China's story is an epic chronicle that spans thousands of years and a multitude of dynasties. This is a land where the ancient and the contemporary, the traditional and the innovative, the tranquil and the chaotic, entwine to paint a vibrant and diverse portrait of human civilization.
Each province, city, and village adds its unique stitch to the grand and complex tapestry of China's history, culture, and landscape.
As you navigate through the arteries of this vast land, you'll find yourself traversing through a diverse array of landscapes. Stroll amidst the bustling, ultramodern skyscrapers of Shanghai and Shenzhen, which stand as testament to China's rapid ascent in global stature and economic power. Yet, mere hours away, time appears to stand still in the old lanes of Suzhou and Lijiang, where you can lose yourself in the enchanting charm of ancient water towns, crisscrossed with stone bridges and canals.
The Middle Kingdom's natural scenery is as diverse as its cultural heritage. Witness the ethereal karst landscapes of Guilin and Yangshuo, hike through the verdant bamboo forests in Sichuan, home to the precious giant pandas, or marvel at the vast expanse of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts. Traverse the spellbinding beauty of Zhangjiajie, which inspired the surreal world of Pandora in the movie Avatar, or explore the lush rice terraces of Longji and Yuanyang.
China's historical landmarks and architectural wonders are legendary. Walk on the centuries-old Great Wall, a monumental feat of ancient engineering. Stand in awe in the Forbidden City, the former royal palace, its red walls and golden roofs a symbol of China's regal past. Contemplate the Terracotta Army, a formidable legion guarding China's first emperor even in death. Each monument is a page in the grand narrative of China's past.
The culinary landscape of China is a delightful saga in itself. From the aromatic Peking Duck of Beijing, fiery hot pots of Sichuan, delicate dim sums of Guangzhou, to the savory soup dumplings of Shanghai, each regional cuisine is a tantalizing exploration of flavors.
Yet, amid all the grandeur and spectacle, the true essence of China is woven into the fabric of everyday life. It's in the early morning Tai Chi sessions in city parks, the vibrant chaos of wet markets, the traditional tea ceremonies steeped in mindfulness, and the rambunctious chatter around the family dinner table during Lunar New Year.
A visa is typically required for most foreign visitors, and it should be applied for before traveling to China.
The official currency is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY), with the primary unit being the yuan.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language.
Internet and Communication
Internet censorship is prevalent in China, and a VPN is recommended for accessing blocked sites. You can buy a local SIM card from China Mobile, China Unicom, or China Telecom.
Respect for age and hierarchy are integral to Chinese culture. Modesty and humility are valued, and overt confrontation is typically avoided.
Explore China's vast culinary landscape, from spicy Sichuan cuisine to Cantonese Dim Sum, and from Peking Duck to Shanghai's soup dumplings.
China has an extensive high-speed rail network, and domestic flights are plentiful. In cities, the metro, buses, taxis, and bike-sharing systems are common.
Health and Safety
China is generally safe for travelers, but always take standard precautions. Air quality in major cities can sometimes be poor, so monitor updates if you have respiratory issues.
When in China, an easy trick to manage communication barriers is to have the addresses or names of your destinations written in Chinese characters. Many taxi drivers don't speak English, and this will come in handy. A must-try trick for Great Wall enthusiasts: instead of the crowded Badaling, visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall early in the morning to avoid crowds and catch the sunrise. This provides a more serene and unspoiled experience of this world wonder.