Escaping the crowds at the Great Wall and dining out on ‘Crossing the Bridge Noodles’ in Yunnan. We asked our China Product Manager, Jackie, to give us her Top 5 reasons to visit China.
Shanghai's increasingly recognisable skyline
1. Bright lights, big cities!
Known as the Pearl of the Orient, Shanghai has captivated the imaginations of travellers for well over a century. Nowadays the city has two very different stories to tell, with charming remains of days gone-by like the former French Concession and the stately colonial architecture of the Bund riverfront on one side of the river, and the skyscrapers and futuristic design in Pudong, on the other. These are all wonderfully complimented by the fascinating nooks, crannies and side-streets, of old Shanghai.
Hong Kong, the cosmopolitan gateway to Southern China, has a well-earned reputation as a shopping mecca, but there’s much more to this vibrant corner of Asia. Make sure to allow enough time to ride the famous Star Ferry and admire the panoramic views from Victoria Peak. Explore Stanley’s seaside sights and Central’s antique district, stroll through Kowloon’s backstreets and savour the local delicacies at street stalls or in some of the world’s finest restaurants, including the world’s smallest and cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant!
The Terracotta Army as built by the first
Emperor of China (circa 2010 BC)
2. Ancient dynasties and iconic remains
Stand atop the 2000 year old Great Wall of China which stretches more than 5,000 km from the Gobi Desert in the West to Shanhaiguan on the East coast where it plunges into the Yellow Sea. For a truly unique experience hike on a remote section of the Great Wall at Jinshanling, then spend the night in the shadow of the Wall in beautiful boutique accommodation (The Brickyard at Mutianyu or Red Capital Ranch).
Take in the exquisite architecture of China’s Imperial past and hear its stories of love, devotion, intrigue and treachery, at the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. In Xian, marvel at the 8,000-strong Army of Terracotta Warriors and spend a few hours discovering the most important archaeological find of the 20th century.
The verdant scenery of Yangshuo
3. Natural wonders
A journey from Xian to the far western reaches of the country along the legendary Silk Road will take you through lush oases, across soaring sand dunes (which you can experience atop a camel!), past the stunning ‘Flaming Mountains’ and the sublime Heavenly Lake. In Guilin and Yangshuo, discover the limestone hills flanking the Li River, a landscape that has inspired artists and poets for centuries.
Travel further to the west and be awestruck by the stunning snow-shrouded mountain cliffs of the Tibetan Plateau which stretches from Tibet to the beautiful province of Yunnan, and the alpine forests and azure pools of Sichuan.
4. Lip-smacking delicacies, both weird and wonderful
A Chinese taste sensation...Yunnan Noodles
Enjoy a delectable Peking Duck in Beijing, delicate dumplings in Xian, dishes spiked with earthy spices brought to China by Arab traders via the Silk Road, steaming hotpots and the fiery flavours of Sichuan cuisine; ‘Crossing the Bridge Noodles’ in Yunnan and mouth-water dim sum morsels in Hong Kong.
For a really special culinary experience, why not take a cooking class – you might like to learn to make dumplings in a local home in Xian or cook regional specialties at a local restaurant in Yangshuo. The experience starts with a trip to the local market to learn about the ingredients which combine to produce the extraordinary flavours of Chinese cuisine, then you continue with an interactive cooking class and finally feats on your creations for lunch!
5. Unforgettable encounters
Local musician in Turpan, Xinjiang in China
China is home to some 55 ethnic minorities, each with their own distinctive customs, spiritual beliefs, traditional dress and cuisine and all fiercely protective if their identity. A journey along the Silk Road starting in Xian, or to the Dragon’s Backbone in Longsheng, to the breath-taking province of
Yunnan or the amazing region of Tibet promises encounters with these extraordinary people and an insight into their lives. You can even experience lunch in a home within one of Beijing’s hutongs or join a Uighur family for a meal in their house near Turpan, along the Silk Road. In Yunnan you might like to stop in to see a local family over a cup of yak-butter tea.
But memorable encounters in China are not limited to its engaging people. Visit the Sichuan capital of Chengdu for a close encounter with Giant Pandas and learn about the work of the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center to protect these magnificent animals and their habitat.
Jackie has been with Insider Journeys since 2009. Visiting China on a regular basis to inspect new hotels, research new and unique experiences and ensure you see the very best this country has to offer. Jackie is especially interested in the rural side of Chinese life including the countries history and many ethnic communities that make up modern-day China.