The best things to do in China
By Nicole-Marie Ng
You’ve seen the Great Wall of China and explored the Forbidden City. Perhaps the skyscrapers of Shanghai and Guangzhou are starting to feel a little too familiar and remind you of work back in Singapore.
For your next trip, escape to the natural sanctuaries and ecological marvels China has to offer. The sparkling crystal clear lakes of Jiuzhaigou have long been a tourist favourite but the lesser known Wulong Karst is also worth the trek. Check out these amazing landscapes of China.
1. Jiuzhaigou Natural Reserve
Also known as the Valley of Nine Fortified Villages, Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan is a UNESCO World Heritage site that stretches over 72,000 hectares. Best known for its shimmering emerald lakes, magnificent waterfalls, and awe-inspiring scenic beauty, Jiuzhaigou should not be missed by any traveller heading to China.
Seven of the nine fortified villages are still inhabited by locals. Learn about their simple way of life while purchasing handmade crafts and local snacks from them.
2. Cuddle a giant panda
The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu houses a large variety of Giant Pandas and Red Pandas. To catch the pandas when they are the most active, head down in the early morning close to the opening hour. You might just be able to catch a group of panda cubs wrestling or a mother panda feeding her cub.
3. Go back to prehistoric times at Wulong Karst
If you’re a big fan of the Transformers series, you can now catch a piece of the action by visiting Wulong Karst geological park in Chongqing. Wulong Karst was the filming location for some scenes in Transformers: Age of Extinction. To add to the novelty, you can find statues of Bumblebee and other characters around the park.
The vast park is divided into three areas containing the Three Natural Bridges, Qingkou Tiankeng and Furong Cave. Conquer your fear of heights by taking a glass elevator down a steep cliff. On the ground floor, you can stroll along the river, taking in the gorgeous natural beauty all around.
4. Cruise the Yangtze river
The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest river in the world. To ensure that you see all the noteworthy points of the river, opt for a three-night luxury cruise experience. Be treated to gourmet meals and fun activities on board as you sail down the serene river.
The cruise will pass by the three gorges – Xiling Gorge, Wu Gorge and Qutang Gorge – as well as other sights like the Shibao Stockade and the Fairy Peak, making sure that you get the most out of your time on the river.
5. Brave your fears on Mount Hua in Xi’an
One of China’s Five Great Mountains, Mount Hua – or Hua Shan − has been drawing risk-taking adrenaline seekers from all over the globe to its plank walk. The narrow plank path snakes around the edge of the mountain and is one of the most dangerous trails in the world. All that stands between you and a 7,000-foot drop is a precarious wooden plank and a safety harness.
Be warned that some fatal accidents have occurred in the past so this route is definitely not one for the faint-hearted.
6. Watch winter swimming in Harbin
Every year, locals gather at Songhua River to join in the revelry of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. There are shows, games and, of course, the main attraction, a winter swimming performance.
Despite the temperature being a frigid negative 20 degrees Celsius, locals still gather for winter swimming to show off their fortitude and strength. Watch as men clad in speedos dive head first into freezing water and not emerge a blue block of ice as you would expect.
7. Watch a circus performance
China is known to have some of the world’s greatest acrobats and athletes. Even though you can’t watch their Olympic gold medal gymnasts train, you can catch a glimpse of Chinese athleticism at Shanghai Circus World, a large, permanent indoor circus in Shanghai.
Watch jaw-dropping acts that have been rehearsed to a tee. We can’t help but feel our heart beat out of our chest in anxiety for the performers!
8. Have Mala hotpot in Szechuan
Considered the regional dish of Chongqing and Sichuan, mala sauce is a spicy delicacy known for its numbing sensation. Made using Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies and various spices simmered with oil, mala can be used in hot pots or stir fries.
Mala hotpots have gained popularity in Singapore in recent years but nothing beats having a mala hotpot on a cool day in Szechuan. Be sure to pack an extra packet of tissue because this dish is sure to make your eyes and nose water.
9. Snow Village
Aptly named Zhong Guo Xue Xiang, or “home of snow”, China’s Snow Village is a short journey away from Harbin. The small village is made up of 20 small wooden houses that are topped with a thick layer of snow. Rent snow skis or slide down a snowy hill on a rubber tube. There’s fun to be had for the whole family.
10. Ride a cable car to Big Buddha
Take a scenic 15-minute cable car ride to the top of Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. A great day trip out of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, you’ll be greeted by the welcoming smile of the Tian Tan Buddha − also known as the Big Buddha.
This large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni was completed in 1993 and is situated near Po Lin Monastery. It symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.
The second largest country in the world, China abounds with exciting attractions awaiting discovery by travellers. For now, the vastness of China is enough to keep us occupied for visits to come.