China Travel Guide
The powerhouse of the Far East, China offers visitors burgeoning metropolises, myriad cultures and ancient architecture like the Forbidden Palace and the vast Terracotta Army. Millennia-old traditions are still observed in the countryside, while cities like Beijing and Shanghai boast some of the most modern infrastructure in the world.
Walking the Great Wall, Beijing skyscrapers, lackadaisical pandas, Sichuan cuisine, the vibrant Chinese New Year, yaks on the Tibetan Plateau, Suzhou’s classical gardens, fleets of cyclists, drinking tea and practicing tai chi.
Loud locals, Shanghai scam artists, the watchful eye of ‘Big Brother’, unsanitary street food, a culture of blatant line-jumpers, getting stared at on the train, locals spitting on the bus (and everywhere else for that matter) and smokers in non-smoking restaurants.
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Tibet and the old Silk Road draw adventurers with their exoticness while Guilin is crawling in tourists who come to admire its spectacular natural beauty. Bustling Beijing has too many cultural wonders to fit into a short visit but most visitors don't fail to catch a glimpse of the nearby Great Wall. Shopping buffs will be most at home in Shanghai, where commercial opportunities abound.
China is host to the world's largest population and has borders with a whopping 15 nations. Getting around this vast country is best done by air and not during national holidays when millions travel from the cities to their countryside homes for the festivities. Bicycle is the country's choice mode of transport but you can ditch two wheels for a train or bus.
Travel to China - Getting There
International flights are generally routed through the airports in Shanghai or Beijing, though it is also possible to land in provincial capitals when traveling from neighboring Asian countries. Traveling by train is an excellent way to bridge the long distances between cities, but be prepared for long travel times. Buses pick up where the trains leave off. A bicycle is invaluable for getting around the city, while Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing operate metro systems.
China Things to Do
- The Great Wall
- Is easily China’s best-known asset. The wall spans more than 3,000 miles with the best walkable segment between Simatai and Jinshanling.
- Is China’s quintessential modern metropolis, though it also boasts historical treasures like the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.
- Is a fusion of colonial period European architecture and traditional Chinese sectors.
- Is home to the ever-vigilant Terracotta Army.
- Is home to the world-famous Giant Panda Research Center. The city is recovering quickly from the earthquake in early 2008.
- The Garden City is known for classical Chinese gardens and navigable canals.
- Stone Forest
- Near Kunming in Yunnan Province is one of the country’s most unique natural assets.
- Cultural sightseeing
- Spans ancient architecture, 16th century colonial enclaves and hidden temples.
- Tai chi
- Is a meditative practice enjoyed by locals in the early morning hours. To join in, head for any city square before sunup.
- Is still the most common means of getting around, and peddling through mad-cap sectors of town can be a high-octane adventure sport.
- Is possible in the lakes of Shuzheng or on the beaches of Hainan Island.
- Chinese Opera
- Definitely an acquired taste, the shrill highs and clanging gongs of traditional opera are best experienced in Beijing.
- Can present some serious bargains, though scams and low-quality products are a nuisance. The best shopping venues are clustered in Shanghai.
- Chinese New Year is observed across the country and is an important time for friends and family.
- Yunnan Province has a lot in common with Southeast Asia, even observing the hot season’s water splashing festival.
- Dragon boat races are staged on lakes and reservoirs across the countryside.
- After the onset of the autumn season, Chinese attend family gatherings and treat themselves to moon cakes.
- The Arts Festival in Shanghai is an international event featuring Chinese opera, traditional dance, magic shows and symphonic performances.
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