The People’s Republic of China, or simply China, is a massive country that can be found in East Asia. If you’re searching for one of the most perfect places to travel to, then look no further than this land brimming with contradictions. China is probably the most amazing mishmash of the old-fashioned and the modern, the rural and the urban, as well as the conservative and the bold. Nowhere else in the entire planet will you find the absolute best in both worlds – only in China. So, to get you started on planning the trip you’ll never want to forget, here’s everything you need to know about travelling to this heavenly place:
Getting to and Around China
First and foremost, you should settle the matter of procuring the required travel documents. All of China’s visitors, with the exception of Japan, Singapore, and Brunei citizens, must obtain a visa to enter the country. No need to worry, though. Applying for visas can be done at any one of the country’s foreign affairs offices, as well as other organizations or centers that have been approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In order to obtain a visa, your passport must also be valid for a minimum duration of 6 months beyond the planned length of stay in China. If you’re planning to go on the trip with a group of five friends or family members, you can also check with your trusted travel agency. You may be eligible to submit an application for a group tourist visa, which the agency can definitely handle to make things easier for you.
Once granted a Chinese visa, you will be allowed to traipse the entire country, excluding some areas (like Tibet) that may need you to present a special permit from the authorities. If you’re really itching to add Tibet to your itinerary, you should obtain approval of the visit from the Tourism Administration of the Tibet Autonomous Region or any of the foreign organizations that represent it.
Now that you’ve cleared the way for a legal entry into the country, the next thing you must accomplish is to make the travel arrangements. Do you want to get to China by air, land, or sea? Traveling by plane is probably the fastest and most convenient method. You can check various online resources to scout for great deals on tickets. You might also want to try any of the discount agencies in Chinatown across the globe; they might be able to give you the best deals of all. If Europe or Asia is your starting point, it is entirely possible to go by land the entire time and arrive in China. There are numerous routes originating from Europe such as the Trans-Manchurian Railway trek, to name one. Vietnam, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are also potential points of origin. Lastly, you can also take a ship or ferry into China from Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.
Upon arriving, you can get around this huge country through several ways. Modes of transportation that cover long distances within China include planes, boats, trains, buses, and trams. Getting from one place to another locally is also made relatively easy by Metro and Light Rails and buses. However, if you truly want an authentic Chinese travel experience, try riding other non-conventional types of vehicles like the motor tricycle (with the driver up front and two passengers behind all riding on this three-wheeled vehicle) and the pedicab (similar to the motor tricycle, only it’s pedal-powered).
The Best Time to Visit China
As long as you’re willing to accept anything ranging from harsh heat or bitter cold weather conditions, there’s truly nothing that can stop you from traveling to China anytime you wish. But if you want to be a bit pickier than that, then do your traveling during Spring and Autumn in the months of March to May and September to early November, respectively. This way you’ll be able to escape the summer heat that scorches the country from June to August and the winter chill that clutches the republic from November to February or March. Summer may be when almost everyone is out and traveling about, so if crowds, crammed transportation, and sky-high rates aren’t your thing, then try to avoid traveling during this time period.
Other things that may cause difficulties in traveling to and around China are major public holidays and huge political events. The Chinese New Year, for instance, is when the entire Chinese population gathers to celebrate this most important festival. Considering that there are over a billion Chinese people, the number of individuals you’ll be competing with for transport and accommodations is quite daunting. Be that as it may, you might find it an amazing experience to observe the country during these exciting times. Other holidays to watch out for are the May Day Holiday and National Day, which are week-long holidays starting from the 1st of May and October, respectively.
Popular Cities and Tourist Attractions
Being a vast country, and one that has been blessed with so much, China has a profusion of attractions to satisfy any determined tourist’s appetite for the amazing, the unique, and the breathtaking. Here are some of the tourist attractions that will guarantee you a trip you’ll be talking about until the day you die:
Among all China cities, Beijing reigns supreme as the most modern-day city of them all. Situated in the North, China’s capital embodies each and every interesting contradiction that the country is known for. Despite its being up-to-the-minute, the city remains respectful of the country’s many traditions and its majestic past. Here are Beijing’s top tourist spots:
The Great Wall of China
No visit to China is complete without getting to look upon the awe-inspiring wonders of the man-made Great Wall. Built in the 7th century BC and finally completed in the 16th century AD, this structure was initially constructed to keep invaders from the north out. Over time, extra sections, totaling to about 6700 kilometers, were added towards the east direction. Visit this truly amazing spot, and walk your way to the top. Every drop of sweat on the climb will be worth it.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, constructed in 1406, was home to 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These emperors forbade the common people from entering this city-within-a-city, which lies in the heart of Beijing. With just under 10,000 rooms scattered over an amazing 250-acre land, The Forbidden City is now open to tourists who wish feast their eyes on the plethora of Imperial treasures housed by the Palace Museum.
The Temple of Heaven
Owing to its breathtaking symmetry and elegance, The Temple of Heaven enjoys a spot in the list of the most photographed structures in the entire planet. This Ming architectural masterpiece was constructed in 1420 and served as the place of worship for Ming and Qing emperors to look to the heavens and pray for a bountiful harvest. Once you’ve had your fill of the interiors of the temple, you can then proceed to the 660-acre park that surrounds it and contemplate the beauty of it all as soft music fills your ears.
The Hutongs are another of Beijing’s unique attractions which you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world. Many of these olden city alleys or passageways were constructed during the reigns of various Yuan, Ming, and Qing emperors, who adopted the Zhou Dynasty’s etiquette systems in the arranging and plotting of the residential areas. What you’ll see as you walk through the districts that still contain Hutongs are building complexes made up of four residences surrounding a quadrangular yard. The design and size of these residences depended on the social and political status of the people who lived in them, ranging from the highly attractive and beautifully carved quadrangles of wealthy and high-ranking residents to the simple and humble houses of the common people.
Other spots you might want to visit in the capital include Tian An Men Square or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Summer Palace, and the Ming Tombs.
As one of China’s major cities, Shanghai serves as the home of not only millions of residents, but also numerous international corporations with ventures throughout China and other Asian countries. It is a vibrant cosmopolitan city where you’ll be able to observe ancient Chinese architecture blending in perfectly with gleaming modern buildings. The city is absolutely divine at night, when all the lights lining buildings, highways, and the Huangpu River brighten everything up. Below are the sites to check out in Shanghai:
Along the Huangpu River, you’ll find this immensely popular 1.6-kilometer waterfront teeming with buildings built in the 1930s. Formerly known as Asia’s Wall Street, the Bund is where you’ll get to admire the beauty of the elegant Peace Hotel, which was remodeled quite recently, along with the marvelous panoramas the hotel offers from its towering heights. If you head over to the waterfront park along the Bund in the early morning hours, you’ll get to see Tai Chi enthusiasts of varying ages practicing their martial arts. Later on, you’ll also be able to see a myriad of the Chinese people and even foreigners meeting up in the park. Once you’ve seen all you can, you can drop by any one of the quaint boutiques and shops that can be found in the side streets.
Yu Yuan Gardens
The Yu Yuan Gardens is one of the most outstanding specimens of Ming Dynasty architecture and gardens in the country. With a labyrinth of interesting stone dragons, multicolored pavilions, wonderful flora, and charming ponds all around a zigzag bridge, the 16th century Yu Yuan Gardens truly deserves its fame.
Dedicated shoppers will find this road dubbed as Shanghai’s “Fifth Avenue” absolutely packed with a wide-ranging collection of retail boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, exciting night clubs, and sweet shops. If you’re itching to indulge in a bit (or a lot) of shopping, then head down to the ultimate shopping hub – Nanjing Road.
Temple of the Jade Buddha
The name of the temple says it all. If you are keen on checking out Buddhas made of jade, visiting this temple will be the fulfillment of your every wish. It is home to two of the country’s most renowned Buddhas, each of which was sculpted from a single white jade piece. You’ll also be amazed to see one of these two figures in a lounging position, which is quite rare.
As the center of Chinese civilization in the ancient times and the capital city up until the 9th century, Xian plays a huge role in the country’s history. With all its fantastic attractions, Xian serves as a huge tourist magnet as well. Here are some of these must-visit spots:
Museum of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
The former capital is particularly famous for the life-sized Terra Cotta Army, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, which were buried for about 22 centuries up until they were discovered in the year 1974. These terra-cotta figures served as protectors of the tomb of unified China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di. You’ll be awed at how large the exhibitions halls are and how well all the ancient artifacts are laid out for convenient viewing.
Shaanxi History Museum
If you have your heart set on examining and viewing centuries-old Chinese relics, then you won’t be let down by the 115,000-artifact display of the Shaanxi History Museum. Plus, its well-designed Tang architecture, along with stunning courtyards and galleries, will definitely put a smile on your face.
The Small and Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Constructed in 700 AD, these pagodas will surely astonish you with their towering heights. The smaller pagoda has a height of 43.3 meters, while the bigger pagoda really lives up to its name with its height of 64 meters.
Other Chinese cities worth checking out are Guilin (with its picture-perfect sceneries and landscapes), Guangzhou (with its interesting historical sites), Suzhou (the Venice of the East), and a lot more.
There are a multitude of tours you can join in order to fully enjoy all the things worth seeing and doing in China. One of the most recommended tours is the Essence of China Tour, which is an 8-day trip to visit the 3 most famous Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. Within the 8 days, you’ll get your fill of Chinese culture and history as well as all the modern offerings of the said cities. Another tour you might want to go on is the 11-Day China Relaxation Tour, which adds the Yangtze River cruise to the itinerary of the previous tour. Lastly, if you want an extraordinary trip, you can also consider visiting the capital of Tibet and enjoy the highlights of the Essence Tour of Lhasa.
The world has been blessed with a surplus of natural and man-made wonders, but China has indeed more than its fair share of these marvels. Make your travel arrangements now. The modern-day and ancient miracles of China await you.