China ~ A Mix of Old and New

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China is another country rich in history with ancient traditions.  The cities are becoming ultra-modern, mixing the old with the new.  When you think about China you think bicycles and rickshaws filling the streets.  You will still see them, but now there are cars and taxis.

To visit China, it depends on the country of residence as to what your requirements are, for US citizens, you will need a visa as well as 6 months remaining on your passport from the day of departure from China.  A multiple entry visa may be a requirement if you plan to re-enter China.  If your plans will take you to China, then maybe to Hong Kong or Macau for a bit of gambling and then going back to China, you will have to have a multiple entry visa.

The three cities not to be missed are Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.

Beijing has so many sights to see, it really is a city of treasures.  Museums, religious temples, gardens and parks.  Don’t miss the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  Don’t miss the Hutongs or “alleyways”.  The residents will occupy these courtyard styled compounds and are something to see.  Outside of Beijing are the Ming Tombs which is the resting place of 13 Ming Dynasty’s and their concubines.

Shanghai, “Paris of the East”, This cosmopolitan city  is full of elegant shops, cafes, gardens and temples and really is considered the shopping capital.  Be sure to visit the Bund or riverfront, it is spectacular.

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You simply cannot go to China and not visit the Great Wall, it is a true wonder totaling 3948 miles, can be seen from space and was chosen as a Unesco Site in 1987.  The most familiar sections of the wall are an easy day trip from Beijing and these are the best of the restored sections.  For a real adventure, hike the wall or visit during the time that China hosts a marathon run on the Great Wall.

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Xian~  Probably best known for the Terra Cotta Warriors that were discovered.  Back in 1974 three brothers were digging a well and accidentally came upon what was to become a true discovery.  Buried just a few feet below the surface the first of what is to become 8,000 terra cotta figures, warriors, horses and chariots.  Another cultural experience in Xian is a visit to the Muslim Quarter, you will find some fantastic Islamic Food Markets and the Great Mosque.

If you are a real adventurer or explorer who likes to get off the beaten path and really see the culture and get a taste of the local flavor head to Chongqing which is typically the starting point for a river cruise on the Yangtze river  Chongqing is famous for its Sichuan style cuisine.  The city has a population of 30 million and dates back to the 11th century.  While cruising the Yangtze, you may make a stop in Fengdu, a city on the move ~ literally.  The old town on the north bank will soon be underwater and the new town is still under construction.

Looking to explore the Li River, you can catch a river cruise in Guilin and make your way to Yangshuo for a two night stay.  On the Li river you will have the opportunity to pass the local farming and fishing villages that dot the river.

Cuisine is an important part of the Chinese culture, they are known for Peking Duck.  If you find yourself in Beijing, stop in to Beijing Dadong Kaoya Dian Restaurant for what many say is the best duck in Beijing.  Visit a traditional Shui Jiao for the dumpling buffets, it really will be the best food you will have.

It is important to be aware of the culture in any country you travel to. 

  • In China, greeting people is done with a bow or nod of the head, not a handshake.  If you do shake hands, it will not be a firm handshake. 
  • If you are invited to a dinner, private home or conducting business, be punctual.  Punctuality is very important to the Chinese. 
  • Meals typically take place in restaurants, not private homes.  Use the thick end of your chopsticks when taking food from a communal dish.
  • The concept of standing in line is not popular and it is really a free for all.
  • Rickshaws and bikes do not stop at traffic lights, so be really careful crossing the road.
  • Tipping is officially illegal, if a tip is offered it will probably be politely refused and may cause some embarrassment.

There is so much to see and do and so many options in China.  If you don’t have much time in each city always think about hiring a tour guide, it can be the best way for you to see and learn an area.

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