Things to do in China, Visiting the Major Cities and Hiking the Great Wall

April 20, 2017

Things to Do In China, Visiting All the Major Cities

Getting Lost in Guangzhou

I headed over to Mainland China on a Tuesday morning. My exciting journey across China began with a half an hour subway ride. First I took the subway for about 45 minutes to the border of Hong Kong, then I walked across the border to Shenzhen. Travel to China is not so easy, because you need a visa, which you can only get at the embassy. I waited a couple of days in Hong Kong for my visa. However, it is a fascinating country and there are so many places to visit in China. I was excited to finally reach the country of Mao and discover all the exciting things to do in China.

Crossing The Chinese Border -Things to Do In China

Crossing The Chinese Border – Things to Do In China

Guanzhou China- Things to Do In China

Guanzhou China- Things to Do In China

I wanted to stay in Shenzhen for a day to explore the city, but I quickly realized that there was not much to see there. It was just another big city with shopping malls. I hopped on the train to Guangzhou. Guangzhou is the third biggest city in China after Shanghai and Beijing with a population of about 6 million people. It took an hour an a half to reach Guangzhou by train from Shenzhen. When I got there I quickly realized that nobody spoke any English at all and no one understood me and I was so lost. I was wondering around for about an hour with my heavy backpack until I found a person who could help me find my hotel. I was staying on the main street of Guangzhou called Tianhe Beilu, which is like the 5th Avenue of the city, but noone could understand me and point me to the right direction. I was so frustrated at that point. I had to go to a 7/11 and eat a few candy bars to relieve the stress that I was going thru. In the end I found a girl who walked me to my hotel. She spoke no English at all. She grabbed me by the arm and took me to my hotel. It was weird to follow someone who could not communicate with me at all. Guangzhou was not the best places in China to be honest. Next morning I realized that there was not much to see in Guangzhou either so I got a train ticket for the night train to Guilin. I spent the day walking up and down on the main street (Tianhe Bei Lu). The skyscrapers were all very new and they were bigger than any skyscrapers I had ever seen before. I felt very little and intimidated when I was walking around in the big city. The city was not very exciting and I was afraid that I would get lost again so I did not venture out to see more. Guangzhou had an amazing modern subway system. I took the train at 6 o’clock to the railway station and it was one of the scariest moments of my whole trip. There were thousands of people on the train station and they were all trying to get on the train. When a train arrived, nobody waited for the passengers to get off the train, as soon as the door opened thousands of Chinese people started running to the doors and tried to squeeze into the train. It was scary. Travel in China can be challenging because of the crowds. It was obvious to me on the first day in China that the infrastructure was absolutely amazing. They have the best railway system in the World. Even the night train was great, clean and convenient. It was very easy to travel from one point to the next.

 Guilin, China

Guilin and Yongshou are one of the most famous sites in China, because of their famous karst formations and beautiful landscapes.
I arrived to Guilin early in the morning and checked into a hotel near the railway station. After that, I spent the day watching the rain outside from my hotel lobby. By the afternoon it cleared up and I decided to venture out to see the city. I quickly realized that it was impossible to find anything in the city, because nobody spoke any English. My map was in English too, so it was pretty much useless, because the street signs were in Chinese. So, I hopped on a double decker bus and rode it on the main road of the city to see the town. The city was not very exciting to be honest. I found a big park with a big lake and two Chinese towers and pretty bridges.

Park in Guilin - Things to Do In China

Park in Guilin – Things to Do In China

Chinese Towers in Guilin - Things to Do In China

Chinese Towers in Guilin – Things to Do In China

I hung around there for a while, but then I headed back to the hotel, because I realized that there was not too many things to see in Guilin. The next morning I hopped on a bus to Yangshuo.

Yangshou, China

Yangshou is probably the most touristy place in the entire China. I loved that little town. I love touristy places. The bus ride from Guilin took about an hour and a half. Then I was lost again for an hour until I found my hotel. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away from the bus station, but took much longer to find it. At this point it was no surprise to me any more that no one spoke any English. Yangshou is a small town built around beautiful karst mountains situated by the Li River. It is one of the most famous landmarks in China and one of the most beautiful places in China.

Landscape of Yongshou, China

Landscape of Yangshou, China

The scenery is very beautiful. On the first day I decided to explore the city on foot. West Street was the main street in the center of town with a huge market. You could literally buy anything there from food to clothing to Chinese goodies. I loved that market. It was a great place to buy souvenirs and street food.

Girl in a Traditional Outfit in Yongshou, China

Girl in a Traditional Outfit in Yangshou, China

In the afternoon it started raining and from that point on it pretty much rained for the entire time I was in Yangshuo. It was a bit annoying because I did not get to do any hiking or rock climbing as I planned. I still had a good time hanging out on the rooftop bars every night playing drinking games with the other tourists. I also frequently visited the market to get food and souvenirs. I spent my afternoons in the McDonald’s reading Orwell’s Burmese Days (that I bought in Burma) waiting for the rain to stop so that I could go out. The interesting thing about McDonald’s in China is that there is one on every corner and they are all totally packed all the time. I think Chinese people love McDonald’s. On the last day I rented a bike and biked around the outskirts of the town, but I was getting wet all the time so I was not happy. After two days I had enough of the rain and I started wondering where to go in China to see more of the beauty of the country. I hopped on a train to Shanghai. In this country there are so many things to see, you can spend months traveling from one place to the next in China.

Shanghai, China

It took me about 22 hours on the train to get to Shanghai. The night trains in China are superb, so I didn’t mind the ride. This time my compartment was next to the wash room and I could hear Chinese people spitting in the wash room all night long. Chinese people spit all the time. I found this to be totally gross. In Shanghai I stayed at my German friend’s place. Ivo is the coolest German I have ever met in my life. We had much fun together. On the first night we went out for dinner and to several bars. He showed me the Shanghai skyline and the Bund. Shanghai is definitely one of the best cities in China. The city is definitely  one of the most beautiful places in China.

Shanghai by Night, China

Shanghai by Night, China

There were so many things to see in China. I was a bit overwhelmed with these beautiful cities. The Bund is a strip right by the river where people walk around and they can see the entire skyline of the modern Shanghai. I was so impressed by Shanghai. Imagine a city that looks like Paris on one side of the river and looks like New York on the other side. Shanghai was super cheap and incredibly and modern and there were so many attractions in China everywhere. I ended up spending four days there. I took my friend’s bike and biked everywhere. I visited the Yuyuan Garden and the Old Town. Most tourist places in China were very beautiful.

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, China

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, China

 Outside of the Yuyuan Garden there was a really big market. It was a great place. At night Ivo and I went to the fake market. It had an incredible collection of designer bags and everything else you can think of. Fake stuff are the things to buy in China and they are everywhere. So I shopped and shopped and shopped. Next day I visited the Antique Market and lots of shopping malls. I partied at Xin-Tian-Di at night with my new friends. I shopped so much in Shanghai. It made me so happy. I also took the ferry over to Pudong. Pudong is the modern part of Shanghai.

Pudong, Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

It looked like New York with all the skyscrapers. The architecture was super modern. I also saw a Chinese Acrobatic Show. The show was one of the best tourist attractions in China.

Shanghai Acrobatics Show - things to do in China

Shanghai Acrobatics Show – things to do in China

Shanghai Acrobatics Show - things to do in China

Shanghai Acrobatics Show – things to do in China

It was impressive. After 4 days of parting and shopping and biking around Shanghai, I took another night train to reach Beijing, my last destination on this trip. The railway station in Shanghai is the most modern railway station I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a futuristic airport. I got on the train and the train was superb as well. Each bed had a flat screen TV. For about an hour, I was reading about what to do in Beijing and watched my flat screen TV and then I fell asleep.

The Bund of Shanghai - things to do in China

The Bund of Shanghai – things to do in China

 Beijing, China

In Beijing I stayed at a beautiful hotel that had a big aquarium in the lobby and lots of flowers. It was a nice treat in the end of my trip. After checking in, I went to the modern district to have lunch with a friend of mine from New York.

Modern Architecture in Beijing - Things to Do In China

Modern Architecture in Beijing – Things to Do In China

My friend was so nice, he took me to a fancy restaurant to have Peking Duck. After that I was wondering what to see in Beijing first. There were so many things to see in Beijing. I did not know where to start my tour. I decided to see some of the most famous sites of Beijing first, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. There were many things to do in Beijing. I was overwhelmed by this giant city. Most touristy places in China were huge and well-maintained.

Forbidden City, Beijing - Things to Do In China

Forbidden City, Beijing – Things to Do In China

The Forbidden City is used to be the Imperial Palace for hundreds of years and it was forbidden for any common people to enter. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was huge. I met an American boy while I was exploring the Forbidden City and I ended up hanging out with him for the next three days. He was a fun guy. China tourist attractions were all enormous. After that I crossed Tiananmen Square. It was almost 5 kms long. I actually did not walk all the way to the end. I was too tired. These sites were two of the best places to visit in China.

Next day I went to see the Summer Palace. It is one of the most beautiful one of the China points of interest.

Summer Palace, Beijing - Things to Do In China

Summer Palace, Beijing – Things to Do In China

The Summer Palace was about an hour away by subway. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was a huge lake in the middle and there were different palaces and buildings around it. I spent half a day walking around these buildings. I also took a boat ride on the river. After the Summer Palace I visited the Beihai Park. It was a humongous park. It was pretty but so windy. While walking towards the park I realized that Beijing was actually an ugly town. It is a huge, polluted industrial town. It wasn’t a very exciting place at all. There are some of the top places to visit in Beijing. The Great Wall of China

Hiking The Great Wall

On my last day in Beijing and on my last day on this vacation I hiked the Great Wall. Everyone on their trip to China should visit the Chinese Great Wall. It is one of the seven modern wonders of the World and one of the most famous places in China.

The Great Wall of China - Things to Do In China

The Great Wall of China – Things to Do In China

It was a wonderful experience. We hiked for about 3 hours. It was a pretty easy hike.
At night I went out with my new American friend to get dinner and some drinks. He was a fun company told me much about life in China. Next day I took the plane back to Europe. The Great Wall of China

Spending 3 months in Asia was absolutely incredible. It was a life time experience and I am so glad I was able to do it. The Great Wall of China

Read more about hiking and camping on The Great Wall of China.

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About Barbara

Barbara is a London based luxury travel and lifestyle blogger. She started traveling through Paris, London, New York, Milan, Tokyo at the age of 17 to conquer the World as a model. Ever since, she has visited 67 countries. She writes about the most exclusive jet-set destinations such as Cannes, Venice Film Festivals, Monaco Grand Prix, Oscar Parties in LA, Fashion Weeks in Milan or Paris as well as yacht parties in St-Tropez, Miami Art Basel, Biennale in Venice, Frieze in London or the Royal Wedding in Monaco.

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  • DeafWanderlust

    Wow you spent three months in China? and that’s not even all of China. China is definitely huge. Glad you were able to make the most of your trip despite of the weather and language barriers. The Great Wall is on my bucket list

    • Barb

      I was only in China for a little over 2 weeks, but in Asia for 3 months. The Great Wall is a must.

  • China seems to be a great travel destination. The culture, the traditions and the modern sky scrappers, the country has it all. Would love to see the Great Wall someday. Seems you had a great time.

    • Barb

      Yes, it s a fascinating country without a doubt. I hope you will see it with your own eyes.

  • China is a fusion of future and history. I like how different parts of this country offers rich culture. And hey, good thing you’re able to get back to your hotel! 🙂

    • Barb

      Yes, its fascinating, but at the same time it was difficult to travel around.

  • Debra Schroeder

    What a scary experience, so glad that girl was friendly and helpful to walk you back to your hotel. Thankfully it was the only bad experience of your trip. There’s so much to see and do in China that 3 months isn’t long enough.

    • Barb

      I was only in China for little over 2 weeks. 3 months was my entire trip in Asia. Yes, it s not so easy to get around in China if you cant read chinese letters.

  • China is the land of tradition, culture and delicious foods. They have different style of architecture too. Happy to see you there.

    I would like to visit China and Tibet. Favorite spots for history and adventure lovers. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.

    • Barb

      It was my pleasure. Yes, I would love to visit Tibet too one day.

  • Brianna @ The Casual Travelist

    China is definitely a bucket list destination for me. Shanghai looks like the city of the future and the Great Wall has so much history.

    • Barb

      Yes, Shanghai was definitely my favorite destination. The Great Wall is one of the modern wonders of the World, so I would strongly suggest everyone to see it once.

  • megan_claire

    I recently visited China for the first time, and spent two weeks in Qinghai – was a really wonderful experience, and I was amazed at the diversity on offer here. I need to get back and explore more of the country, as you’ve noted here, there’s so much to see!

    • Barb

      Sounds like a fun visit. I have never heard of that city. I will look it up for my next visit.

  • I would love to start hiking on the Great Wall and see how far I could travel. Three hours doesn’t seem like enough time to see something that big. China is such a beautiful and foreign country that you “see” all the time but never really know until you travel there.

    • Barb

      Yes and it is not an easy destination to travel to. The Chinese Great Wall is so huge, you can hike it for days if you want.

  • Tamara Elliott (Globe Guide)

    Wow you saw a ton of places! There’s no question there is tons to see and do in China- you’ve captured a lot of the highlights here.

    • Barb

      Yes, there are still more to see, but yes, I have surely covered the best spots.

  • Mellissa Williams

    You explored a lot in that time! Was it busy when you hiked the great wall of China? I would love to see the Forbidden city

    • Barb

      Yes, everything in China is very busy all the time.

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