After living in China for almost a year in 2012, I managed to find enough time to explore a vast majority of the country. Of course, it would be near on impossible to be able to visit every single fascinating place that this extraordinarily populous nation has to offer, but here are my top tips for things to see and do in the historically rich and culturally important beauty that is China.
The Canton Tower- Guangzhou
The Canton Tower is an architectural masterpiece. Internationally known for being the third tallest tower in the world, the tower is also a colourful and vibrant hyperboloid structure; its twisted shape looking even better by night, lit up in multicolours. Prices range from £15-£50 depending on what you choose to do; the observation deck has a 365 view over the third largest city in China, if the weather is being good to you! There are rides and attractions on the top of the tower which come with unexpected surprises; you think the drop tower ride is over until the instructor puts you onto another ride- a standing drop tower! Guangzhou, although very much known as a business and industry hub, is also very much worth a wander, if your legs can handle the walk after going on a ride 1,900 ft over the city!
Sanya- Hainan Island
Now when you think of China, a beach resort doesn’t really spring to mind. In the south China Sea however, you will find an exotically tropical island named Hainan. It is everything you may imagine an island to be; palm-tree lined streets and passers-by in flowery shirts, crystal clear beaches and seafood restaurants galore. Rent a bike and ride around the resort of Sanya, and your image of China is soon to change. Although clearly a Russian holiday resort, Sanya has an infectiously laid-back beach vibe which you can’t help but want more of.
The only slightly strange thing about the golden sand stretches themselves is that you may see people fully clothed, sunbathing and swimming. This is due to the Chinese preferring to cover their skin to avoid any kind of suntan.
Terracotta Warriors- Xi’an
Xi’an has to be one of the best cities in China. It is a melting pot of cultures and ancient traditions, with temples and religious buildings of every kind standing tall alongside one another. A particularly special place in Xi’an is of course, the Terracotta Warriors. With an uncountable number to see and many more to this day still being found, each warrior is intricately detailed and each has a different face and armour to the others. Discovered in 1974 by local farmers, the Terracotta Army were designed as a form of funerary art, to protect the first Emperor of China, Emperor Qinshihuang, in his afterlife. The warriors are thought to be from 209-210 BC, and only one was found completely in tact, the kneeling archer, which can be seen on display in a special cabinet. This is a place not to be missed.
The night markets- Xi’an
Aromas filling the night sky, and throngs of people bustling through the city streets, Xi’an at night is well worth going out for. The cuisine
in Xi’an is like nowhere else in China; its muslim inspired thick noodles and Sichuan influenced spices means your taste buds will be longing for more, long after you have left. One of the best things about the night markets is the street food, with the small stools that western people are definitely not designed for!
Victoria Peak- Hong Kong
I have mixed feelings about Hong Kong, due to the weather being so horrific when I was there. Victoria Peak, however, gives you a panoramic view of the whole city, and it is absolutely breathtaking. I would suggest doing the trip, including the almost vertically steep tram ride to the top, on a spontaneous day, so as to judge the weather correctly. It is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island, at a staggering 2000 ft. Take the trip up at night to be astounded by the city lights.
The Big Buddha- Hong Kong
The Big Buddha is fairly unknown when it comes to attractions in Hong Kong. Situated on Lantau Island, it is a symbol of the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith. It is a wonder for the eye; made of bronze and over 112 ft tall. Visitors will need to take a cable car ride to the statue itself, as it is situated on a mountain top, enthroned on a lotus on top of a three-platformed altar. With 268 steps up the buddha itself, be prepared for some exercise!
Take a trip to the Great Wall of China on the spur of the moment- you don’t want to end up with weather like I did!