Modern China has come of age. On the crest of wave since hosting the 2008 Olympics, the most populous country in the world is surging forward in a boom the speed and scale of which the planet has never seen. In the mega cities of its eastern seaboard, skyscrapers, apartment blocks and shopping malls are sprouting at every turn, and new cars clog freeways where only a few years ago fields rolled to empty horizons.
Back in the rural hinterland, however, it’s a different story. Life in many Chinese villages has evolved little since the era of the Ming dynasty. Rice is still cultivated by hand, horses haul the ploughs and the ancient teachings of Confucius hold as much sway as those of Mao Tse Tung.
All which makes travelling in this vast country more compelling than ever. With economic liberalism preceding apace, there’s never been a better time to visit China. No longer do foreign travellers have to stay in hulking, cold, government-run hotels, or move around at the mercy of the country’s over-taxed train network. Now, international-grade five-stars – and even the odd boutique hotel – provide stylish comfort in all but the most far-flung destinations. China’s principal tourist centres may be separated by huge distances, but they can be reached in air-con cars and coaches, on fast roads.
Moreover, the spectacles that most visitors come to see remain undiminished by the revolution taking place around them: the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terracotta Army, Yangtze gorges and limestone mountains around Guilin and Yangshuo all retain their timeless allure. As does the presence, at seemingly every step, of transmissions from China’s distant past. Set down 2,000 years ago, the script used on today’s neon signs is the oldest continuously used form of writing in the world. And the dragons and rampant lions decorating contemporary houses derive from art patronized by the great Imperial dynasties of the Ming and Qin ages.
Cut off from the rest of Asia by the Russian steppes to the north and by Himalayas to the south, China has spent literally thousands of years recycling its ancient cultures. And although today’s rush for modernity may seem to replicate the style of the west, it is being conducted in manner that is unmistakably Chinese.
TransIndus group tours and tailor-made holidays to China will guide you around the country’s highlights, as well as less well known backwaters where you can glimpse the world of local minority communities, renowned for their extravagant traditional costumes and ancient music and dance traditions. Our tours use only the most comfortable and stylish hotels in their class, whether luxurious five stars or boutique hideaways with oddles of old-world Chinese charm.
Area: 9.3 million square kilometres (39 times the size of the UK)
Population: 1.3 billion (21 times the UK’s)
Religions: Officially an atheist nation. Buddhism remains the main unofficial religion but also practised are Taoism, Christianity and Islam
Languages: Standard Chinese (Mandarin) is spoken by 96% of the population. Cantonese in Southern Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. Various dialects and minority languages spoken throughout the nation. Tibetan languages in Tibet Autonomous Region and Turkic languages in Xinjiang Province. English is generally not largely understood outside major hotels and tourist areas
Time: +8 hours (GMT)
When to Go
March-May and September-November are the most pleasant months to visit, as temperatures are more moderate and nature is at its most glorious. The summer months, from June to August, are generally swelteringly hot and much of the country is very crowded. The winter months, from mid November till late March, are often bitterly cold and many sights close during that time. The Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year) in January or February, the May Week (first week of May) and the Mid-Autumn Festival in October see several hundred million Chinese travelling to their hometowns and tourism grinds to a halt during these weeks. The tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea is the only year-round destination in China. The Tibetan Plateau, including parts of Yunnan and Sichuan, is best visited in summer, from late June till mid September. Xinjiang Province in the west of China and the bordering Central Asian countries are some of the hottest places on the planet and are to be avoided in summer.
British Airways offers direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Air China offers direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai. Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong. Virgin Atlantic operates direct to Hong Kong and Shanghai, and China Eastern offers direct flights to Shanghai. Indirect options are available including via Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Dubai and Bangkok.
Private Transfers and Sightseeing
All our independent and tailor-made travel is based on private cars or vans with an experienced driver. Air-conditioning is now standard on the majority of vehicles in major cities and important tourist areas.
Air-conditioned buses, vans and cars are available in the main tourist areas. Road conditions vary considerably and vehicles can be more basic in rural areas or during busy holiday seasons.
A good network of internal flights links many of the major cities and smaller airports are opening up continuously throughout the country
A well developed system connects all regions of China. Hard sleeper (6 berths, open compartments) and soft sleeper (2 or 4 berths, closed compartments) are available for overnight train journeys. Some luxury trains with two-berth compartments featuring private bathrooms are available between major cities.
Ferries link the major island groups with the mainland and connect Chinese ports to other countries such as South Korea, Russia, Japan and Vietnam. Several cruises are available on the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong and Li Rivers.
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Yet again we have had a truly amazing experience... You succeeded in putting together an excellent itinerary, some parts of it completely understated which served to enthral us and we were very pleased we opted to include the Yunnan Province as an extension - an amazing area of natural beauty and culture.Mrs Crosby, Tailor-made China read more comments