"I am addicted to West Lake tea. I drink almost two liters of tea every day," Frenchman Pierre proclaimed. Although growing up with coffee, he fell in love with Chinese tea at his first try. Every year, before the Qing Ming Festival, he goes to a tea garden in Suzhou and picks tea leaves. All he can see is a beautiful scene of tea leaves being picked by tea girls in the garden. Each time he buys a lot of best West Lake tea; enough to last a year. The tea leaves picked just before the Qing Ming Festival are known as "pre-Qing Ming tea," the best West Lake tea available throughout the entire year.
In Beijing, we meet a number of foreigners, like Pierre, who are attracted to the old, but growing China. They are looking for a spiritual home in this mysterious land.
Seeking romantic legends
The Great Wall has long been a cultural totem of ancient China with its extensiveness and unique strength. However, in the eyes of Rogers, a young, Indian man, the Great Wall is also a romantic place because of the legend of Meng Jiangnu.
Rogers first joined the leading Indian IT company, APTECH, a few years ago. Later, he was sent to work in China. Like many tourists, Rogers enjoys places of historical interest in China. He was deeply moved when he heard, for the first time, the legend of Meng Jiangnu, a woman in ancient China who traveled a thousand miles and came to the Great Wall to look for her husband. She wailed her heart out when she found her husband dead, where an 800-m long section of section of the Great Wall had fallen. Rogers climbed up the Great Wall on the first day of his first visit to Beijing. When he stood above the dragon-like winding walls and gently patted the mottled bricks, he felt very excited and moved.
In Rogers' home country, the Taj Mahal is also an interesting, world-famous place. The Muslim Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, commissioned its construction as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a memorial of love. Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore once used the words "eternal tears on its face" to describe the love it symbolizes. Rogers also indicated with emotion that "China's Great Wall also demonstrates a great love. I like these spots. But I like the romantic stories behind them even more. These romantic stories have made my journey more legendary and helped to purify my soul."
Pierre is in his thirties. He read the story of the "Legend of the White Snake" when he was in France. Then he came to visit the West Lake. The first place he visited was "Duanqiao", meaning a broken bridge. It was there that the protagonists met in the story. A tour guide informed Rogers that the broken bridge was constructed during the Tang Dynasty. There used to be a gate with eaves on the bridge in ancient China. When it was snowed, all the snow flakes fell and stayed on the eaves in the middle of the bridge. People can only see the snow at the two ends of the bridge from far away. In this way, the bridge looked broken. Thus, it was called the broken bridge. When the cruise ship docked at the Leifeng Pagoda, the tour guide told Rogers that this was where the White Snake lady was captured. It was said that in order to rescue the White Snake, every person passing by the Pagoda had to draw out a brick. Eventually, the Pagoda collapsed. The current Leifeng Pagoda has been reconstructed according to the ruins that remain. The setting sun above the Leifeng Pagoda has been selected as one of ten top beautiful scenes in the West Lake.
"West Lake, to me, is like a poem or a beautiful and moving story. I am deeply moved by the story of the White Snake and Xu Xian. The West Lake is absolutely unforgettable," Pierre said emotionally.
Finding nostalgia in nature
Twenty-four-year-old Sun Chunhua is from South Korea. In 2002, she began her studies in the School of Journalism at the Chinese People's University and has spent a total of five years in China.
Born by the seashore, Sun is quite familiar with blowing sea winds and slightly salty air. So when she first visited Beidaihe, she felt at home and fell in love with this beautiful place. Whether in winter or summer, she always invites several friends to spend three to four hours traveling within this place with her. Sun said, already having been there a dozen times, that, "I will never get tired of the beautiful sea."
Early in the morning, the red sun rises above the sea and the hills are covered with a layer of golden gossamer. Sun and her friends like to walk on the soft sand and enjoy sun bathing. One of her friends could not help shouting while swimming in the sea: "I want to swim back to Korea!"
Growing up in a small Japanese town, Akiko Yamasaki can never forget the scene she saw in Hunlunbeir Prairie. "I had never seen such a blue sky, green grass, and shining stars. I will never forget the smell of grass in the air," Yamasaki said. What surprised her the most is that many young Mongolians can speak fluent Japanese.
"Many of my friends, similarly, do not like big cities with reinforced cement structures. These places make me feel suffocated quite easily. Once we embrace the mountains, the breeze and the grass��it is very easy for us to be happy," Sun remarked. Her words reflect the thoughts of many foreigners traveling within China.
"Crazy about Chinese cuisines"
"The reason why I came to China is not for money, but for the Chinese food," 28-year-old American, Mike, said with a smile.
Nearly everyday after getting off work, Mike will invite some of his friends to hunt for good restaurants of various cuisines in Beijing. Within just one year of coming to Beijing, he has visited nearly all the featured restaurants in the city. His friends call him the "Big mouth."
"I like Quanjude roast duck. It has a long history. I go there once a month on average. They offer very good service. And the roast duck has really flaky skin, but tender meat. It's really delicious! Of course, there are also other places offering cheaper roast duck that also taste good! For example, the Duck King, Li Kwan duck, and so on. These are also good choices."
Apart from roast duck, Mike also loves hot pot. "I like hot pot with sesame sauce. My favorites are Minbao and Dingdingxiang. Their sesame sauce is really good! You can also choose the materials and mix them in the sauce, such as spring onion, chili oil, parsley and scallions, and of course �C sweetened garlic!" he exclaimed. Mike has tried every style of hot spot and has made a mental map of Beijing hot pot restaurants.
The "Big mouth" also tried various cuisines in other cities: steamed bread with mutton in Xi'an, fried mutton in Inner Mongolia, Begonia pudding in Shanghai, and bell dumplings in Chengdu.
Chinese people friendly and sincere
"I came to China and visited Yan'an for the first time when I was 14 years old," said an American named Blake. He remembers that when he was only six or seven years old, his grandmother often told him how his uncle Edgar Snow, a well known American friend to the Chinese people, was able to visit northern Shaanxi, and wrote reports of the "Red Star over China" during the 1930s. Blake might not have understood what Chinese revolution was at that time, but he has since had a very deep impression of this mysterious country.
Nine years ago, when he first set foot on this piece of land, Blake felt astonished. China is completely different from its depiction in the book. The hospitality of the Chinese people has deeply attracted Blake. "In the United States, people are indifferent towards each other. They are just like sealed containers. It is so hard to open and touch their hearts. But here, I see people holding fans in their hands and enjoying the coolness of a light breeze, chatting with each other leisurely and casually. I have a feeling of d��j�� vu. And I know I belong here."
Black had a difficult time studying at a university in the United States because he was missing his friends in China so much. Right after he graduated from the university last summer, he could not wait to come to work in Beijing. "While traveling, I prefer to visit small and medium-sized cities with honest characteristics because these cities are usually free of a business climate. People there show their true nature. Chinese people's honesty and sincerity are their name cards. For example, in Dandong, northeastern China, people are quite straightforward. They like drinking and eating with an open mouth. I feel free in such an environment."
Suggestions from foreigners
More foreign cuisine
Rogers, a Hindu, does not eat beef and pork in daily life. Thus, restaurants suitable for him are quite limited in Beijing. "As an international city, Beijing should set up more foreign restaurants," Rogers suggested.
Menus in foreign languages
Blake pointed out that every restaurant should have an English menu available. Now many English translations of menus are far from accurate.
English tourist information
Pierre believes that China should publish more English tourist information books, so as to make it easier for foreigners to design their own travel routes.
Lower ticket prices
Rogers said that the tickets to most Chinese tourist attractions are quite expensive. "I like the Forbidden City very much. When I have time or have friends coming to visit me, I would like to go to the Forbidden City. However, the current fare is sixty Yuan; including ten Yuan for the Treasure Museum and ten Yuan for the Watches Museum, the total would be eighty Yuan. Perhaps I will not visit it again. The ticket price for admission for Indian visitors to visit Taj Mahal is not very high. I just need to pay about 20 rupees (10 Yuan) during the day time," he claimed.
By People's Daily Online