Trying to summarize such an imposing, humongous and culturally rich nation such as China is a bit like trying to explain a sunset to a blind person. No matter the amount of words said, it will never be enough.
A trip to China is not just a journey, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It means forgetting everything you know and jump heads first into some kind of parallel universe. It might seem a bit exagerate, but China does seem like another world.
I have put together a small list of things you shouldn’t miss in China. Being such a huge country, I tried to be as generic as possible, in fact, I only mention one specific place and leave the rest to you.
So these are my 10 things to do in China.
1. Visiting the Great Wall of China
Groundbreaking, isn’t it?
Well, not exactly. It might sound unoriginal and predictable, but truth is, you cannot leave China without having been at its top monument.
If you don’t know how to get to The Great Wall, do not hop on your spaceship just yet; contrary to legend, the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, you can barely see the thing from the plane when landing at Beijing, let alone the Moon! This popular misconception is the product of either a misunderstanding or a marketing campaing, depends on who you ask.
2. Going up a skyscraper
Legend has it that, not too long ago, China was a communist country. However, you only need one glance at Shanghai’s skyline with it’s colossal international business centers to understand that money talks louder than ever in this country.
Although most of the business districts in China have towers with (expensive) panoramic platforms, some of them offer free views from their restaurants or cafeterias, of course you’ll have to pay for the drinks.
3. Leaving room for improvisation
China is a country that tends to scare visitors, particularly due to its cultural and communication differences.
That said, there’s no better travel experience than to improvise and let China surprise you. Having to book hotels or connection in the country can bring unexpected experiences and create a ton of funny travel stories for you to treasure.
4. Seeing pandas
You can’t leave China without having a look at these adorable creatures. Whether it’s on natural reserves or in captivity.
Pandas play an important role on Chinese culture, and let’s admit it, they are very cute.
5. Eating at a night market
This is one of the best experiences you can have in China and there’s no need to eat grasshoppers or snakes (but you could if you wanted to).
Eating on the streets or at popular places like markets can help you to both save money and to bring you closer to the locals and their way of life, plus the food is delicious.
6. Haggling and then haggling some more
It is something you can’t escape from, so why not have fun while at it?
As long as you know that it’s a “game” and you have a clear idea of how much you’re willing to spend, you should be able to actually enjoy the experience.
Hint: They know that if you’re interested in buying something, you’ll be willing to offer 50% of whatever price they tell you. Surprise them by offering 10-20% and start going up from there, you’ll be surprised at how many times this approach works.
7. Getting lost at least once
But of course you don’t need me to tell you to get lost. You will get lost eventually.
Usually you leave your hotel without a map and you think you can navigate the city easily.
But you can´t, and you get lost, and you ask people who don’t speak any english and you have to draw and point and nod and get frustrated.
And finally you find a way to communicate with them, feeling like an intercultural ninja.
8. Watching TV
Even if you don’t understand a word, watching local TV will help you understand a little bit better the culture of the country you’re in.
You’ll come back home and one day you’ll find yourself missing those Chinese Opera concerts and unintelligibly engaging night shows.
9. Having your picture taken with the locals
Wherever you go in China, even in large cities like Shanghai or Beijing, locals will want to have their picture taken with you.
10. Traveling by train
China is a huge country, but if you have the time, it is best to forget the plane and get your ass on a train. Whether it’s the bullet train or the slow regular ones, there’s a Chinese railway experience for everyone.