China Travel Experiences
China is such a unique country and its size and millennia of history give it so much to draw on as a destination for the curious traveller. Consequently, the wide variety of experiences it can offer make a China tours here an extremely rewarding and unforgettable experience with some of the highlights listed below.
Overnight Sleeper Trains
Although some routes are now being eclipsed by the more practical and time efficient bullet trains an overnight sleeper train journey is still an excellent way to get between cities offering up a far better cultural experience than flying. If you can try to get at least one overnight train ride into your itinerary. Most trains have 4 berth “soft sleeper” cabins (similar to second class on the Trans-Siberian) and it is often possible to buy additional berths if you want sole occupancy of a cabin.
Colourful Evening Entertainment
In major Chinese cities and other well visited tourist spots there are well put together cultural shows ranging from Chinese Acrobats, Martial Arts shows, Opera and music and dance focusing on traditional culture and very much part of the China experience. Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Chengdu all offer this entertainment as well as outdoor shows in Yangshuo and Lijiang and on an epic scale directed by Zhang Yimou who also directed the Beijing 2008 Olympic opening ceremony.
Ancient Chinese Traditions
With thousands of years of history to draw from one of the delights of a tour in China is to experience the rich cultural traditions that define the Middle Kingdom. These can range from visiting a working temple to the vast and varied cuisine of the various provinces that make up the country. One of the most famous traditions worth experience is a tea ceremony. The Chinese way of drinking is very different to the Western way and milk and biscuits are certainly not an option!
Modern Bullet Trains
A quite recent addition to the list of China Experiences are the bullet trains. China is building this high speed network at a breathtaking pace with the aim to link up all major cities within the next few years. The trains travel up to 300 km per hour and are clean and comfortable. They start and finish at airport like stations but perhaps the most surreal part of it is that you can speed in 21st Century comfort through a very much more ancient an unchanged landscape for a fascinating contrast.
One of the joys of China travel is the food. In the west most Chinese food we eat is actually Cantonese style from the Hong Kong area. However, there is so much more to Chinese food than that with each province having its own style of cuisine ranging from seriously spicy to delicately flavoured and including soups, dumplings, kebabs and even Chinese pizza to name jus a few. Don’t hold back, dive in and keep an eye on what is clearly popular with the locals.
Unique & Stunning Scenery
Although heavily populated China also has areas of stunning natural beauty. The most famous is probably Guilin and Yangshuo in Southern China. The scared mountains are also very unusual blending scenery with culture. Areas of Sichuan and Yunnan have beautiful lush mountains and the rolling rural countryside of Guizhou is the Chinese version of our English countryside. For a more wild experience Xinjiang and Tibet offer up remote and untouched landscapes.
Friendly & Diverse People
On the whole Chinese people are a friendly and curious bunch not shy to communicate with foreigners even if there is little meeting of language. Even in the big cities used to seeing foreigners you are accorded the respect of a visiting guest. The “Chinese” are also a diverse bunch with over 50 ethnic minorities each with their own look and traditions. Learning just a few words of Mandarin will get you a long way and bring out the welcoming smiles of the people.
Modern 21st Century China
Many people associate China with ancient traditions but much of the country is also hurtling towards the future with hardly a glance back at this past. Shanghai is the city most obviously associated with this with its increasingly impressive skyline of skyscrapers but many other cities also have their brand new business districts containing impressive modern architecture. Much of the transport infrastructure is futuristic as well including new stations, bullet trains and airports.
High Altitude Adventure
The western provinces of China including Xinjiang, Tibet and Qinghai as well as parts of Sichuan and Yunnan offer up some truly magnificent mountain scenery including, of course, Mount Everest close to the Tibet Nepal border. The remote Karakorum Highway is also spectacular as is parts of the train ride from Urumqi to Kashgar through the Tian Shan range and the Tibet Sky Train to Lhasa. China also has sacred mountains throughout the country that offer a unique experience.
All across China are beautiful temples and although the most popular are somewhat less than tranquil due to large numbers of tourists there are also many that are rarely visited and quietly go about their business largely unchanged over the centuries. The scared mountains offer up this experience as they usually have dozens of temples to choose from but many cities also have some fantastic options – even tourist hotspots like Beijing. Your guide can make suggestions.