China is one of the largest and most heavily populated countries in the world. Its also a major world power, with the potential to play an even larger part in our global future. Theres a good chance this is the country that may employ your children when they leave school and university. Are you ready to find out more about its fascinating history, culture and landscapes?
Here at Aspen Travel we have partnered with a number of leading tour operators who co-ordinate escorted tours in China. Given that the country is so vast, a tour is a great way to experience many of Chinas highlights over a relatively short space of time. Within the fortnight youve booked off work, you could find yourself immersed in an Eastern way of life, enjoying incredible Chinese cuisine and discovering unique wildlife in its natural habitat.
As with visiting any new place, its good to be prepared, so you have an idea of what to expect. With all of our luxurious all-inclusive packages, youll have a tour manager who will fill you in on Chinese cultural quirks as you make your way around the country, but its you might find it interesting to know the following:
- Burping after a meal is often seen as good manners, as is refusing gifts and compliments. Feel free to accept any presents offered to you after a few refusals though.
- Do try street food if you get the chance. The variety is enormous and its almost always delicious.
- If youre planning to use the internet while youre way, as well as investigating the best phone package for travelling abroad, you might also want to do some research into VPNs, as this is the only way youll be able to access Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.
- The Chinese currency is yuan and cash is accepted everywhere. Check with your bank to find out if your debit or credit cards will be accepted in China, because if theyre not, you wont be able to get cash out of the ATMs either.
- When youre doing a bit of shopping, youre likely to get a better price if you haggle, so dont settle for the first price youre offered.
- Youll need a visa to get into China and this needs to be booked well in advance. The Aspen Travel team can help you with your visa application.
The best places to visit in China
The landscapes in China are diverse and exciting to explore, but amazingly theyre all contained within the one timezone. Lets have a look at some of the must-visit places:
Shanghai and the garden cities
Shanghai is a modern, bustling city which offers huge shopping potential and some beautiful waterfront and garden walks. The celebrated Yu gardens are built in the classical style and are believed to have originated from the Ming dynasty. With bridge walks over the lakes, pretty pagodas and striking landscaping, Shanghais Yu Gardens have been designed with serenity, peace and harmony with nature in mind. Walking through them is a very calming experience. The Jade Buddha Temple and Shangha museum, which houses art that spans 5000 years, are well worth a visit here too.
If gardens are your thing, youll love our dedicated garden tour of China. During this guided garden tour extravaganza, youll visit Suzhou, near Shanghai, a city famous for its gardens, Nanning; the go-to place for the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, Liuzhou and Guilin; whose parks incorporate the Karst rock formations and Longsheng, where the land is dominated by ancient and picturesque rice terraces.
Under British rule until 1997, Hong Kong is a very cosmopolitan city, which can be experienced both on the ground, while youre indulging in some retail therapy, and from up high, by taking the tram to the top of Victoria Peak. From this mountain that overlooks the illuminated city, youll be treated to some memorable, panoramic views, before descending again to spend the day at your leisure in the zoo or the botanical gardens.
Other exciting attractions to explore in Hong Kong include the bustling Stanley Market and a gem factory but a boat trip around Aberdeen Harbour will give you an alternative view. There are also boats which will take you to the sandy beaches and fishing villages of Cheung Chau Island and Kowloon.
Meeting a panda; one of the worlds best loved but most endangered species, is high up on a lot of bucket lists around the world and in order to make your dream a reality, youll need to come to Chengdu. This is where the Research Base of the Giant Panda is located and where you can experience adult and baby pandas strolling around in their natural surroundings. If youre really lucky youll have the chance to see new born cubs playing and feeding.
Given that Chengdu is in the Sichuan province, known for its spicy cuisine, youll also have the chance to try some delicious regional dishes and enjoy some traditional Sichuan theatre performances.
A cruise along the Yangtze River will take you to see some of Chinas best loved highlights, as well as some spectacular riverside scenery, such as the Three Gorges Dam and the haunted ghost city of Fengdu. This is Chinas longest river and youll traverse it in style, with your own luxury cabin and on board facilities. There will a cruise manager to oversee the trip and plenty of excursions planned, not to mention delicious meals served in the boats restaurant.
There is so much to discover in Chinas capital city. During an escorted tour of Beijing, youll be taken to the stunning Temple of Heaven, which was built during the Ming Dynasty. Youll also explore the imperial buildings in the Forbidden City. One of the most beautiful and iconic treasures of the city is the Summer Palace, where youll walk through exquisitely sculptured gardens, past ornate lakes and pavilions, but the biggest monument here however, both literally and emotionally, is the Great Wall. Although, contrary to popular belief, it cant be seen from space, it is impressive nonetheless.
Xian is where youll find the archeological wonder that is the Terracotta Warriors. There are 8000 of these statues, each designed to resemble a known individual and originally they were each armed with real weapons. Their purpose was to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Also in Xian youll pay a visit to the beautiful Wild Goose Pagoda.
In this land of extremes, Chinese Tibet is home to some of the most extraordinary landscapes. Located at a high altitude, you might initially take a short while to get used to the feeling of being so high up. Once you do, youll enjoy strolling around the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, as well as the former residences of the Dalai Lama. From here you can travel on Shigatse through the Friendship Highway and the Yarlung Valley.
At a lower altitude, youll discover the Stone Forest of Kunming, the Lake District of Shangri-La, the Ancient Town of Dali, with its fascinating cultured focused around fishing, and the Black Dragon Pool Park of Lijiang.
What would you like to see in China? Do you want to play with the pandas, or would your prefer to check out the historic architecture of past dynasties? Perhaps youd like to immerse yourself in modern Chinese culture and take a tai chi class? All of this is possible.
Here at Aspen Travel weve paired up with some of the world authorities in holidays to China to provide you with flexible travel solutions and an exciting itinerary. To find out more about all the trips we provide and possibilities we offer, please give our friendly travel team a call.