Explore the City Wall in Xi’an on a bicycle and behold the views of ancient architecture and spiritual temples dating back as far as the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). Enjoy the rich cuisine from Peking Duck to Cantonese dim sum, and unwind in authentic fragrant teahouses - welcome to China!
China is the world’s most populous nation renowned for breathtaking landscapes, traditional and cultural diversity, historical sights including The Great Wall of China, the imposing statues of the Terracotta Army, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and of course who can forget–adorable giant pandas.
Respected by professional mountain climbers everywhere, the impressive Mount Everest and its colossal cousin K2 are both partly in China. China is also dubbed the factory of the world–chances are, many of your domestic appliances, and the clothes on your back including your pyjamas were “Made in China”. Silk, tea and even gunpowder also find their roots in this, one of the world’s oldest and accomplished cultures.
Why visit China?
China offers a diverse travelling experience like no other country on earth. The history scrolls reveal the first Chinese society Yangshao Culture (Yǎngsháo wénhuà)
was developed around 5000 B.C. From the glorious Tang dynasty (618-907) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) you will find elements of all the ancient dynasties in many different temples and monuments as you explore this diverse and mysterious country.
The National Museum exhibits historic treasures and cultural relics from the ancient days to China’s final dynasty, the Qing. Over one million items are on display in this monumental museum which is three times the size of the Louvre in Paris! Nowhere else can you feast your eyes on such diverse cultural and historic treasures that take you back in time across the entire range of Chinese history.
Chinese cuisine is so diverse you will never run out of new foods to taste.
As you travel through the country, you will have the opportunity to taste exotic foods and vibrant dishes prepared with local ingredients and methods guaranteed to baffle even professional chefs. Depending on where you travel within China, there are hundreds of meals in each region to delight a curious palate.
For a fun and authentic experience, you can always head out to the local street food markets. Enjoy delicious Chinese crêpes (Jianbing) with a delicious centre of scallions, cilantro, lettuce and rich chili sauce, steamed stuffed dumplings, or the burning Hotpot (Huo Guo). It’s unlikely for you to see specialty dishes like bat, frog or scorpion as specialty dishes can be quite costly.
If you prefer a restaurant experience then be sure to try Peking Duck, one of the most celebrated dishes in China. A typical chef takes about five years to learn the process and about fifteen years to master their Peking skills.
The local street markets are also a hub for anything authentically Chinese. You can purchase traditional Chinese outfits and Tibetan clothing, antique furniture and replicas from the Qing dynasty, jewellery, pearls and jade. Since there are various levels of authenticity and quality purchase with care, which is part of the experience!
Green tea (lǜchá) has grabbed many headlines over the years for its health benefits. You might not realise this fragrant beverage has a rich 2000+ years of history in China. Green tea is viewed as the concoction of health by the Chinese especially the local Qingdao Laoshan (Mount Lao) green tea. Considered one of the best teas in China, Laoshan green tea is hand picked and cultivated by local farmers.
Of course, hundreds of tea varieties can be found in China. While you’re there enjoy Chinese Oolong tea; being half fermented tea. Connoisseurs consider it to be a blend between green and black tea. One of the best oolong teas in China is the Fujian Tie Guanyin oolong tea, originally discovered around 18th century in the Anxi County, Fujian Province.
If you prefer black tea be sure to taste the Yunnan Pu-erh dark black or brown-red tea. It has a delicious mellow taste. If you like a bit of history in your cuppa, Dongting Biluochun tea was offered to emperors and dignitaries on special occasions during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911). Another delicious variety with roots in that era is the West Lake Dragon Well green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
China is big on quality tea, but it doesn’t lag behind on alcoholic beverages especially beer. Snow beer is the best-selling beer in China and possibly in the world. Light, crisp and refreshing, an all-time favourite among young Chinese people. Tsingtao beer has worldwide recognition, it is clear with yellow colour with a fluffy white head topping the four fine ingredients hops, barley, rice and clean Laoshan mineral water.
Pearl River Beer produced in Guangzhou, south of China and Yanjing Beer from northern China are also quite popular albeit less known internationally. If you like your red or white wine then be prepared for a twist. Forget the expensive imported stuff and go for the local aromatic and enjoyably nutty tasting rice wine – particularly the Shaoxing rice wine made in Shaoxing in Zhejiang. In China you will also find some strange wines including tiger bone wine and snake wine for those with an open mind and adventurous palate!
Food and drink are not the only highlights of the Orient. Beautiful Chinese gardens are another popular attraction.
Chinese gardens are a work of colourful art transporting you back in time to the imperial ages considered a timeless glimpse of traditional Chinese culture. Here imperial officials often spent time in solitude, playing chess, mediating and drinking tea.
One example of those private kingdoms is the Imperial Gardens of the Forbidden City, built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty. It is here where beautiful people-made structures were made to maintain harmony with nature. Other gardens worth visiting are Yuyuan Garden in Huangpu District, Shanghai, the Humble Administration Garden (the biggest Chinese classical garden), and the Summer Palace, also called The Royal Garden Museum. For the past 3,000+ years, emperors and members of the nobility created their own beautiful royal gardens with carefully planned settings, decorative rocks, water elements, plants, trees and flowers.
Chinese buildings were built on Feng Shui principles which observe the laws of efficient energy flow in the universe. With that in mind doorways and entrances are designed to invite positive energy. Have you ever wondered why Chinese people hang small mirrors above doorways? The purpose is to reflect evil spirits outward, preserving peace and harmony within the household.
Traditional music is aired in the parks including the Temple of Heaven gardens in Beijing and Xi’an’s city wall park. The music makes visiting those places exciting imbuing them with a touch of mystery. Some of the popular instruments you might come across are strings and flutes, the erhu (silk string violin), and pipa (lute).
About the ancient city of China
- Capital City: Beijing
- Population: 1.357 billion (2013) World Bank
- Currency: Renminbi
- GDP per capita: 6,807.43 USD (2013) World Bank
- Gross domestic product: 9.24 trillion USD (2013) World Bank
- Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympic Games
- Best place for Peking Duck - Beijing
- Neighbouring countries: Taiwan, Japan, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, and others.
The challenges of travelling to China
The common barrier for any English-speaking tourist is the language. Most of the Chinese you hear being spoken in Australia is probably Cantonese, but the official language in China is Mandarin (Modern Standard Chinese). In total, there are six major Chinese languages and a glut of dialects! With close to 1.4 billion people speaking non-English navigating beautiful China without a guide can be quite challenging. While not a replacement for a knowledgeable English-speaking guide Google Translate (https://translate.google.com.au/) can prove to be of immense help.
All Australian tourists travelling to China must obtain a Chinese visa.
You should do this well in advance as well as make sure you have a valid passport with a minimum of six months left to run (validity) past your intended holiday return date. You need to make sure you get the right visa for the period of your travel. You don’t want to run out of visa while you’re abroad!
Another challenge is travel in peak travel seasons. If you travel alone then avoid, if you can, the spring festival or Chinese New Year (it usually falls between January to February). This is where travelling with a guide tour makes sense. Some tourist sights have limited opening hours during these holiday periods. Another time to watch out for are the last two weeks in April and October - a busy international trade fair expo in Guangzhou driving accommodation prices through the roof. Again, travelling with a tour group especially during those times is preferable.
When choosing a tour company, generally the well established ones provide greater value. Some tour operators may offer the cheapest price upfront, but then they may stitch you up with several shopping stops so be sure to ask your tour operator how many of those stops are included.
Tour guides can be as diverse as the Chinese culture. Some are informative and helpful going out of their way to make your tour enjoyable, others may care less. Again, well established tour companies don’t leave their guide selection to chance. At SNA Tours we have sourced the best quality and trustworthy tour guides to provide you with an adventure of a lifetime.
There are many ATM machines throughout China but some don’t accept foreign cards. The ones that do may impose daily limits and high transaction fees. This is generally not a problem in Beijing and Shanghai, but it could become an issue in other, smaller cities and remote locations. To find ATMs in China go to www.visa.com (VISA) or MasterCard ATM Locator www.mastercard.com (Cirrus, Maestro and MasterCard). It is always advisable have some cash on you as an emergency backup and to spread this across your travel group companions.
When booking your accommodation on your own, don’t rely on the star rating alone. Most hotels in China tend to be poorly maintained. So do your research! There are no hard and fast rules here but most newer hotels tend to be better maintained, have cleaner rooms and are staffed by more courteous staff.
At SNA Tours we choose only the best four to five star hotels for our customers and thanks to our name in the industry you get more comfort for a lot less!
Finally, never drink tap water! Don’t even use it for brushing your teeth. Drink or brush your teeth with only properly sealed bottle water or water that has been boiled (make sure you cool it first!).
The benefits of travelling to China
Properly planned, China is a beautiful destination to explore and enjoy. China travel offers you adventures, landscapes and historic sights no other country can provide. It has a rich cultural diversity that spans thousands of years. Visiting China is not just about the exotic food and a fascinating culture – it’s a mind-stretching learning experience. You will learn more about life, nature and non-western ways of thinking in a single day than you otherwise would by reading countless books. China is an experience that will transform you on so many levels you will wish you’d done it a lot sooner!