Saying Goodbye to China: Top 10 Authentic Travel Experiences

43 posts and 16 photo sets later, we’ve reached the end of a long road of reflection on China, an on-the-fly addition to our around-the-world journey.

Classic Pingyao, Bicycle and Lanterns - Pingyao, China
A classic Pingyao street scene.

The impetus to change our itinerary occurred while we were in Central Asia. Several seasoned travelers and experts, having just come from China, convinced us to seize the moment and visit before the Olympics. We’re glad we did.

To anyone possessing even a remote interest in seeing traditional China, we offer similar advice: go soon before it disappears under the wrecking ball.

To conclude our reflections: a slideshow of the Best Of China’s Landscapes and Cityscapes plus our Top 10 Authentic China Experiences.

Top 10 Authentic Travel Experiences in China

Our use of the word authentic in the title is deliberate. China’s tourism development officials seem to revel in contriving experiences for visitors, resulting in large tchotchke-filled concrete-poured pavilions called “Tourist Leisure Centers” and newly built or heavily renovated “ancient” temple complexes and old towns.

The antithesis of authenticity perhaps?

For us, the most engaging and touching moments are those that showcase the real lives of people carving their way through daily life. And call us nostalgic, but moments that genuinely speak to bygone eras are satisfying, too.

  1. Searching for Audrey’s grandfather’s house in Qingdao, being questioned by the police (authentic, but not fun) and recovering by eating “Pork with Douche” dumplings.
  2. Getting lost amidst testicle stands and duck vendors at the sprawling ethnic markets of Gedong and Chong’An in Guizhou Province.
  3. Hiking the Hani terraced rice fields of Yuanyang (Yunnan Province), watching Dan get his chest hair pulled by another man and absorbing the colorful weekly ethnic market in Niujiazhai.
  4. Goofing around with kids at a streetside market outside of Jinghong in Xishuangbanna (Yunnan Province)…much relief after a two-day bus trip with the Chinese Olympic Spitting Team.
  5. Stumbling upon a Tibetan Opera and a crowd of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims at Labrang Monestary in Xiahe (Gansu Province).
  6. Taking in the animal parade (camels included) at the early-morning opening of the Kashgar Sunday Animal Market (Xinjiang Province) and ending the day with pulled noodles at the night market.
  7. Discovering a pocket of freedom of expression at Factory 798 in Beijing.
  8. Avoiding the ear cleaner, surviving Sichuan hot pot and finding the pandas amongst the 10 million people of greater Chengdu.
  9. Having the Great Wall to ourselves at Jinshanling and hiking 12 km atop the wall to Simatai on a clear and brisk December day.
  10. Eating…everywhere!

Photo Slideshow: Best of China – Landscapes and Cityscapes

If you’d like more details on any of these photos, go to the Best of China – Landscapes and Cityscapes photo set and check out the description under each photo. If landscapes don’t do it for you, but people do, check out The Many Faces of China.

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  1. says

    Thanks for your comment over on my blog. I hadn’t stumbled across your blog yet but I’m very impressed. Great design and heaps of interesting content. I really wish I had made it to China, to be sure it very near the top of my list for my next trip.

  2. says

    Kiri: Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words about the site! Let us know if you need advice when you do travel to China.

    Theresa: Glad you enjoyed the photos! We also didn’t have much interest in going to China either, but we’re really glad we were convinced to visit during this trip. It’s much more complex and diverse than we had envisioned.

  3. verena says

    just stumbled upon your blog while searching for china travel advices.
    i am planning a “world tour” too. thanks for sharing all your experiences.
    your newest subscriber verena.
    have fun!

  4. says

    Verena: Thanks for stopping buy and subscribing! We’ll be writing next about Burma and India; I hope those countries are part of your “world tour” and we can continue to share useful information for your planning!

  5. says

    Have you ever given thought to visiting South Korea? As someone who just finished a year teaching there I can vouch for how amazing of a country it is. They still have the old Korea preserved along with the new Korea around it. It’s really fascinating.

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