When you think of visiting China you immediately think of the famous destinations- The Bund in Shanghai, Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Terracotta Army of Xi’an among many, many others. But if you want to be able to go home and have people saying “tell me more” rather than “I already know that”, then you’ll want to visit some of the amazing destinations our interns have discovered over the years, all close enough to visit in a weekend (which isn’t nearly long enough of course.)
From Chengdu, Emei Shan can be easily reached by both bus and train so it is an ideal overnight trip.
Emei Shan is a well-known attraction to many because of the deep cultural and religious associations with Buddhism. The first Buddhist temple, Huazang, was built here in 1AD, and the largest Buddha in the world, LeShan’s Giant Buddha (which stands at an awe inspiring 71 metres tall) is also located here.
In addition to the cultural, religious and historical importance of Emei Shan, the area is a huge conservation effort. You can find over 3,000 diverse species of plants and trees over a millennium old all around the mountains, as well as over 2,000 kinds of animals.
Emei Shan will leave you speechless- its beauty, fascinating history and religious calm will make this a trip to remember. So stroll up the mountain, take in the view, and relax as the monks from over 30 temples remind you of the spiritual importance of this place.
Kangding, also known as the Land of the Snows, is a trip for those who don’t mind braving the cold in order to experience a fascinating combination of Chinese and Tibetan culture. While you will have to endure a 10 hour bus journey from Chengdu, the sights that will welcome you throughout Kangding will make you forget all about the journey.
You will get to experience true Tibetan cuisine and customs while here- one intern said they felt as if they’d travelled to Tibet without ever leaving China.
Highlights of the trip include the Tagong and Dordrak Monasteries, Guoda Mountain, Hailuogou Valley, the Taong grasslands and the Mugetso Scenic Area. Arguably the best time of year to visit is in Autumn, but whenever you decide to visit, make sure you pack warm clothes!
JiuZhaiGou National Park is yet another area of astonishing national beauty in China… blue lakes only seen in paintings, sprawling mountain ranges, waterfalls and forests to entertain you for hours. Similar to Kangding, JiuZhaiGou will give you the opportunity to experience some Tibetan culture. While you do need to pay admission into the park, you have acres to explore and hours to do so- you can even camp out if you’re feeling adventurous.
If you want to see the park in all its glory, visit in Autumn to be surrounded by every colour imaginable while the weather is still enjoyable.
Located close to Dalian is the capital of Liaoning province, Shenyang. Shenyang is an ancient city filled with great artistic, cultural and historical importance- namely due to the excellent preservation of the Shenyang Imperial Palace. Shenyang is also widely believed to be the birthplace of the Qing Dynasty (which lasted from 1644 to 1911!), so it is a city filled with more than 2000 years of history.
Other notable relics from the Qing Dynasty include the Fuling Tomb, in which the founder of the Qing Dynasty (Nurhachi) and his Empress are interred, and the Zhaoling Tomb, home of Nurhachi’s successor Huang Taji and his Empress.
And if you are interested in more than just the history of the city, there is a curious natural phenomenon for you to play with- Guaipo. The “Strange Slope”, as it is otherwise known, is a sloping piece of land approximately 80 metres long which doesn’t abide by the rules of gravity. Cars, bicycles and tourists alike all have to accelerate to go downhill, yet can enjoy a leisurely roll back up the hill… just a little confusing!
Of course, there is the usual abundance of bars, restaurants and KTV venues to keep you occupied at night.
While Beijing is far from being an “off the beaten track” destination, it’s a popular trip for the Qingdao interns. After all, it would be a little disappointing to go to China without seeing the Great Wall when it’s only a few hours away on the train! If you aren’t aware of what China’s capital city has to offer you, a quick summary would be the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, the National Grand Theatre, the panda base, the Silk Market, the Lama Temple and the Forbidden City. Oh, and the Great Wall of China.
Beijing is a city with millions upon millions of people from all walks of life, and with a history spanning three thousand years it’s obvious why this is one of the most traveled to destinations in the world. You’ll have the opportunity to see ancient and modern China with your own eyes all in one place!
You can reach Beijing from Qingdao in around five hours via train, or even quicker by plane, however travelling by train is a whole other experience everyone should have in China!
Qingdao is famous for two mountains- Fushan and Laoshan. While FuShan has the attraction of being located in the middle of Qingdao, LaoShan provides a much more interesting challenge and experience… and who doesn’t love a challenge?
Located approximately a 30- 40 minute drive from Qingdao, visiting Laoshan will mean you can see rivers, waterfalls, ancient temples, beautiful forests and amazing scenery all from one place. The Laoshan National Park covers an area of around 450 square kilometres, so you will have plenty of sights to see on your climb to the top of Mount Lao. Or if the climb seems too daunting, take the cable car to the top, and relax with some local Tsingtao beer or Mount Lao green tea while you enjoy the view.
ZhouZhuang in the Jiangsu province, arguably the most beautiful water town in China, is located near Shanghai and is very easily travelled to from Qingdao by bus, train or plane in just a few hours.
If you want to be transported back to quieter times in China, then a day trip to Zhouzhang will be perfect for you. The opportunity to float along the waterways of this village on a traditional gondola and witness the locals go about their daily lives entirely on the water is not something you can see anywhere else- who wouldn’t want to witness someone doing their shopping from a boat? With the added bonus of being surrounded by ancient architecture almost a thousand years old, which has been virtually untouched by the recent developments in China, ZhouZhuang is the perfect relaxing day trip.
Macau, also known as the “Las Vegas of Asia”, is a fast paced, energetic city that you will struggle to fit into a weekend trip. Unfortunately this trip is only possible if your visa allows multiple entries, so if not it may be best to wait until you are leaving China to spend a weekend here. To visit Macau from Zhuhai, you can take a ferry across the bay or even walk!
Macau will offer you an interesting mix of Cantonese Chinese and Portuguese influences, and it is highly recommended to take time to walk around the city and take in the mix of architecture and cultures surrounding you. Make your way from Sendao Square around the streets, sampling traditional Macau food, visiting Golden Lotus Square and the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In the evening, spend some time around the famous casinos!
Foshan is both one of Guangdong province’s oldest cities (5,000 years old!) and one of the most modern. With a history heavily focused on the arts, including opera, martial arts and traditional ceramic crafts, there no shortage of cultural activities in the city for the art lovers among you.
If you want to try your hand at creating some traditional Chinese pottery, you can do so using the Nanfeng Kiln, otherwise known as the oldest kiln in China.
There is a much more recent connection to the martial arts as well- you can visit the house of Bruce Lee’s ancestors! If that isn’t to your interest, then the Zumiao Commercial Street filled with malls, plazas, restaurants and tea houses might be more to your taste.
To continue your cultural development, visit the Ancestral Temple, or the Qinghui Garden.
If you’ve ever held a 20RMB note, then you are already familiar with the mountain scenery that will greet you from the Li River in Yangshuo.
There are several reasons to visit Yangshou, including the incredible change of pace you’ll be thrown into (compared to Zhuhai’s easy going atmosphere). You can start the trip with a lazy rafting journey down the Li River, before visiting the incredible Silver Cave below:
There’s also the abundance of amazing local food, including Beer Fish, stuffed Li River snails, bite size Li River fried shrimp and of course, street barbecues.
If you want to visit these amazing cities yourself, then apply now to experience China yourself!