China has the two things that really matter right now: a booming economy and a growing tourism industry. This creates an ideal international destination for travelers from abroad. Additionally, our dollars go a lot further than in Europe, and still you're seeing one of the oldest civilizations on the planet. If you're up for a long flight from the US, you can stretch your pennies once you land.
The capital Beijing is dripping with history and takes pride in its heritage. The obligatory stops to Tienanman Square and the Forbidden Palace should be on the top of your list. Both provide a snapshot to ancient Chinese history and modern day politics But if you are coming all this way, there is way more to experience.
After hosting the Olympics in 2008, the city has plenty of new architecture to experience. Additionally, the hutongs, or slums, are great for a wander. These neighborhoods can be considered the epicenter of local culture that serve host to small restaurants, shops and markets.
Parts of the Great Wall of China can be easily accessed by about an hour's drive from the city. Originally erected to keep the Mongols out of China, parts of the wall still stand and weave is way through the forested region. The relatively flat sections of Badaling are good for the general population, but Mutianyu is for the more fitness minded. It's steep hills and winding sections of ancient wall provide a fantastic sweat session.
From Beijing to Shanghai, you can take a high speed overnight train with sleeping berths for about $200. Once in the more cosmopolitan city, fine dining and experiencing culture is part of the scene. Some of the best restaurants in the city are located along the Haungpu River in The Bund. Side by side to turn of the century banks, a trip to the recently renovated Peace Hotel for lunch, if not just a few snaps, will top off a perfect day.
A trip to the Yuyuan Garden, in Old Town, will provide a delight of the shopping and dining senses. A traditional Shanghai dumpling called, xiao long bao will not only fill your belly for about $1.70, but, if you are not careful, the steaming hot broth will burn your mouth.
These recommendations are only the tip of the iceberg for China since there is far more to see. Let's just hope that the IRS gives you back enough to see all that the country has to offer. Happy Tax Day!
[Photo: Rayme Gorniak for Jaunted]