China is the world's most populous country, and within the space of a few years will become its most visited country too. It’s hard to imagine the sheer size of the country and all of the amazing natural wonders within. From the grassland steppe of northern China, to the jagged mountains of Zhangjiajie made famous in the Avatar movies. The fog-shrouded rainforests in south-west China which border Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, provide contrast to the modern concrete forests of Beijing and Shanghai – China offers tourists a vast selection of unmissable experiences.
China has several world-famous historic attractions – the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tibetan temples and the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’An all live up to expectations, and with some thoughtful planning the worst of the crowds can be avoided.
The cities are a stark contrast to this natural beauty; skyscrapers, neon lights and crowds are everywhere you look, but look beyond this and you can enjoy a curious mix of strict tradition, rampant capitalism and the ancient spirituality of a culture that's 5,000 years old.
It’s impossible to describe China without mentioning the food; although some of it would be beyond even the most adventurous foodie, the fluffy-white steamed bao, wok-fried noodles and rice served countless different ways are excellent. These are often best consumed at the most asian experience of all – the street food night markets – each one with a specific speciality and character.
Whilst there are undoubtedly issues with pollution and crowding in the cities, and some cultural norms that may frustrate Westerners – the history and wonder of China makes a visit an essential one.
China feels like a world all of its own, and even as the modernisation process continues apace and washes away some of the older traditions it remains as enchanting and mysterious as ever.