China Travel Guide
To most westerners China is the ultimate land of mystery, another world, and a puzzle as unfathomable as it is alluring. The reality of China is really not too far removed from this image. Although China and it's culture has certainly suffered at the hands of hard lined communism followed by ‘get-rich-quick socialism’ it still remains a fascinating country. A vast continent of diversities beyond imagination China has it all - sprawling densely populated megalopolis’, imposing ancient cities, deserts, grasslands, forests, immense rivers, sacred mountains, imperial relics and myriad enchanting temples. Since the late seventies when China finally left it's red door ajar after 30 years of communist enforced disconnection, the trickle of western visitors gradually built to a steady flow of travellers hankering after an authentic taste of the Orient. Not being a nation to ignore a fast buck or two the Chinese monopoly government have, in their ultimate wisdom seen fit to charge these ‘intruders’ around double (sometimes triple) what they charge the native inhabitants or visitors of Chinese descent. Legitimised rip offs aside this is a country like no other so it’s worth biting the bullet, hammering that plastic card and enjoying the experience of a lifetime.
Beijing, the capital, is tourist trap number one. From the awesome expanse of infamous Tiannanmen Square flanked by buildings named ‘The Peoples whatever’ to the magical splendour of the Forbidden City it is nothing short of inspiring. At first glance Shanghai appears to be the epitome of Oriental tradition but behind the riotously colourful façade hides a relentlessly aggressive industrial and financial machine hell bent on ruling the economic world (much in keeping with Chinese beliefs stretching back to ancient times). The old capital of Nanjing offers a much easier alternative to both Beijing and Shanghai. It has equally as many wonderful monuments and attractions yet the pace is far more relaxed, it is less crowded, less polluted and considerably more scenic, surrounded by mountains and rivers. Until recently under Portuguese rule, Macua is an intriguing blend of European and Chinese culture where cobbled streets lead to pagoda style temples and old women sell oranges on the streets outside glitzy neon fronted casinos. Hong Kong is the world’s busiest port with a relentlessly fast pace, high prices and distinctly Chinese personality despite it's British heritage.
Away from the commercial centres there are countless opportunities to discover the China of our imagination. Tibet - the Roof of the World with it’s capital Lhara sitting on a plateau 13,000ft above sea level is surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas and is home to some of the most beautiful and accessible temples in all of China, Yanshuo in the Guilin Province is possibly the best place to roam freely and easily amongst the wonderfully bizarre karst scenery. The Grand Buddha of Leshan, carved into a cliff face, stands a full 210ft tall overlooking the convergence of the Dadu and Min Rivers whist the Yutang Buddhist Caves near Datong contain over 50,000 statues. Xi'am once a major trading area between East China and Central Asia is home to an Army of life size terracotta warriors 10,000 of which have been discovered so far.
The list of wonders is endless. The Chinese have embraced fanaticism more than any other nation and throughout their 5000year history have left an immense legacy. Unrest and war has seen vast amounts of this destroyed but rebuilding has always been on an equally impressive scale. The Chinese people are friendly and polite, if a little bemused by westerners. The food is unrivalled and as diverse and irresistible as the country itself. This is a land of tradition, of respect, of challenges - follow your dreams and let China change your life.
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