China vacations involve more than just travel to Beijing – the country has opened up over the past few years, and many of China’s secrets are now open to the west, even those on a Chinese vacation.
Vacations to China are becoming increasingly popular and a growing number of travel operators are offering China vacations at cut prices to those wanting to find out the secrets of the Orient that have been hidden from western eyes for so long. However, cheap vacations come at a price, if not in hard cash.
First, it is a long flight to China, and can be very uncomfortable if you are packed into a chartered plane seated to pack as many people in as possible so as to keep the costs low. There is nothing wrong with that if it is what you want, and most people are able to withstand the discomfort of little room to stretch out on a long haul flight. For others, however, it is a problem. Then there is the transport once your vacation has started. If you are sharing your holiday with 49 others, the needs of the average are catered for, and these might not be your needs.
The same is true of hotels that are chosen because they can offer the number of rooms needed to meet the needs of a large party, and the menu for many of the meals will be set to be easily cooked for a large number of people at the lowest possible cost. If these arrangements don’t appeal to you, what are your alternatives?
Some people try to arrange and book their own China vacations, but find it too difficult, considering all the arrangements needed, airport taxes, hotel bookings, entrance fees, local travel and so on. The best way by far is to deal with a travel company that can offer you the luxury and personal attention that China vacations need if you are to enjoy your travel to Beijing and everywhere else in China you want to visit.
Your flights should at least be business class to allow you the leg room and cabin staff attentiveness that you need on a longer flight. Travel should be personal, and not as part of a crowd. You and your partner should have a car to yourselves, driven by your own guide, not share a 52 seater bus. Your hotels should be individually booked, and chosen for their excellence, not their cheap price, and you should be able to choose your own menus.
You might think that such travel companies are difficult to find, or if you did find one, your travel would be severely restricted to allow such a high level of personal service. If so, you would be wrong on both counts. However, for now, let’s consider what good China vacations should involve, apart from the personal service and luxury travel.
Travel to Beijing is a must, with a visit to the Forbidden City, the ancient seat of the Chinese emperors that sits right in front of the famous (or infamous) Tiananmen Square. Not as part of a large group, but privately, just you and your partner. With 9,999 buildings, it was forbidden for a non-aristocrat or royal to enter it prior to 1911. A visit to the Peking Opera is also a must, as is a delicious meal of Peking duck!
Many Chinese vacations stop at Beijing, or perhaps include a brief visit to the Wall, and if you want more you have to look around and make sure that the vacation you book involves more than just travel to Beijing and the Forbidden City that seems to satisfy many people. You must at least visit the Summer Palace with its marble boat built by the Empress Cixi with funds embezzled from the navy, and the Temple of Heaven, larger than the Forbidden City. You must also visit the Great Wall and enjoy a traditional Chinese banquet of several different course.
Everybody has heard of the terracotta warriors in Xian: thousands of them, life-size with horses and chariots, and you must also pay a visit to Chengdu to see a real live panda. Also, don’t forget that China is close to Tibet, and you could pay a visit to Lhasa and see Mount Everest and the palaces of the Dalai Lama. Visitors are allowed to visit the chambers and to look out on Lhasa from the seven storey White Palace. However, back to China.
All China vacations should allow you to spend some time on one o China’s many rivers and watch the cormorants that are trained to dive for fish: their necks are slightly constricted to prevent them from swallowing the fish. It might sound cruel, but it seems to do them no harm. A visit to Shanghai should also be included on your itinerary, along with a cruise down the Huangpu River. In fact there are many rivers in this part of China that you should visit by boat, but you have to get all this organized in advance.
The main problem with Chinese vacations is that if you want anything more than just to travel to Beijing, you can’t just head off anywhere you want when you feel like it. China is not France or the UK. Tourism is allowed, but only if organized in advance and all permissions are granted. That’s why it is so important to seek out the type of Chinese vacation you want prior to setting off. You can’t change midway.
Chinese vacations can be magnificent and awe-inspiring, and they can also be pretty boring if you have already visited Beijing. Which you get is your choice, but remember that you are generally stuck with what you book, although there might be some tours you can book when in Beijing. Generally, however, vacations to China are best organized in advance with a good travel company experienced in providing you with luxury travel and comprehensive travel to make sure that you visit as many places as possible in the time available to you.