China is brimming with culture, cuisine and intriguing contradictions. One giant irresistible dumpling offering a diversity of flavors that can at times be indescribable. It’s ancient yet ultra-modern. Home to authentic traditional experiences yet also knock-off handbags and watches. And it’s where the East embraces the West like reunited lovers. Sink your teeth into the world’s fastest growing economy and you’ll quickly realise there’s nothing quite like it on the planet.
Best Time To Go
The best time to travel to China is April to May and September to October. Avoid 1-7 October as this is a national holiday and many things shut down over this time. It can be very cold during winter in Beijing – November through to end of March, and extremely hot during summer – June through to the end of August. Summer is also known as the rainy season. The best idea is to check the temperatures and see if you can handle the extremes if you decide to go during winter or summer.
National holidays to be aware of:
New Years Day – 1 -3 January each year
Qingming Festival – 5 April 2019
May Day – 1 May 2019
Dragon Boat Festival – 7 June 2019
Mid-Autumn Day – 13 September 2019
National Day – 1-7 October each year.
A real favourite with our Cherry Picked team at the moment, Shanghai is the New York City of China and the perfect way to launch your adventure. Home to over 20 million people, it is the poster child for growth and development in the country. This riverside mega-city is a pulsating modern commercial hub and THE place to satisfy your fix for shopping. This shopping Mecca has every known form of retail establishment (and some we didn’t know), from extravagant shopping malls to bustling street markets. When you’re not hunting down a bargain, Shanghai offers plenty of cultural pursuits, as well as divine local and international food.
A trip to Yuyuan Garden is a must. After wandering amongst beautiful rockeries and classical gardens that have been 400 years in the making, we usually hit the charming market stalls and curio shops to pick up something totally unique. While you’re there, you must try the soup dumplings at the food stalls. Look for a line-up of people and that is where you will find it. (These are known as Shengjian bao).
Nanjing Road is another shopping mall definitely worth a look, especially with five levels of copy markets at the end of it. For around $30, we picked up a designer handbag of good quality.
Walk along the Bund and you’ll see first hand the architectural diversity of this unforgettable city, while a night time river cruise lets you catch all the colour of the city lights.
Another amazing highlight of Shanghai is the fashionable area of Shanghai Xintiandi. This French-influenced suburb is quite unique, with its interesting mix of historic and modern buildings. It’s also home to an eclectic collection of contemporary galleries, boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants.
After indulging your taste buds and shopping habit in Shanghai, Beijing will offer something spectacularly different. The capital of China is an ancient yet progressive city that has long been the epicentre of Chinese power, politics and culture. It holds an unrivalled wealth of sensory delights for visitors. Many of the country’s major historical attractions can be found in or near this beautiful city, so be prepared to work that trigger finger on your camera. From the majesty of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven to the sheer scale of the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, it’s hard not to feel completely and utterly overawed by these remarkable wonders of the world.
Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City
Doesn’t everyone go to Beijing to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City? Take a stroll through this massive area with a couple of million other people. Marvel at the ancient Chinese architecture and portraits of worshipped former Emperor Mao. If you are really keen to get a glimpse of the former Emperor, you can line up with the hundreds of thousands of locals wishing to enter the Mao Mausoleum.
The Hutongs by Rickshaw
Sit back and relax while your rickshaw driver takes you on a leisurely ride through traditional Beijing. The Hutongs are the traditional laneways and alleys, which are formed by a compound of traditional houses around a courtyard, and they represent the traditional way of life of the original residents of Beijing.
An early start is a must to climb The Wall, otherwise you run the risk of being in a stampede with local sightseers. Do not be fooled, this is not for the faint hearted. Steps are different heights and have uneven surfaces, and the climb is extremely steep in parts. Depending on which area of The Wall you travel to, it can be extremely crowded, so best to go with an expert guide who knows the best place to go to avoid these situations. The Wall is a 2.5 hour drive from Beijing.
Temple of Heaven
Built in 1420 AD, this beautiful structure stands within an area of 2,700,000 square meters, larger than the Forbidden City, but smaller than the grounds of the Summer Palace, and is definitely worth a look on your travels. Again, visiting with a local guide who can explain the history and culture of this temple, is definitely recommended.
One of the most spectacular palaces in the world, originally constructed for Royal families to rest and entertain. If the weather is good, a great place to go for a beautiful afternoon stroll.
Houhai Bar Street by Yangzhigong – definitely the “hip/alternate” place to go in the evening for a drink or something to eat. Situated on the banks of the Houhai Lake, the streets are illuminated with colorful fairy lights. As you walk further down the streets, loud karaoke music can be found bellowing, and I mean bellowing, from loudspeakers on the front of the bars, which is supposed to entice you to come in for a drink and listen to some English song renditions. Bars are definitely hit and miss, although the drinks are cheap as chips. One Cherry Picker found a very interesting Reggae Bar which sold cocktails for less then USD$3 per drink. Ok so the Mojito was not quite the correct recipe, but it was enjoyable just the same.
Tips & Tricks
Spit & Polish
While China is enthusiastically throwing itself towards a shiny modern future, be prepared for some old-fashioned habits, like spitting on the streets. Younger Chinese people are very embarrassed by it, but older generations still think it’s acceptable. So watch your step!
Push & Shove
With a fifth of the world’s population, China can be a little dog eat dog at times, especially in queues. A word of warning, it’s not worth starting a fight if someone decides to jump the queue. It’s just a normal part of life here. One of our Cherry Pickers was almost stampeded by locals while hopping aboard a Shanghai Night Lights Cruise. Best to just stand aside, not make a scene and seamlessly blend it into an exotic travel story. Besides, there are usually plenty of seats.
Taxis are extremely cheap in China. You can go over 20km for around US$10, so don’t be afraid to use them to get around. We recommend taking metered Red taxis, as Blue taxis are private and can be more expensive.
Talking Loudly Helps … Really
China has lots of people and lots of construction happening at the moment, so don’t expect it to be as quiet as that last trip to the Maldives. The people shout, sometimes yell, and quite often scream at each other, all in daily conversations.
Clubs of the Night
A funny thing happened on the way to the Chinese Nightclub. It turned out to be a brothel, so be a little wary of “Nightclubs” in your hotel basement or nearby areas that are for male guests only.