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
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.

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Slideshow: The Many Faces of China

The arc of our travel experience is shaped by the people we meet. Even the most beautiful food and landscape need a human context. With that in mind, we offer a selection of faces – each with a story – that we will recall whenever we reflect on our travels in China.

The following slideshow is our take on China's ethnic diversity. While these images represent only a fraction of China's 56 official ethnic groups (there are scores more unofficial ones), we hope they give you a better feel for the various people who call China their home.

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A Chinese Food Grab Bag

To close our Chinese food series, we share a few miscellaneous bits, bites and highlights that we just couldn’t shoehorn into the previous segments. We remember fondly the Chinese dining experience: refrigerator cases full of greens, skyscraper piles of tofu, the flash fry technique, earthy-brown soy and sesame oil chili pepper sauces, and copious condiments.

The Chinese consider the number eight lucky. We can all use a little luck, so we limit our list accordingly.

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Sichuan Cuisine

While Sichuan food is available around the world, Sichuan dishes take on an almost electric quality – in both color and flavor – when served in China. Here’s a sample of our favorite Sichuan meals from our travels through the Sichuan Region of China.

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Guizhou, China: Ethnic Markets and Villages

A checklist: four days, three ethnic village markets, stacks of smoked dogs, and one testicle stand. Guizhou Province exuded tradition; it was China at its most authentic and at times its most eye-popping.

We paid a visit to the province, described in guidebooks as one of China's most underdeveloped, to experience a group of ethnic village markets clustered around the town of Kaili. Although the timing of our visit did not coincide with any ethnic festivals (the standard draw for the relatively few tourists that visit the region), there was no shortage of everyday market pageantry and visual stimulation.

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Xishuangbanna: China’s Deep South

Two days of roller-coaster travel on unpaved roads and in old buses cramped with members of the Chinese Olympic Spitting Team. It was a long road to Xishuangbanna.

Chinese Girl Deep in Thought
Deep in thought. Xishuangbanna, Yunnan.

Tucked in the deep south of China's Yunnan Province, the Xishuangbanna region conjured images of thatched huts, tropical jungle, and a rainbow of ethnic minorities. But when we arrived in Jinghong, the regional capital, our hearts sank. We got the impression that we had arrived too late.

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