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Why Go to China?

Top Reasons to Visit the Middle Kingdom


You may already be sold on the idea of coming to China. Or you may be shopping around - you want to do a big trip but you're not sure if China's your thing. Below are the reasons I think you should come to China. Just some food for thought!

1. See what all the fuss is about

Visitors Outside the Temple of Heaven
Andrew Rowat/Stone/Getty Images
You've been hearing a lot about China in the news. It's everywhere. But you're getting a very narrow understanding of the country that is home to a fifth of the world's population. Why not come see for yourself what China is and take home a little more understanding and a lot of amazing memories.

2. Super kid-friendly family holiday

© Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

I have small children and let's face it, travel anywhere is a little difficult. Sleep schedules are interrupted. Diapers are needed. The list goes on. But I love traveling with them, I love seeing the world through their eyes. And I love going places where they are welcomed.

You will find China one of the most kid-friendly places on earth. It ranks right up there with Italy and Greece. No one will blink an eye when they make noise in the hotel lobby or at dinner. While there won't be changing tables in most restrooms, you'll find help in other ways. I've had a cook on her way home come by, pick my baby up out of my arms and hold her for the duration of my dinner. Chinese people love kids. It's truly wonderful.

And your kids will have a fabulous time as long as you create your trip to include plenty of things they'll like. There are loads of kids' activities that range from museums and romper rooms in big cities, to exploring the sights you're interested in outside.

3. The food is incredible

© 2008 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

Forget what you know about Chinese food. And forget what you think you know about Chinese food.

Come to China and start from scratch. You can even consider a culinary tour to whet your palate. Chinese food is varied across province and landscape. Every region has its own particular specialties and tastes. Shanghai cuisine is thought to be sweet, Sichuan is known for its spiciness. You'll be amazed at what you discover about Chinese food while you're here and believe me, the food stands on its own as reason enough to come!

4. 5,000 years of culture

© 2012 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

Chinese civilization dates back thousands of years. And while their turbulent modern history colored and even destroyed some cultural perspectives, there is still much to see and learn.

There are many ways to experience different aspects of the Chinese culture. You can seek out an immersion tour or follow an ancient trade route such as the Tea Horse Trail or the Silk Road. You can seek out an aspect of the culture that interests you like tea and build a vacation around it by visiting the source of China's tea history. Or you can just take it easy and see the places that appeal to you. Everything you do as soon as you set foot in China will be a cultural experience.

5. Pandas and tigers and camels, oh my!*

© 2012 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.

Guess which two of those animals you can get up close and personal with?

Come to China and you can see giant pandas in their natural habitat if you're lucky. But you can also go to Chengdu and visit the panda breeding base there and see them up close. For a hefty donation you can even cuddle and hold a baby.

You can venture to the far west like Gansu Province on the Gobi Desert and ride a camel. You can probably even find one for hire hanging out for tourists at popular sections of the Great Wall. Camels are not as cuddly as pandas.

And for the least cuddly, we have Siberian Tigers. You won't find one of these in the wild but you can see them in animal parks, namely in Harbin.

*Non-American readers, this is a reference to a quote in the classic film The Wizard of Oz.

6. The Great Wall

© Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
There are some iconic structures of the ancient world: the Great Pyramids, Macchu Picchu and the Parthenon come to mind. The Great Wall is one of these and is something that even though you've seen a thousand photos, seeing it in person, climbing on it, peering over it, are experiences that are worth traveling thousands of miles for.

7. Fun and Successful Shopping

© Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
I know not a single person, man or woman, who has come to China and not gotten a wee bit excited about the shopping. From curios to tea, scarves to bespoke suits, strands of real pearls to the latest in fake handbags, the shopping can be addictive. I've even taken a few visitors to buy extra suitcases too.

8. Traditional Chinese Medicine & Massage

Photo courtesy of the Chengdu Shangri-La. All rights reserved.
Massage is not a special treat in these parts, it's more like a way of life. There are many kinds of traditional massage therapies in Chinese Medicine, but spas and massage parlors offer just about anything you can think of, for a very reasonable price (if you stay out of the five-star hotels). Many folks spend afternoons at bath-houses like Xiao Nan Guo Spa in Shanghai where you can go and soak, get scrubbed, massaged, manicured and fed all for a very reasonable price. And be sure to add a good foot massage to the end of any day of sightseeing.

9. Inspiring Landscapes

© Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
James Cameron got fantastical landscape ideas for Avatar from Hunan Province's Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The karst mountains in the Li River Valley that surround Yangshuo illustrate the 20 RMB bank note. Make sure any trip you take gets you out to see some of the amazing scenery China has to offer.

10. Because you can

© 2011 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.
You really can. Don't let distance or language be an issue for you. If you're planning a vacation and can swing the cost, make China a serious contender for your holiday. My Ten Step China Travel Planner will help you get the ball rolling.
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