Everyone’s talking about China...There is great interest in China as a travel destination . Yes, it’s a wonderfully different destination and even given the food issues for vegetarians and the HUGE language problem this is one country which should be high on your wish list! The REAL attraction is the mind-boggling diversity of attractions. There is drama, colour, entertainment, noise and none of the glossy packaging of the West. Just remember that it’s a huge country, so focus on your itinerary and to really do it any justice you will need at least two weeks. My pick of the absolute must -sees of China.
SHANGHAI: This showpiece is the modern Chinese city- has to be seen to understand the amazing growth of this economy. Glitzy skyscrapers, flyovers, bridges, the sleek Maglev- the fastest train in the world rub shoulders with a lively market around a Buddhist Temple. Spend some time at the Bund, taking in the astounding skyline. Take a day trip to Zhoujiajiou water Village, a kind of oriental Venice. And spend some time at the Nike shop on Nanjing Lu where you can even design your own shoe!
BEIJING: For your dose of history and Chinese culture. Ramble in the Sprawling Forbidden City with a guide, visit the Temple of heaven where the Emperor prayed for bountiful harvests (with its lovely park where you can catch the locals) and the Summer palace. Catch the Kung Fu show for an amazing martial arts display. Get a glimpse of the modernistic Olympics water Cube and Birds Nest and do take a Hutongs tour on a rickshaw- this is the oldest neighbourhood of the city. For some retail madness, visit the Silk Market. Take a day trip to the Great Wall, forsaking the touristy Badaling for either the Juyong pass, Simatai or the Mutianyu sections. Spend an evening at the Donghuamen night market at the end of Wangfujing Street to see some weird food. Scorpions, or star fish, this is the right place.
CHENGDU: This is the city to visit the Panda research station, cuddle some of these loveable creatures and sample the fiery Sichuan food. Jinli Street is a magical street, lined with red lanterns where you can buy handicrafts and eat street food. Don’t miss the Sichuan Opera where they change masks in the blink of a second. Take a day trip to Leshan to see the largest stone Buddha carved in to the side of a mountain.
XIAN: This is a mandatory pilgrimage to see the incredible terracotta warriors built for the emperor’s after life. Xian itself is an interesting city where you should spend some time in the atmospheric Muslim quarter with the oldest mosque. Take a trip to the hot springs at Hua Quing where the emperor spent the winter months with his concubines! It’s a scenic spot and you can dip your tired traveller’s feet in a special pool there. See the Tang Dynasty show to be transported to the yesteryears with an esoteric mix of ballet, opera and gymnastics.
GUILIN: This is the China of the scroll paintings: misty mountains, limestone gorges and a sinuous river. Take the idyllic river cruise between Yangshuo and Guilin, shop on West Street and a have a relaxing bamboo raft ride. At Guilin, don’t miss the Reed Flute Caves all lit up with the Chinese penchant for coloured lights. Catch the incredible open-air Impression San Jiu Li show at Yangshuo where the mountains are the props and the river the stage. Mesmerising!
On my future wish list for China:
1. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province.
2. Yellow Mountains
3. Three Gorges on the Yangtze River
4. Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan- a world of more than 100 lakes and valleys.
Some tips to survive China in my next post!