According to the World Travel Market 2012 Industry Report, China was chosen by the travel industry as the most important country in the world for inbound and outbound tourism. It’s more than just an economic superpower these days, it’s fast becoming a mainstream tourist destination. And as its domestic tourism industry develops so does the tourism offer for overseas visitors including families in search of adventure.
Child’s Eye China Family Adventure
Despite its tourist growth and infrastructure, China hasn't particularly been on our radar of places to visit. Too far away. Too difficult to speak the language. Too big and hard to get around. Especially on a bike. But one of the things about having kids, especially kids that are used to travel, is they have different ideas.
Cycling across China may be a bit ambitious but there's lots of other adventure options. Image Travel IndoChina
The kids have been watching programmes about China, including Karl Pilkington's visit to The Great Wall in An Idiot Abroad (which incidentally didn't put them off going), and they're intrigued by what it has to offer. So much so that Cameron decided to draw us up an itinerary to whet our appetites, persuade us to look at the brochures and put it into our travel schedule.
Wow. Talk about blue sky thinking. In Cameron's plan we'd spend most of our time in planes criss-crossing China to get from one incredible attraction to another. His tour is joyfully unconstrained by time, money or practicality, guided instead by a desire to create a perfect holiday with a little bit of everything.
“I chose things that families could try, that are different, interesting, and exciting for kids and grown- ups,” he explained as if getting between them was just a minor consideration.
Wouldn't it be nice if life was like that? If you could choose a country as huge and widespread as China and just go and see the best of it. Wouldn't travel be easier if you didn’t have to worry about budgets and logistics? But that’s not the lot of the indie traveller.
Anyway, if you have the time, budget and inclination, perhaps you’d like to test out Cameron’s China tour ultimate family adventure itinerary. If you’re a little less adventurous, then maybe you could try one of these escorted tours around China.
Shanghai skyline. Image Travel IndoChina,
Cameron’s ideas for family adventures in China
1 Walk the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is over 6,000 kilometres long and nearly 8 meters high. It’s the only man made thing to be visible from the moon, and while it would be an amazing adventure to see it from there, you’ll probably get a better feel for it close up. You can get to it easily from Beijing but don’t expect to get it to yourself. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it’s a big busy tourist attraction. Some people walk or cycle along it, which helps to get away from the crowds and see a bit more of China. Or you can take a cable car up and toboggan down, which sounds much more fun.
2 Meet a Giant Panda
Beijing Zoo is the biggest zoo in China with the largest number of species including pandas, elephants, gorillas, and dolphins and sharks in a big sea life center. The zoo is styled as a garden with lots of trees and grass and a small stream. It was called Wansheng Garden which means the Garden of 10,000 animals and there are plenty of bushes and bamboo which make the place similar to the habitat of the giant panda. Which, of course, is the main point of your visit. You can’t come to China and not meet a Giant Panda.
Giant Panda. Image Travel IndoChina
3 Learn about Chinese money
China is an old place and a modern economic superpower. You can learn about some of China’s economic history at the Ancient Coins Museum in Deshengmen in Beijing. You can see some of the first coins used in China in a collection that includes shell coins, cloth coins, round coins, square coins, even some shaped like swords. There’s lots of paper money too and coin markets where you can buy, exchange or have any old coins of your own checked out by experts.
4 Go Rafting Chinese Style
The Huang Teng Gorge is in Southern China, about 100km from Guangzhou. The Huang Teng Canyon has been labelled the most attractive and exciting white water rafting location in China and has over 130 waterfalls in it. It has beautiful scenery and the water looks really nice and refreshing. You can begin your rafting journey on the river at various points depending on the level of excitement you want! There’s a 4.8km Brave Warrior course, a 2.8km Natural Warrior course and a 2km Scenic (not so) Brave Warrior course. The rafting area is nearly 5km long and drops 168m with the highest drop being 12m. Definitely one for brave warriors. There’s also a water park nearby if you’re not so brave.
Li River Guilin. Image Travel IndoChina
5 Meet the Terracotta Army
People think of the Terracotta Army as the eighth wonder of the world so you really can’t miss this. The Terracotta Army was discovered by accident in 1974 at Xian, (in the Shaanxi province in Central China), when some farmers digging a well broke into a pit and discovered 6,000 terracotta figures. These Terracotta figures are guarding the tomb of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di, who died over 2200 years ago. His tomb and underground palace are still intact and said to be protected by secret crossbows which may kill people if you get inside the tomb. So best just to visit the Terracotta Warriors and Soldiers Museum.
6 Walk around Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is a large square in Beijing and the name means Gate of Heavenly Peace. It is the third largest city square, said to be able to hold half a million people. Lots of important things have happened there including famous displays of Chinese military strength and people’s protests too. The Square contains the Monument to the People’s Heroes of the Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall which should be enough to keep you busy. If not then at the Northern end there is an old tower called Tiananmen Gate (built in 1417) beyond which is the Forbidden City.
7 Visit the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a Chinese Imperial Palace in the middle of Beijing. It was the home of emperors and the centre of Chinese government and contains thousands of buildings, big and small, making it very easy to get lost in. It’s has the largest collection of old wooden structures in the world making it a very special place. There are three main halls to visit: The Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Hall of Central Harmony and The Hall of Preserved Harmony, with a stone ramp carved with coiled dragons and clouds between the steps leading up to each hall. Apart from the halls and buildings the museums have lots of art to look at too, adding to the interest factor.
The Forbidden City. Image Travel IndoChina
8 Learn Kung Fu at the Qufu Shaolin School
China and Kung Fu have been linked for centuries. The Qufu Kung Fu school is set in beautiful grounds near the culturally historic UNESCO World Heritage City of Qufu, home of Confucius. The Masters of the school are Shaolin warrior monks trained from an early age in the Shaolin Temple and they have won many martial arts competitions. They have lots of experience and love teaching people. The peaceful surroundings make it a great place to learn. As well as Kung Fu you can have long or short lessons from the masters in Tai Chi, Qigong or Bagua, depending on what time you have.
9 Ride the Shanghai Maglev
Shanghai’s fabulous Maglev train can travel up to a massive 431 kilometres per hour before decelerating. This is an amazing speed for a train and even beats a Formula One car! Maglev is short for magnetic levitation, which means the train kind of floats over the track using magnets. It runs from Pudong International Airport so you can get on it straight from the plane if you wish, and you’ll be able to see some amazing skyscrapers. The Maglev train does have a driver but they only supervise the train.
10 Learn Chinese cooking at Yangshuo School
If you’ve ever had a Chinese meal, you’ll know why Chinese cookery is so famous throughout the whole world. And you can learn much more about the cuisine of Guanxi Province at the Yangshuo cooking school. You can either choose from a one day, two day or week long cookery course; whichever you fancy. During the course you can have a tour of the Yangshuo market and learn about all the ingredients that go into making the perfect dish, as well as the secrets handed down over thousands of years. And when you get back home you might be able to cook some real Chinese food and properly impress your friends!
You could learn to cook like this! Image Travel IndoChina