I have always loved travelling, and as the end of my time at university drew to a close I knew that settling straight into a job, sat behind a desk, wasn’t for me. Fast forward a few months and here I am, just a few weeks away from moving to Beijing to spend a year teaching English, whilst experiencing and exploring the fascinating culture and history that China has to offer.
It goes without saying that China is an enormous country; it takes up almost ten million square kilometres and is the fourth largest country in the world. It would be impossible to see all of its sights and splendour in just a year, and I don’t doubt that by the time I’m flying home I will already be planning my next trip back to visit some more of the places that I will have missed. However, in preparation for what will, I’m sure, be the trip of a lifetime, I have put together a bucket list of the top ten places, sights and celebrations within China that I am most desperate to experience.
The Great Wall of China
This perhaps goes without saying as it is a true testament to China’s vast history and heritage, and is a wonder of the modern world for a reason. As I will be based in Beijing, there is no doubt that this will be not only one of the first sights I see, but one that I am most excited for.
The Forbidden City (and Tiananmen Square)
Nestled in the centre of Beijing, The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from 1420 to 1912. It was home to China’s emperors and is now home to the Palace Museum – and as a self-professed history nerd the thought of visiting such a renowned historical monument is enough to make me weak at the knees. It is located to the North of Tiananmen Square, which features the largest Chinese monument, the Monument to People’s Heroes.
The Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army can be found in the city of Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China. Whilst it was discovered in the 1970s, the army was originally buried with the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in approximately 200 BC.
Chengdu is the home of the Giant Pandas – and if this isn’t enough to make you desperate to visit, it is also where you can find the world’s tallest stone Buddah.
It is in Gansu that the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is located, more commonly known as the ‘Rainbow Mountains’. A highlight of my visit to Oregon in the United States was getting to see the Painted Hills, a geological phenomenon where the hillside seems to have been painted in colours of red, orange and yellow, and China’s rainbow mountains take this marvel to a whole new level, looking truly otherworldly.
Suzhou’s water towns
On the east coast of China, Suzhou is often viewed as China’s answer to Venice. A jarring contrast to the images of bustling, metropolitan cities and rolling rice fields that tend to come to mind when you first mention China, the city is known for its beautiful gardens and picturesque canals.
The Pearl in Shanghai
The Pearl offers a phenomenal view of Shanghai. Featuring a number of activities, ranging from the Oriental Pearl Science Fantasy World to the Shanghai Municipal History Museum, the main attraction is the unbeatable view from the Aerial Sightseeing Corridor.
The southernmost province in China is a beach-lovers’ paradise, drawing comparisons to the islands of Southeast Asia. Yalong Bay is Sanya’s most famous beach, providing a (literal) breath of fresh air after exploring China’s cityscapes.
Harbin Ice Festival
Harbin is also often called ‘Ice City’, taking its place as China’s winter wonderland. Throughout the winter months, Harbin hosts an annual ice sculpture festival, drawing in crowds of millions, and reaching temperature highs of -10 degrees.
Eat (a lot!)
Okay, so this point is a bit tenuous, but any list mentioning the highlights of a trip to China wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to the phenomenal foods and flavours China boasts. From the more well-known Peking duck and dumplings to Chongqing’s hot pot (a famous variant on a spicy broth which is popular throughout China), a Chinese visit is no doubt a pleasure for both you and your taste buds.
Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, these are the ten things that I most want to visit and do during my time in China, and I hope it has also provided some inspiration for any of you who might be planning or dreaming of a trip to China as well. Wish me luck as I try to make sure I tick all of these items off my bucket list over the course of the next year, and be sure I’ll be letting you all know when I do!