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After being a world power centuries ago then closing their doors to outside influences, China has opened itself up again and is taking its place preening on the world stage. Diverse, exotic and mysterious, China has a rich culture stretching back at least 4000 years. China is as unique as it is eclectic, from the hustle and bustle of huge cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, to the quiet introspection of the monasteries and temples. Even the cuisine varies dramatically from one province to another. While cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are certainly must-see destinations, you can only truly appreciate this huge nation if you explore the countryside and see the contrasts it has to offer. Chinas resurgence as an economic powerhouse has brought a new freedom and new opportunity for foreigners to explore this fascinating country.
Beijing is the thriving political and cultural heart of China and home to many remnants from China’s historical past. The Forbidden City contains the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in China. Tiananmen Square and the largest imperial garden in the world, the Summer Palace, are other highlights within the city alongside teahouses, ancient temples and Hutongs (small streets). The famous Peking Duck, which is served at speciality restaurants is a must try, along with a day at the Great Wall and the Ming Dynasty’s Imperial Tombs.
Shanghai is an exhilarating and modern metropolis that epitomizes the philosophy of East meets West. The classical Art Deco buildings on the Bund contrast with the modern skyscrapers of Pudong towering above the city on the opposite banks of the Huangpu River. From the Bund explore the ever popular Nanjing Road, a bustling pedestrian shopping street. Don’t miss the Yu Gardens, an ancient old gem and a fine example of Ming Court Gardens or the Jade Buddha Temple, one of Shanghai’s few active Buddhist monasteries.
A world renowned ancient capital with over 3000 years of history, Xian boasts a rich legacy of historical sites and cultural relics. It is home to the Terracotta Warriors, the famed life sized tomb guards of the Emperor Qin Si Huang which had lain underground for over 2000 years before being rediscovered in 1974. Also worth visiting is Xian’s famous landmark, the ancient and well preserved Big Goose Pagoda and the Banpo Museum, home to a 6000 year old Neolithic village. Don’t miss an opportunity to roam the ancient city walls for great views of the Drum Tower and Bell Tower.
Chengdu and the Sichuan province are famous for their Sichuan cuisine, which many in China believe to be the best in the country. Though a modern city, life in Chengdu takes place on the back streets where crowds are waiting outside hot-pot restaurants and tea houses are abuzz with mahjong players. Pandas are native to the surrounding Sichuan province and have long been the city’s most famous attraction, not to mention its cutest.
The famous Shanghai waterfront, regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years, is a celebration of China’s diversity. The most attractive sight on the west side are the 26 various buildings of different architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and Renaissance. Not what you’d expect in China.
How can you resist the beautiful faces of China’s oldest inhabitants? These cuddly bears are the national emblem of China and their protection is a top priority for China. The Chengdu Panda Research Base is home to 80 pandas and set up to resemble their natural surroundings of their original home in north Sichuan. You can even cuddle a baby panda during your visit so don’t miss this highlight.
Stretching almost 9000 kilometres long from the Gobi Desert in the west to the Bohai Sea in the east, this spectacular wall is one of China’s most famous attractions. Original construction began more than 2000 years ago to protect China from the nomad threat in the north, since then the Great Wall has been rebuilt and maintained and the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty. The Wall is accessible from many different sections. Head to the Mutianyu or Juyongguan sections instead of Badaling as they are far less crowded. All three sections are in close proximity to Beijing.
No visit to Beijing is complete without experiencing a Peking Duck Dinner. The succulent duck is thinly sliced and eaten with pancakes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce all served in an original, century old restaurant.
Are you planning your next trip to China? Want to learn more about this destination? Or looking for ideas and inspiration for your next holiday? Here is where you can find our featured articles on China.
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