With China being the 2nd largest economy in the world, more and more people are visiting China for business. However, perhaps unknown to most (other than the Chinese), China has some of the most beautiful sceneries and cultural heritage in the world. Visiting these places of interest may take a little more effort than say visiting Hong Kong or Singapore since most Chinese out of Shanghai and Beijing don't speak English domestically. However, if you need help with travels to China, just give me a buzz and I'll see what I can do.
In the mean time, enjoy some of these magnificent places in China. It's not an exhaustive list as there are just too many places one can visit in China. To see everything, you need to live here for at least a year or two!
A symbol of the longevity of the Chinese civilization, this is the largest man-made architecture in the world. A symbol of perseverance & nationality of the Chinese people. It is enduring & one of human's greatest achievement in historic times.
The most popular and touristy sector of the Wall is on Badaling. However, if you've more time to venture, I'd suggest heading to the Mutianyu section rather. This is a more scenic, less commercialized and more enjoyable part of the Wall. For those who wants the rugged, Shimatai/Jinshanling area is THE area to go to.
The idea is bigger than the site and it is really truly unimaginable how they did it back then, some thousand of years ago. The Terracotta Army find is a significant in terms of history and archaeology. Personally, I visited it late in the afternoon and in the midst of winter. It was cold and not a pleasant visit.
Unless it means a great deal to you personally, seeing the Terracotta Army in person is not as great as seeing it on TV! It's mostly for the historical buffs! Nonetheless, it is significant if you're interested in Chinese civilization.
The most beautiful sceneries can be found along the Li River which spans from the city of Guilin to Yangshuo and Xingping. River cruises ply the river among spectacular mountains and limestones formations (very much like those in Halong Bay, Vietnam). One can walk around the river or even swim in it if you are game. Take a look and you'll wonder why this is the no. 1 tourist spot (nature) in China!
This is the mountain every hiker must go if it's his/her passion to hike a mountain in China. I've visited on 3 separate occasions and yet I've only see a tiny portion of this magnificent mountain. Do it while you are young though, this is not one easy mountain to hike and can be real taxing on the knees. Nonetheless, it's one of the most interesting with some beautiful landscapes. One won't know how beautiful it is until one has been up there!
There are direct flights from Shanghai to Huangshan. It takes only about an hour or so by flight.
If Huangshan is the most spectacular mountain in China, then Jiuzhaigou has the clearest water in China. Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve in Sichuan. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and has many colorful and beautiful "lakes".
Huanglong is another national park which is about an hour from Jiuzhaigou and also the location of the airport that flies from Chengdu to this area. Visitors can spend a total of 4 days in this area to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, especially during the Autumn. It's fabulous!
In addition, if you plan on heading Tibet, Huanglong is the best place to test if you are able to venture into 4000 m elevation without getting altitude sickness. From here, if one has problem with breathing, it is easily to go to a lower level. It's not possible once you reached Tibet itself as Lhasa itself has the lowest elevation at some 3900 m!
Many foreigners are enthralled by the idea of visiting Tibet. Many also do not think Tibet belongs to China. Nonetheless, Tibet is in the Chinese Territory, in other words, if you are planning on visiting it, you'd need a special permit from the Chinese Government!
Whatever you believe or think about Tibet being part of China is not important to me. I visited this territory in 2003, before the completion of the highest railway in the world. Now, if you'd like to visit Tibet, I'd encourage you to take the train from Xining in China. That stretch of the rail road would be the most scenic. Not all the way from Beijing. That'd be too long a journey and a drag unless you're going with an entire family or group of friends.
I flew in to Lhasa back then from Chengdu in Sichuan. It wasn't a long flight but it was quite a sight and a spectacular landscape welcomes visitors to Lhasa. Lhasa is the capital city of Tibet and it lies some 3900 m above sea level. Around it are numerous mountains even higher. So, from the air, the view was spectacular!
What to see in Tibet? Other than the Potala Palace (which I wasn't impressed with!), the natural landscapes of Tibet appeals to me more. Just like when I was first captured by the movie 7 years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt which literally sealed my "fate", aka I must see this place for myself!
For most first time visitors to China, this is the palace where they will head. Forbidden City is now the palace museum and has countless number of rooms where the Emperor used to live with his many concubines. U don't need a guide in Forbidden City unless you plan on knowing the details about the Chinese history. Getting to it is easy and all you need is to walk from one end to another end. You do need at least 4 hours to tour this palace though. It's huge!!!
I do enjoy visiting the Forbidden City quite a bit. It has some fascinating museum pieces on display and one can easily spend a full day here. However, you should eat first before you enter this place. Otherwise, it'll be at least another 4 hours before you get any food!
There was a time when many areas in China were flooded during the monsoon. However, the government decided to build the Three Gorges Dam, the largest in the world now, I believe. I was told before the Dam was built, some of the areas around the Three Gorges had some of the best sceneries in the world.
The cruise around the Three Gorges is still very popular. However, the landscapes have been altered due to the water level and since I didn't get to see it before the Dam was built, I have no idea how different it was. For me though, I wasn't really impressed with the cruise. However, if you're technically inclined, the Three Gorges Dam is an engineering feat so you might be interested in touring this area as well.
The cruise as far as I'm concerned is a rip-off for the foreigners. Yes, we are on a better boat and get better facilities but the price difference is great. Naturally, you are treated like the VIP on these foreign boats. Locals are not allowed on these boats, it seems. I was asked to show my passport when I first made the reservation. As I spoke Mandarin and they had no idea if I'm local or foreigner, I need to prove my status! That I thought is discriminatory!!!
There are many more beautiful places in China but many are not so accessible to foreigners unless you are able to speak Chinese. Hence, I'm not including them on this list. However, when I do get the time, I'd be writing reviews on each of these places so if you're interested in certain areas, you may write me an email and I'd see if I can prioritize those areas when I begin writing the reviews. I've been to all the provinces in China and have visited many areas of China so it'll take me some time to get to all of them. Stay tune!