Wednesday, April 6, 2016

China Travel Guide – Explore History, Cultural & Social Tips for wonderful Travel Experience

Terracotta Warrior in Shaanxi
Invaders never really found a way to penetrate the inner depth of enigmatic China. It is not easy to understand this diverse and old land with such a large territory. What fascinates lots of travellers from ancient times till modern day is the valuable antiquities and enigmatic culture. The country is a cauldron of historical relics, cultural treasures and mysterious natural wealth. The major cities like Beijing and Shanghai is modern metropolis like any other in the world with glitz and glamour, still the history and traditional culture are finely impregnated with the modern fast life. Travel to China is a rewarding experience with archaeological wonders, majestic mountains, fascinating culture, and mysterious monasteries beckon travellers from all creeds and styles.

Major Attractions & Helpful Tips for Travellers

Find interest in local culture to enjoy the most

Don’t believe in media false reports and other negative stories. Chinese people are friendly and once you are interested in their culture, they will open up more. Make friends in common areas, community markets, hostels/hotels etc. and you will find a warm hospitality and understand this wonderful culture from a deeper level.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China
Travel to China is incomplete without visiting this colossal wall. There are tour companies who offer attractive packages to various parts of the wall. Also some tours organize multi-day packages that is intended to visit the whole wall. 

Relationship with food

For many China is synonymous with food. And this is not an exaggeration. In the land of dragon, you will get some of the most exotic and varied foods in the world. Food is also a way to find connections. Chinese people are hospitable and have a detailed custom to eat food. Food is believed to be a bond between two people.

Wander on Beijing streets

One of the fastest moving cities in the world, Beijing is the house of more than 22 million people. There are lots of things to see such as Tian’annem Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, countless shopping malls, and of course street food.

Cruise the Li River

To enjoy the natural beauty of China, cruise the Li River, which is one of the top ten ‘watery wonders’ in the world by National Geography. This 272 miles long river passes through variety of places and some great places to explore such as Zhujiang Pier, Yangdi, and Guilin.

Visit the Karst Mountains

These mountains are sort of national emblem that you will find in 20 yuan banknote. These huge mountains are stunning. You can witness these majestic mountains while taking a cruise trip down the Li River. There are tour operators who rent bicycles to explore the calmer background of these mountains. 

Visit the Mogao Grottos of Dunhuang

Popularly known as Thousand Buddha Caves, these grottos are the richest Buddhist art in the world. These caves are very well preserved by Chinese government, and a major draw for tourists.

Visit offbeat places to imbibe in Chinese culture

Hainan Beach
Everybody knows about Shanghai and Beijing. Some travellers who are a bit inclined to travel far eastern regions can tell you about Sichuan, Guangdong, or Xi’an. To understand more about China, visit offbeat places like tropical island of Hainan, or attend winter festival in Harbin. Some places in southwestern province of Yunnan like Kunming, you will find peace, salubrious weather, mountain temples, and very cheap places to rent.

Chinese History

Chinese history like any other Oriental history is vast, complicated and epic. The history of China has many deceiving ends of peace and break-up, internecine division and intruders’ attack. China has powerful links of today connected with their ancestors 5000 or 6000 years ago. Chinese culture has a deep rooted historical emblem attached to it. The contradiction of China in the 5th century BC was great when it was frequently attacked by external force and the same time highly intellectual fertile. From this disorder there were many philosophers emerged in that land. One such name was Confucius (551 -479 BC) whose philosophy underpinned Chinese culture for more than 2500 years. Confucius was a wandering philosopher whose system of ethics and statecraft advocated an orderly and ethical society.

Some Important Timelines

100 BC: Buddhism first came to China from India. This philosophy had spread in the country like nothing ever before and totally assimilated into Chinese culture. The philosophy later on changed into religious system and became powerful that India.

AD 755-763: An important part of Chinese history was a Lushan rebellion against Tang court. After the rebellion put down by the court, there was a shift of huge military and fiscal power to provincial leaders, a periodic problem throughout Chinese history.

874: Fall of Tang Empire happened in 907 but it was all started in 874 when the Huang Chao rebellion broke out.

1000 AD: This was the time of modernization and technological inventions such as paper, gunpowder, printing, compass etc. The economy was gradually shifted to countrywide market system.

1557: The Portuguese first established its base in China, creating a trade base in Macau, the first European outpost in the land. It was the beginning of Western imperialistic dominance.

Old Towns & Villages in China - From a Historical Perspective

Penglai Pavilion in Shangdong
If you are an intrepid traveller and want to understand the history and ancient culture of China more closely, you will find some old towns and villages very interesting.

Pingyao – Probably the best preserved ancient China wall town. 

Fenghuang – The beautiful town has many ancient relics with exotic riverside setting, ancient pagodas, temples, and ancient city wall.

Hongcun – South Anhui countryside is beautiful, and this beautiful village has some rare historical relics, which will surely invoke curious eyes.

Chinese Culture
Eating Etiquette 

Etiquette is a big part of cultural diaspora in China. Eating is a big part of Chinese culture, and the customs widely vary according to ethnic groups. If you make friends in China, in most probable case, you may be asked to accompany your friends to eat a meal at a private home, or a banquet or casually be taken out on the town to eat street food. In Han Chinese areas, there are certain specific eating practices. Similarly, there are certain banquet protocols, which seem complicated at first. If you are asked to eat in a private home, bring a small gift with you.

Tips for eating

The host will pick the chopsticks but request you to eat first. Say “thank you” and use your chopstick to pick a small morsel.

Tea in Chinese eating culture plays an important role. Do not rush to drink it right away. Leave it for a few minutes to allow steep and soften the leaves.

Eat slowly and take small bites. It is customary to praise the food for good taste.

Never pick the shovel or plate and scrap the food into your plate. In Chinese culture, it is awfully disgusting.

Chinese dinner is an elaborate affair. Always remember the host probably puts lots of money on this feast. The eating with guests is not just a fine dining but an act of bond.

Fish, chicken etc. are served with bones. Pick the bones from your lips with the help of chopstick and put it on the table or in a small plate.

Don’t leave rice on your bowl.

If you are not sure about the eating ritual, follow the lead of others.

Important Information

Money: The currency is Renminbi Yuan (CNY). Travelers cheques, preferably in US Dollars and other major foreign cash can be exchanged in major cities. Major credit cards are accepted everywhere within the city. ATMs are scarce in outskirts of cities.

Passport/Visa Note: Visa is not required for six days if the traveller is arriving from Hong Kong or Macao. Travel to Tibet requires a special permit from Chinese Embassy. 

Health: A travellers coming from yellow fever infected area must produce a yellow fever vaccination certificate. The low-lying regions of the country have a problem of malaria, so it is recommended to take appropriate medical advices before visiting those places.

Transportation: Chinese cities have extensive bus network and the most popular mode of transport. Also there are underground systems that are cheap to travel. For overnight train, lower bunk is usually cheaper. Buses are cheaper than trains, but if you press for time, high speed trains are the best.

Prohibited materials: There is no custom duty for 400 cigarettes and two bottles of alcoholic beverages. Arms and ammunition are strictly prohibited. Also, anything objectionable material print or otherwise that is against the public order or moral standards is prohibited. There are a strict laws against export or import of antiquities, religious literature and banned books.

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