Today is a special post as I have a lot of contributors pitching in to let you know why they think you should travel to China. But first, a bit of background.
Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve received many emails from people asking about visiting China. I don’t live in China now but I continue to write about it and receive requests for advice on travel to China, which I love getting.
However, all too often I hear or read about people dismissing China from their travel itineraries. I find that there are a lot of misconceptions about China out there. I really hope travellers aren’t put off by the bad things they might have heard about China. It’s really not as scary or difficult to travel as people think and the rewards of visiting far out way any perceived negative aspects.
I would encourage people to visit China because there is just so much to see. Anyone who backpacks or enjoys independent travel can find something to his or her taste- cities, countryside, beaches, history, modernity- China has a lot to offer. And there are a lot of great organized tours for people who are not up for travelling independently in China. My own mother took one around China and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’m not going to say travelling independently in China is always perfect. I would be the first to admit that living there for two years was enough for me. (I would still love to go back for a visit some day, though) and I’ve been very honest about what I loved and struggled with while living in Beijing. But I do think anyone can travel to China and find it worthwhile. There are so many interesting sights all over China and there is a lot of natural beauty too (see my post Ten Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit China).
I’m not the only one who thinks visiting China is a good idea. There are a whole lot of other bloggers out there too. Don’t just take my word for it that China is worth visiting- listen to them. These guys and girls range from new and long-term expats, to people who have travelled through China and had an experience worth remembering. Check out their fantastic answers to my question:
Why Should People Travel To China?
Alice- Teacake Travels
Being a hiking enthusiast ever since my Dad was carrying me on his back across the Peak District in the UK, I’m always searching for the next highest mountain to conquer and stand atop, gawping out at the amazing world around me. I went hiking in China expecting little after the other wondrous hikes I’ve seen but was immediately proved wrong by how awesome they actually really are. Huashan is listed as one of the most dangerous trails in the world for all the right reasons and hiking in Xingping and across the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Longsheng will forever remain in my mind. If you’ve got a weakness for the world above, get your legs to China!
Charlie- Charlie on Travel
China is one of those countries that always get associated with the term “culture shock” because the culture is just so wildly different from what many of us are used to and that’s a shock to the senses. But China’s culture extends far beyond the megacities and crazy food that everyone imagines.
Chinese culture is rich. It dates back thousands of year and their traditions still have a strong influence over life in modern day China. Each province in China is home to different ethnic groups, regional cuisines and ways of life. Language varies too, and southern Chinese say they struggle to understand the northern dialect, and vice versa.
I went to China as part of a cultural exchange programme from the UK. I learned to speak some Mandarin and was surprised how much that impacted how locals reacted to me, they were so much more open and friendly, it’s like a barrier had broken down. I tried my hand at the elegant art of calligraphy and saw traditional Chinese instruments being played. I listened to stories of local life from students there and cooked dumplings in a tiny apartment in Shanghai with a local family.
Justine- The Travel Lush
For some reason China has never popped up on my travel radar, so I was seriously intimidated when I learned I’d be moving to Beijing. Before I arrived I had visions of horribly polluted air, impossibly extreme temperatures and intimidatingly dense crowds. And while these things do exist, by no means do they define the city. Beijing has done nothing but surprise me since I moved here a few weeks ago. And now that I’m here I can’t believe I never considered Beijing as a travel destination before. There is no shortage of exciting things to do in Beijing. So far I’ve managed to visit the iconic Tienanmen Square, find colorful street art in the 798 Art District, explore the historic Tibetan-Buddhist Lama Temple, bar hop in one of the city’s mazelike hutongs (traditional neighborhoods), and stuff my face with all kinds of veggie dumplings. Looking back I have no idea why I was so scared about moving here because this city is seriously amazing!
Amanda- Sunshine and Whimsy
The first thing I thought of was food! Haha! I think it’s because I’m from a small town in Canada and we’re lacking a lot in culinary (and obviously cultural) diversity. When I moved to China, I was exposed to a lot of foods for the first time, everything from chicken feet and pig ears to dumplings and hot pot. I made a “try everything at least once” rule for myself. Now I know that chicken feet don’t taste bad, but I don’t like their texture; the restaurants here that probably wouldn’t pass health and safety standards back home often offer the most delicious food; everything tastes better on a stick; “street food” is delicious; and dumplings and hot pot are my favourite! (Disclaimer for those of you who come from bigger cities and have eaten some of these things before: I have a friend from Toronto who swears that the tiny hot pot place on Lady Street in Beijing is better than the fancy, popular hot pot places there.)
Richelle– Adventures Around Asia.
Chinese people get a bad rap. People think they’re rude because they talk loudly, push and shove without apology, and cut in line. I won’t argue, sometimes this really pisses me off, especially the line cutting thing. But once you break past the cultural differences, Chinese people are some of the kindest people you will ever meet in your entire life.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been invited home for dinner. If I’m lost, rather than give me directions, Chinese people will personally lead me where I’m trying to go. I’ve been treated to a meal more times than I can count. At bars, people are so excited to have me in China that they’ll give me a free beer… or five.
There are barely any foreigners in China compared to countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Because of this, people are excited to see you. They want you to have a great time. They want to introduce you to their hometown and feed you their traditional meals. They want to learn about where you’re from and how it’s different from China.
Chinese people are so excited to show their vibrant country to the world. All you have to do is seem interested.
Tim- Annual Adventure
China is one of the most fascinating and geographically diverse places I have ever visited. Not only is it filled with jaw-droppingly gorgeous mountain ranges and terraced rice patties that stretch for as far as the eye can see, but for a westerner I feel there’s no better place to discover who you really are and what you’re made of. The communication barrier and logistical complications create a sometimes stressful travel environment, but that only adds to the adventure and self-discovery. It’s one of my favorite countries and I can’t wait to return.
Laura- Savored Journeys
There are a lot of things to love about traveling in China. Climbing on the Great Wall of China, seeing the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, walking along The Bund in Shanghai, but for me the best part about traveling in China is the food. Unlike the Chinese food we eat out of takeout boxes in the United States, the food in China is fresh and healthy, not smothered in sweet sauces or stir-fried to death. The food I loved the most were the noodles and the dumplings. Every restaurant has a team of noodle and dumpling makers who will stun you with their master of the skill. The end product makes for a very exciting and delicious meal that you won’t ever forget.
Stefan and Sebastian- Nomadic Boys
We are Stefan and Sebastien of Nomadic Boys and spent 6 weeks travelling in China last year. China is a foodie’s paradise which so much variety and influence pretty much everywhere. Some of the tastiest food you’ll ever try is from this awesome country, particularly in Sichuan province. China also has such an incredible variety of beautiful landscapes, our favourite, the Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces in Tiantouzhai village near Guilin.
Our favourite place in China is definitely Beijing. It’s got beautiful landscape nearby (the Great Wall treks of course), palaces/temples galore to explore in the Forbidden City and Summer Palace, its own unique food (like the Beijing hot pot or Peking duck) and wandering around and getting lost in those hutong alleyways searching for dumplings is heaps of fun.
Marriane- Mum On The Move
The Chinese claim that Guilin in Southern China has “the finest landscape under heaven”, and the staggering scenery here has inspired centuries of Chines landscape paintings and poems. The best way to immerse yourself in this natural beauty is to take a cruise down the Li River, where you can gently glide past the endless backdrop of spectacular karst mountains, shrouded in mist. The whole trip takes around 4 – 5 hours, but the views are so spectacular that you won’t notice it take that long. Don’t forget your camera as you will want to take photos at every turn in the river, and they will let you know when the ‘money shot’ is coming – the section at Xingping that features on the Chinese 20 Yuan note.
Matilda- The Travel Sisters
There are many things I love about China but my absolute favorite reason to visit are the adorable giant pandas. Proudly referred to as a national treasure, the pandas are most readily found around Chengdu in the Sichuan Province. I was delighted to observe numerous pandas in action at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (a research and breeding facility dedicated to the preservation of endangered giant pandas). You know all those videos of cute baby pandas rolling around – yup, even more adorable in person!
Mitch- The Ambling Bristolian
China is a strange word when you think about it. Those two syllables represent a culture that is over four thousand years, a nationality made up of over a 1.3 billion people, and a landmass of nearly 10 million square kilometres. With so much history and diversity, I sometimes feel that the burden of proof is on people to tell me why they shouldn’t visit China.
We’re talking about a sixth of world’s total population living in a country that is complicated as it is beautiful. China is more than rice and noodles, more than the Great Wall, and more than a Communist regime. It is a country that anyone can call home, a country where anyone can find a corner to fall in love with, because of its immensity.
I came to China because I wanted to teach, but I have stayed here because there’s always more to see. If you keep your eyes open, then no two days in China look the same.
Susan- Solo Trips and Tips
I visited China for a 10-day study abroad class in 2011 and I’ve been longing to return! My favorite city was Xi’an, the ancient capital of China. I loved Xi’an for the cultural and historical significance, and the friendliness of the people. Must visit sites include the extraordinary Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors & Horses, Xi’an City Wall, Great Mosque and the Muslim Quarter, and Xi’an Drum Tower. Taste the local foods especially the dumplings while enjoying a cultural performance. I recommend that anyone visiting China spend at least a few days in Xi’an.
A big thank you to all the contributors- I love every single one of their answers. Don’t forget to check out their sites.
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What do you think? Have you been convinced to travel to China? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.
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