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!
UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the four holy mountains of Buddhism in China, Emei Shan owes its name to its two peaks which in fact look like the delicate eyebrows of a Chinese classic beauty. And a beauty it is! This mountain is home to a large range of wildlife including numerous birds, trees and the mountain´s infamous monkeys; apart from that there are also many sacred temples, monasteries and beautiful pavilions. Locals have a saying that “Emei Shan is more than a mountain; it is a frame of mind.” If you are in Chengdu and have the chance to visit the 3,099m high giant be sure to take it, I promise you won´t be disappointed!
Originally I had planned to hike up the mountain with a friend for two days but as it is so often in life something came in between very last minute so my friend unfortunately could not make it and I was too busy to go for two whole days. So I decided I´d go by myself and stay only for one night. I left Chengdu on a Saturday afternoon at around lunchtime, went to one of the local bus stations and bought a ticket to Baoguo, a village situated at the foot of the mountain. Baoguo is about 150 kilometers away from Chengdu and it only takes 2 ½ -3 hours to get there. As soon as I arrived in the village I went to look for Teddy Bear Hotel, a hostel conveniently situated right next to the bus station which had been recommended to me by friends who had found it to be a very nice and clean place with friendly staff. I could not agree more and due to the fact that it was low season, getting a room was fairly easy even though I had not booked beforehand.
Since it was only three a clock when I got there and I still had a couple of daylight hours left I decided to visit Baoguo Temple which is situated a mere ten minute walk from the hostel. The 8 RMB entrance ticket allows visitors to stay as long as they like and explore the temple grounds including various buildings and courtyards, all of which are stunningly beautiful. It is a really peaceful place where many Chinese people come to pray and pay their respects to Buddha, kneel down in front of golden Buddha statues, light incents and breathe in the peace and quiet of this sacred place. Visiting the temple was a very humble and rewarding experience and I can only recommend it to anyone planning on visiting Emei Shan!
The next day I got up in time to catch the seven o´clock bus to Leidong Ping Bus Station from where I wanted to walk to Qingyin Pavilion and from there to the Golden Summit. At the Pavilion I met a group of Chinese girls who asked me where I was headed and if I was travelling alone. When I told them that indeed no one else was travelling with me they invited me to join them and hike up the rest of the mountain together, an offer I was only too happy to accept. Their English was about as basic as my Chinese but somehow we managed to keep a conversation going and the many misunderstandings and explanations made the experience all the more lively and exciting. Very often you do not need words to express feelings or meanings! When the Chinese girls offered to buy me lunch at one of the various food stalls on the way up to the summit I knew that polite refusal like I would have shown back home in Europe was not the kind of reaction they were hoping for. So I accepted their invitation and we had some delicious snacks. I have only been in China for a month now but I find Chinese people to be extremely friendly and welcoming. Inviting a stranger they have only just met for lunch, offering help and advice without a moment´s hesitation and showing genuine interest in learning more about you and your home country, all this is very much part of the Chinese culture and it makes you feel welcome and appreciated.
After about two hours of climbing up stairs we finally reached Jindǐng, or The Golden Summit, and thanks to the fact that the weather was absolutely lovely (at this point it should be noted that according to the weather forecast it was supposed to be raining nonstop) we were able to enjoy a breathtaking view across the Himalayan mountains, magnificent temples and colourful Tibetan banners flattering in the wind. After spending an hour or so at the summit, exploring different sights, visiting various temples, a giant Buddha statue and a couple of souvenir shops, we made our way back to Leidong Ping Bus Station. Close to the station we saw some monkeys lingering around some picnic areas for the first time during our adventure. I had heard a lot of stories about Emei´s aggressive monkeys before I went so I was nervous they might try to steal our belongings but if you remain calm and do not throw stones at them as I have seen many Chinese tourists do there is no reason to worry. Leave them alone and you´ll be left alone by them, it is as easy as that!
Soon it was time to say goodbye to my new Chinese friends who were staying at Emei Shan until the next day but since they also live in Chengdu we are planning on meeting again soon. Visiting Emei Shan has been a truly unique experience and even if, like me, you are only able to stay for one night it is still totally worth it and nothing you should miss out on.
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Chengdu has recently launched 72 hour visa-free travel to the city, joining cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Whist 72 hours might not sound long it certainly offers those heading between Australasia and Europe a nice option for a short city break. Chengdu might be famed for hot girls, hotter food and of course that adorable national symbol – the Panda but I would argue it offers far more than these stereotypes suggest.
This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited by Chengdu Daily and the Chengdu Tourism Board to visit DuJiangYan around a 2 hour drive from downtown Chengdu to show much can be seen in a relatively short time. So despite very British weather conditions we headed off to see one of the greatest engineering projects ever created in China.
Dujiangyan is an irrigation infrastructure built in 256 BC by the Kingdom of Qin. Located in the Min River in Sichuan province, China, it is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region. Making it directly responsible for the abundant and delicious crops grown in the Sichuan basin. DuJiangYan was mastermined by Qin governor Li Bing who investigated the problem of constant flooding and drought in the region and devised a strategy to counter this problem allowing irrigation for the Sichuan Basin to remain at the right level for thousands of years to come.
I was impressed by the scale of the project especially the strategy used to cut through the mountain. First the rocks were heated and then cold water was poured over them to make them easier to cut away. Every 10 years they need to work on the whole engineering project and whilst now you can see modern technology being used it must of been much harder all those years ago!
After lunch and a few shots of fruit-infused Baijiu (Chinese very strong alcohol) we took a walk around the vast project, across a few wobbly bridges before returning to the warmth of the bus and returning back to Chengdu.
So how would I recommend 72 hours in Chengdu? Day 1 go and see the city’s most famous residents the Giant Panda and then take the afternoon to chill with some tea (or get your ears cleaned) in People’s Park before spending a night people-watching, shopping and eating snacks in the pedestrianized shopping district of Chunxi Lu. Day 2 take a trip to Emei Shan, Leshan or DuJiangYan before returning to enjoy a night at one of the cities’ many local bars, live music venues or the world famous Lan Kwai Feng nightclubbing destination. Onto Day 3 and why not visit historic Jingli and the narrow and wide alleys offer a nice change of pace before going for Hot-Pot and enjoying a night at the Sichuan Opera. Day 4…ok so 72 hours is not long enough for Chengdu but it certainly offers a nice option for those transiting in Asia who fancy a taste of China without any visa hassle.
If you would like to visit Leshan, Emei Shan or DuJiangYan, apply now and join us in Chengdu!
The Chengdu community of InternChina visited one of four sacred Buddhist mountains in China, Emei Shan. Moreover, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Personally, I totally agree with the UNESCO.
Since the national park is pretty huge, we decided to make a two day trip to the area. We started early in the morning in Chengdu and took a bus to Emei Shan City. When we arrived we had early lunch to energize us before the hiking. Straight from the beginning the hiking was quite challenging. But we had had the goal of reaching the mountaintop, so we did not lose our ambition. Firstly, we explored the main valley of the mountain range.
The Nature of Emei Shan natural park is breathtakingly beautiful. This is a place of pure nature! (I felt a bit like walking through Jurassic Park)
After climbing a lot of steps up and down we met the Emei Shan’s famous wild monkeys. Thea’s meeting with the monkeys was a bit more intimate than ours. Therefore, Thea generously donated a bottle of her water to please the monkeys. We were really tired after a long day of hiking and climbing, so we looked for a nice hostel. Some local helped us find a decent place in the middle of the mountains. Since we were obviously really hungry we were happy about the great local food served at the hostel. Everybody enjoyed a satisfying dinner.
We all knew the earlier we get to the mountaintop the better. Hence, we woke up at 4.30. To win some time we took a bus to come closer to the mountaintop. This two hour ride was an adventure for itself. The driver seemed to be quite ambitious and did not hesitate to use every chance to speed up. After making progress, we conveniently had to climb the last stage to the mountaintop – another 2 miles of steps up atan altitude of over two thousand meters. This was a massive challenge for everybody of us because none of us actually never been on a mountaintop like this before. We started questioning ourselves if it was a good decision to do this trip but we were so close to our goal.
And when we reached the mountaintop we immediately recognized that every step was absolutely worth climbing!
We were surrounded by clouds. This was an amazing experience. There is a huge Buddhist statue on the mountaintop which is really impressive as well as beautiful. Considering the fact that this is a mountaintop the area is surprisingly spacious. Next to the statue and temple there are numerous viewpoints. It truly is amazing! Peering down from our high perch made all the other mountains seem so small, similar to how you look to the clouds from a plane. At some point we were able to take a look down into the depth. This makes you feel quite humble. Emei Shan is truly a majestic place.
For some Chinese people we seemed to as much an attraction as the mountain itself. A lot of people asked us to take a picture with them. This procedure nearly lasted 15 minutes. But we did not mind at all and were happy to do it. In total we spend two hours on the mountain. Then we split up. Some of us wanted to have the adventure of using the cable car in this height, some of us climbed the stairs back down.
All in all, this trip had been really great and definitely the best nature trip I’ve done so far. I’m curious what will be my next adventures in China but it will be really hard for any sight to compete with Emei Shan.
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Two weeks ago a friend and me made a two day trip to beautiful Mount Emei (峨眉山 – E Mei Shan) ca. 150km / 2,5 h bus ride south of Chengdu to do a little bit of hiking.
With its peak at 3,099 m Mount Emei is the highest of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China and since 1996 also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are more than one hundred monasteries and temples doted along the slopes and peaks of the mountain.
First we arrived at the village at Bao Guo Temple (报国寺) which is the entry gate to Emei Shan National Park and equipped us with food, drinks and –following the advice of the locals – a walking stick to protect ourselves. From there you can either cheat and take a bus straight up to the cable car at 2,500m or go to one of the hiking tracks at the foot of the mountain – of course we opted for the strenuous hike!
After we walked past the various food and souvenir stalls around the bus station we made our way up the mountain through the ‘Natural Ecology Monkey Zone’ where we soon realized what the stick was meant for. The Tibetan macaque monkeys in this area are stealing snacks, drinks, cameras or anything else within their reach of careless tourists walking by. This can be quite fun as long as you are not the one being looted by them! 😉
We finally managed to pass the monkeys without losing anything of value and went on a 5 hour hike up to the Yu Xian Monastery (遇仙寺) which would be our home for the night. On our way up we were literally the only ones on the track, which, since you are actually never alone in China, can be a very relaxing feeling. This gave us the chance to really enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
When we woke up the next day the whole mountain was covered in a thick layer of clouds which made the giant statues on the Golden Peak Summit (金顶) look a bit surreal, but I managed to snap a photo when the sun came out for a few seconds.