My China Bucket List (Plus WIN a Trip!)

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Way back when, before this blog was even a glimmer of a thought, I went to China.

It was just a weeklong trip to Beijing and Shanghai, and I went with my college marching band. (And yes, pretty much the only reason I stuck with band in college was because of the international performance tours!)

My week in China was a whirlwind of temples and crowded streets and marching band renditions of traditional Chinese music. It was Chinese nightclubs and smoggy skies and a mind-boggling amount of traffic. It was the surreal feeling of playing Kelly Clarkson songs on the Great Wall of China.

Great Wall of China

I actually got to cross quite a bit off my Chinese bucket list on that trip – like climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, and strolling along the Bund in Shanghai. But my brief visit to China made me realize how much of the country I DIDN'T see.

China is, after all, the fourth-largest country in the world – there's SO MUCH to see within its borders. And I barely scratched the surface.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

So, here are the OTHER items on my China bucket list that I hope to cross off one day: the cities I haven't visited and the amazing scenery I haven't seen.

(And read to the bottom to learn how you can win a free trip to China!)

Xi'an

To see the Terracotta Army

Terracotta army
Photo by Guy Sie on Flickr

Xi'an is famous in China for a few reasons. First of all, it's one of the ancient capitals of China and one of the oldest cities in the country. It was also the starting point of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that stretched from Asia to Europe. Xi'an therefore has a lot of historic sites (and you know how much I love history). The city is also home to the famous Terracotta Army, which was built for Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, in the 200s BC. The “army” was buried with the emperor (to protect him in the afterlife) and wasn't discovered until the 1970s. I would love to see the army for myself!

Chengdu

To see the giant pandas

No China bucket list would be complete without a visit to Chengdu, hometown of the Giant Pandas. I would love to see the pandas here, and maybe even volunteer with them.

Guilin

To see the scenery

Li River Cruise
Photo by Anita Ritenour on Flickr

I've seen photos of Guilin and its limestone karsts and more than once exclaimed that it didn't look like a real place. I would love to take a relaxing boat ride up the Li River, and to visit nearby Longsheng to see its world-famous rice terraces.

Gansu

To see the painted mountains

China, or Mars? That's what I always ask when I see photos of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in Gansu, China. Here the country's “rainbow mountains” draw tons of tourists – and for good reason. The geological phenomenon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and literally looks like something from another planet!

Zhangjiajie

To see the Avatar mountains

Zhangjiajie
Photo by John Philip on Flickr

Since we're talking about landscapes that look like they've been plucked off other planets, let's talk about the giant quartz sand pillars of Wulingyuan in Zhangjiajie, a city in the Hunan Province in southern China. This area has been said to have inspired the floating mountains on the planet Pandora in James Cameron's “Avatar.”

Suzhou

To see the water towns

Photo from Visit Suzhou
Photo from Visit Suzhou

Suzhou, a city on China's eastern coast, is often referred to as “the Venice of China” because of its abundance of canals. Like painted mountains and limestone cliffs, canals aren't something that most people expect to find in China – which is why I would love to visit myself. (That, and the fact that I LOVE Venice!) The city is also known for its beautiful gardens, a couple of which are UNESCO-recognized.

WIN a trip to China!

Has this post stoked your wanderlust for China? Well, good news! Visit Suzhou is giving away a free trip!

If you, too, would like to visit “the Venice of China,” you can enter this contest, which runs for the next month. Nine lucky winners will get to travel (with one guest each) to Suzhou for a 6-day adventure that will include UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums, gardens, temples, and of course those famous canals in the nearby water towns.

The#TravelSuzhou prize includes airfare, hotel, most meals, and transportation within Suzhou.

Enter to win a trip to Suzhou now!

Photo from Visit Suzhou
Photo from Visit Suzhou

No purchase necessary to enter. Campaign is only open to legal residents of the continental United States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec). 

What else would you add to this China bucket list?

 

China Bucket List

 

Note: This sweepstakes promotion is a project with Visit Suzhou to help promote the contest, but all writing is my own and I have no say in the contest outcome.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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34 Comments on “My China Bucket List (Plus WIN a Trip!)

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  1. This post gave me major inspiration to visit Suzhou– I had no idea it had so many gardens! I did a little digging through the UNESCO website and fell in love with the Master of Nets garden 🙂 Which one is your favorite?

      Yeah, I had no idea it had so many amazing gardens, either! I haven’t been, but the photos of the Humble Administrator’s Garden definitely caught my eye!

    A couple of years ago I contemplated spending my whole summer holidays in China. I had 6 weeks of travel planned out and it makes me sad to think I never actually made that trip.

    Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to go back to those plans and my china bucket list.

    Tiger Leaping Gorge, Terracota Army, Ice Festival in Harbin, exploring some of the mountains, Pandas in Chengdu and some of the national parks were also on my list.

      Oooh I totally forgot about Tiger Leaping Gorge! That’s another great place to add to the list. I really hope you get to take your dream China trip!

    I’m heading to China in April and already made my bucket list, but I hadn’t considered going to see the water towns of Suzhou. I did a little research after reading this post, and now it’s earned a permanent spot on my list. Thanks so much for sharing!

    xo,
    Tami

      That’s awesome to hear, Tami! The photos certainly look gorgeous enough to make me want to go, too!

    Definitely add Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jiuzhaigou National Park to your list! Especially Jiuzhaigou. Seriously Google it right now. Especially if you make it to Chengdu – just a 10.5 hour bus ride away ;).

      Oh, only 10.5 hours?? 😉 Jiuzhaigou DOES look incredible, though! China is a lot like the US in that it’s SO big and varied and there’s just so much to see!

    I was in both Xi’an and Chengdu earlier this year visiting friends, they love it and the food is INCREDIBLE (I’ve written up both on my site!). However, I haven’t been back to Suzhou in six years because it’s turned into a huge crowded mess…so pretty much like the actual Venice, I’d recommend going during the week and not on the weekend if possible, and definitely not during a public holiday.

      Great tips for Suzhou! It’s a shame that it’s become as crowded as the actual Venice, but I feel like I could still really enjoy it. (After all, I ended up liking the real Venice so much more than I ever expected to!)

    The Harbin Ice Festival is also fantastic. 🙂

      I’ve seen photos, and it definitely looks incredible!

    I LOVE China! I went last year and it’s one of my favorite countries, I think just behind South Africa. Guilin is soooooo fantastic. I would love to go back. The Terracotta Army was not as impressive as I thought it would be though. I can’t wait to go back. I want to see everything.

      The good thing about China is that you can travel there for a long time and still have plenty left to see!

    I’ve also been to Beijing and Xi’an as part of a family trip.

    If you go to see the Terra cotta Warriors, please note, no photos are permitted in the hall. There’s also another Emperor’s tomb with its own army on a smaller scale outside of Xi’an. The tomb is from a later dynasty so it makes for a neat comparison.

    You can’t beat Xinjiang for in insight into central asian culture and the diversity of China. Kashgar is fascinating. For scenery Jade Dragon Snow Mountain near Lijiang is amazing. Personally I found Xian to be very disappointing and polluted. For food, nothing in China comes close to Guangzhou.

    We loved our time volunteering with Pandas and to this day it remains one of our all-time favourite memories. If I could add one more to this list it is to visit Tibet as it’s been a dream since I was a little kid. Cheers

      I would love to volunteer with pandas! So far volunteering with elephants has been one of my favorite travel experiences. 🙂

    Interesting reading, and great pictures !
    Again – thanks for sharing !
    Arvid

    Oh I wish I had seen the Pandas 🙂 I did manage to see Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and head out to Tibet. I do want to head back and see parts of your list too especially Zhangjiajie & Suzhou!

      There’s always next time, right? 😉

    Funny, I don’t have a China bucket list, and China was never on my bucket list, but a friend recently moved to Shanghai for her husband’s job, so I’m heading there in March. I don’t plan on seeing much outside of Shanghai, as I’m spending most of my trip in Thailand/Cambodia, swinging through China for just 4 days before I head home. But, the more I read about it, I think I will probably be back to see the sights!

      Shanghai and Beijing are both so huge that, after visiting them, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to China. But the more I read about the landscapes and not-so-big cities, the more I’m convinced that I’ll have to go back someday!

    Lovely post Amanda! What a shame that I live in Germany. It’s a great opportunity!

    The only thing that I would add is that if anyone is in China, they ought try to make the time to visit Hong Kong. It’s a fabulous city. It’s not part of mainland China and you wouldn’t need a visa, but if you’re in “the region” why not LOL!

      Good suggestion, Victoria! I visited Hong Kong last year, and really loved it!

    Hey Amanda – I just discovered your blog, and I love it!

    Instead of going to Guilin, I recommend going all the way to the south of Guangxi province, near the border of Vietnam. If you fly into Nanning, you can take a bus that takes you down towards Daxin, all the way to Detian waterfall (when you get to the top of the waterfall, you’re in Vietnam). The entire area’s landscape is very similar to that of Guilin, but as of right now, it’s still a hidden gem. I have a couple of posts on my blog about it 🙂

    And definitely head out to Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong (a 3 hour bus ride away)! I just went there last week, along with Chengdu, and it was incredible! I’ll probably be writing about my experience soon if you’re interested

    AND (sorry, I’m kind of obsessed with traveling around China right now, so I’ve done a ton of research) when you go to Xi’an, I’d recommend checking out Mt. Hua as well. It’s one of the five sacred mountains of China, and the views are breathtaking. It’s also the one with the semi-dangerous trails/vertical stairs/planks bolted to the side of the mountain, but it seems worth it.

    I hope you do get to make it out to all these places in China – it’s an amazing country!

      Thanks for all those great suggestions, Victoria! There’s SO much of China to see! It’s awesome that you’re exploring so much of it.

    Xi’an is high on my list of places to visit, as I found out that the cuisine there is quite spectacular – hoping to get back to China in the spring! 😀

      I’ll admit that I’m not much of a foodie, but I’ve heard the same of the food!

    I love the photo selection! China is on my Bucket List too!

    Xinjiang is well worth a visit. An interesting experience that shows you the enormous cultural diversity in China. I too am waiting to go to Gansu. The far north near Russia is also unique with a blend of cultures and food. Guangzhou is also often overlooked, which in itself makes it a highlight, as it is far more authentic that tourist cities like beijing and Shanghai

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