China – Why Go and What to See: Your Quick Travel Guide
China is a country that’s as mysterious as it is beautiful. Most people think of the Great Wall and terracotta warriors, but it’s so much deeper than that. Chinese people are immensely proud of their 5000-year old culture, and this is evidently seen through the celebrations of a history that forms part of the four great ancient civilizations.
Obviously, their cultural roots are deep, so there’s an abundance of things to do and see if you’re into culture and heritage. However, China is also a country endowed with magnificent natural landscapes, from massive green mountains reaching into the clouds, to tropical island paradises.
Although some may be hesitant to explore this dauntingly huge place, the rewards for the brave are infinite.
Why should I visit China?
China is beautiful
It’s a big country, so the diversity of natural landscapes will blow your mind! Down south you’ll find big tropical islands that compare with the best in Asia. The tropical island of Hainan has picture book white sand beaches, leaning coconut trees and sky-blue waters. In the north west, you’ll find barren desert landscapes around Xinjiang, move east from there and you’ll find the cold but magnificent ice city of Harbin. The reaching mountain peaks and peaceful waters of Hangzhou’s West Lake will leave you with memories (and photos) that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
It’s not all nature too- the dazzling scenes from Shanghai’s Bund promenade will make you believe you’ve moved 100 years into the future.
China is convenient
With thousands of international flights landing and taking off from Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing, it comes as no surprise that it’s a walk in the park to get in and out of China. Their extensive flight networks will whisk you away to all parts of the country cheaply and safely.
Take one of their high-speed trains if you’d like to explore the country at eye level, watching the green countryside go by as you thunder through at break-neck speeds. Not only cheaper than flying, they’re also super-fast! Most decent hotels will have English-speaking staff, and things like food, transport, and sightseeing are generally quite cheap.
It’s developed into a very modern place, so the infrastructure is top class.
China is different
You’ve been to the beach before. You’ve ridden a rollercoaster at Disneyland. You’ve made friends with the other American couple at your luxury Western hotel. Give China a try, because it’s something like you’ve never experienced before. It’s about as far from the western way of life as you can get, so venture out and get uncomfortable! Locals probably won’t speak your language, the food won’t be all burgers and fries, and you’ll do things you could only do in China. If you want a unique experience unlike any other, then China’s your place!
China has food that’s to die for
The menu at your local Chinese take-out is a poor representation of Chinese cuisine to say the least.
China has a remarkably diverse food scene, and you’ve just got to be there to understand what we mean. From the confusingly spicy, numbing sensation of the Sichuan pepper, to the crispy Beijing roast duck, it offers up a feast for the taste buds. Their emphasis is on fresh, local ingredients prepared the same way it’s been done for centuries.
It’s one of the biggest motivations for people wanting to visit the Middle Kingdom, and for good reason. It’s extensive history has left behind fascinating relics of a bygone era that are still as important to the locals now. The tourist attractions are very well maintained.
Go see one of their many majestic temples for a culturally enriching experience that will take you back all the way to the Xia dynasty thousands of years ago.
Where should I go in China?
China is a huge country so deciding where to go can be quite daunting. That’s why we’re here to help! Here are some of the cities that you must visit.
There’s a saying in China that states if you’ve never been to the Great Wall, you are not a true man. The wall is generally what most people instantly associate the country with, and a visit to the Great Wall will reward you with breath-taking scenery, oodles of culture and some great exercise!
Wall aside, you can also go see the early morning flag-raising at Tiananmen Square and the city has hundreds of temples to see, too-check out the Forbidden City.
Beijing is also a vibrant city, and it’s truly a melting pot of both Chinese and foreign cultures- this is apparent through their diverse food scene and nightlife, as well as the super-luxurious hotels and shopping malls.
There’s also a bustling food scene, world class spas and lots of cultural attractions too. Like that aside, the shopping is awesome!
The West Lake at Hangzhou
This monstrous lake system is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated right in the heart of Zhejiang province’s biggest city. It’s a place that locals hold dear to their hearts because of it’s cultural significance- the natural and historical elements have inspired some of China’s most renowned poets and painters.
It’s unique in the sense that in boasts both cultural and natural attractions in the same place. Go there to see the calm shimmering waters with the back drop of China’s stunning green mountain peaks – there are tea fields surrounding the lake growing some of China’s top leaves (go visit the tea house!). You can also do the cultural thing in Hangzhou – visit the Leifeng Pagoda.
The Venice of the East
Only a short distance from Shanghai is the water town of Suzhou. The highlight of the city is the beautiful, meandering canals winding their way through the ancient city. You can choose to stroll along the river’s course, even better- take a small boat cruise down stream.
You’ll love the picturesque water channels, old style arch bridges and the wonderful traditional architecture.
An astounding collection of life-size terracotta soldiers in their battle formation. Representing the army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang who was the original emperor of the first dynasty in Imperial China. It’s now a museum.
If you’re going to China, don’t miss this- it’s a must see.
I have something specific I’d like to see or do. Where do I go?
China offers something for everyone, with its rich cultural heritage, scenic surrounds and trendy food scene. When you think about China, there are of course some things that will instantly pop into your head: mountains, temples and so on. So, if you’re visiting there with a specific interest in the following sights and activities, this is where you need to go:
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing
It’s generally thought to be the “holiest” amongst the numerous Imperial Temples in China. The original foundations date back all the way to 1420, and there’s also a park where you can either practice, or witness others doing some Tai Chi.
White Horse Temple, Luoyang
This is sacred to the locals because White Horse Temple in Luoyang is thought to be where Buddhism originated from. It was first built as a “holiday home” for Emperor Liu from the Han Dynasty.
Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou
Special because the scenery is awe-inspiring! It’s home to the biggest statue of Buddha and was built all the way back in 328 A.D! The temple’s atmosphere is quiet and serene, leaving you with a profound sense of cultural fulfilment.
Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
Situated in the green Anhui province, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the area’s top tourist attraction. It encapsulates all that a mountain should be, and more. There are deep caves and reaching peaks with white stone walls. The dynamic weather conditions mean it looks like a different place from day to day. Go face to face with the mountain- try out some abseiling!
Another World Heritage Site, this one is found right in the heart of Shandong province. It’s big (426 square kilometres) and offers a different landscape to Huangshan because the area receives more snow. More importantly, it has a sacred status because it was used by emperors to hold ceremonies worshiping the heavens and earth.
It’s one of the tallest in all of China, reaching over two kilometres into the sky! It holds an important place in the Taoist religion, with over 20 Taoist temples to be visited upon it’s steep slopes. It doesn’t only go up- look down and you’ll see deep cracks that look as though they run into the centre of the earth. It’s only 100 km from Xian city.
This area is known for their spicy food that’s made from the Sichuan pepper. The pepper produces a unique sensation as it’s both numbing and spicy at the same time, and we highly recommend giving it a try if you love spicy food! A Sichuan hot pot will be an experience you’re unlikely to forget.
The Xinjiang province offers something different to the rest of China- the Muslim area is famous for it’s delicious lamb dishes. Share a whole lamb between friends or try the hand-pulled noodles which originated from Turpan.
Some may be surprised to hear that China has excellent seafood, and there’s none better than the coastal city of Xiamen. The ingredients are caught locally and sold on the same day. We recommend trying out a late-night barbeque, and don’t miss the oyster omelettes!
Situated in the popular tourist city of Hangzhou, just beneath the Yuelun range of mountains, it’s an octagonal masterpiece made from only wood and brick. It’s almost 200 feet tall and serves to honour the 6 Buddhist ordnances. Wind your way up stairs that are ordained with beautiful paintings.
Right on West Lake’s water’s edge, this pagoda was built to remember the birth a son from the King of the Wuyue Kingdom. Although it collapsed in 1924, it’s been magnificently remade and is a popular tourist attraction. It’s five stories tall.
Well, here are the numbers: it’s over 900 years old and over 200 feet tall. It’s made ONLY from wood, and the biggest attraction is the Sakayamuni Buddha on the first floor.
Sichuan province is the pandas natural home. Sadly, there are very few wild pandas, so seeing one outside of an enclosure is unlikely.
Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Centre
This centre can be found on the outskirts of Chengdu city, and it’s home to about 50 pandas. Their intention is to prepare pandas to be released into the wild, so they simulate the pandas natural diet and surroundings. There’s a special area for baby pandas, and a big panda museum.
Wolong Panda Centre
A little further from Chengdu (120 km), it was home to over 100 pandas until a tragic earthquake in 2008. Now there’s about 30, and this one’s unique because apart from seeing them, you can also lend a hand in taking care of them.
If you’re pressed for time, Beijing Zoo has a panda house. Be warned that this area of the zoo is incredibly busy, so choose your time wisely.