China Travel Guide

Throughout the 700 years since Europeans first read with astonishment Marco Polo's account of a 20-year sojourn at the court of Kublai Khan, the West has regarded China as the embodiment of all that is strange and exotic. Even today the country has lost none of its fascination, its utterly different culture dating back more than 5000 years making each visit a quite special experience. Incomparable palaces such as the Forbidden City and Summer Palace in Beijing recall the days of China's rule by celestial emperors, concubines and eunuchs.

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The Great Wall - at its most impressive where it passes just a little to the north of Beijing - winds for 6700 km (4000 mi.) westward from the Yellow Sea to Jiayuguan in Central Asia. Ancient temples such as the monastic temple of the Princess of the Azure Cloud on Mount Taishan or the Confucian Temple in Qufu exude the spirit of age-old Eastern religions and philosophies. The cities of the Middle Kingdom, more than 50 of which have populations of over a million, and the coastal provinces, are today enjoying a soaring economic boom. This vast Asian country, big as a continent, offers limitless scope for travel in landscapes as varied as the steamy jungles of south Yunnan, the mighty snow-clad mountains of the west, and the endless Central Asian deserts along the old Silk Road.
Northern China presents tourists with a rich range of opportunities, from riding shaggy ponies through the huge expanse of the Inner Mongolian steppe, sleeping in a Mongolian yurt, visiting Kasak nomads in the Altai and participating in the ancient martial art of kung fu at the Shaolin Monastery, to exploring the impressive Buddhist caves at Datong and Luoyang and joining in the celebration of the Ice Festival in the crisp winter frost of Manchuria. The appeal of southern China lies not only in the glittering, shoppers' paradise of Hong Kong, where East meets West in unique synthesis, nor in Portuguese Macao, but equally in the Guilin Mountains, a karst landscape of truly fairytale beauty unmatched anywhere in the world. Whether it be a luxury cruise through the picturesque Changjiang gorges, a visit to Jingdezhen to fathom the secrets of the famous Chinese porcelain makers, a stroll through the magical gardens at Suzhou, a gourmet excursion into the culinary capital Canton to sample the various styles of Chinese cooking, an ascent of the holy Mount Emeishan in Sichuan, a trip to Lesham to marvel at the world's largest buddha, or just sunbathing on palm-fringed beaches in Hainan, China has something for every taste and hence all the essential ingredients for an unforgettable holiday in a quite exceptionally absorbing country.

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