China leaves the impression that it is not for the faint hearted. It can also be unfriendly to solo travelers compared to its neighboring countries like Vietnam, Bangkok or the Philippines. If your main language is English, expect to do a lot of miming when talking to locals. But the uniqueness of China also gives me reason why I would pack my bags and book a ticket straight to Beijing. Here are my top four reasons why I want to visit China:
Ancient Cities and the Great Wall of China
My fascination with history means visiting China for its rich and long history. The most famous attraction would be the Great Wall of China. The UNESCO Heritage Site is considered as the world’s largest military structure. The best part about visiting the Great Wall is picking between the variety of locations to enjoy long walks. You can either visit Jinshanling for a smaller crowd or Huanghua for a more challenging walk. I personally aim to walk around the lush scenery of Mutianyu. It has fewer tourists than the popular Badaling and Juyongguan sections of the wall and since this part is among the orchards and pines in the northern mountains of Beijing, a short walk towards the watch towers will definitely be a view to remember.
Aside from the famous Great Wall of China, Beijing is home to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square.
The Temple of Heaven is worth waking up early to catch the locals doing morning exercises including tai chi. The mystical design of the temple also looks grandiose during sunrise. Another major item on my list would be Xi’an, home to the Terracotta Warriors. Last stop would be the 14th-century walled city of Pingyao. The traditional hotels and classical tea-houses will bring you back to ancient times.
Visiting the ancient cities and the Great Wall of China means reliving history rather than just reading about it in books. It’s not every day you get a preserved glimpse of an ancient civilization.
Pandas are one of the most adorable animals on Earth. They are endangered species, so it is best to see them before they get extinct (hopefully that won’t happen). Pandas originally lived in the mountain forests of southwest China, but farming and deforestation drove them to lowlands.
There are various places in China where you can see pandas, such as the Beijing Zoo and Hong Kong Ocean Park. But for me, I would go to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center to see the pandas being fed and bred. The center has health stations, a giant panda museum and thousands of bamboo plants for panda feeding. If you have the luxury of time, you can join one of the center’s volunteer programs to learn more about and look after adorable giant pandas.
China has created protected areas and breeding centers to increase the population and protect giant pandas.
Unique and Savory Food
Chinese food is already a good reason to visit China. The variety of dishes, whether in a local restaurant or along the streets will surely make my taste buds and tummy quite happy.
Beijing’s famous Peking Duck restaurants will be a welcoming treat. The streets offer dumplings, spicy tofu, roasted sweet potatoes and even exotic food – will make sure to visit Wangfujing Snack Street for a bite of deep fried insects and scorpions.
If you’re not a food adventurer, try the variety of noodles available around China. The best part about eating in a foreign country is reading a local menu and just pointing at pictures to order!
One cannot leave China without taking home a piece of Chinese calligraphy. Seeing calligraphy masters create amazing works of art is worth your visit. Chinese calligraphy is a distinguished traditional art meant to communicate and aesthetically express one’s inner world. Back in the days, the Imperial Examination (the process of selecting candidates for state bureaucracy in Imperial China) required calligraphy skills.
You will witness the creation of words using four treasures of the study – the writing brush, ink stick, paper and ink slab. To further appreciate its art and beauty, you can learn basic Chinese calligraphy during your visit. As for me, a visit to a small shop to witness the art of Chinese calligraphy is enough to satisfy my curiosity and admiration.
China may not be a common destination for everyone but it has its own charm that will captivate visitors. Visiting China is definitely something everyone should experience, and I’m really looking forward to it. You can expect an article about it when I get back!