The great land of China has an unrivalled allure. Forever linked to its ancient civilization by venerable treasures such as the Great Wall and Yangtze River, it also boasts the modern, towering skylines and bright city lights of Beijing and Shanghai. Add an eclectic mix of shopping opportunities; from Old World markets to designer couture; exquisite regional cuisines and a warm, welcoming people and it’s no wonder that China draws millions of visitors from around the world.
What do the world’s tallest hotel, Asia’s largest shopping mall and China’s largest stock exchange have in common? You guessed it, the bustling mega-city of Shanghai. The commercial and financial center of China, this riverfront metropolis has an energy that’s electric. Its towering World Financial Center is practically a city within the city, with 101 stories that include shops, exhibition space, media centers, financial institutions and hotels from around the world. Check out the shops on Nanjing Lu, Shanghai’s own Rodeo Drive, a happening place both day and night. The Bund, the symbolic center of the city is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai. Don’t miss the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square, a showcase of outstanding works in jade and bronze, calligraphy and paintings. From Shanghai it’s an easy trek to the heavenly Chinese gardens of Hangzhou and Suzhou.
The Grand Mountains of Guilin
“I often sent pictures of the hills of Guilin which I painted to friends back home, but few believed what they saw.” ~ Fan Chengda, Chinese Scholar
Perched along the Lijiang River in Southern China, Guilin is famous for its majestic monolithic Karst mountains, a truly unbelievable sight. A leisurely four-hour river cruise, ending in the picturesque village of Hangshu, yields spectacular views of the amazing monoliths. Hangshu is a destination in itself, with quaint shops, cafes and a gorgeous countryside. Rent a bicycle there to discover its local secrets. Guilin also is home to a mineral and rock museum; an elephant park; bonsai garden, zoo and a tiger and bear park. The magnificent Reed Flute Caves are aglow in a rainbow of colored lights.
Xian: Land of Terra Cotta Warriors
Xian, meaning, “western peace”, offers a curious mix of delights. The main tourist draws of Xian are the Terra-Cotta Warriors of the Qin Bingmayong Bowuguan and the Neolithic Village, not far from the city. Other must-sees include the Great Goose Pagoda, built mid-600 AD; The Shanxi History Museum; The Ba Xian An (Temple of the Eight Immortals) and The Da Qingzhensi or Great Mosque. Stroll or bicycle along the City Wall, stretching 8 ¼ miles around the inner city. Be sure to take in a performance at The Tang Dynasty Dinner Theatre, featuring centuries-old dance complete with traditional costumes and instruments.
Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing the Great Wall of China? One of the greatest masterpieces of mankind, it’s just about an hour from Beijing. There are plenty of treasures within the city proper as well, including venues with exotic names like the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, The Ming Tombs and Tiananmen Square, where the Great Hall of the People and Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum are located. Beijing is a city of contrasts, peppered with historic structures in the shadow of modern high rises. The capital of China, it is also home to the largest airport terminal in the world.
Kunming, City of Eternal Spring
Named for its near-tropical latitude and temperate climate spring through fall, Kunming holds a warm spot in many visitors’ hearts. Among the most popular – and most dramatic – of its attractions is the bewitching Stone Forest (Shilin), known since the Ming Dynasty as The First Wonder of the World. The Stone Forest is a miracle of nature and a magical place, with natural limestone masterpieces in intricate formations. Kunming is also known for its many temples, among them, the 400-year-old Taoist Golden Temple.
Yearning for Yangtze
A river runs through it… the heartland of China. The Yangtze River is seemingly endless. No wonder. It is the world’s third longest river. There are no less than seven World Heritage Sites along its beautiful winding banks. Here you’ll find the Three Gorges Dam project, The Ghost Temple and, where the Shenlong River enters the Yangtze, you can catch a ferry up the river, then transfer to primitive canoes where the water narrows… a natural way to explore the mysteries of the area.
China offers this and much more. Its 5,000-year-old colorful cultures, inviting charm and bright blend of old and new make it one of the most intriguing destinations in the world. And, who knows? It could be your next Dream Vacation.
Author: Lisa Codianne Fowler, Grand Getaways Lisa Codianne Fowler is an award-winning travel journalist, travel video host and travel radio co-host. She’s covered cities from St. Petersburg, Russia to St. Petersburg, Florida; ridden bum boats in Singapore and swum with sharks in Tahiti. An active Grand Getaways member, she has contributed feature articles from destinations across the globe.