The great wonders in China include Beijing’s Forbidden City and the amazing Shanghai Museum, home to art and ceramics dating back thousands of years. When you’ve filled up on culture, you can feast upon the incredibly varied food, from spicy Sichuan to southern stir-fries. In the cities you’ll find modern bars and nightclubs, while out in villages such as Zhouzhuang, famous for its canals, life hasn’t changed much in 100 years.
Cruising the River Li in Guilin, you’ll feel total peace. A couple of days later, you could be shopping for Britain in Shanghai’s copious Western-style shopping complexes, where the bargains come thick and fast. Dine with Beijing’s young professionals in its smart restaurants, or try backstreet noodle bars where you can eat with the workers for next to nothing. In mountainous Tibet, experience the top-of-the-world views and feel the spirituality as you explore its ancient temples and holy sites.
Eat and Drink
There are as many cuisines in China as there are regions, though there are 3 main styles. Sichuan is famous for its hot and spicy dishes, using chillies. Northern-style dishes utilise steamed bread and pancakes instead of rice, and pickled vegetables for the cold winters. Southern cooking involves classic, light stir-fry dishes made from a vast array of ingredients. Get practising with those chopsticks!
China is an enormous country, and its landscapes come on a big, impressive scale. On the mighty Li River, you can cruise down the gentle waters, past soaring peaks revered by the Chinese as spiritual places. There are mysterious caves to discover and beautiful mountain waterfalls that will remind you of traditional Chinese artworks. In the mountains of Tibet, it’s like being on the rooftop of the world.
Old Meets New
When we think of China, we may think of historic tombs and palaces, but there is another China rapidly developing into a thrusting 21st-century power, and nowhere is this more visible than in Shanghai. Have your camera ready to snap the futuristic, space-age buildings of the new commercial district, Pudong. Yet just around the corner, you’ll find streets of quaint old houses.
Arts and Culture
The tradition of ceramic-making dates back thousands of years in China, and there is a fabulous collection in the excellent Shanghai Museum. In Beijing, view some of the enormous collection in the Art Museum. Learn the famous sayings of the great thinker, Confucius, and enjoy China’s festivals such as the Lantern Festival in late winter, when the towns and villages are illuminated by thousands of paper lanterns.
You’ll find some exotic and unusual things to bring home as souvenirs, including ceramics, paintings, stone rubbings, embroideries, jade carvings and batiks. In cities, look out for ‘friendship stores’ designed for tourists. Elsewhere, beware of counterfeit goods – shop accompanied by a guide, or stick to the larger department stores. In Beijing and Shanghai, you’ll find an incredible variety of contemporary malls.