One Great Highlight
The highlight of my adventure so far has been the Great Wall of China. After a two hour journey from Beijing to the countryside, we had dinner at a small guesthouse nearby to gain permission to hike up to the local original parts of the wall (over 2,000 years old!).
Loaded with tents, roll mats and sleeping bags we hiked for 30 minutes up the steep mountainside until we made it to the top. It was a giant tick off my bucket list, and awe-inspiring to be able to explore such an iconic cultural and architectural triumph.
Spanning 20,000 km across China and built in 220 BC, the Great Wall has stood watch over Chinese dynasties from invasion from the North and each brick has a story to tell.
The view was spectacular and after exploring two watch towers we watched the sun set over the Wall and then camped there over-night. It was a remarkable experience that I will always remember.
Tastes of the Orient
Of all places, the tastiest food I’ve eaten so far was a Dragon Fruit that I bought on a 23 hour sleeper train from Guilin to Yangshuo. It was incredibly tasty, sweet and fresh.
Once in Yangshuo, we visited the parents of our tour guide and they made us deep fried aubergine, tofu, noodles with vegetables and meat. It was an authentic Chinese meal, home-cooked and delicious.
As for the most interesting food I’ve eaten so far. Well, I tried stinky tofu in Hong Kong for the first #IChallengeWill. That was an interesting experience.
I think it’s important to try to speak the language too, when you’re visiting new places. I was impressed at how quickly I’ve picked up bits of the language. I’ve learnt lots of sayings, from the basics like “hello”, “thank you” and “how are you?” to the trickier phrases like “I would like a bottle of water please”, “too expensive” and “that was delicious”. They were all very useful. When it comes to Mandarin you should try to be fearless, as even a little bit of Mandarin can go a long way.
Plus, even if it’s completely wrong the effort will not go unnoticed and it’s worth it just for the smile!
Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong so my next challenge is to start learning some phrases in Cantonese.
One week to go
Right now, I’ve got a range of tasks to work through this week. To move into my apartment, to get my suit dry-cleaned, to get some shirts made up at a tailors and to travel to Macau again in order to validate my Hong Kong trainee visa.
I’m also keeping abreast of financial news and markets, researching into AXA Investment Managers and its competitors in order to prepare myself for my responsibilities at work.
A final bit of advice
China is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. Villages surrounded by huge luscious green mountains, eclectic street markets, bright colours and sounds. If you’re thinking about going, take a good camera and plenty of batteries to capture as much of this as possible!
If you haven’t seen any of Will’s #AXAadventure yet, we suggest you check out the @GreatGlobalAdventurer Instagram account and follow Discover AXA on Twitter and Facebook to find out more.