Immensity. Cultural heritage. Grandeur. Economic expansion. Wherever you go in China, these words come to mind. They apply to landscapes as diverse as the Himalayas, the Taklimakan Desert and the Pearl and the Yangtze Rivers. They typify more than fifty centuries of China's history as well as its present race toward the future.
China is a travel destination on the move. Virtually every international hotel company is expanding there, building new hotels. China now has a complete range of hotel choices in all price categories, from luxurious five-star suites to deluxe mid-priced hotels and clean, comfortable rooms even in the budget category. Golf resorts, shopping, restaurants… all are growing to meet the influx of new tourists. In the meantime, China is a fascinating blend of intense contemporary activity and more than 5,000 years of utterly unique history.
Beijing showcases the country's rich heritage on a grand scale. From the Forbidden City – the massive imperial palace complex featuring some 8,706 rooms – to the Temple of Heaven to the Summer Palace, China's dynastic history must be seen in Beijing to be truly understood. Nearby, you'll find the Great Wall of China, that undulating fortification stretching for 4,163 miles. Yet the distant past doesn't claim all of Beijing's cultural gems. Tiananmen Square houses the remains of Chairman Mao along with museums and monuments of the Chinese Revolution. And much of Beijing today is about the future – newly constructed venues like the National Swimming Center, the Bird's Nest stadium, the National Grand Theater, and the CCTV compound become new landmarks in Beijing.
Shanghai dramatically exemplifies China's fusion of old and new. While the town hurtles headlong into the future, it blends retro-European architecture of The Bund with the modern marvels of the Pudong New Area. During Shanghai's glamorous heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, it was known as the "Paris of the East;" today it retains its international charm, while offering an explosion of new hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Still, China's impressive past is never far away, from Yuyaun Garden in the Old Chinese City to the Shanghai Museum, which houses China's greatest repository of ancient art and handicrafts. 2010 World Expo has attracted global attention, being the economic center in China, Shanghai strides to become a top destination in the world.
Beyond Beijing and Shanghai, you might not know that China has 50 other cities with a population of more than one million each! Each has its own story… like Nanjing, the country's capital for 10 dynasties, with its Ming-dynasty city walls, gate and palace ruins. Hangzhou, famed for its heavenly West Lake, enchants, as does Suzhou, the "Venice of the East," with its gardens and waterways, including the Grand Canal. Guangzhou, growing by leaps and bounds, exudes East-meets-West allure. Harbin is famed for its onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches and its winter Ice Lantern Festival. Zhangjiajie boasts its natural beauties and wonders like the national forest park and towering peaks which will make you linger a while. And you must see Xi'an, the capital of 13 dynasties, where China's first emperor rests, eternally guarded by his army of terra-cotta warriors and horses.
China's cities are becoming even more closely linked with the country's outer reaches. During the last few years, China has modernized its domestic air, train, and highway systems to meet the influx and demands of foreign travelers. There has been a vast improvement in ease of travel throughout the country. Travel by rail is an enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive way to see China's countryside. New or modernized equipment has replaced the old train systems in most areas. Travelers who lack the time to cover vast distances by train can still get a delightful taste of rail travel by journeying on popular route Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet. Nicknamed the "Sky Train", the train reaches an altitude of 16,640 feet in Tangula Pass, this is one of the world's most compelling train journeys. Over the course of 48 hours, you leave the capital of the world's most populous country and arrive in one of the most isolated corners of the globe. Along the trip, you watch cityscapes become fields and permafrost yielding to Himalayan mountain peaks as antelopes, yak, wild donkeys and sheep graze along the plains.
For a wholly relaxing exploration of China's glories, take a Yangtze River cruise. Sail by verdant peaks, ornate pagodas, sheer cliffs and quaint villages. Of course, you'll voyage through the hauntingly beautiful Three Gorges. Southern China holds much in store for you, too. Like the Leshan Buddha, carved into the rock face of a mountain, the ethereal limestone karsts of Guilin and the stone forests of Kunming. Or head north to Datong's cliff-clinging Hanging Monastery and the 50,000 Buddha's of the Cloud Ridge Caves.
Discover China's immensity, grandeur and more, from its fascinating cities to its far-flung reaches to its vast interior spaces. Along the way, you'll encounter amazing experiences and gain new perspectives.
more about China, visit online at: www.cnto.org.
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