We can barely imagine a distance as great as 4,000 miles, let alone a man-made wall stretching that far, snaking across mountains as though it has been there as long as they have. Even when you see it with your own eyes, China’s Great Wall asks you to suspend your disbelief. We love standing on its stony heights, looking into the distance at the lofty pathway behind and ahead of us, and marvelling at what human endeavour can do.
Walk in the footsteps of emperors in The Forbidden City, Beijing’s spectacular walled cluster of temples and palaces. Tread the lofty path of The Great Wall, sprawling a barely believable 4,163 miles through the mountains of northern China. Explore the famous Ming Tombs, the final resting place of 13 Ming emperors. And face 10,000 warriors ready for battle on a visit to the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army, sculpted from clay in the second century BC.
East meets West in extraordinary new ways in China’s fast-growing cities, all bustling, international metropolises with skyscrapers and state-of-the-art technology. Explore the old colonial buildings of The Bund on Shanghai’s waterfront, or look down on the city from the 100th floor of the World Financial Centre. In Beijing, explore centuries-old hutong alleyways and soak up the history and sheer size of Tiananmen Square. For spine-tingling panoramas, look back at Hong Kong’s iconic skyline from Victoria Peak.
Take it easy and experience China at a gentle pace, cruising past breathtaking natural surroundings. The Yangtze, the longest river in the country, divides north and south. Follow its blue-green course to discover towering gorges and the man-made wonder of the Three Gorges Dam. Or board a boat on the Li River to gaze at striking limestone formations rising from the water, leaving behind mirror-perfect reflections.
From jade and pearls to suit-stitching tailors, and the biggest selection of fake brand goods you will see anywhere, must-visit markets include Beijing's sprawling Panjiayuan Jiuhuo Shichang and Hong Kong’s Temple Street Night Market, where fortune tellers and performers complement steaming food stalls. On the high street, giant department stores sell everything from catwalk fashion to high-tech electronics.
With most of the Chinese eateries at home limited to Cantonese dishes, holidays in China show you just how diverse the national cuisine really is. From sleek fine dining on the 50th floor to snacking on humble pork buns at the roadside, working your way through endless dim sum menus, and tracking down the perfect Peking duck; the delicious food is a definitive part of the China experience.
I remember sitting on the train to school looking at an advert for travel to China and being mesmerised by pictures of fishing junks and sampans, never imagining that I would have the opportunity of going to such exotic places. Working for Hayes and Jarvis for the last eleven years has enabled me to fulfil some of these childhood dreams and enhance my love of travel and adventure. One of my favourite places has been Vietnam - whether you want a relaxing chilled out holiday or a cultural extravaganza, Vietnam is an exciting choice for the inquisitive mind. I will never get blasé about travel - it still gives me a buzz every time I arrive at the airport!
I rode the rapids on the Colorado River.
Always pack an open mind
Elephant fish in Vietnam
We met Mr Chum Mey who was one of only seven survivors of the Tuol Slen prison in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. He signed a copy of his book entitled ‘Survivor’ which is his life story.
I’ve had the travel bug ever since I completed my studies, and have been lucky enough to travel to many parts of the world, including India, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Brazil. Working in travel has enabled me to fulfil my dream of seeing the world and I truly love my job as it gives me the opportunity to share my experiences with other people and help turn their travel dreams into fabulous reality. One of my most memorable experiences was standing on The Great Wall of China. Only from there can you get a real sense of how long it actually is as you can see it snake through the hills for miles and miles, one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have ever seen.
A nature walk in Periyar, India – me and animals with more legs than me do not get on!
Take an iron – in case there isn’t one in the room because I always need to look sharp!
India – especially the contrast between North and South.
Non Veg Thali – a mixture of different meats in curry based sauces served in banana leaf.
While in transit in Mumbai, I bumped into a friend of mine who I haven’t seen since he moved to Zambia seven years ago!
I have travelled to lots of interesting places in my time, stepping on to a plane not knowing anything much about where I was going and coming back an expert and having fallen in love with the people, culture and cuisine of the place I've visited. When I first went to South Africa it was different, I thought I had it all sussed in my mind, but let me tell you I was surprised and delighted at every turn! South Africa offers something for everyone, from the wonderful range of cuisine and fine wines to the huge diversity of wild animals clients can see on safari.
The Great Wall of China, we were walking for around 2 hours and walked about 6 miles. It was an amazing experience but very hard work.
Take your camera!
China, as I could not believe how much of a diverse country it was, there is such contrast of historic and modern attractions. Also the food was so much better than expected.
Seafood from Cape Town is the best in the world.
South Africa, I went for 3 weeks and still didn’t do everything it had to offer. Would love to drive the Garden Route and do another safari.
I met one of the Chinese farmers who discovered the ‘Terracotta warriors’ in Xian.
Ever since I was little, holidays have been my favourite part of the year, jetting off to somewhere new and exciting always gives me butterflies of excitement! As a travel expert at Hayes and Jarvis I have had the chance to go to places further away and more exotic than I could have ever dreamed of, like India, a country that can't be done justice with words alone. It is a country that offers something for everyone, whether you want a luxury 5 star hotel on the beach, fascinating sightseeing, or an amazing adventure to somewhere off the beaten track.
I experienced an overnight sleeper train in China.
Take a pair of decent walking shoes.
Crispy Chinese fried ice cream.
I met a lovely old lady who let us have tea with her in her siheyuan house in Hutong in Beijing.
I have always enjoyed travelling and ever since my very first holiday I have been hooked! I’ve been to some amazing places including the Galapagos Islands, India and Ecuador, where I spent time with the people of a local village which really brought home how different their lives are from ours. I think it’s important to immerse yourself in the local culture and get a real feel for the destination. In India, I took an early morning bike ride through the streets of Udaipur and watched the locals setting up the street markets for the day. I love working in travel as I can share my experiences with people who have something in common with me - a passion for travel!
A two hour trek in the Ecuadorian Amazon and then tubing down the river, back to the hotel. The trek was well worth the views although it was so hot and humid and jumping into the river at the end and relaxing whilst tubing was an incredible experience!
Take a decent camera to capture great memories.
The Galapagos Islands as I was not expecting to see so much diversity in terms of wildlife. It was such a peaceful place to visit and there is so much to do and is a great destination for wildlife lovers.
Whilst in Ecuador, we visited a local community and had lunch with them. They cooked freshly caught fish, barbequed in a vine leaf. It was really fresh, tasty and really healthy!
I would love to go to Costa Rica and tour around and then a beach stay at the end. I enjoy holidays where there is lots to do and also the chance to relax.
When in Ecuador at the local community, I met an orphan who had been adopted by the local family and he keeps a pet snake! To say thank you to the family for adopting him, any tips he gets from tourists, he pays back to the family to help with food.
Travel is in my blood! As a child I was lucky enough to experience many places around the world, so what better job than working in the travel industry? My favourite destinations are South Africa and Colombia.
A jungle walk and zip wiring in Colombia.
Take a piece of home with you - I took Hossie, my teddy bear.
Nobody famous – but our ranger in Kruger was a really interesting person.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to China from the UK.
Direct Carriers: British Airways, Air China and Virgin Atlantic offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, KLM and Air France offer indirect services to China.
Departure Taxes: An international departure tax of CNY120 (approx. GBP8) must be paid at Chinese Airports (unless it is included in your flight ticket price). Taxes on Chinese domestic flights (CNY 50, approx. GBP4) are payable unless included in your flight ticket.
Hepatitis A, B, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid and Malaria immunisation are recommended. Yellow Fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country. All travelers should be up to date on routine immunizations. Please contact your GP for further information.
Spread across such a vast country, the weather on China holidays ranges from sun to snow. Check the weather report before you go and pack accordingly. Make sure you leave room for new purchases, and if you want to treat yourself to some well priced, good quality tailoring, take your favourite clothes along so you can get copies made.
A camera for snapping all those incredible sights;
Layers, jumpers and jackets in winter;
Cool, lightweight clothing in summer;
A waterproof jacket;
Comfortable walking shoes for exploring;
An electrical adapter (the power supply in China is 220 volts at 50 hertz).
The official currency in mainland China is the Yuan Renminbi. In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Dollar is used. Both currencies can be bought in the UK. You can only take 20,000 Yuan Renminbi in and out of China, but the import and export of the Hong Kong Dollar is unlimited. In China, UK Pounds (excluding Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes) and traveller's cheques can be exchanged at airports, hotels and branches of the Bank of China. The exchange rate is the same everywhere, so there is no need to shop around for the best deal.
Cash is king in China, where credit cards have yet to really take off. You may be able to use your Visa or MasterCard in some places, especially the major cities, but try to carry enough cash as a rule. Cash machines can usually be found in airports, hotels, shopping centres, and banks, as well as in major cities and towns. With better exchange rates than for cash, traveller’s cheques are a good idea if you are visiting the main tourist areas, but may be harder to cash in other parts of the country.
People tend not to expect tipping in China. It used to be refused, but is now becoming more common in hotels, restaurants, and with guides and drivers. Many mid-range and high-end restaurants add a service charge, but cheaper eateries do not expect a tip. Neither do taxi drivers.
December, January, July, and August
A country as huge as China doesn’t have one national cuisine. Instead, styles vary by region with Cantonese (Guangdong) cooking most familiar to us in the UK. Northern cuisine, like Peking duck in Beijing, is filling and hearty. Southern, including Cantonese, is the most exotic, with varied dishes like dim sum and the use of unusual meats like dog, snake, and turtle. Eastern cuisine, including the food of Shanghai, is rich, sweet, and sour, with a lot of seafood. And Western cuisine, including Sichuan, tends to be bold and spicy, with classic dishes like kung po chicken.
Beijing’s most famous dish is glazed with syrup and slow roasted until it turns a glossy red-brown colour. The crispy skin is so good that authentic eateries dish up more skin than meat, sliced in front of you by the cook. Wrap your duck in a thin pancake, smother it with hoisin or sweet plum sauce and add cucumbers or onions.
A religion in Hong Kong, dim sum consists of bite-sized portions, usually steamed, served in bamboo baskets and shared. There are thousands of dim sum delicacies available, including pork buns, spring rolls and shrimp dumplings. Going for dim sum is known as yum cha, translated as ‘to drink tea’, which is traditionally served with the meal (or vice versa).
Like a Chinese version of fondue, Mongolian hotpot is a communal meal centred on a large pot of simmering broth, into which a variety of uncooked meats and vegetables are dipped, cooking them on the spot. Eaten for over a thousand years, it is believed to have all kinds of restorative effects on the body.
Street food might be a little less common than it used to be, but we still think the route to experiencing the real China is through your stomach. Follow your nose to back alleys and markets, letting your taste buds discover slippery dumplings, pan-fried noodles, stuffed rice balls, grilled kebabs, warm wonton soup, and tea eggs, hard-boiled in green tea and soy sauce. In Beijing, Wangfujing night market has all these delights, not to mention some more unusual and acquired tastes, like skewered scorpions. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
Follow clouds of steam to find these much-loved stuffed buns, crammed with an endless choice of different fillings. The steamed dough might be filled with beef with ginger, mushrooms and diced tofu, carrot and coriander, pork, or chicken. Buy a selection and tuck in before they get cold.
Found throughout China, watch street vendors make this crispy pancake by cooking the batter on a hot skillet, cracking an egg on top, scattering it with spring onion, and rolling it up crepe style for a tasty portable snack.
Known as Shengjianbao in the rest of the country, these more-ish fried buns are a Shanghai classic. Filled with pork and gelatine that forms a salty liquid inside the bun, they really do melt in your mouth. Garnished with spring onion and toasted sesame, they taste best just out of the pan, just be careful not to burn your tongue.
Tourist hotspots like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong can be expensive but, as ever, it depends where you stay, where you eat and what you do. On average, a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant could set you back 120 Yuan Renminbi, with a domestic beer about eight Yuan Renminbi. In the shops, a 1.5 litre bottle of water might cost around five Yuan Renminbi.
As with any culture, the Chinese national dress has evolved over time. Ancient Chinese clothing, referred to as the hanfu, consisted of loose-fitting, wide-sleeved robes tied with a sash. Later, the social hierarchy began to dictate how people dressed, and the higher the wearer’s rank, the more flamboyant their attire. Outfits moved from unisex and simply cut, to gender-specific, with outfits like the cheongsam, a slim-fitting, high-cut dress, coming into style for women in the 1920s. Early in the People's Republic, Chairman Mao inspired Chinese fashion with his high-collared tunic, known as the Mao suit.
The most populous country on Earth can be a culture shock, but it’s a fascinating one. With a sense of history and tradition dating back thousands of years, Chinese people have an understated pride in their nation suited to their generally reserved manner. The concept of ‘saving face’ governs social interactions, with failure to perform a duty bringing shame on individuals, families and communities. As a communist state, the country is officially atheist, although Confucian philosophy is a popular code for life, with its focus on responsibility to the community and deference to elders, who are placed above their juniors in the social hierarchy.
When it comes to etiquette, try to keep the following in mind:
• In China, the family name is always used first.
• A handshake, or sometimes a simple nod of acknowledgment for women, is the usual form of greeting. Visitors are occasionally greeted with welcoming applause. The customary response is to applaud back.
• There is little to no touching in conversation, except with those who know each other well.
• Most Chinese speak in an indirect manner and do not usually volunteer information. This may mean you need to ask questions.
• Anger is expected to be hidden and arguments in public are considered offensive.
• Smiling is not always a sign of happiness; it can also signify worry or embarrassment.
• In remote areas, visitors sometimes find they are followed by an openly curious crowd. This is simply because westerners are a rare sight.
• Ask permission before taking photographs of people, military, or government buildings.
• People beckon one another by extending an arm and making a scratching motion with their fingers.
• Use your whole hand, palm flat, to point, rather than your index finger.
• Do not put your feet on the furniture or use them to move anything.
• Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as it symbolises death. Try not to suck or bite your chopsticks either.
• Avoid whistling or snapping your fingers at anyone.
• Avoid wearing revealing clothes, which may cause offence.
• Spitting in public is quite common.
From deserts and mountains to grasslands and rainforests, China’s diverse habitats are home to nearly 500 mammal species, 1,189 birds, 320 reptiles, and 210 amphibians. The country’s rapid economic development has endangered habitats and the creatures that live within them, with over 900 nature reserves established to protect them. China’s most well-known animals include giant and red pandas, golden monkeys, Siberian tigers, Chinese alligators, red-crowned cranes, and white-flag dolphins.
Sadly one of the world’s most endangered species, the giant panda is still found in the bamboo forests of Sichuan, but rarely spotted in the wild. You can see these beautiful bears up close at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre, where the captive population has risen from 6 to 83 since 1987. The centre is also home to red pandas, rare birds, and a museum.