Our decision to move to China, made in the fall of 2009, was based on our wonderful experiences traveling though the country for two months a couple of years earlier. Here is a brief primer on what to see and do when you visit the most populous nation on earth.
You should know that traveling in China on your own without a speck of Mandarin (the language of the north) or Cantonese (that of the south) is entirely possible. We spent six weeks in large cities booking accommodations and transportation, eating in restaurants and shopping, visiting temples and attractions, walking and taking subways – all on our own. There are enough English-language signs to get by in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hainan Island (the lost Hawai’i) and, of course, Hong Kong.
We did join a two-week tour, however, to explore the interior of the country – where absolutely no English was to be found – and got a lot more out of the experience for having done so. We chose British tour company Imaginative Traveller for its approach to touring: put small groups together, book their transportation and accommodations, provide them with a Mandarin-speaking tour leader, and allow them to take care of the rest of the details.
We met our tour group in Hong Kong and traveled to Chiang-tu where the Karst Mountains are found. That was followed by Yangzhou (incredible river theatre), Longsheng (more mountains and river), Ping’an (the Dragon’s Backbone terraced mountains), and Yichang (the start of a Yangtze River cruise) and ended up at Fengdu. In Xi’an we saw the Terra Cotta Warriors and finished up in Beijing.
A few of my favorite things in China are very well known such as the Terra Cotta Warriors and the European section of the city of Shanghai, the Bund. Other favorites such as the Karst mountains and Beijing’s hutong neighborhoods are lesser known but shouldn’t be missed by anyone traveling to the Middle Kingdom.
The next several weeks of Baby Boomers Traveling will cover these regions of China and provide links to my website where you can find more resources for planning your travels whether they be through a tour group or independently.
Beijing – History — Modern and Ancient
Chiang-tu – Amazing Karst Mountains
Fengdu – End of Yangtze Cruise
Guangzhou – Old Canton
Gyantse, Tibet – Big Sky, Big Mountains
Hong Kong – Where England & China Meet
Lhasa, Tibet – Palaces & Temples
Longsheng – Mountains & River
Macau – Speaking Portuguese in China
Nanjing – Getting Stared At — A Lot
Ping’an – Dragon’s Backbone
Sanya, Hainan Island – The Missing Hawaiian Island
Shanghai – This is Communism?
Suzhou & Zhouzhuang – Silk Factory & Folkloric Water Village
Tingri, Tibet – Everest Base Camp
Wenzhou – Home for a Year (at least)
Xi’an – Fortress & Terra Cotta Warriors