Why not challenge yourself a little while you're out in the big world? For example, by exploring one of the oldest civilizations in the world in one of the fastest growing economies? Your journey can last from winter to summer and take you from Buddhist to Muslim areas without even having to cross borders. This, and much, much more, is China.
China's infrastructure makes it - perhaps surprisingly for some - easy to travel around, but you will find that its size alone makes it almost impossible to cover all - or even just half! But no matter what parts of this fascinating country you choose to explore, you will never forget your trip to China.
Be prepared to meet the endless Chinese crowds, the incessant inferno of sounds in the streets, the scents hanging in the air everywhere; so different from anything you know. In general, be ready for chaos! But if you allow yourself to be surprised by all the impressions this crazy country has to offer, then you will enjoy yourself.
Travel to Beijing - China's impressive capital
You can start your journey in the Chinese capital, Beijing. Make sure to take some time out to enjoy the impressive buildings Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, which was the heart of China for more than 500 years. Of course you should also see Tiananmen Square, one of the world's greatest open spaces. And in true backpacker spirit, it is an absolute must to walk along the famous Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai.
You can also use your time to explore so many other interesting sights. For example, the Summer Palace, a magnificent architectural structure located in the most beautiful and peaceful gardens, alongside a charming lake.
When you get tired of the crowded tourist magnets, it is advisable to explore some of the city's hutongs, or neighborhoods, teeming with people and buzzing with excitement. You can do this by renting a bicycle, which is also the locals' clearly preferred mode of transportation.
Cruise on the Yangtze
If you want to experience the greatness of China and take in the dramatic mountain scenery of 'The Three Gorges' that surrounds the Yangtze River, then you should take a cruise on the world famous river, the largest in China. The views along the way are phenomenal and a trip like this is wonderfully relaxing. Hop on in Yichang, hop off in Chongqing and enjoy a few days to "chill" in the fantastic surroundings, here in the wilderness of China.
The journey in China can continue on to the seething and bubbling metropolis of Shanghai, which cannot be compared to any other city in China. East meets west in this glittering metropolis. Take a stroll along the river at 'The Bund' and you will get a feeling for the real Shanghai. On one side, you will find charming old French colonial buildings, while on the other side, you will find the restored Pudong district. This area is modern and has somewhat eccentric skyscrapers, several of which certainly are worth visiting - and nothing compares to the view from the 88th floor of the wild Jinmao building.
A few blocks from The Bund, you can find the neon lit shopping street, Nanjing Lu; one of the world's busiest and one of the best examples of the growing Chinese capitalism. Remember to visit one of the markets here, until you can bargain like an expert. There is now a good alternative to the hectic city life in Shanghai when you get too much of it: a multi-day excursion to the gardens of Hangzhou and Suzhou. The highlights here are Hangzhou's famous West Lake and the tea plantations.
Southern China: Yangshuo
If you continue the journey to the southern part of this immense country, you should first and foremost visit Yangshuo. In this part of China, you can take a boat trip on the Li Jang River or relax in one of the nearby villages, while enjoying the views of the spectacular and extremely beautiful rock formations that emerge from the lush subtropical rainforest.
Western China: Greatness and beauty
When you get enough of the busy and hectic streets of the densely populated eastern China, the best you can do is to take one of the comfortable 'soft sleeper' trains to the country's western part. A train journey like this can take several days and at the same time, you can also visit parts of the old and famous silk route that runs through much of China.
Along the way, you can stop and see one of the country's most valuable historical treasures: the Terracotta warriors of Xi'an; a fantastic and yet, very puzzling sight. In Xian, you can stroll around the city's Muslim quarter, where you should view the beautiful old mosques. Let yourself be seduced by the sights and sounds of the streets and markets.
When you follow the Silk Road farther west you will come to the distinctive cities of Urumqi and Turpan, not far from the border with Tibet. It is here that you feel that your trip to China is complete. However, one should avoid coming here during the summer; it is simply too hot and unbearable. For those travelers with a touch of adventure, the area is very tempting and four-wheel drive vehicle tours are on offer. Just make sure to be well prepared when you want to travel in the harsh and sometimes uninhabited areas. In return, you will be rewarded with heavenly and fantastic views in the dizzying and dramatic highlands, and will be met by the sight of the beautiful Potala Palace when approaching Lhasa.
Travel to rural China
Haven't had enough of the remote and "old" China? Take a trip to Western China's endless plains and experience an authentic, rustic atmosphere. There is a certain charm in staying in a 'Nong jia le', a simple room that is an extension to a farmer's house - a unique way to get close to this country's population. The experience becomes even better if you can speak a bit of Chinese - or travel with an English-speaking Chinese, who can also act as interpreter.
China's unforgettable street life
Inevitably, when your journey ends and you are at home looking through your vacation photos, it is most likely that you will remember the moments in the crowded streets of China more than anything else. For instance, when you hesitantly talked yourself into tasting some of the unfamiliar foods from one of the countless street stalls, where exotic ingredients are mixed and cooked over a charcoal grill in the middle of the street crowd.
Later on, you may have found yourself sitting on the curb, mingling with the locals while challenging each other in the drinking game, "campei". Your day would have been made complete by meeting up with a group of friendly locals at one of the city's karaoke bars; singing and downing Qingdao beer with great joy. On the way home in the early morning hours, you would have used to chance to "tighten" up and taken part in one of the early morning sessions of Tai Chi in one of China's many nice parks.
Education in China
Take the chance to study in an international study environment where the official language is English. The universities emphasizes the importance of globalization and internationalization. A study period in China will, without a doubt, give you the experience of a lifetime and offers a fantastic and exciting environment. Read more about study abroad in China and how KILROY can help you further.