Chinese Heritage

My China Diary

I recently came back from an incredible 16-day expedition through China, traveling with National Geographic Expeditions on their “Imperial Cities and Natural Wonders” tour in April 2024. This journey not only introduced me to the astonishing landscapes and cities of China but profoundly transformed my understanding and appreciation of the country.

My itinerary took me to a diverse range of cities, each with its own unique charm: Beijing, Xian,Yichang, Chonqing, Dazhou, Chengdu, Guilin, and Shanghai. I also had the pleasure of a four-day cruise along the majestic Yangtze River, where I marvelled at the Three Gorges and visited the Panda Conservation Park.

China is a treasure trove of manmade wonders, each more awe-inspiring than the last. From the iconic Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City to the enigmatic Terracotta warriors and the historic Silk Roads, every step was a journey through time. The Dazu Grottoes, Shanghai Tower, Peace Hotel (The Cathay Hotel), and the modern marvels of the Pudong financial district were equally captivating. And let’s not forget the efficient Bullet Trains and the unique Water towns that dot the landscape.

The only impression any visitor would have of China be of awe and respect. China truly benefitted from globalization, and it is visible in the cities and everywhere. It is not unusual to see a bullet train whizzing on the bridges across valleys.  It’s a scene etched on my mind – of what makes this enterprising nation and people.

I invite you to read my article, where I share my comprehensive impressions and insights from the journey.

The People

  • What I found was a welcoming and friendly country. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with a smile, and since foreigners were rare, they would approach me for a photo


  • China is a clean, organized, and developed country. It shows what a nation can achieve if money is not siphoned away from infra projects.
  • Travelling within Chinese cities is effortless, and its airports and railway stations with bullet trains are well connected.
  • One of the Chinese’s most fascinating achievements is the Great Wall of China . Can you believe its total length? It’s  21,196 kilometers (13,171 miles)!


  • China can handle scale efficiently. Bring in the next billion, and they will all squeeze in easily.


  • Our China expert, who had been working in China with the Wall Street Journal, noticed that English proficiency in China had actually deteriorated over the years. Even in a five-star hotel in Guilin, I struggled to communicate with the staff that I was looking for steamed rice!


  • I wonder how could a complicated looking script like the Chinese be the longest-running script in the world?


  • One of the highlights was the variety of delicious Chinese food. I learned that Chinese food is made quickly and meant to be eaten when just made. Food in buffets and takeaways is strictly a no-no.
  • The Chinese eat early, and restaurants shut down by 9 pm. No late night Biryanis here. 🙂


  • The clean bathroom was a sigh of relief and a welcome change from my visit 10-15 years ago.


  • One good thing that I noticed is that the Chinese don’t mix religion and politics. It sure keeps things simple.


  • There was no visible poverty on the streets—no beggars, panhandlers, or homeless. This is attributed to Confucianism, which emphasizes caring for family members, particularly the elderly. In Confucian societies like China, it’s considered a moral duty to look after one’s parents, and neglecting them is viewed as a serious offence.


  • While sailing on the Yangtze, I passed large cities with skyscrapers whose names you and I would have never heard of.


  • The countryside was like an English countryside—so picturesque and romantic that I wished I had wandered around it.
  • Its tourist spots extend into a larger ecosystem. The work they do in Panda conservation is something to see and write home about.


  • An interesting fact about China is the number of its neighbors: Korea, Russia, Mongolia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Kazakhstan. One can imagine the complexity of its geopolitics.
  • It has five time zones but uses only one standard time, known as China Standard Time (CST), which is UTC+8. This uniform time system helps maintain national unity and simplify administrative matters despite the country’s vast geographical expanse.

Homogenous and Xenophobia

  • Despite China’s diverse population of 56 ethnic groups, the majority, over 90%, are Han Chinese, making the country predominantly homogeneous.
  • Everywhere we went, we saw only Chinese. There were no tourists. I had never encountered any Indian or Westerner except for a few of them in Shanghai. Clearly the western propoganda against the Chinese was having its effects.
  • China is and has been wary of the West or minorities, and if you know its history and how they were conquered by outside minorities and exploited by the Westerners through its opium trade – you would understand China’s nature and xenophobia.

The Great Firewall of China.

  • I couldn’t get onto Google or WhatsApp. It’s impossible to work in China without having a VPN, which one should have downloaded before entering the country. My Airtel connection, for some reason, did not have the restrictions of the Great Firewall of China.

History and World Trade

  • China dominated world trade with its porcelain, silks, and teas, maintaining that hegemony literally for two millennia.
  • China’s contributions to the world include paper, gunpowder, printing, porcelain, silk, the compass, and tea.
  • Contrary to the common notion of China being closed and isolated, it is the starting point of the Great Silk Road.
  • Believing itself to be self-sufficient and nothing that the world can offer it, this mindset has been inborn from the beginning.

Technically Savvy

  • The Chinese are very good with their hands. Their technical prowess is visible in all things, great and small. I remember Tim Cook remarking about it when defending his sourcing of the iPhone from Foxconn.

Cutting Edge Technology

  • China has interesting EVs, like Huawei’s Luxeed. Another phone company, Xiomi, launched an EV that will give Tesla a run for its money.

Travel Holiday

  • Visiting China must be on your bucket list. It is undoubtedly one of the most underrated travel destinations in the world.

My perceptions changed

  • From the Western narratives filled with apprehensions about Xi, Covid, Huawei, and various geopolitical tensions, my journey revealed a different facet of China—a nation that is not only welcoming and friendly but also highly developed and breathtakingly beautiful. This trip has reshaped my perceptions, uncovering a land brimming with promise and rich in opportunities.

Dont forget to post your comments below. Would love to hear your feedback and share your own experiences and insights.

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