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► CHINA’S BEST EXPERIENCES IN PHOTOS

There has always been some romance in overnight sleeper train travel and China has an extensive network to take advantage of this. The experience gets you closer to the people and the real China outside of your window and many of the trains are of a high standard with some having the possibility of private cabins with attached bathrooms.

There is no better way to round off a day of hard sightseeing than with a little light entertainment. Besides the huge variety of restaurant options available a cultural show such as the acrobats, opera or a martial arts demonstration can really absorb you into the culture and provide a memorable experience.

Despite modern China grabbing the headlines the rise in prosperity across the country has lead to a revival in interest in the more traditional culture of the past. The parks are a great place to see this early in the morning and there are even activities such as chess and kite flying held on the pavements and in apartment courtyards.

   
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China’s old culture also means that religion is very deep rooted in society. Although some of the major temples seem to be given over solely to tourism these days there are many smaller ones visited almost solely by pilgrims and practitioners and with the crowds these are gentle tranquil places.

From Chinese Cuisine to Superb Scenery

A real highlight of a tour to China is to experience the sheer variety of Chinese cuisine available. The Chinese seem obsessed with food and the sheer number of restaurants and generally high standards make for a very appetising experience indeed. No time to be shy - just jump in and chow down and give your taste buds a treat!

With such a huge population areas of unspoiled scenery are few and far between. However, when you do find these places the scenery can be astoundingly beautiful and tends to get better the further south and west you go. Even some of the more developed sacred mountain areas have a sublime mix of temples and landscapes that somehow fit perfectly with each other.

As well as an established sleeper train network, China also has brand new and increasingly extensive high speed and bullet train routes linking up the major cities and cutting journey times by a half to third. Trains travel up to 300 km per hour on average and are smart and clean. They often now negate the need to fly offering similar door to door timing as planes.

With such a large population seemingly constantly busy it can come as a surprise how friendly and helpful Chinese people can be and how much they will go out of their way to help a visitor to their country. In addition China has over 50 minority people each with their own proudly held culture, traditions and dress and who add so much to any holiday here.

The Great Wall, Shopping and the Old Traditional China

The Great Wall is at the top of many visitors wish list for a tour to China but the majority of people only visit for a few hours with barely enough time for a picture or two on a small crowded section of the Wall. Far better is to spend a day or longer walking along the wall to really absorb the experience.

For shoppers China offers vast markets offering a vast range of goods and souvenirs often much cheaper (if you bargain well!) than you could find elsewhere. Even if not buying the sheer variety and colour let along the banter from the vendors makes for a memorable experience.

Most people visit China to see the old traditional China of the imagination and it is easy to dismiss wanting to see the vibrant new China that has risen in the last decade or so. However, that is all part of the experience and the neon lit skyscrapers make for an increasingly impressive spectacle that gives a lasting impression.

Adventure in the City Parks, Tibet and Tranquil Temples

An often overlook China experience is to get up early and into one of the city parks. Here you will find often hundreds of people participating in a wide variety of exercises, martial arts, dancing, badminton, Tai chi - the list goes on. People are very friendly and will often invite you to join in with smiles all round.

Away from the cities and in far west China and Tibet you find a land of adventure. The skies are big, the mountains high and the plains wide with a huge range of possibility for the fit and adventurous in areas that have a real frontier feel to them and provide an altogether different China experience than the east coast cities.

Pick some of the lesser known temples to visit and you can have a very tranquil experience, especially early in the morning before any other visitors arrive. The chance to walk these temples in peace and quiet is hugely reflective and well worth the time.