I have just discovered a website that makes me feel like I’m actually doing a little travel right from the comfort of my chaise! It’s a dream come true!
During this coronavirus pandemic, I’ve tried to quench my thirst for travel by planning future travel and reminiscing about past trips. The strategy has held my wanderlust at bay, but I’ve discovered a new way to travel right now. Or at least, to take a tour in real time, with other people!
One of the things I love most about traveling is meeting new people. I love to learn about the locals, and social media makes it easy. Some of the best tours I’ve taken are lead by locals eager to share their cities with the world. Could this be done virtually? I wanted to find out. For $10, Tours From Home offered me the chance. So, I decided to travel to Wuhan, China. Because from my armchair… I can.
Though I’ve been to Beijing, I had never even heard of Wuhan before the coronavirus hit. I was surprised to learn that Wuhan is huge! It’s home to 11 million people and is roughly 5x as large as London. It’s a city I know nothing about — which is very often what appeals to me when I start to plan trips. One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is take a walking tour/food tour and get the feel of the city.
That’s exactly what the Walks Tours from Home tour was like: we got glimpses of the city we’d see if we were walking along with our guide Akim who shared her city and its stories with us.
She began with a few facts about city and showed us a Wuhan Tourist Map on the screen. A tourist map! Hurray! So this would be a tourist-y tour like I hoped. We got a lay of the land and then she began showing us some of the top things we should see “if we visit Wuhan someday.”
Many of the pictures Akim shared are her personal pictures. I couldn’t resist snapping a few screenshots of my computer — the same way I’d snap pictures on any walking tour.
She shared street scenes of her neighborhood, the Hankou District, which she described as the best combination of old and new. She shared pictures of the Antique Market, which is open every day. It’s a place locals and collectors like to visit frequently. There are many bargains to be had there.
She took us to the Guiyuan Buddhist Temple where Akim feels most locals go at least once in their lives. She talked about the joss sticks and the customs there and shared a few pictures of a typical day there. She also shared pictures of the Tea Market — a personal treasure to her and her family. In fact, Akim’s first job was serving tea.
Like any good tour guide, Akim shared fun folklore, too, about places in her city. Wuhan is divided by the Yangtze River, which is the longest in the world. Naturally, there are many bridges connecting the different areas of Wuhan, and one notable bridge “that has a love fable.” I’ll let Akim tell you about that.
Food in Wuhan
According to Akim, breakfast is the most important meal of the day in Wuhan and is approached as a meal that most people eat outside. There are at least 30 dishes typical of breakfast, or “one for every day of the month,” she joked. I remembered a tour guide in Lisbon telling me the same thing about ways to eat cod.
One of Akim’s favorite is Hot dry noodles, which she described as being sauteed in sesame butter. A favorite regional dish Akim says you can find in any home or 5-star restaurant is Lotus & Rib Soup. Lotus root is big in this area and prepared in many different ways.
What to See in Wuhan
In addition to the Antique Market, the temple, and the Tea Market, Akim mentioned two must-see’s for visitors to Wuhan. Perhaps the most famous is the Yellow Crane Tower, which dates back to 200AD and was originally a fortress. It is one of China’s Four Great Towers. Definitely a must-see.
Traveling with kids? They may like to visit Mulan Mountain. The Disney movie “Mulan” is loosely based on the story of the female warrior Hua Mulan. The story of Mulan was first recounted in a poem called “The Battle of Mulan.” It was written between 500 – 600 A.D.
How to Get to Wuhan
Since this tour was done via Zoom, we had a chance to ask Akim questions in the Chat. Many of them were logistical questions, such as the best way to get to Wuhan. Akim suggested the fast train from Beijing. This has become very popular among the people there. It only takes five hours to travel the 1000 kilometers between the two cities.
Akim suggested a 3-5 day visit to Wuhan and encouraged us to visit in March or April when the cherry blossoms are blooming. I vigorously took notes of everything she said, because this tour not only whet my appetite to start traveling again, but to consider a trip to Wuhan some day!
What do you think about Wuhan as a tourist destination?
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How fun that Akim is doing that! I’m sure the history is amazing. I would love to see the crane tower. Thanks for sharing!!
Yes. It’s great that tour guides are finding ways to continue travel until we can all travel safely in person. I’d love to see the Yellow Crane Tower and Mulan Mountain. And I’d definitely wander through the antiques market. And eat breakfast outside like the locals. Wuhan looks like an interesting city to visit.
Enjoyed the tour, Julia. A positive approach to Wuhan given its recent history. Thanks. –Curt
This is so cool! Just goes to show how ingenious people can be, even in current situations. I’ve never been to Wuhan, but have heard about how it’s a bustling city and fast becoming one known for technological advancement and development. Sounds like it was a great alternative to seeing the city in person. 🙂
I love all the creativity coming out of this SiP situation. I was thrilled to glimpse inside Wuhan virtually and would actually like to go there now if I ever find myself in China again.
It would be ironic if your computer got a virus from an online visit to Wuhan. It’s also ironic how much nicer this tour sounds than the descriptions in the news. I always heard the Wuhan was like the Pittsburgh of China. This tour looked a lot nicer than that description.
The Pittsburgh of China? Hhhm. I believe it’s the 5th largest city in China, so it’s hard to make the comparison, but after I take my rescheduled trip to Pittsburgh later this summer, you know I’ll find Pittsburgh fascinating, too. I was bummed when I had to forego that weekend getaway in April.
I have been to Beijing and Shanghai and outside of Shanghai and I too had not heard of Wuhan, I think it is pretty cool that you can do this virtual tour since all eyes are on this spot! Having it guided where someone can answer questions is pretty awesome!
I agree, Andi. Having the tour described by a local who then answered our questions after she shared what it’s like there was awesome. And though she did talk about the coronavirus, the tour was definitely more of a city tour for tourists. She pointed out the highlights of all there is to see and do. If Take Walks adds more tours like this in cities that I know little about, I’ll definitely participate again.