Reasons to visit and love China
Grand, mysterious China. Despite having opened up their borders decades ago and being the topic of many news headlines as well as the center of global politics, China is a country that is hard to truly grasp or understand without actually visiting. This may be because it is more like a collection of many countries rather than one; with a population of 1.4 billion divided into 56 ethnic minorities and 23 provinces, the people and culture of China are as diverse as the land is vast (and it is very, very vast. The third-largest country by landmass in the world!)
As one of the world’s first-ever civilizations to have emerged, China is also one of the historically richest places you could ever visit: the fertile Yellow River, the towering palaces and squares that expand as far as the horizon, the descendants of the first papermakers, silk traders, and ferocious warriors who once ruled East Asia. Once you are there, the air vibrates with history. The feeling is undeniable and visceral.
However, do not be fooled that it is a country resting on its laurels and former glories. China is the largest economy in the world and the epicenter of global manufacturing. Just outside the gates of the Forbidden City, the skyscrapers begin to rise, and you will be lost in the frenzy of a bustling, ever-changing, ever-growing metropolis.
If you are looking for travel destination with history and culture as magnificent as Rome balanced with the frenzied big city energy of New York (and let’s not ever forget the tremendous Chinese gastronomy that deserves an article all its own), then this is the place tailored just for you. Let’s discover what wonders await us in this grand country.
Here we will cover:
1. China’s bustling mega capital, Beijing
2. Asia’s heart, Shanghai
3. The great outdoors, Jiuzhaigou
4. The start of the Silk Road, Xi’an
Hey guys! My name is Irene and I am Korean-American. I was born in the U.S. and raised in Seoul, Korea during my teenage years. After that, I went to a university in Las Vegas, Nevada and studied Hospitality Management. Currently, I am based in New York City. I like how I lived both in Korea and the America because I can speak more than one language and understand the difference between the two cultures. So far, I've been to a lot of countries in Asia and East Europe. My ultimate goal is to travel all around the world and experience new things.
a NYC based traveler
The Bustling Mega Capital | Beijing
As Beijing is the mega capital city in China, there are so, so, so many things to do and famous places to go. There are many known historical sites and modern industrial places to go to.
You can’t visit Beijing, hiking the Great Wall or not. The best time to visit is between April to October when beautiful flowers bloom and golden orange leaves fall from trees. It takes about four hours roundtrip, so you want to be prepared with comfortable clothes and a water bottle. Some of the best views are Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai, Jiankou, and Gubeikou.
One of the places to see the insight into everyday life, culture, and architecture, you should visit Hutongs. It is a traditional laneway that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty. It retains some traditional culture and way of life of the past. It used to be a lane where kids play and people socialized. You can also visit renovated areas of Hutongs that offers bars, restaurants, and shopping. Near the place, you can also visit Lama Temple.
Go to the Olympic Park and look at the magnificent National stadium called “Bird’s Nest” and the National Aquatics Center called the “Water Cube.” The Bird’s Nest has a unique architectural structure that resembles a nest. If you visit at night, you can see the light flashing from the inside of the building, which is pretty impressive. They do run various events from time to time, so make sure to check their websites before you go.
Asia’s Beating Heart | Shanghai
Shanghai is known as the Manhattan of New York. A city that never sleeps and overflowing with things to do.
The Bund is Shanghai’s picturesque waterfront with a stunning view across the Huangpu River. There are many tall buildings as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, and European-style buildings that make an amazing skyline view. Most people recommend going at night because skyscrapers glow in different colors at night which is perfect for photo ops.
If you are a shopaholic, go check out Nanjing Lu, Shanghai’s main shopping street. The street splits into two sections; the East Nanjing road known as the Time Square in Shanghai and the West Nanjing road known as the International Settlement. Neon signs and thousands of shoppers will surround you, so be prepared to power through the crowds.
Zhujiajiao Water Town, known as the Venice of Shanghai, is a township in the Qingpu District of Shanghai. You can walk or bike around and see many ancient bridges and residences floating on the water. If you walk to the north side of the Water Town, you will meet the Bei Dajie North Street which is the best-preserved ancient street that dates back to the Qing Dynasty. Among the 36 bridges at the Water Town, the Fangsheng Bridge is the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai.
The Unexpected Favorite | Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou is a county of Sichuan Province, China and is known for breathtaking sightseeing. I recommend having a tour guide when traveling to Jiuzhaigou because there are many great places to visit with their scientific and geological aspects. The guide will explain the history and scientific aspects of each location.
Jiuzhai Valley National Park is a stunning scenery of nature with vibrant lakes, waterfalls, mountains, trees, and forest. The golden time to visit the park is during the Fall; however, it is amazing all year round, from green in spring to snow-capped in winter. It takes three full days to explore, and it is worth it. So make sure you have enough days to explore nature. Make sure to check Shuzheng Lake, Nuorilang Waterfall, Panda Lake, Five Flowers Lake, and many other places where you could only see in Jiuzhaigou. You will feel small in the face of nature.
Where the Silk Road Began | Xi’an
Xi’an is famous for its Terracotta Warriors, one of the greatest archaeological sites globally. It was built to accompany the tomb of China’s First Emperor as an afterlife guard. Around the grand mausoleum of Shi Huangdi, you will discover thousands of life-size clay models of soldiers, horses, and chariots, preserved in great shape . You will be impressed by its perfectly detailed craft work. Just remember it was built in 221 B.C.
Xi’an Ancient City Wall, dividing the city into the inner part and the outer part, is open to the public with no entrance fee. You can ride a bike around Xi’an and visit the City Hall, it's a greatly preserved ancient city wall in China
If you are planning to go to China, make sure to put plenty of time in each city because you will be surprised by the variety of things you could do. Have a tour guide when going to historical places and learn about their culture and lifestyle. Go see magnificent sightseeing and skyscrapers around the city. Make sure to keep some energy for the night to see the glowing neon signs and exciting nightlife. Enjoy tasty street food to traditional Chinese cuisine during your stay.