The Forbidden City: Discover China's Enchanting Secrets

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

China has the most incredible mixture of ancient and modern culture. Both are as intense and exciting as each other. The Imperial and revolutionary past are mysterious and rich in legend. The futuristic areas of Shanghai are on the cusp of modern revolution. You can also head out to see some of the most beautiful sights in the natural world.

Travelling around China is a challenge, even for the most adventurous amongst us. While mastering Mandarin will ensure you have an easier time, for those who don't speak a word of Chinese you can still relish every moment of an independent journey around China. The Chinese are incredibly friendly and between hand gestures, guessing and initiative you will get by on your own. Of course, you could opt to use a China travel agency to ensure everything is taken care of. They know the best ways to see this magical country, especially if it is your first time away. 

We wanted to share with you some of the best places in China, so we are starting at the beginning. In Ancient China. 

If it is the ancient world you are looking to find then Beijing, Xi'an and Pingyao are the places for you. Star attractions include the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. You are also only a day trip away from the Great Wall. Of course, it isn't all about the past. Olympic Village is here, and there is a contemporary art district. To get to grips, it is best to find yourself a knowledgeable guide.

Terracotta Warriors are the stand out attraction for Xi'an, but there are some other places which offer a little more peace and mystery. Including Lianhu Park downtown where the tea house overlooks a pond dense with pink and white lotus flowers. Here you cannot fail to feel inspired and, of course, you will find some beautiful teas available.

You cannot miss the Temple of Heaven. Discover the ancient practice of t'ai chi when the elders head here to help improve their balance. You can explore on foot or hire a bicycle, which would seem apt while you are here. If you want to understand local life, then head to the tiny alleys of Nanluoguxiang. 

Heading out of Beijing you can take a train to Taiyuan and then you will discover Pingyao. You will find traditional tea houses and hotels; it is also the home of the country’s first bank. It is located about halfway along the old trade route between Beijing and Xi'an and as mentioned before the biggest attraction to tourists is the Terracotta Army. However, there is far more to see here. Specifically the Daoist temples and Muslim Quarter. 

For modern living, then you should head out of the past and land yourself at the heart of commercial China, you need to head to Shanghai. Here you have the very best of Asia with the most famous hotels, restaurants and shopping. There are some gorgeous old colonial neighborhoods, and a walk down the riverside Bund is a must do. 

The real highlight of Shanghai though, is the beautiful hotels, including the Park Hyatt which has views to die for, Langham Yangtze and PuLi Hotel and Spa which is a very contemporary building indeed. 

The best hotels in Shanghai include the old Astor House, the Park Hyatt, with its shock-and-awe views, the Thirties-inspired Langham Yangtze and the contemporary PuLi Hotel & Spa. The Radisson Blu Plaza Xing Guo is set in vast manicured grounds and offer a quiet retreat

A trip you must try is to head from Shanghai to Huangshan. This is a very famous mountain peak, which is seen in most classic Chinese scenes. It has been just under 60,000 steps to the summit, although you could take a cable car if you prefer. However, some of the steps on this trek are 1,500 years old, so it is worth taking a look. 

Guangxi and Guizhou provinces will open your eyes to some of the most stunning landscape in China. There are paddy fields, gorges and even cave systems. The Li River is quite busy for tourism now so if you are looking for a little more escapism then head to the Yulong. There are some fantastic Inns on this smaller river, and they offer bicycle loans, can help organize bamboo rafting trips or caving. 

The Tibetan villages dotted around the town of Shangri-La at 3,300m above sea level are essentially visiting. However, you need to see Tibet itself. There is a train called "Roof of the World" which head to Tibet from Beijing and travels over the world's highest plateau. Its final destination is in Lhasa. Lhasa was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama right up until 1959 when he had to flee to India. You will need to check regulations, though, as there are sometimes issues with travelling into Tibet. 

There are direct flights into Chengdu from most major airports which mean you could base yourself near Sichuan province to visit the Panda Base. You will get an excellent introduction to local cuisine here too, as the area is famous for spicy Chinese food. You can also find a beautiful place called the People's Park, where fortune tellers predict your life highs, or you could just enjoy a lovely shoulder rub! This is also where those looking for a cruise of the Three Gorges, begin their journey on the Yangtze River. 

China holds many secrets, some which have been discovered and much more which have yet to be. It is a country of incredible wisdom and personal awareness and will give you a spiritual connection you may not have felt before. It isn't a place you can get to the heart of in just a week or two; you need a long trip to see all the wonders. Alternatively, you may consider a few two-week breaks to each area. Getting deeper into the passion of China as you go. 

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