is a completely different system. That was a nice reminder that globalism hasn’t taken over every destination yet. Our guide also taught us how to write some Chinese characters, which was fun. I love to get completely immersed in different cultures and China was great for that.

I loved learning how to count on my fingers the Chinese way, which is a completely different system. That was a nice reminder globalism hasn’t taken over every destination.

The food was delicious. We had shared banquets every meal, so lots of Lazy Susan action! Then there was the time we got to eat in a local’s house in Beijing. She lived in the old Hutong area and not only did she cook restaurant quality food, but she played an old Chinese instrument for us after we ate. That was a memorable meal.

The locals are super curious about foreigners, so we had a lot of photos taken of us and with us, but always in a really polite and friendly way.

Shanghai was my favourite city. There’s an interesting European and cosmopolitan influence there and that mixture really appealed to me. Also, their harbour is spectacular.

I’m usually an independent traveller, which can be exhausting, so being on a tour was a nice break. Everything runs so smoothly. Plus, being in a country where you don’t speak the language and can’t read the characters, having a helping hand from our tour guides was invaluable. There are countries where I wouldn’t do a tour, but China is the kind of place where I think it’s probably the best way to travel.

My lasting memory is just how awesome the place is. I’m honoured to have been a visitor.”

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