discover your journey in incredible china
China is a place whose name you only need to mention, before a million evocative thoughts come to mind. The vast nation is not only home to one of the world’s earliest civilisations, it’s also home to a remarkable array of cultures, dialects, and topography. Journeying to China is like journeying to several countries all in one trip - although, with so many wonders to explore its tough to resist the urge to venture back to this incredible country once you’ve been.
"China is a diverse treasure trove where ancient history meets a modern way of life"
China’s natural landscape is swept by the emerald green of sprawling mountains, sheer vastness of rough plateaus, the silence of serene lakes, and the grandeur of coursing rivers. Bordering 14 countries including Russia, India, and Vietnam to name a few, China is a diverse treasure trove where ancient history meets a modern way of life. Although the country’s modern face is synonymous with an urban vision that has set in motion the development of a unified nation at an extraordinary pace, its ancient history still shines brightly. Each city and each relic has a unique story to share.
With the gastronomic influence of 56 distinct ethnic groups, food is the soul of the Chinese people who live to eat. Whether it be the steaming Xiao Long Bao of Shanghai, crispy duck of capital Beijing, or hearty hot pot of Chengdu, China is like the massive dream food bazaar of every Foodie Adventurer. The “nation of silk” is not only famous for the beloved giant panda.
Testament to its stance straddling both the Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, China’s diversity can be experienced in countless ways. Whether you choose to roam the bustling streets of Shanghai, come face to face with a terracotta warrior in Xian, or cruise along the giving waters of the Yangtze River, there’s a journey for every kind of traveller and unforgettable experiences to savour in China.
6 Experiences to savour in china
Soak in old glamour and vibrant views in Shanghai
Soaring skyscrapers, bold Art Deco structures, ornate cathedrals and peaceful Buddhist temples all bestow energetic Shanghai with a remarkable architectural terrain. You only have to roam the city’s noisy streets to hear the echoes of bygone eras, and discover progressive changes that have made this city a metropolitan landmark. Remains of a colonial past live on through the historic boulevard - The Bund. By day a lively stage for avid dancers and Tai Chi practitioners, and by night an idyllic stretch illuminated by the lit skyline of Pudong - The Bund was once a hectic hub home to some 20 trading houses and banks. Ideal for a relaxing stroll alongside Huangpu River or a generous day of shopping, The Bund is teeming with top boutiques, bars, and restaurants for a spot of retail therapy.
To seamlessly course through the brimming chapters of Chinese history, the Shanghai Museum is the place to visit. Host to a plethora of storied treasures the museum showcases national gems, from ancient Chinese sculptures to paintings and calligraphy. Shanghai Museum is a work of modern art itself, its architecture resembling an ancient Chinese bronze cooking vessel. Here, visitors journey through millennia all in the ease of a contemporary setting and beautiful exhibits. Explore a chic side to Shanghai by venturing to the boutique lined streets and old neighbourhoods of the former French Concession. With a selection of charming gift shops, chilled bars, and fascinating museums, there’s more than enough to explore by foot.
Revel in the ancient wonders of Xian
A cornucopia of historic treasures, Xian was once a place where poets, monks, and merchants prevailed all before the close of the 9th century. Not only is it home to national treasures such as the Banpo Neolithic Village Museum where the relics of a 6,000 year-old village still exist, it’s also home to “the 8th wonder of the world” - the Qin Terracotta Army. Xian is also home to yet another treasured and rare relic. The ancient City Walls encasing the old city still remain intact from when it was built in 1370 in the Ming Dynasty. Soaring 12 metre high walls encompass over 3400 acres - an area so large it would take over 3 hours to soak in the entirety of its grandeur by foot.
The city’s Terracotta warriors are one of the world’s most renown archaeological discoveries. Uncovered in 1974, the monumental underground site has since shook the world - it’s no surprise. For more than two millennia, thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers hold their domineering stance, loyally guarding China’s pioneering unifier Qin Shi Huang, even after death. The warriors are a sight to behold - systematically lined in battle formation, each face is unique. Thanks to a panoramic theatre, visitors can stand in awe of every detail. The most impressive of all pits, is Pit 1 which houses some 6000 east facing warriors and horses prepared for battle.
Xian has long been a melting pot of cultures and religions, including the Hui community who call what’s known as the Muslim Quarter home. Composed of a complex network of narrow lanes, its crowded streets are teeming with vendors, small factories, mosques, and countless foodie finds. Women whose heads are blanketed in colourful scarves and men who sport skull caps frequent this atmospheric quarter best visited at night for an indescribable buzzing ambience.
Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo
Journey the Silk Road, discovering gems along a path over 2,000 years old. Forged by explorers who brought together the worlds of East and West, the Silk Road is not the usual sight seeing destination but rather, an adventurous voyage for the true Culture Junkie. The historic route totals a length of over 7000km, 4000 of which are in China alone. Beginning in Xian and continuing west into Central Asia, the Silk Road is named after the desirable Chinese silk that was traded down its lengthy course. Unfolding over a diverse range of natural wonders, unique cultures, and historic treasures, the Silk Road is worth stepping off the beaten track for.
Along its antiquated path, journeyers taste the diverse flavours of dance, song, and traditional fare unique to many ethnic groups. Just a few of the marvels not to be missed are the Jiayuguan Pass of the Great Wall where a mud fort stands defiantly amid boundless desert, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes where Buddhist art treasures are preserved in a series of tremendous caves, and the Turpan Grape Valley - an old wine-making region and refuge from the scalding desert. Although not as accessible as many of China’s popular destinations, the Silk Road beholds a new adventure every step of the way.
Stroll upon a World Wonder
Standing proudly as one of history’s greatest engineering feats and the world’s longest wall, The Great Wall has stood guard for more than 2,300 years. Traversing 9 provinces including Beijing, Inner Mongolia, and Gansu the wall sprawls across over 13,000 miles of diverse terrain. Contrary to popular belief, The Great Wall is not a continuous barricade, but rather a series of partitions some of which over the course of time have become broken-down pieces of an impressive ancient picture. It’s thought that the world renown wonder was first built by state Chu, and unified by Emperor Qin Shi Huang to guard his newly united empire from northern invaders. The Wall’s dramatic path sweeps sharp mountains and rugged terrain, from dry desert to ornate ancient remains.
Badaling is the most trudged upon section of the national marvel. Situated north-west of historic capital Beijing, this section can be accessed from Yanqing District. It is said that this stretch is the most intact compared to its fragmented neighbours. Built from colossal pieces of stone and brick, earth and small stones dam up the interior of the wall to create a robust and solid structure. The many holes in the wall are not decorative, but were rather a necessity for shooting arrows and keeping lookout for enemies. Frequented by celebrities and foreign leaders alike, this section of The Great Wall is like a bright light is to insects at night, attracting millions of pilgrims each year. With a modest admission fee and cable car service, Badaling is an ideal stretch for families and those in their golden years to steep in the sensation of this World Wonder.
Cruise the longest river in Asia
Immerse yourself in the magnificence of the longest river within a single country in the world. The Yangtze River, or Chang Jiang in Chinese has long been thought of as the origin of Chinese culture and a seed of life. It is so revered by the Chinese, that it is often called Mother River - she courses nearly 4,000 miles starting from a source high up in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Emerging from towering heights and secluded mountains, the Yangtze meanders through staggering gorges and yielding land. Whether you choose to cruise upstream or downstream, a calm ride upon its storied waters is the best way to submerge yourself in the awe inspiring spirit of the Yangtze. Don’t worry, the water really is calm - ships are equipped with motion stabilisers and sizeable currents are quietened by two colossal damns. (Must see sights on your river voyage!) A cruise down this iconic river is not without utmost comfort.
Cruise along the Yangtze and you will see, taste, and hear the distinct sights and sounds of diverse cultures that owe their brilliance to the Mother River. At the Yangtze’s elevated origin in the Tibetan Plateau squeezed between steep gorges, ethnic groups such as the Naxi of Yunan and the Tibetans flourish in obscure mountainous regions. Here, the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway is within sight of the river.
In its mid section, the Yangtze flows past the spicy food loving areas of Chongqing, Hubei and Sichuan where the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre attracts an endless number of visitors each year. The middle stretch is also home to the idyllic Three Gorges, and the largest dam and hydroelectric power plant in the world, the Three Gorges Dam. Further down, the ancient charm of serene water towns such as Xitang and Zhouzhang collide with the hustle and bustle of modern metropolis Shanghai - a voyage that seems to take you past different eras.
On your river journey, the eerie Fengdu Ghost City is a gripping stop worth taking. The popular cruise sight was once a small ancient town home to a plethora of temples and shrines. Chinese Legend has it that this former burial area is where the devil resides. Abandoned shops and empty streets are now all plunged in water - the city was deserted to make way for the Three Gorges Dam. In the Ghost City, visitors wonder past intimidating statues of demons depicting scenes from hell - a remarkable insight into another facet of Chinese culture.
Come face to face with the adorable national treasure
Chengdu is perhaps best known as the land of the irresistibly endearing Giant Panda, but it is also a renown city brimming with cultural and historical curiosities. With a history of over 3,000 years, Chengdu is home to scores of stunning historical spots, folklore, and blissful natural beauty. Some spots include Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, and Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, and neighbours many a world heritage site such as the Terecotta Warriors to the north and the Giant Buddha to the south. With an agreeable climate, and fiery yet addictive Sichuan fare, Chengdu is a Culture Junkie and Foodie Adventurer’s paradise. If that were not enough to get you packing, the knowledge that visitors can now effortlessly journey to Chengdu enjoying a 3-day visa free transit policy might be just the thing to get you packing. Although, a short three days is a big ask for a place that has so much to explore.
Many venture to Chengdu to get close to the famous Giant Panda - not only a national treasure, but beloved by the world. With less than 3,000 remaining pandas in the world, these loveable creatures really are a treasure that can only be found in the wild in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
If taking care of a Giant Panda is your mission, then Chengdu is the right place to be. Visitors can join a volunteer program or pay a visit to one of three bases in the region: Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base where panda lovers can come face to face with baby pandas, Dujiangyan Base where panda pilgrims can volunteer, and largest of all - Bifengxia Base. The Giant Panda Museum also offers comprehensive exhibits showcasing efforts that have been made to protect the beautiful region’s natural treasures.
When in Chengdu one must at least sample, or rather try and survive a scorching hotpot typical of the area. With restaurants serving up this local delight at every corner, foodies are spoilt for choice. The spicy hotpot is best enjoyed with friends, as it’s very much a sociable affair where friends and family gather round to simmer small bites in an addictive savoury broth. Once you’ve had a dose of this peppery delicacy, the best remedy for a heaving stomach is a bowl of rice or noodles to soak up the heat.
COST OF A PINT
giant pandas in chengdu