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China is a land of mesmerizing and eye-opening contradictions. Everything you think you know about China may well be true, but what you don’t know about this vast country will far outweigh what you do. It is an ancient yet modern mixture of the familiar images yet unrecognizable and unusual. Outwardly urban in the cities yet quintessentially rural once outside – space age yet old and ancient traditions combine into an awe-inspiring place to visit.
There are distinct differences to every region in China – the cities each have their own personality and the rural outlying regions are a world to themselves.
Travel selectively around China and you can quickly tap into a rich seam of antiquity: ponder the legends and myths of the Forbidden City, rediscover your sense of wonder on the Great Wall or attempt to fathom the timeless expressions of the silent Terracotta Warriors. Visit China's best preserved walled town or simply meander among the historic villages of Wùyuán, the options are endless.
Knowing where to start is often the hardest part and if you have any ‘must dos’ on your list, make sure you speak to a House of Travel specialist to add on other extras in the region, or recommend complimentary places to visit.
To help kick start your planning, here is our pick of 5 amazing things to do that will give you just a small taste of what this vast wonderland can offer;
Harbin Ice Festival – This amazing festival is held in the Northeast of the country and runs annually for a month from 5 January. In this winter wonderland you’ll find life size ice sculptures of everything from buildings to people, scenes and much more. It’s an amazing skill to behold and a great winter activity experience.
Hainan Island – A long white sandy beach with swaying palm trees and relaxing resorts is not what immediately springs to mind when you think of China! Hainan Island is China's most southerly province and the country's second largest island after Taiwan, located in the South China Sea about 60 minutes south of Hong Kong by air. The closest city by flight to Hainan Island is Guangzhou (Canton) which you can fly to direct from Auckland on China Southern Airlines.
Hainan Island is where all the beach resorts lie beachfront along Sanya and has a reputation as the 'oriental' Hawaii – a must if you want a fly and flop sunny holiday while in Asia.
Club Med Ski – yes, there is now a club med in China! Newly opened, club Med Yabuli offers a fully inclusive resort offering a full Ski Experience. Yabuli is located in the largest ski resort in China and offers tracks used by the Chinese national ski team on the longest run in Asia! They also offer a flying trapeze, Canadian hot tub and of course Karaoke!
Cruise along Li River in Guilin – The Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is an amazing experience. Located in the north-eastern Guangxi Province the craggy mist shrouded Karst peaks and unusual rock formations are quite mystical. Water buffalo laze in the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, school kids and fishermen float by on bamboo rafts. This is a great contrast with the city experiences in Shanghai or Guangzhou and with its breathtaking scenery and taste of a life far removed from the concrete metropolis, the scenery along the river become one of China's top tourist attractions.
Hutongs – The hutongs are 'alleyways' and are traditional to Beijing being where the locals live in the little cobblestone alleys behind walls. Typically a house in Beijing is on prime real estate so the ‘owners’ are considered wealthy even though they are rundown and have no money. The Government owns about 85% of the Hutongs and rents to the people. Most houses in the Hutongs have no sewerage system, so much like a NZ camping ground there is a toilet and shower block for each neighbourhood. The best way to get around the Hutongs is either to walk to hire a rickshaw and these areas have their own shopping district which is amazing. In several areas the government has done a great job in creating a series of shops and restaurants with a lot of character. There is a multitude of funky little modern bars scattered amongst the shops and this is now the 'place to come' if you are a hip bar hopping local or tourist.
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