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China

China

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

4.5

Total Stars:

9.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

All Venturesome personality types love it and some Centric-Authentics

Did You Know…?

  • The Three Gorges Dam site is the world’s largest hydroelectric project.
  • There are no past-tense or future-tense verbs in Chinese; the verbs have no tenses at all.
  • China is broad enough for five, but it operates with one time zone.
  • The Chinese invented paper, paper money and toilet paper; now China’s money is plastic.
  • Sunglasses were first used in China (pre-1430) by judges, to hide their expressions.

Ancient and modern

China is the world’s third-largest country with a wide variety in climate and scenic appeal, and it is home to 56 ethnic groups. But its strongest draw for many is a written history that spans about 5,000 years. Historic monuments and artworks, and the culture itself, have long fascinated the West.

In addition, China lures visitors who want to see for themselves the evolution of this nation into a major player in the modern world. Indicators of China’s ambitions and capabilities were splashed across TV screens worldwide during the 2008 Olympics Games.

The Qin dynasty created a unified Chinese state in 221 B.C. Their empire survived wars, invasions, rebellions, famine and floods for more than 2,000 years, until 1911. Events of those two millennia yielded treasures that bind the Chinese to their history and each other and enhance the country’s appeal to tourists.

Most famously, the treasures include the Great Wall, the Grand Canal and the terra-cotta warriors and horses in Xi’an, but the country is dotted with palaces, temples and other relics that bring history to life.

Visitors of all personality types include such attractions on their must-see lists, though trips vary widely. Travelers can take a guided coach tour to the Great Wall, but the more venturesome hike or cycle along part of that imposing structure. Tourists can attend a martial-arts demonstration, watch folk dancers or see the Chinese opera, but those who want to be more involved can sign on for language instruction or cooking classes.

China’s dining choices run the gamut from restaurants with Western cuisine to the slightly bizarre. Also, shopping venues range from modern boutiques to noisy, crowded open-air markets in the hinterlands. Four- or five-star hotels are available in most places — but, for those who want them, yurts and homestays remain on offer.

Visitors may cover great distances quickly. Combining Beijing, Guilin, Shanghai and Xi’an is comparable to visiting Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and Washington in one trip.

Location and size also dictate extreme weather variations. Southernmost areas have no winter; northernmost points have no summer. But generally, May, September and October are ideal anywhere in China.

Things to do for Venturers

  • From your base in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, spend your days hiking to area villages. On one of those days, overnight in a villager’s home.
  • Sign on for a summer program (five weeks or longer) to learn Chinese. Numerous language programs of varying lengths are available.
  • Take a bicycle tour through Tibet.
  • Stretch your muscles and mingle among the Chinese with early morning tai chi, or even ballroom dancing in some city parks.
  • Get a taste of the Silk Road. Ride a camel in the Taklamakan Desert. Travel to Turpan, the lowest place in China, on an overnight train from Liuyuan.
  • At Zengzhou, join a kung fu class at Shaolin Temple, known as the birthplace of this martial art.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a ride, maybe on a dragon boat, on the ancient Grand Canal. Short excursions are an option in Nanjing, Suzhou, Yangzhou and Wuxi. Or take a longer canal cruise of up four days.
  • In Chengdu, visit the Panda Breeding Research Institute. Then walk the trails of its bamboo forest to see pandas in their natural habitat.
  • Try your hand at creating calligraphy — after collecting a few pointers from an experienced calligrapher, of course.
  • Extend your basic tour with a few days in high-altitude Tibet. Ride the world’s highest-altitude train to Lhasa.
  • Arrange for lessons in Chinese cooking. There are several options in Hong Kong. Or, sign on for a full-blown culinary journey to China.
  • Buy tie-dyed fabrics on your visit to the Bai people in China’s tribal areas.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Stroll where Chinese emperors have walked, in the Forbidden City and elsewhere in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
  • Attend a Chinese banquet where the menu includes Peking duck. Also, sample regional specialties in the areas you choose to visit.
  • Tour a silk factory in Suzhou to see the production process from silkworm to textiles, or visit a factory in Beijing where cloisonne-style enameled goods are made. Buy silk and cloisonne to take home.
  • Pursue your interest in World War II history at the Stilwell Museum in Chongqing. Its collection of memorabilia includes exhibits on the legendary Flying Tigers.
  • Attend a Chinese tea ceremony, and sip the commodity that helped shape the British Empire.
  • Try your luck in one of the big casinos in Macau, then taste the island’s Portuguese-influenced cuisine.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the China National Tourist Office at www.cnto.org