Your stay in China can be many things, but one thing it’s least likely to be is boring. This is a country where unexpected surprises greet you at every corner. The natural beauty is breathtaking and the cities are complex and sophisticated. The truth is that it may never be possible to truly explore the depths of China in just one lifetime; but here’s a list of a few must-have experiences that all expats should indulge in during their stay.Visit the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a vast collection of well-preserved ancient buildings and also the world’s largest palace complex. The entire space is surrounded by a 52cm-wide moat. If you’re in Beijing, you simply must visit the Forbidden City. Guided tours take you through the through Tian’anmen or the Gate of Heavenly Peace into a large square paved with bricks. Here stands the main entrance to the palace called the Meridian Gate. The tour continues across the Golden Stream Bridge and into the outer court which houses buildings in which the ruling emperors conducted their state affairs and ceremonies. Then it’s on to the inner court, the location of the personal quarters of the emperors. The tour ends with an exit through the majestically named Gate of Divine Might.
Cycle the Xi’an Wall
The Xi’an Wall in the ancient city of Xi’an is the most complete city wall that still remains in the country. It is also considered to be among the largest ancient military defense systems in the entire world. You can rent a bicycle here and explore the top of the wall, which winds across the whole of the ancient city. The road at the top is wide and without any vehicles at all, which makes it ideal for biking. It is also well-protected and cyclists can comb through the entire wall in just a couple of hours. Don’t forget to stop and take in the amazing views at various points along the wall.
Rafting on the Li River
The Li River is one of the most picturesque spots in China. An excellent way to explore the river and absorb the spectacular views is to take a ride on a bamboo raft. There are different starting points at locations along the river. Longer rides can last up to 5 hours, while shorter ones take about half an hour. These raft rides are slow and relaxed, providing a perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon. There are also motorized bamboo rafts that take you to see the breathtaking sight of the enormous karst peaks, the highlight of Li River cruises.
Meet the Giant Pandas
The lovable giant pandas are a Chinese national treasure and are found only in the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. Their number rests at just 1000 today and most of them live in the Sichuan province. The Panda Breeding Research Center in Chengdu, Sichuan, was created to imitate the natural habitat of the pandas so they could be reared and bred. The center’s aim was also to spread public awareness about the protection of the pandas and their environment.
Feast on a Sichuan Hot Pot
China’s Sichuan Province is known across the world for its fiery spices and is often referred to as the province of flavor. In the capital of Chengdu, dining is taken to another level with the huoguo or hot pot. Restaurants serving hot pot often open in the evenings and remain open well after midnight. Hot pot is best eaten with company and these restaurants are noisy with cheery groups enjoying this unique culinary experience. A hot pot is essentially a pot of simmering stock that is placed at the center of the table. The oil is laden with chilies and Sichuan peppercorns into which diners can dunk pieces of meat, tofu or vegetables.
Apart from the hot pot, there are plenty of other gastronomical experiences to be had in the country, and this brings us to the one thing you should definitely not do in China – never serve yourself food with the wrong end of your chopsticks. This is a big no-no, since it amounts to double dipping.
Instead, turn your chopsticks upside down and then take food onto your plate.