If you’ve never been to China (and maybe you never want to) I’m here to convince you to give it a shot, to put it on the bucket list!
I’m not promising a picture perfect paradise that will blow your mind but I am pitching a place that is predominantly laced with a fascinating past intertwined with an equally intriguing present. It’s a unique combination that may well give you one of your more priceless ‘holiday’ experiences.
I’ve been living in Xi’an, north west China for around five months now and whilst I lived in Hong Kong for four years and had a reasonably good induction into Asia, (naively) I assumed I was prepared for a move to the motherland. I wasn’t.Granted, I’m in a second tier city, so the comparisons between Xi’an and Hong Kong are not as forthcoming as between say, the bright lights of Shanghai and Hong Kong, but nonetheless I’m quickly realizing, love it or hate it, China is a country with an enthralling state of affairs.
Here are my four reasons I believe you should consider a trip to the mad, but oh so memorable Mainland!
1. Top of the World
China is home to one fifth of the world’s population. Yep! That’s 1.5 billion people coinciding (albeit a little manically) in this heaving megalopolis – the second biggest country by land, only surpassed by Russia.
A global phenomenon, China is a single party state ruled buy the Communist Party – one of the world’s few remaining socialist states openly endorsing communism with the biggest standing (on foot) military in the world. With its economy currently one of the fastest growing in the world, China is proving a force to be reckoned with, classed as an emerging super power.
Despite it’s rapid development and frenetic urbanization, China still holds on to much of its ancient history, culture and traditions.
The People’s Republic of China deserves a look in, based on its sheer volume and impressive development alone.
2. Historical Treasure Chest
One of the oldest civilizations in the world, China’s history stems back thousands (and thousands) of years. Ruled by dynasties and emperors, most cities today still showcase traces of this rich and colorful past. From the Great Wall of China (seen from space), the forbidden CIty and Tian’anmen Square in the capital Beijing; to the famous Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an (also known as the 8th Wonder of the World), along with incredible museums, tombs, temples, palaces and villages across the land – China is a minefield of historical knowledge and beauty to savour. Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s hard not to be fascinated by these time-honored relics and magnificent spectacles.
3. Diversely Dynamic
They say every city (and there are 656) is quite different in China and that’s not far from the truth both in looks and personality!
From beautiful white sandy beaches in China’s south (yes, I kid you not) to picturesque rivers in the city they call the most beautiful place on earth, Guilin; to snow-capped mountains in the north, not to mention the highest place on earth, Lhasa, Tibet – China is without doubt a diverse landscape filled with many wonders to capture your imagination. Even the language is diverse with Chinese composed of many many different dialects. You’ll find the food as diversified as the country with eight styles of cuisine, depending on the climate, geography and history – much of it tempting treats for your tastebuds – but beware, the locals don’t leave much to the imagination. Expect chicken feet, cow’s stomach and pig’s ear to feature on the (more than occasional) menu along side the dim sum, rice and noodles!
The people also like to proudly think of themselves as quite different and unique to each province; and there is a distinct divide between the North and South populations.
4. Cultural Hotspot
In China, age-old customs and traditions still manage to weave their way into contemporary everyday life. Whether it’s designing your home based on Feng Shui principles, having your haircut right before Chinese New Year or getting married and having babies on those auspicious days with lucky numbers – these ancient rituals are well and truly embedded in today’s society.
China is an extraordinary blend of the old and the new – sleek city sky scrapers stand tall, shadowing ramshackle lane ways; sizzling street food stalls flank brand super powers like McDonalds and Starbucks and the latest luxury cars tackle the roads with three-wheeler bikes laden down with a jumble of odds and ends.
There’s no denying China is a hotpot of tradition spiced with modern day flavors.
So! Start checking those flights; get your camera ready and prepare to step outside your comfort zone for the experience of a lifetime.
Nicole was a Journalist and News Reader with Sky News Australia for a decade before stepping outside the box (literally) and making the life changing move to Hong Kong with her hotelier husband. Four years into the mad but momentous journey of chopsticks and chicken's feet, she is mum to hyped up blondie, Ava and has just embarked on the next expat posting in Xi'an, China.
When she's not juggling play dough and princess outfits, Nicole works as a freelance journalist, copywriter, presenter, media trainer and Master of Ceremonies across Asia.
Nicole documents her hair-raising expat tales on her renowned blog Mint Mocha Musings – you can also find her on Twitter @nicoledwebb.