China is overwhelming in lots of ways – the language, how bloody big it is and those visa requirements… but don’t let that put you off. The food is amazing and there’s some really stunning countryside to be found. If you’re thinking of visiting, check out our list of things to see, eat and do.
If you do one thing in China, besides all the eating, it has to be The Great Wall. We researched hard to find a spot that hadn’t been restored (lots of parts have) and beat the crowds. Huanghuacheng village was the place and we booked a driver for the day to get us there early. Expect unbelievable scenes as you climb up, resulting in total bucket list material.
2. Shengjian Bao
Did we mention we love dumplings? Pretty much the reason we started our travels in Asia, we’ve been munching through all shapes and sizes. Maximum success when we discovered a brand new kind (new to us, anyway) native to Shanghai called Shengjianbao. They’re soup dumplings that are steamed and then fried on one side. Perfection.
3. Sleeper trains
China is well, MASSIVE and to get out into the best countryside you’ve got to travel. You can fly, but sleeper trains are how the locals do it. It won’t be the most comfortable nights’ sleep and you have to waiver hygiene a bit, but they’re great to see how China works inside and outside the carriage. Bonus: weirdo snacks come round on trolleys throughout the trip, including chicken feet if you’re brave enough. We dare ya!
4. Hot pot
The local staple, hot pot is everywhere. Choose your broth, collect your ingredients and bubble away. We had all sorts to dip in… squid, tofu and sweet bamboo. Top tip: ask for half and half spicy / creamy broth for the best of both worlds.
We headed down south towards the border with Vietnam to Guilin province aka Chinese Jurassic Park. It was our favourite outdoors spot in China because it’s such a stunner. We hiked through farmland and wound our way through mountains on a bamboo boat. Pretty spesh.
Hutongs are thin, windy streets filled with traditional Chinese houses and where we spent our Friday and Saturday nights in Beijing. There are some pretty full-on licensing laws that mean nothing lasts very long in the Hutongs, so we got a local to take us to the best (still open) boozers.
Our other true love apart from food is animals. China is the only place in the world where you can find giant pandas, so obviously we had to go meet some. We researched the quietest conservation centre (disclaimer: there are only 1800 in the wild so you’d need to search for days to get a glimpse and the conservation centres are all about rehabilitating pandas back into the wild, so not cruel at all). We got there at breakfast time cos after the big guys have stuffed their faces with shit loads of bamboo, they fall asleep for the rest of the day. #spiritanimal
We did some of our best people watching in city parks in China. Gals blasting out the tunes doing hundred-strong open-air fitness classes, fan dancing, ballroom dancing, kiddies roller-blading races and water calligraphy on paving stones. Great way to chill out when the 20-odd million people get a bit much.
9. Peking Duck
Everyone’s guilty pleasure down the local Chinese – the good news is Peking duck and pancakes is an actual thing in China. Liqun is one of the oldest joints in Beijing that still feels low key and authentic. Loads of specialist duck places are a bit swanky, but we obvs went for the more authentic option.
China is big on fakes. We saw some pretty lolz versions including Canel t-shirts that I don’t think Karl signed off on and red boxed logo Superb hats. That said, there’s one market in Beijing where it’s just the price tag that tells you it’s fake… the Silk Market. We haggled hard and got some absolute bargains. Top tip: have a picture ready of the exact real deal sunnies / bag / trainers you’re after and the shop assistant will go off and find their best match.
Thanks Lucy – top tips as always, we can’t wait for the next installment.