Well I just got back from my 2 week vacation in China, and it was a great experience for me. My first time back in my home country in 19 years! (I moved here when I was 4). I went to Beijing, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Each place was amazingly beautiful, and completely different than North America. I’ve never been to a place with so much natural beauty and history before. Cities such Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou and Hangzhou will have bridges, canals, rivers, lakes, temples, right in the middle of the city! Something that you won’t find in North America. Of course, China has thousands of years more history than US/Canada, so everywhere you go you will find some historic relic.
The capital of the PRC, Beijing is a city of 13 million people, built on flat desert. The city is quite big, and there is a lot of mountainous terrain. There is a lot of history, due to it being the capital of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as the current administration. The Forbidden City with its 8,000+ buildings, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, and Olympic Stadium (Bird’s nest) are all great icons of Beijing.
Nanjing (or Nanking), is a city quite unlike Beijing. The capital of the Ming, Republic of China, and currently Jiangsu province, Nanjing is full of rivers, bridges, and lakes. It is a city with immense natural beauty. The nightlife on the streets, Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, and Yangtze River bridge was a few of the places I visited. Overall, a very beautiful city that is often overlooked by foreign visitors.
Another beautiful city in Jiangnan, Wuxi is an ancient city split in half by Lake Taihu. It has a great variety of temples, rivers, canals, that make it a great place for sight seeing. I visited the Xihui garden, and Three Kingdoms city, both of which has cultural history spanning over 1,000 years. The city is not as big as Nanjing, but I still highly recommend it if you’re touring China.
Suzhou is a city in China famous for its natural beauty and scenery. There’s many canals, rivers, and temples right in the middle of the city. There’s a saying in Chinese that goes “上有天堂，下有苏杭”, putting Suzhou and Hangzhou equal to Heaven on Earth. Suzhou’s history spans thousands of years, and along with Hangzhou, is not only well known for its scenery, but also for its 美女 (beautiful women). One of the ancient four beauties of China, Xi Shi, was from Suzhou, and there’s a bridge dedicated to her there. I visited many of Suzhou’s temples, all of them breathtaking, as well as its many beautiful gardens, such as the Humble Administrator’s garden. Suzhou’s ancient roads such as Pingjiang road are also a feast for the eyes.
Wuzhen is a small water town in Jiangnan, that is often referred to as the ‘Venice of China’. It’s many canals and old houses certainly make it worthy of that title. I went on a boat ride through Wuzhen, and agree that its old bridges and canals make it a great city for romantic sightseeing.
Hangzhou is another beautiful city in China famed for its West Lake. The capital of the Song dynasty, and currently Zhejiang province, Hangzhou’s West Lake is famous for being the site of many ancient Chinese writers. Many famous pagodas and bridges have been built, and there’s certain places you can stand to get a famous poetic scene (called West Lake’s 10 Scenic views). It truly is something you will never see in North America. I also visited ‘Song City’ which had a great performance detailing the history of Hangzhou in the Song dynasty, and contains a Buddhist shrine as well.
Shanghai is the biggest city in China, with over 23 million people, and the most modern and expensive city to live in. I’ve never been to a city quite as big as Shanghai. I thought New York city was big, but Shanghai is three times the size of that, and there’s rows and rows of apartment buildings as far as you can see. Spiral bridges lay on top of one another, gigantic shopping malls, and skyscrapers as tall as in Manhatten is what you can expect to see. Shanghai does not have the history of the other cities I visited, but there’s still a lot to do. I visited Yiyuan garden, City God temple, the Bund, and of course the Pearl of the Orient in Pudong district. Shanghai is a vibrant city, the city that never sleeps, and is probably one of the best places to go shopping (especially Nanjing road)!
Overall, I think China is a great place to go for vacation, or sightseeing. Bring your family, or bring your boyfriend/girlfriend, there’s lots of great natural beauty, and romantic scenery to enjoy. I went alone, but that’s because (as usual) I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Still though, your money can go far in China. Some things are cheaper, some things are more expensive. Generally, food will be cheaper. A good meal costs about $3 USD including drinks, a subway ride costs only $0.30 USD, and China-branded clothing can be much cheaper. On the other hand, foreign brands will always cost more. Living in China can be quite different, especially in Shanghai, where the high cost of living, and high work pressure might put off many American expatriates from working there. Chinese people work very hard. Many get up early in the morning, work until late at night, and probably only get paid a fraction that Americans make. Everything is stricter there, manners and courtesy is important, every worker you see will probably be wearing a uniform, and males are definitely more dominant over there. That said, there are still alot of foreigners there, and Chinese people in general are very friendly. I will definitely go back in the future, and maybe have some time to visit my hometown (Shenyang) as well!