For thousands of years China has been shrouded in mystery andintrigue, and foreigners still find it difficult to penetrate theinner depths of this fascinating and enigmatic nation. However,since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing showcased some of itsmost spectacular attractions, there has been a major increase intravellers exploring this vast and exotic destination. There is agreat deal to discover in the Middle Kingdom, the world's mostpopulated country (over 1.3 billion citizens), and also the thirdlargest in the world.
What makes China attractive as a travel destination,particularly for Western tourists, is its unique culture andancient antiquities. Ruins and relics from Neolithic settlementsand the dynastic reigns of the mighty emperors await explorationand there are plenty of adventures to be had along the legendaryancient trade routes, such as the Silk Road. The Forbidden Palace,Great Wall of China, and the Terracotta Army of X'ian are just someof the incredible attractions to be seen in this ancient Easternempire.
The People's Republic of China has been under a communistgovernment since 1949, but is currently undergoing a boom in socialand economic development with a great emphasis placed on touristfacilities and infrastructure. Now China is opening the doors toits wealth of historical and cultural treasures and visitors areflooding in to be amazed and awed.
Organised tours are still the favoured way to explore China, butindependent travel is slowly becoming easier. The major cities,like Beijing and Shanghai, are modern metropolises offering fastfood and glitzy stores alongside centuries-old historical buildingsand traditional eating houses. Archaeological wonders vie withamazing architecture in the interior, while majestic mountains andremote monasteries crown the northern areas. With all to marvel at,this country would take several years' worth of holidays to exploreproperly!
China's attractions are so many, and its landscapes so vast,that travellers will need a lifetime to fully explore thisfascinating and impossibly diverse country. That said, the must-seesights are fairly obvious and highly accessible, and, as previouslyrestricted areas open up, the list of world-class attractions keepsgrowing. In addition to big draw-cards like the Great Wall, theXi'an Terracotta Army, and the Forbidden City, travellers canchoose from a huge range of cultural treasures, traditionaltemples, incredible landscapes, national parks, and festivals.Travellers should choose areas that they would like to explorewisely, especially if travelling on a budget, because the country'svastness can make travelling from place to place considerablyexpensive.
One of the most amazing sights in China can be seen in everyChinese city every day: the incredible pace of modernisationreflected in the energy of the people, frenetic urban development,and the relentless embrace of capitalism, with all its virtues andvices. These impressions are likely to leave the deepest mark onvisitors to China. The contrast between the ancient and the new isintriguing and makes exploring China a joy for both history andculture buffs as well as the more modern tourist interested intechnology and development.
China is a year-round destination, although visitors might wantto plan around Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in late Januaryand early February, when much of the country shuts down for a weekand public transport is completely booked up.
Though there are many collections of steles (stone tablets) inChina, only Xi'an's is large enough to warrant being called aforest. There are more than 3,000 ancient steles in this library,dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Beilin Museum itselfis nearly as old, having been established in 1087. The steles aredivided into seven exhibition halls, and display classic examplesof traditional Chinese calligraphy, painting, and historicalrecords. It is a scholarly museum, and perhaps not as thrilling assome other sites, but travellers interested in history, writing,calligraphy, poetry, or philosophy will be enthralled by theancient collection. It is recommended that visitors hire one of thelibrary's excellent English guides, as without some assistance, alot of the interesting history and the cultural relevance of theinscriptions will be inaccessible. Apart from its impressivecollection, the museum building has lovely grounds with fountainsand pagodas, making it a great place to relax after a long day ofsightseeing. It is also one of the less crowded touristattractions. Ink rubbings of some of the most famous tablets arefor sale in the gift shop.
No trip to Shanghai would be complete without a walk along thefamous Bund. This picturesque street, Shanghai's waterfrontpromenade, stretches for one mile (2km) along the bank of theHuangpu River, and was once the most famous street in Asia. It isstill renowned for its strip of Art Deco buildings. One of thegrandest of these buildings, formerly the City Communist Partyheadquarters, is now the home of the Shanghai Pudong DevelopmentBank. On the skyline, visitors can see the Jin Mao Tower, one ofthe tallest buildings in China. The wide riverfront promenade onthe east bank of the river provides a captivating view of Shanghai,particularly at night.
From the Bund visitors can take a river trip down the Huangpu tothe mouth of the Yangtse. Boats leave regularly from the ShiliupuPier south of the Bund and the trip takes about three hours. Thosepreferring to see an aerial view with a drink in hand could visitChar Bar of the Indigo Hotel for an astounding view of the Bund.However it's done, this area promises incredible photoopportunities and is a good way for travellers to familiarisethemselves with what Shanghai has to offer.
The new Shanghai Museum is situated on the People's Square, thepolitical and cultural centre of Shanghai. The square boasts agiant musical fountain and several attractive green recreationalareas where locals dance and fly kites. It is surrounded by theCity Hall, an underground shopping centre, and the Grand ShanghaiTheatre. However, the Shanghai Museum, opened in 1996, draws themost interest from tourists. The building is shaped like a giantbronze urn, and the museum contains a collection of about 123,000cultural artefacts in 21 categories. The permanent galleries ofthis impressive museum include: Chinese Ancient Bronze, ChineseAncient Ceramics, Chinese Paintings, Chinese Calligraphy, ChineseAncient Sculpture, Chinese Ancient Jade, Chinese Coins, Ming andQing Furniture, Chinese Seals, and Chinese Minority Nationalities'Art. There is a restaurant and an art store within the museum. Ifvisitors do not speak Chinese, they should look out for themuseum's advanced audio tour, which is offered in eight languages.As the lines can get rather long, it is worth getting to the museumearly. If it is a hot day, visitors should enter via the southentrance rather than the north, as it is possible there to queueundercover.
The Yuyuan Gardens or the Gardens of Contentment,date back to 1559 during the Ming Dynasty, and are the best exampleof Chinese classical gardens in Shanghai. While Yuyuan is a populartourist attraction, it is still a peaceful refuge from the city,with koi ponds amidst the trees and pagodas. The relatively smallgardens are laid out in an intricate design with pavilions,rockeries, ponds, and a traditional theatre arranged in an ornatemaze. The gardens consist of six sections: The Grand Rockery, theHall of Heralding Spring, the Hall of Jade Magnificence, TenThousand Flower Pavilion, Inner Garden and Lotus Pool.
The gardens are on Yuyuan Street in downtown Shanghaiand can be reached via the Town God Temple Market, a warren ofshops and stalls that is becoming increasingly popular as a touristbazaar. The market boasts both international staples like Starbucksand Dairy Queen, as well as unique local stalls. After the bustleof the market, the gardens provide welcome shade and calm. It isbest to visit the gardens during the week because they are verybusy during weekends and the crowds can detract from the spirit ofthe place.
In 1974, a group of peasants digging a well north of MountLishan in Lintong county, about 18 miles (30km) from Xi'an,unearthed fragments of a life-sized warrior figure. Because thesite of the discovery was just one mile (2km) from the as yetunexcavated tomb of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who ruledbetween 246 and 210 BC, archaeologists grew excited. Furtherexcavation revealed several timber-lined vaults filled withthousands of greatly detailed terracotta soldiers and their horsesand chariots: an entire army assembled in position to followEmperor Qin into eternity. The pits containing the army are nowopen to public viewing and thousands of visitors flock to gaze atthe stunning array of figures with their vivid facialexpressions.
The Terracotta Army Museum consists of the original pit that wasdiscovered in 1974, which has been enclosed within a hangar-likebuilding to preserve the ranks of 6,000 soldiers found there. Asecond pit, containing 1,400 figures of cavalrymen, horses andinfantrymen, and 90 wooden chariots, is also part of the museum.Visitors can also see Qin's Mausoleum and view almost 100sacrificial pits containing the skeletons of horses, complete withhay, that were buried with him. There are also about 20 tombsholding the remains of his counsellors and retainers. The emperor'stomb itself is under a 249-foot (76m) high mound that has not yetbeen excavated, but is believed, according to historical records,to have contained rare gems and other treasures.
The graceful complex of buildings that constitute the ShaanxiProvincial History Museum in Xi'an's southern suburbs is built inthe style of a Tang Dynasty pavilion, and is itself a sight worthseeing. The museum's exhibits, however, are even more breathtaking,consisting of about 113,000 artefacts unearthed in the province andchronologically arranged in three exhibition halls. The exhibitscover the Han, Wei, Jin, North and South, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan,Ming, and Quing dynasties, as well as the prehistoric and bronzeperiod. Shaanxi province was a vital region for the culturaldevelopment of China; it was the capital of 13 glorious dynasties.The Shaanxi Provincial History Museum stands as testament to thearea's importance: it is a treasure trove of Chinese civilization.The museum is China's premier history museum and everything isworld-class. The lines at the entrance can be extremely long, sotravellers are advised to get there early to avoid the crowds andto get a free ticket (4,000 free tickets are available every day,visitors must just present their passport to get one).
On the outskirts of Xi'an city, on the bank of the Chanhe River,are the remains of the ancient settlement of Banpo, dating fromabout 5000 BC. The remains were discovered in 1953 by workerslaying the foundations for a factory. Upon further investigation,the site proved to make up one of the most complete example of anagricultural Neolithic settlement in the world. The site containsthe ruins of more than 40 homes, 200 cellars, numerous storagepots, a collection of pottery and tools, a pottery-making centre,and more than 250 graves belonging to a matriarchal community ofthe Yangshao culture. There is an on-site museum constructed overthe excavation site with two smaller exhibition halls displayingthe archaeological artefacts that have been unearthed. More than400 archaeological sites similar to Banpo have been discovered inand around the Yellow River Valley in China, giving the area thereputation of being the birthplace of ancient Chinese culture.Banpo is an essential visit for those interested in archaeology andancient history.
The Huaqing Hot Springs, located about 22 miles (35km) east ofXi'an city, at the base of the Lishan Mountains, is where theancient emperors bathed and relaxed in scenic surroundings. Huaqingis one of the Hundred Famous Gardens of China and the setting ofthe baths is very beautiful. The spa has been operating since thedays of the Tang Dynasty, and its warm (109°F/43°C) mineral waters,containing lime, sodium carbonate, and sodium sulphate, are stillenjoyed by locals and visitors today.
The waters are particularly recommended for the treatment ofdermatitis, rheumatism, arthritis and muscular pain. The ancientimperial bathing pools can be visited, including the Hibiscus pool,dating from the year 712, which has been restored and is open tothe public. There is also a fascinating museum at the sitecontaining building materials from the Tang Dynasty.
Another attraction at the springs is the Hovering RainbowBridge, which reflects the sunset in such a way that it appears tobe a rainbow. Visitors can take a cable car up the mountain toexperience the aerial view. Huaqing is the setting for a famousChinese love story about the Emperor and his lover and this romanceis the central theme of the attraction. Visitors will only need afew hours here, but it makes for a good side excursion on their wayto the Terracotta Warriors.
The Great Mosque is the pride of China's Islamic community andis a popular tourist attraction. The mosque is near the Drum Towerin the Islamic residential area. Islam came to China along withArab merchants and travellers in roughly the year 600. The GreatMosque in Xi'an is the best-preserved ancient mosque in China,having been built in 742, during the Tang Dynasty. It is built intraditional Chinese style with platforms, pavilions and halls, andis rectangular in shape, divided inside into four courtyards.Visitors can explore the passages, courtyards and archways andadmire the furniture and fittings, most of which date from the Mingand Qing Dynasties. The main prayer hall can accommodate 1,000 andits ceiling bears more than 600 classical scriptures in colourfulrelief. The Great Mosque is a rewarding travellers destination,particularly because the mix of Islamic and Chinese architectureand design is interesting and unique. It is surrounded bylandscaped gardens which make for a quiet sanctuary and are worthstrolling around. It is a place of worship though, so visitorsshould dress appropriately and behave respectfully.
The vast Potala Palace stands on a cliff top above Lhasa,considered the greatest achievement of Tibetan architecture. Thepalace was originally built in the 7th century by the then emperorfor his bride. It was later partially destroyed by lightning, andwar, but restored and extended in 1645 by the Fifth Dalai Lama whenhe became political and religious leader of Tibet. The Fifth DalaiLama took up residence in the palace in 1653, and it remained theDalai Lamas' official residence until the exile of the 14th DalaiLama in 1959.
The palace is renowned for its interior splendour. It consistsof two main sections: The White Palace is the secular sectioncontaining offices, dormitories, a Buddhist seminary and printinghouse; The Red Palace is the sacred sanctuary dedicated toreligious study and Buddhist prayer. The Red Palace containschapels where the mummified remains of three Dalai Lamas lie, andthe Great West Hall famous for its rich murals. The only remainingstructures dating from the 7th century are the Dharma Cave and theSaint's Chapel but the palace houses many ancient culturaltreasures and relics. In fact, the palace contains over 10,000shrines and 200,000 statues.
The Jokhang Temple lies in the heart of old Lhasa. It was builtnearly 1,300 years ago but remains the spiritual centre of Tibet,drawing pilgrims from all over the region who come to demonstratepiety to the Buddha. The original structure was enlarged under thereign of the Fifth Dalai Lama and it now stands as the product ofHan, Tibetan and Nepalese architectural design. It is a four-storeytimber temple with a golden roof and it contains numerous valuablecultural relics and sacred sculptures, and features somemagnificent murals in the main hall. Possibly the most specialstatue is the site's original sculpture of Buddha, called Jobo,which is richly decorated with jewels and silk. An annual prayerfestival is held in the temple, which is also the venue for theinitiation of the Dalai Lamas. The Jokhang Temple is a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site and it is generally considered to be Tibet's mostsacred and important temple. It is certainly one of the mostpopular tourist attractions in Lhasa. By all accounts, JokhangTemple is a profoundly special place and it is said that travellerswho stay long enough will discover that they are a Buddhist.
Tashi Lhunpo is one of Tibet's most revered and influentialmonasteries, lying about a mile (2km) to the west of Shigatse atthe base of Drolmari Mountain. It dates from 1477, having beenfounded by the first Dalai Lama, and became the seat of the PanchenLama (Tibet's second most important spiritual leader) in 1713. Themonastery today houses about 800 monks in its 3,229 square foot(300 sq m) buildings. The oldest section of the monastery is themain chanting hall that houses the throne of the Panchen Lama. Thetallest section is the Maitreya Chapel, which contains the world'slargest brass statue of Maitreya. The seated figure is 86 feet(26m) high and has been decorated with gold, pearl, amber, copper,coral, diamonds, and many other precious stones. It is said that ittook 900 craftsmen nine years to complete the statue. The TashiLhunpo Monastery boasts many other treasures, including theremarkable Thanka Wall, which is nine floors high and was built bythe first Dalai Lama. The wall is used to display massive images ofBuddha on important days in the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. There arealso exquisite wall paintings, or murals, to be found within themonastery.
The Shigatse prefecture is the gateway for climbers to the NorthCol climbing route of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest.The ultimate climber's challenge, Mount Everest towers at 29,028feet (8,848m) on the border between Tibet and Nepal. The Tibetanname for the peak is Mount Quomolangma, which means 'the thirdgoddess'. Access to the Everest Base Camp is via the town ofTinggri. About 20 miles (30km) from the town hiking tracks takeclimbers on a 48-mile (78km) trek to the first camp.
About six miles (10km) from the base camp is the highestmonastery on earth, Rongbuk Monastery, at an altitude of 16,728ft(5,099m). The monastery is being restored and offers hostelaccommodation. Just south of the monastery is the world-renownedRongbuk Glacier. Because of its height, adventurers wishing toclimb Mount Everest will need to allow several weeks simply toacclimatise to the thin atmosphere. Climbing Mount Everest is notto be entertained without the aid of a guide, and should only beattempted by extremely experienced climbers. Many have diedattempting to reach the summit - about 280 people are thought tohave perished on the mountain and fatalities occur almost everyyear. However, it is an awe-inspiring area to explore even fortravellers not intending to climb the peak.
Numerous travel agencies offer package multi-day hikes aroundthe area and up to the Everest base camp.
The unique Palkhor (Baiju) Monastery is situated about 143 miles(230km) south of Lhasa and 62 miles (100km) east of Shigatse, atthe foot of Dzong Hill. It has an unusual structural style andhouses a collection of pure silk costumes worn in Tibetan opera,all richly embroidered, that date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.The architecture of the monastery is diverse, incorporating Han,Tibetan and Nepali styles. The monastery is also unique in that itis the only one known to accommodate monks from three differentBuddhist orders: the Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Kahdampa monks all getalong famously. The main hall of Palkhor Monastery is about 500years old. This famous monastery is a popular pilgrimage site andhouses a number of shrines and frescoes: the 18 Arhat claysculptures in the Arhat Shrine are renowned throughout Tibet. Themost famous attraction of the monastery, however, is the BodhiDagoba, a building consisting of nine tiers, with 108 gates, thathouses 76 shrines to Buddha. The views in the area are phenomenaland visitors will be enchanted by the location and the devotion ofthe pilgrims who flock to the site.
The impossibly majestic Forbidden City is a historical precinctsituated in the heart of Beijing. Almost a city in its own right,the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been declared the largestcollection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. TheForbidden City, called Gu Gong in Chinese, was the imperial palaceduring the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the biggest and bestpreserved complex of ancient buildings in China, and the largestpalace complex in the world. Construction of the palace complexbegan in 1407, and for 500 years this inner sanctum was off-limitsto most of the world as the emperors lived in luxury, secluded fromthe masses, and surrounded by their families, court officials,servants, eunuchs, concubines, and other members of court. TheForbidden City and its centrepiece, the magnificent palace, have apermanent restoration squad that works continuously to keep the 800buildings and 9,999 rooms inside the Forbidden City complex inperfect condition. The once Forbidden City is now open to allvisitors, and is home to the Palace Museum, home to a pricelesscollection of ancient artefacts. The complex can get very crowdedso it is best to go early in the morning to fully appreciate thelayout of the place.
This famous square at the heart of Beijing attracts tourists notonly with its pleasing design and views of numerous landmarks,including the famous painting of Chairman Mao, but also because itwas the scene of so many historic events and is said to be thelargest city square in the world. In the ancient imperial days, thesquare was a gathering place and the site of government offices,but more modern history, particularly the 1989 massacre ofpro-democracy demonstrators, has made it a site of great politicalsignificance. Major rallies took place in the square during theCultural Revolution when Mao Tse Tung reviewed military parades upto a million strong.
The square is surrounded by several monuments, some ancient andsome modern, including the former gates to the Forbidden City, theGate of Heavenly Peace and Qianmen (the front gate), the ChineseRevolution Museum, and the Mao Mausoleum, where China's formerleader lies preserved. There is also an underground walkwayconnecting Tiananmen Square with the Forbidden City. Like most bigtourist attractions in China, it is best to try and go early in theday to avoid the masses (the square opens to visitors as early as5am). Visitors in summer are advised to wear sunscreen or a hat, asthere is little shade to be found.
The magnificent Summer Palace at Kunming Lake, in northwestBeijing, was built in 1750 by the Emperor Qianlong, and continuedto be an imperial residence until the Empress Dowager Cixi died in1908. It is the largest and most well-preserved royal park inChina, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thepalace and stunning gardens are open to visitors, who enter throughthe East Palace Gate, pass through a grand courtyard into the Hallof Benevolent Longevity, the Hall of Jade Ripples, and the Hall ofJoyful Longevity. Empress Cixi's private theatre in the Garden ofMoral Harmony is a must-see, as is the long corridor that skirtsKunming Lake's northern shoreline to reach the marble boat, anelaborate two-storey structure of finely carved stone and stainedglass. All in all the Summer Palace boasts not only famouslybeautiful grounds but also 3,000 man-made ancient structures,including mansions, temples, pavilions, bridges and towers. Once aplace for weary royals to relax, the Summer Palace is now asanctuary for travellers and, although it can get crowded, italways seems calmer and cooler than the rest of the city.
The Chimelong Group is the leading park operator inChina, offering a variety of attractions including a circus, awaterpark, and a theme park. Chimelong Paradise Amusement Park isone of China's largest theme parks and it is recognisedinternationally as a quality establishment, with one of itsrollercoasters even being featured in the Guinness Book of Records!The park has more than 100 rides and is guaranteed to delightthrill seekers and kids of all ages. The water world section boastsone of the largest water stunt shows in the world and is a famouslyenjoyable place to spend a sunny day.
The Chimelong International Circus is said to be theworld's largest permanent circus and the theatre can hold nearly7,000 people. This show is endlessly popular and it is recommendedthat visitors book their tickets in advance, especially if goingover the weekend. This can be done online. The ChimelongInternational Circus includes award winning acts from all over theworld and its set, lighting, and costume design is fantastic. TheChimelong Park and circus top the list for families when it comesto things to do in Guangzhou.
Although Chairman Mao Zedong of the Central Committeeof the Communist Party of China requested to be cremated, it wasdecided hours after his death in 1976, that he would be instead beembalmed. It is said that after his death, doctors pumped him sofull of formaldehyde that his body swelled excessively. Afterdraining the corpse and getting it back to a suitable state, theycreated a wax model of Mao Zedong, as a backup. It is unknown todaywhich version of the Great Helmsman is on display at the Mausoleumat any given time.
The Mausoleum itself was built in 1977 on the priorsite of the Gate of China, the main gate of the Imperial Cityduring the Ming and Qing dynasties. On the first floor people canvisit the tomb of the leader himself, and on the second floor thereis a museum of sorts dedicated to six great communist leaders,including Mao himself. Those interested in visiting the Mausoleumcan join the long line of visitors outside the building every day.Visitors should remember to dress respectfully and maintain silencein the mausoleum, as the site is a place of worship more than atourist destination. Those dressed in casual wear like vests andflip flops may be denied entry.
A place of tranquillity and grand imperial beauty, the BeihaiPark is one of the great attractions of Beijing. The park iscentrally located and close to the Forbidden City and JingshanPark, providing a peaceful, natural haven after a long morning ofbusy sightseeing. Beihai Park is one of the oldest and bestpreserved imperial gardens in China; its history extends over 1,000years to the ancient Liao dynasty, which ruled between 916 and1125. Built up through five dynasties, the park is an emblem ofold-world China, designed according to the ancient Chinese art oflandscaped gardens with artificial hills, colourful pavilions, andintricate temples. Kublai Khan lived in what is now the CircularCity of Beihai Park, and the Tibetan-style White Dagoba, built in1651 on Jade Island, is a landmark for both Beihai Park andBeijing, having been constructed on the suggestion of a famousTibetan Lama priest, NaomuHan. Apart from the famous White Dagobaand the Circular City, landmarks within Beihai Park include Hao PuCreek Graden, the Quiet Heart Studio, Nine-Dragon Screen, and theFive-Dragon Pavilions. The Fangshan Restaurant, on the northernshore of the lake, is also worth a visit.
Beijing's prominent art district is home to 798Space, an art gallery housed in a former electronics factory thatbuilt components for China's first atomic bomb and earlysatellites. The gallery is large and airy, capable of comfortablyholding more than a thousand people, providing an unusual andstimulating background for the modern art on display. Exhibitingthe latest in contemporary Chinese art in its lofty viewing rooms,798 Space is a visual delight for any traveller. Besides regularnational and international exhibitions, 798 Space also hostscorporate and commercial events like fashion shows, productlaunches, conferences, and fairs. Within the gallery there is afilm and video viewing area and a tempting gallery bookshop. Thereis also space for eating, relaxing and socialising, in a colourfullittle restaurant within the gallery.
The art precinct itself is dotted with avant-gardestatues, charming coffee shops and noodle bars, and a plethora ofother wonderful art galleries to visit. Art lovers will need atleast a day to explore the trendy neighbourhood.
The Qing Temple is home to the Ancient Bell Museum (Gu ZhongBowuguan) and is a great stop for travellers en route to the SummerPalace. The temple, originally known as 'Awakened Life Temple',apparently wasn't experiencing enough 'awakening' and a 47-tonbell, with a height of 22.7 feet (6.9m) was transported to thetemple on ice sleds in 1743. The bell is inscribed with BuddhistMantras on both the inside and outside of the body and featuresover 227,000 characters in all. The bell was often chosen by theemperors to pray for rain and blessings for the people of China andwas one of three projects that Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) commanded after re-establishing Beijing as the capital;the other two were the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Thebell is considered as an auspicious article in Chinese traditionand nowadays it is rung 108 times to begin the celebrations atgrand ceremonies. There are a further 31 bells on display in theAncient Bell Museum, most with tributes to various emperorsinscribed on them. Like many tourist attractions in China, thewritten material in English is limited, but the temple isdefinitely still worth a visit.
For more than 20 years, Beijing's Underground City, a bombshelter just beneath the ancient capital's downtown area, built incase of nuclear attack, has been virtually forgotten by Beijinglocals, despite being rather famous among foreigners since itsofficial opening in 2000. A sign near the entrance announces thisrarely visited attraction a 'human fairyland and undergroundparadise'. Aside from some rather odd recent additions, theUnderground City features factories, stores, guesthouses,restaurants, hospitals, schools, theatres, reading-rooms, aroller-skating rink and many other curious features, like amushroom farm to provide food easily cultivated in darkness. On MaoZedong's orders, it was built from 1969 to 1979 by more than300,000 local citizens including school children, mostly by hand.The tunnels were initially intended to accommodate all of Beijing'ssix million inhabitants upon completion. Winding for over 18 miles(30km) and covering an area of nearly 53 square miles (85 sq km)from eight to 18 meters under the surface, the underground Cityincludes more than 1,000 anti-air raid structures.
Located within the Beijing Zoo, the Beijing Aquarium is one ofthe world's largest inland aquariums. Its interactive exhibitsprovide an immersive experience that cannot fail to delight, suchas an imaginative Amazon rainforest, complete with piranhas andpandas, as well as an exquisite shark aquarium where the brave canplunge into the tank with these infamous predators. Otherattractions include whales and a number of rare or endangered fish.Families flock to see the dolphin shows at 11am and 3pm but,although these displays are a consistent favourite with kids, theyare conducted in Chinese only.
A boat from the canal south of the aquarium runs to the SummerPalace, giving visitors the opportunity to sightsee while en routeto the attraction. The Beijing Aquarium offers a great mix ofentertainment and education and is the perfect departure from moretraditional cultural and historical tourism. For those travellingwith children in Beijing, the aquarium is sure to delight the wholefamily. The fact that it is wonderful no matter what the weatheralso makes it a useful venue to have on the travel itinerary.
The Beijing National Stadium, also known as The Bird's Nest dueto its appearance, was the hub of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games,hosting all of the track and field events as well the opening andclosing ceremonies. The unique-looking steel support structuresframing the stadium, weigh in at 110, 000 tons (99,790kg), makingthe stadium the largest steel structure in the world. The colossalstructure was created using a web of steel frames converging in agrid formation. The visual effect is unique and impressive and itwas designed to symbolise harmony between technology and nature.The stadium has reopened as a tourist attraction, and the publiccan tour the facilities, or visit the ski resort now housed insideduring the Happy Snow season (ticket prices go up during the skiingseason). The area surrounding the stadium complex comes alive inthe evenings with music, hawkers and vendors. Even if visitors onlygo to have a look from outside, and decline to do the tour, it iswell worth visiting The Bird's Nest. The best time of the day tovisit is late afternoon to evening when the lights come on,creating an incredible effect.
The Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou is one of the top 10 most famousBuddhist temples in China, and it consistently ranks even higherwhen voted on by tourists who have been there. It was built in 326AD, at the foot of Lingyin Mountain, and in its heyday housedaround 3,000 monks. Today, it is still one of the largest andwealthiest temples in China and is situated in the breathtakingLingyin-Felai Feng Scenic Area.
The walkway to the temple, which winds through a beautifulforested area, is strewn with hidden grottos, alcoves andsculptures and this collection of ancient art work is a highlightfor visitors. The Laughing Buddha sculpture, jovial and beautifullycarved, is particularly beloved. The temple's name can betranslated as Temple of the Soul's Retreat, or Temple of InspiredSeclusion, both of which aptly illustrate the wondrous atmosphere,and its situation in a lovely wilderness area.
Although you can view the famous statues carved into themountain by gaining admission to the scenic area, the LingyinTemple complex is definitely worth exploring. One of the manytreasures Lingyin displays is a Sakyamuni statue 82 feet (24.8m)tall, which is one of the largest wooden statues in China, and hasbeen covered in gold leaf. The temple also stores an importantcollection of Buddhist literature that makes it popular withscholars.
This amusement park, which opened in 2006, is a fantastic placeto spend the day with the little ones, or even without little ones!Happy Valley features about 40 rides, such as the Energy Collector,Trojan Horse and the Crystal Wing Rollercoaster, an IMAX Theatreand even a shopping centre. It is very similar in style and layoutto Disneyland, featuring six theme parks: Firth Forest, Atlantis,Ant Kingdom, the Aegean Sea, Lost Maya, and Shangri-La. Atlantis isprobably the favourite of these, with a massive palace built in itscentre. There is a mini train that circles the outer rim of thepark offering scenic tours. Kids of all ages will have a screaminggood time at the Happy Valley Amusement Park, and in the rightconditions it is a wonderful way to spend a few hours for the wholefamily. However, Happy Valley gets very crowded on the weekends,with queues of up to three hours for rides; during the week, whenit is much quieter, not all the rides stay open. Therefore, toavoid disappointment, visitors are advised to find out ahead oftime whether the state-of-the-art roller coasters will be runningwhen they visit. Happy Valley is best when it is warm andsunny.
The fascinating Sony ExploraScience museum is an interactiveeducational centre that encourages children to take an interest inscience. The museum features live science shows and interactiveeducational exhibits combined with Sony's latest digitaltechnology. The museum is divided into four themed sections,covering illusion, refraction, light and sounds. Attractionsinclude robotic dogs that play soccer, musical sculptures, soapbubble rings, and much more. All small enquiring minds will love atrip to the Sony ExploraScience, but it is probably an experiencebest-suited to kids aged five to 12. Tickets can be purchased fromthe Sony booth outside the south gate of Chaoyang Park, to avoidpaying for park admission separately. Profit made from ticket salesgoes towards supporting rural education in China, so it is moneyspent for a good cause. The Sony ExploraScience museum is locatedin Chaoyang Park, the largest park in Beijing, which boastsmultiple attractions including lakes, swimming pools, a bungeejumping tower, sports fields, a wetland area, fountains and afunfair. It is a beautiful area and a fun place to spend the day,especially for those travelling with children in Beijing.
The Beijing World Park is must see on the itinerary of thosetraveling with children through Beijing. The park features about100 miniature models of some of the world's most famous touristattractions from over 50 countries across the globe, and isdesigned to let visitors experience a trip around the world withoutever having to leave Beijing. It has become such a popular spot fortaking photos that many couples have used it as a backdrop fortheir wedding photos. The sights include Egypt's Great Pyramids,France's Eiffel Tower, India's Taj Mahal, England's Stone Henge,and even New York City's Manhattan Island, complete with landmarkslike the Empire State Building. Although the park can be a bitempty, depending on the season, it is a great place for kids tolearn and enjoy naming the attractions as they stroll through thereplicas. Summer is the best time to visit Beijing World Park, asit is a venue designed for sunny weather.
A trip to Tianmen Mountain National Park, located inneighbouring Hunan Province, is the ideal weekend excursion fromGuilin. This area boasts some of the most beautiful, and mostphotographed, natural landscapes in China. From Guilin, it is a 265mile (426km) drive to Zhangjiajie city, which nestles within thefamous mountain park. From the centre of town, visitors can takeone of the world's longest cableways up into the mountains,enjoying breathtaking scenery along the way.
The Tianmen Mountain National Park can easily occupy visitorsfor a whole day, as there is so much to see and do. Tianmen Cave, amassive archway created by an ancient cliff collapse, is known asheaven's gate because it looks like a doorway into another world.Travellers have to climb 999 steps to reach this naturalphenomenon, but it is well worth the effort and is said to bringhappiness and health (999 is a lucky number in Chineseculture).
Other attractions in the park include various scenic areas, someimpressive temples, and the Walk of Faith. This appropriately namedmountain pathway is constructed of glass, so that as visitors edgealong it they can see the ground 4,690 feet (1,430m) below. The 197foot long (60m) transparent pavement is a uniquely thrillingsightseeing experience; those brave enough to walk it will berewarded by truly heart-stopping scenery. The mountains can getcold, so the best time to visit Tianmen is during summer and autumn(May to October).
A must-see attraction in Guangzhou is the impressive Temple ofthe Six Banyan Trees. This ancient Buddhist temple was built aroundthe year 537, during the Liang Dynasty, and still attracts manylocal and foreign visitors. The three Buddha statues in the templeare famous, but one of the temple's best features is themagnificent statue of Kuan Yin. Kuan Yin is the Buddhistbodhisattva associated with compassion and mercy. Interestingly,perhaps due to the temple's proximity to foreign consulates, it hasbecome traditional for foreign families adopting Chinese childrento come to this statue and receive a blessing for their newfamilies. The nearby six-story pagoda is a beloved landmark, andthe view from the top is spectacular. It is called the FlowerPagoda because of its distinctive petal-like layers, and is used tostore a rich collection of cultural treasures. The temple issurrounded by some lovely gardens which add to the impression of itbeing a centre of serenity in a bustling city. The temple stillfeels very authentic and quiet and it doesn't have a gift shop, butsouvenirs, like replicas of the pagoda, can be bought at nearbyshops.
The South China Botanical Garden, formerly known as theInstitute of Agriculture and Forestry, was founded in 1929. Apartfrom being a botanical garden of stunning beauty and variety, it isone of the most important botany research centres in China. Thegarden is one of the largest in China and is divided into threeregions: a nursery and arboretum area, housing modernconservatories and over 30 specialised gardens; a research andresidential zone; and Dinghushan Nature Reserve, which was thefirst national nature reserve in China. The South China BotanicalGarden has a plethora of local flora for visitors to admire,including collections of magnolias, orchids and medicinal herbs.Various examples of bonsai, as well as bamboo and endangeredplants, are also featured in the gardens. Long Dong Magic Forest isa particularly special attraction, as it is one of the top eightscenic spots in Guangzhou. Non-botanical attractions at the gardensinclude the Science Education and Information Centre andGuangzhou's Oldest Village, which was rebuilt on Neolithic ruins.There are also entertainment areas in the garden with severalrestaurants and various activities on offer, including paintballand fishing.
Baiyun Shan (White Cloud) Mountain is a popular touristattraction just outside of Guangzhou, with the lofty heightsproviding phenomenal views of Pu Valley, the Nengren Temple, andthe sprawling cityscape of Guangzhou. The mountain lies just northof Guangzhou and on a clear day visitors can see the whole city.There are cable cars running for just over a mile (1.7km) betweenYuntai Garden and Peak Park, a fun and exhilarating way to see thearea. The park consists of 30 peaks and covers over 17 square miles(28 sq km). It is a stunningly beautiful scenic area that includeswell-maintained gardens, numerous temples, a Sculpture Park, a golfcourse, and what is said to be Asia's largest bird cage. However,the majority of time in the park is spent walking along the windingpaths up in the clear mountain air and relishing a break from thecity. Unfortunately though, as with most monitored nature areas inChina, visitors are not really given the freedom to wander, hike,or picnic beyond the paths. It can also get very crowded, but witha little effort travellers can find the more peaceful areas. Whilethere are a few stalls and vendors, visitors are advised to taketheir own drinks and snacks.
The Grand Canal in China is the largest man-made canal in theworld, eclipsing the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal. It once ranfrom Hangzhou all the way to Beijing, covering a stunning 1,115miles (1,794 km). The canal played a vital role in Chinese history,not just as a trade route for the transportation of foods andgoods, but also as a military asset, and an important cultural andeconomic link between the north and the south of the country.Unfortunately, today the only section of this 2,000-year-oldwaterway that is still functioning and navigable is the route fromHangzhou to Jining. The Grand Canal was built section by sectionover many centuries but the majority of it was developed during theSui Dynasty, around the 7th century, as a major transportationdevelopment. Today it is used mainly for water diversion andtourism. Boat trips along the Grand Canal are a popular way to seescenic river towns in southern China, with many beautiful views andsome attractive bridges and old buildings on the riverbanks. It isalso lovely to walk or cycle along the canal through centralHangzhou.
This limestone cave, about three miles (5km) outside of Guilin,has earned itself a place on almost all travel itineraries for thearea. Reed Flute Cave is named for the verdant reeds growingoutside, which the locals use to make flutes, but it is famous forwhat is inside: impressive rock formations that resemble everythingfrom lions and monkeys to the skyline of Guilin itself. Eachformation has a name and story. These myths and tales, combinedwith fantastical lighting, add to the atmosphere of mystery andmagic within these ancient caves. Guides take visitors on anhour-long tour through the cave and point out the variousformations as well as inscriptions on the wall that date back tothe Tang dynasty. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed insidethe cave, and visitors should be prepared to wait for more peopleif they are in a group of less than 20. The cave is situated in apark, with ponds, bridges, and pavilions, which is a beautifulplace to relax and wander either before or after the tour. Forthose travelling near Guilin with children, this is a wonderfulattraction for the whole family.
The Stone Forest of Shilin, about two hours' drive from Kunming,is a breathtaking and eerie landscape which is a must-see fortourists in the area. It is called a forest because the limestonepillars and stalagmites poking out of the green hillsides look likepetrified trees. The rock formations are believed to be over 270million years old and were formed by the slow erosion of thelimestone over time. The Shilin National Scenic Area includes sevenareas: the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests (also called LizijingStone Forest), Naigu Stone Forest, Zhiyun Cave, Lake Chang, LakeYue, Dadie Waterfall and Qifeng Cave. The Naigu Stone Forest andSuogeyi Village, also within the scenic area, are both UNESCO WorldHeritage Sites.
It is a distinctive, and highly unusual landscape and isdefinitely worth seeing, but can be crowded with tourists at peaktimes (over three million people visit every year). Visitors canavoid the masses by going in the morning or early evening, andavoiding weekends and Chinese public holidays. Another good reasonfor getting there early is that very few of the hundreds of guidesspeak English. Visitors are advised to wear sensible walking shoesand pack for the weather: the stone forests are actually quitewonderful in rainy weather if in possession of an umbrella orwaterproof clothing.
Elephant Trunk Hill is one of most iconic sites in Guilin. Thishill, on the banks of the Li River, has a large natural arch cutinto it, faintly resembling an elephant drinking water. Thisnatural limestone monument rises over 180 feet (55m) above thewater. The opening of the arch is called Water Moon Cave as thereflection of the moon at night appears as though it is both in andout of the water. Inside this cave there are more than 50inscriptions dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Visitorscan explore the hill and the cave by hiring one of the traditionalbamboo rafts that paddle around the base, making for a peacefulexcursion that allows for some truly magnificent photoopportunities. At the top of the hill is a two-story pagoda builtduring the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), intended to resemble a vase onthe elephant's back when viewed from afar. The hill is part of abeautiful park with lovely, lush hills, winding paths, and a numberof sculptures, many of which are elephant-themed. The park alsogives visitors impressive views of the Guilin cityscape. Dusk ispossibly the best time to visit, as this is when the scenery is atits most dramatic.
The Jiuxiang Scenic Area near Kunming is only 7.7 square miles(20km sq) but packs a big punch in terms of important sights withfive very popular tourist attractions: Diehong Bridge, Alu Long,Dasha Dam, Mingyue Lake and Sanjiao Cave. Diehong Bridge, Dasha Damand Sanjiao Cave all have picturesque 'stone forests' with China'sdistinctive karst limestone formations, while Diehong Bridge alsohas twin waterfalls with a large natural stone dam cluster, andDasha Dam has lush green forest.
Jiuxiang is the home of the aboriginal Yi people, and Alu Longis home to the excavated Yi cliff paintings of the Qin (221 BC -206 BC) and Han (206 BC - 220 AD) dynasties. Yi customs and cultureare still evident today in the many legends and folk stories. Thesestories come to life in the magical subterranean world of theJiuxiang area, which includes more than a hundred caves, featuringnatural underground waterfalls, bridges, valleys and rivers.Jiuxiang Scenic Area is located 55.9 miles (90km) from Kunming, andmakes an excellent day trip. Visitors should bring warm clothes, asthe interior of the caves can be quite cool. It is also recommendedthat travellers bring water and comfortable shoes, because all theclimbing and walking (and paddling if seeing the caves by boat) canbe tiring.
The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre is amust-see for animal lovers and wildlife conservationists. Thelargest centre of its kind, Chengdu is part zoo, part lab, and parthabitat. The centre was founded with the aim of increasing thepopulation of giant pandas in captivity so that more may bereleased into the wild; with this in mind, the Chengdu centre isthe best place on earth to see ridiculously cute panda cubs.Research focuses on the advancement of wildlife conservation and,as it is impossible not to be enchanted by these seriouslyendangered creatures, visitors will leave the centre with a newpassion. The park is also a home to other endangered Chineseanimals, like the South China Tiger, red pandas and golden monkey,though the famous giant pandas are the main attraction. The GiantPanda Museum has interactive exhibits designed to teach visitorsabout the fascinating creatures, and the work of the centre.
It takes about two hours to walk the grounds,alternatively, visitors can ride in a tour cart. It is best to gofor feeding time (9am-10am) which is when the animals are mostactive. Also, if travellers get there nice and early they are morelikely to get the chance to hold a baby panda. People have to payextra to cuddle a cub, although it is expensive, it is a veryspecial experience and the donation goes towards a worthycause.
Lhasa is a holiday destination set in a marshy valley anddominated by surrounding mountain peaks. It is the capital city ofthe Tibet Autonomous Region and one of the highest cities in theworld, at an elevation of 12,000ft (3,658m). Lhasa has long beenthe religious, cultural and political centre of Tibet, shelteredfrom the harsh winds of the Tibetan plateau in a spot that has beeninhabited from at least 1500 BC. Today Lhasa has a population ofmore than 400,000. Being the religious centre for Lamaist Buddhistssince ancient times, flocks of pilgrims have made their way toLhasa over the centuries to worship at the feet of the Dalai Lama.Now tourists on holiday are following in their wake to explore thesurrounding mountains and investigate Tibet's unique culture andlong history.
In 1959 Lhasa saw several days of warfare in a revolt againstcommunist reforms being imposed by the Chinese administration. TheDalai Lama fled to India and communism was instituted in Tibet.Many historic and religious buildings were destroyed, and Tibetantraditional culture discouraged. With political reform having takenroot in China, however, economic progress has reached Lhasa as welland the city is currently enjoying a period of rapid modernisation,while retaining its importance as a holy city for Lamaist Buddhism.The remaining historic buildings are drawing more and more holidayvisitors to Lhasa.
As a tourist attraction, Mount Qincheng really does havesomething for everyone. It is located approximately 41 miles (66km)from Chengdu. The mountain is one of the most famous Taoistmountains in China, and is a popular destination for internationaltravellers and locals alike. It is usefully divided into two sides,which provide very different experiences. The front side of MountQincheng (anterior) is the more touristy side, and boasts animpressive array of cultural and historical landmarks. A number oftemples to be visited include the Jianfu Palace, Shangqing Palace,and the Tianshi Cave. However, for those who prefer to travel offthe beaten track, the back side (or posterior) is relatively quietand unspoiled, offering a stunning hiking route along narrowmountain passes, past waterfalls and through wooded areas. Thistrip is a must for those interested in the flora and fauna of thearea.
Whether travellers are keen on the more frequented front route,or the adventurous trail at the back, the views from the summit arespectacular. Although the paths are very well-maintained, the hikeis pretty demanding on both sides; nevertheless, there is a cablecar which can be taken half-way or all the way up. The mountain isthe ideal travellers escape from crowded urban sightseeing andmakes for a delightful excursion from Chengdu.
Kuanzhai Ancient Street is one of three historic preservationareas in the city and scores highly on most visitors' lists ofthings to see and do in Chengdu. It is formed by the confluence ofthree alleys: Kuan Alley, Zhai Alley and Jing Alley. The area onceboasted 45 Qing Dynasty (18th-century) courtyards, and Kuanzhaicontains the only three which remain well-preserved.
Kuanzhai is now trendy and artistic and is an entertainingcultural experience for visitors, with ancient Chinese architecturecontrasting with modern restaurants and art galleries in acaptivating way. It is particularly interesting to walk this streetin the evening when the ancient attractions are juxtaposed with alively modern nightlife and bright city lights. There are lots ofsouvenir shops and craft stalls selling ceramics, silk andembroidery. There are also a number of restaurants, pubs and foodvendors to sell you a variety of local cuisine; and places likeStarbucks to provide international staples.
Another good reason to visit Kuanzhai in the late afternoon orevening is the entertainment provided by cultural displays, dancinggroups, and locals doing their daily aerobics. The area is intendedto be a cultural hot spot and often even the walls display photoexhibitions. Kuanzhai is a great casual tourist attraction inChengdu, a place where you can wander freely and just absorb localflavour.
An area famed for its natural beauty, West Lake inHangzhou is, in many ways, the landscape most representative ofancient China due to its immortalisation in art. This is wherevisitors will recognise those dainty 'willow pattern' scenes ofwaterscapes, bridges, and gardens. The lake itself is sheltered onthree sides by mountains where travellers can truly feel that theyhave escaped the city.
West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full ofhistorical points of interest, including the various temples,pagodas, and museums. Visitors can easily hire a boat to take themto the islands in the centre of the lake, which is a lovely way toview the area. Many visitors hire bicycles and ride all the wayaround West Lake, a trip of about six miles (10km) depending onwhich route is taken.
There are so many things to see and do in West Lakethat visitors will need at least a day to explore. Famous scenicspots worth seeking out include Broken Bridge (the most romanticspot in West Lake), Su Causeway, Crooked Courtyard and FlowerPond.
Unsurprisingly, the ancient Yuantong Temple in YunnanProvince, with its unique setting and architecture, is easily oneof the most popular tourist attractions in Kunming. The temple issituated in a natural depression at the foot of Yuantong hill, innorthern Kunming, and was built in the late 8th century. Today itshowcases an interesting mixture of architectural styles, mainlyfrom the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. It is an active temple, wherevisitors can hear chanting and classes being conducted as theyexplore; monks and pilgrims can be seen going about their dailybusiness in the complex, which makes the experience truly authenticand allows some insight into the functioning of a Buddhist templein the 21st century.
For a remarkable panoramic view of the templecomplex, travellers can climb Yuantong Hill by taking one of thestone staircases carved into the mountain on either side of themain hall. These stairways boast the most ancient inscriptions inKunming, carved into the stone wall and still readable aftercenturies of exposure to the weather. There are also someimpressive statues and carvings within the temple, including twoferocious dragons carved into pillars dating from the MingDynasty.
Green Lake, a lovely scenic area, is a ten minutewalk from the temple and there is a popular vegetarian restaurantjust outside the complex.
Chinese Phrase Book
|ni hao||hello||nee how|
|zai jian||goodbye||zai jee en|
|xie xie ni||thank you||shay shay nee|
|shi/bu shi||yes/no||shr/boo shr|
|wo jiao||my name is||waw jeow|
|zai na li||where is||zai na lee|
|Ni shuo ying yu ma?||do you speak English?||nee shoo-oh ying yoo mah|
|wo bu dong||I dont understand||woe boo dong|
|yi, er, san, si, wu||one, two, three, four, five||ee, are, san, see, woo|
China covers extensive territory and has a complex topography,therefore the weather differs substantially from region to region.The southeast, below the Nanling Mountains, tends to be very wetwith high temperatures all year round. In the central Yangtze andHuaihe River valleys there are four distinct seasons with very hotsummers and extremely cold winters, and rain all year round. Thedry north experiences a short but sunny summer, with long, bitterlycold winters (between December and March), with temperatures inBeijing dropping as low as -4ºF (-20ºC). The coast is humid andexperiences Typhoons during summer. Travellers are advised toresearch the climate for the specific region they are visiting.
The word is that this modest looking little courtyard restauranthas an impeccable menu and flawless delivery. Everything from their(water spinach) to the spicy signature dish,the Kapitan chicken, is exquisite as their Malaysian chef takesgreat pride in his work.
This fine-dining restaurant, located on the Bund, is part of ahighly respected international chain, serving exceptional Chinesefusion cuisine. There are three different dining spaces: the LingLing Lounge offers a stylish setting for cocktails with beautifulviews; the main dining area, known as the 'Cage', is enclosed indelicate woodwork; and there is a set of luxurious private diningrooms which can be reserved. Reservations are essential and smartcasual dress is encouraged, though dress jackets are notrequired.
Chinese royalty were renowned picky eaters and ate onlyspecialty dishes with carefully selected ingredients and even morecarefully selected names. Such dining gave way to its own culinarytradition, which can be enjoyed at Fangshan's enormousbanquet-style dining hall with such imperial classics as 'jadephoenix returning to the royal'. Choosing from a huge selection ofdishes is a perfect way to go back in time and eat like anemperor.
Providing top-notch international cuisine in a uniquely Chinesesetting, TRB is set in a 600-year-old temple which has beentastefully renovated to create a modern fine-dining haven. The foodis mostly European but with a bit of local flavour thrown in. Therestaurant is open for lunch and supper on weekdays and brunch,lunch and supper on weekends. Reservations are recommended.
Sixty six floors above the sparkling city makes any dish seemdazzling, but the views aren't the only reason to eat at ChinaGrill. The international menu is a simple selection of fine diningwith both Chinese dishes and grilled western classics. The romanticambiance is set by a surprisingly cosy interior surrounded by floorto ceiling windows for a 360-degree view of the city.
Centrally located near Tiananmen Square, the lovely outdoorterrace at Capital M is a popular place to have Sunday brunch inBeijing. The menu offers modern European food including CrispySuckling Pig, Hot House-Smoked Salmon, and the restaurant's famousPavlova. They offer a special afternoon tea as well, with aselection of fresh-baked scones, finger sandwiches, and pastriesthat add up to a perfect mid-afternoon break for tired sightseers.Open daily 11:30am-10:30pm.
Scena is located within the glitzy Ritz-Carlton Shanghai PudongHotel and serves authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant is onthe 52nd floor of the hotel, with floor to ceiling windows andprovides spectacular views over the city. Although comparativelyexpensive Scena gets consistent rave reviews from travellers andthe service is known to be of a very high standard. Reservationsare recommended.
This Shanghai restaurant serves Chinese staples like wontonsoup, sweet-smoky fried fish, and braised bamboo shoots, but whatit's known for is the best xiao long bao (steamed soup buns) in thecity. They're roughly ten times what you'd pay at a street stall,but most who have tried them say they're worth it. Located in theSuper Brand Mall, the walls are covered in watercolour sketches offamous Chinese celebrities. Din Tai Fung is a child-friendlyrestaurant, and even has special Mickey Mouse cutlery for kids.
For those looking for a sports bar in Shanghai to have a pintand watch the game, The Camel is the best place in town. Therestaurant is broken up into three viewing areas, so multiple gamescan be seen simultaneously on the 14 flat-screen televisions. Themenu is standard gastropub, serving classics like fish and chips,steak, burgers, and pies, and there's a good selection of beers andcocktails to go with them.
China's currency is the Renminbi Yuan (CNY), which is dividedinto 10 jiao or 100 fen. Make sure you exchange your leftover Yuanbefore returning home because you may have difficulty exchangingthe currency outside China's borders. Foreign cash can be exchangedin cities at the Bank of China. It is not possible to exchangeScottish or Northern Irish bank notes. Banks are closed weekends.The larger hotels and the special 'Friendship Stores' designed forforeigners will accept most Western currencies for purchases. Majorcredit cards are accepted in the main cities, but acceptance may belimited in more rural areas. ATMs are scarce in rural areas.
The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but there arehundreds of local dialects.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plug typesvary, but the two-pin flat blade and oblique three-pin flat bladeplugs are common. Adapters are generally required.
US nationals require both a valid passport and visa for entryinto China.
UK nationals require a passport valid on arrival and a visa forentry into China. Passports endorsed British National (Overseas)are not recognized and holders should carry a Mainland TravelPermit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents together with their HongKong ID.
Canadians require a valid passport and visa for entry intoChina.
Australians require a passport valid on arrival, and a visa forentry to China. Visa exemptions include passengers with an APECBusiness Travel Card valid for travel to China for stays up to 60days.
South African nationals require a passport valid on arrival, anda visa for entry to China.
Irish nationals require a passport valid on arrival, and a visafor entry to China.
US nationals require both a valid passport and visa for entryinto China.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid on arrival, and avisa for entry to China.
Persons holding an APEC Business Travel Card do not require avisa, provided that it is valid for travel to China. Travel toTibet will also require a special Tibet Entry Permit. There are afew complex exceptions to Chinese visa requirements, which will notapply to the majority of visitors, but all requirements should beconfirmed with a Chinese embassy before travel. All documentsnecessary for further travel and sufficient funds to cover intendedperiod of stay are required. Period of validity is stated on visas,and care should be taken when reading dates on visas for China asthey are written in year/month/day format. We always recommend thatpassports be valid for six months after intended period oftravel.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required fromtravellers coming into China from infected areas. There is a riskof malaria throughout the low-lying areas of the country, and it isrecommended that travellers to China seek medical advice aboutmalaria before departure. Vaccinations are recommended againsthepatitis A and hepatitis B, typhoid (not necessary if eating anddrinking in major restaurants and hotels), Japanese encephalitis(usually only recommended for rural areas), and rabies (onlyrecommended for travellers at risk of animal bites). Tap watershouldn't be drunk unless it has first been boiled, filtered orchemically disinfected. Street food should be treated with caution.High levels of air pollution in major cities and industrialisedareas in China may exacerbate bronchial, sinus or asthmaconditions. There is generally a high standard of health care inmajor Chinese cities, but it is not provided free of charge;travellers are advised to have comprehensive travel healthinsurance.
Tipping is not officially recognised in China, though thepractice is has become increasingly common among tour guides,top-end restaurants, tour bus drivers and hotel staff. Travellerswanting to tip should leave a gratuity of about 10 percent. Largehotels and restaurants often include a service charge in theirbills, usually of around 10 percent, so travellers should make surethat they aren't doubling up.
China is generally safe, and there is currently little threatfrom global terrorism. The risk of terror attacks is higher in theXinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and travellers should exercisecaution if travelling to or around Xinjiang. Serious crime againstforeigners is rare but does occur, particularly in isolated orsparsely populated areas. There has been an increase in the numberof muggings and robberies at Beijing International Airport andaround the Jianguomenwai area of Beijing, as well as in Shenzen,bordering Hong Kong.
If travelling alone, including following parts of the GreatWall, it is advisable to leave an itinerary and expected time ofreturn with a third party. Travellers should take extra care instreet markets and at tourist sites, which attract thieves andpickpockets, and around the popular expat bar areas at night, wherelone foreigners have occasionally been attacked. Travellers shouldbe cautious about using pedicabs in Beijing, as tourists havereportedly been mugged by the drivers; women in particular havebeen targeted. Disputes over taxi fares can occur. Insist on payingthe metered fare and ask for a receipt; this has the taxi number onit.
Seasonal heavy rains and typhoons cause hundreds of deaths inChina each year, particularly those areas bordering the YangtzeRiver in central, southern and western China. Demonstrations havetaken place in Lhasa, Tibet, as well as in some Chinese provincesin protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. Even though the situationseems to have stabilised, visitors are advised to stay up to dateon the situation before travelling to the region and to avoid allprotests. The Chinese government sometimes suspends the issue ofpermits for travel to Tibet due to unrest.
Chinese people usually have three names, the first ofwhich is their surname, or family name. As a result, visitorsshould be prepared for hotels mistakenly reserving rooms undertheir first names. For clarity, surnames may be underlined. Whenaddressing Chinese people, the surname should come first andofficial titles should be used. Chinese handshakes last longer thanthose in western countries, and it is customary to stand closetogether when in conversation. Politeness in western terms is oftenforeign to the Chinese, and they rarely bother with pleasantries.It is considered disrespectful to keep prolonged eye contact,avoiding eye contact is considered reverential rather than rude.All foreigners should carry their ID on them at all times, as spotchecks are common. Failure to show evidence of ID when requested byan official may result in a fine or detention.
The Chinese are strict timekeepers and being late for a meetingis considered rude. When meeting people for the first time it isnormal to shake hands and say 'ni hao', which means 'how are you'.Note that handshakes generally go on for longer in China than inmost western countries. Business cards are commonly exchanged atthe start of meetings in China; it is customary to have one sideprinted in Chinese and one in English. When giving or receivingbusiness cards or a gift, it is customary to hold it with bothhands. Chinese consider gifts an important show of courtesy.Decision-making may take longer than expected during negotiations.During a meal or reception, your host is likely to offer a toast;foreigners may be expected to offer them one in return.
Women are generally treated with respect and courtesy when doingbusiness in China and it is increasingly common to find Chinesewomen in senior positions, especially in the big cities.Businesswomen should, however, avoid showing too much skin.Business dress for both men and women tends to be conservative andplain without much ornament or bright colour.
Business hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday. A five-dayweek is more common in larger cities and international companies.Workers usually take their lunch break between 12pm and 2pm and itis not unusual to find offices empty during this time.
The international dialling code for China is +86. In hotels,local calls are generally free or will be charged only a nominalfee. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widelyavailable. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing alocal prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers to China do not need to pay customs duty on 400cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco; 1.5 litres of alcohol;perfume for personal use; and personal articles up to the value of¥2000. Prohibited goods include arms, ammunition, or printedmaterial that conflicts with the public order or moral standards ofthe country. Also prohibited are radio transmitters and receivers,exposed but undeveloped film and fresh produce. Strict regulationsapply to the import and export of antiquities, banned publications,and religious literature. All valuables must be declared on theforms provided.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Guangxi: +86 773 288 5326,www.topchinatravel.com/
Chinese Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 4952266.
Chinese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 72994049.
Chinese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3434.
Chinese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 6500.
Chinese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6228 3999.
Chinese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 219 6651.
Chinese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 3514.
United States Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8531 3000.
British Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5192 4000.
Canadian Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5139 4000.
South African Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8532 0000.
Australian Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 5140 4111.
Irish Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8531 6200.
New Zealand Embassy, Beijing: +86 (0)10 8531 2700.
The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World HeritageSite, is a perennial favourite among tourists, and with goodreason. The magnificent Great Wall, stretching 4,000 miles(6,350km), was built in stages from the 7th century BC onwards,snaking its way across the mountains and valleys of five provincesin northern China as a mammoth defence bulwark against theneighbouring Manchurian and Mongolian peoples.
Several sections of the wall, which has become themost prominent symbol of Chinese civilisation, can be viewed in thegreater Beijing area. In Yanqing county, in northwest Beijing, isthe 600-year-old Badaling Fortification, representative of the Mingdynasty sections of the Great Wall. Other sections can be seen atJinshanling, Mutianyu, and Simatai. The more popular sections canbe very crowded, but generally if travellers walk a little way theycan escape the worst of it. There are some wonderful stretches ofthe wall to hike, such as the roughly six-mile (10km) sectionbetween Jinshaling and Simatai, but visitors should be carefulabout setting off alone as parts of the wall are unstable andunsafe. It is best for visitors to take their own water and snacksand to pack very warm clothes if planning to go in winter, becausetemperatures at the wall can be freezing. There are countlessvendors, but their goods are usually very expensive and ofquestionable quality. It is illegal to remove stone from the walland Chinese authorities are clamping down on the practice.
About 25 miles (40km) south of Beijing, in theFangshan District, is the Zhoukoudian Cave, the source of thelargest collection of Homo erectus fossils from any single site inthe world. The fossils recovered from the cave represent about 40individuals, most famous of which is a cranium element commonlyknown as the 'Peking Man', the world's earliest fire-usingprimitive man who lived between 200,000 and 700,000 years ago.German anatomist Franz Weidenreich studied the Peking Man remainsin the 1930s and recognised 12 anatomical features that he believedPeking Man shared with modern man, a milestone in the study ofpalaeoanthropology.
Visitors to the Zhoukoudian site on Dragon Bone Hillcan view a comprehensive seven-room exhibition of fossils andartefacts depicting human evolution and the lifestyle of primitiveman. The exhibits showcase fossils from all over China, allowingvisitors to compare the different lifestyles of the primitivecommunities that have been discovered. They can also explore thecave where the Peking Man cranium and other Homo erectus remainswere found. The area surrounding the caves has several animalsculptures and pleasant shady areas in which to relax. Travellerswho go early might even have the site to themselves.
Built by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty of China, the majorityof surviving Ming tombs are clustered near Beijing and easilyreached on short excursions out of the capital. Thirteen emperors'mausoleums, dating from between 1368 and 1644 and collectivelyUNESCO-listed, can be seen in the Ming Tombs Scenic Area at thefoot of Tianshou Mountain.
Currently only three of the tombs are open to the public(Chanling, Dingling and Zhaoling) but this is more than sufficientas all the tombs are similar in design and the three that can beexplored are arguably the most interesting. The Changling Tomb isthe largest, oldest and best preserved, looming majestically at theend of the Sacred Way. The Dingling Tomb is the only one which hasbeen properly excavated but tragically many of the artefacts andthe remains of the emperor and empresses entombed in the mausoleumwere destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Even so, theexcavated Underground Palace in Dingling is fascinating and somemagnificent artefacts can still be viewed.
Many operators in Beijing offer tours to the Ming Tombs, oftencombined with trips to the Great Wall and other nearby attractions.Visitors travelling independently will need to pay entry to eachtomb separately.