Why travel to China?

He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.” — Chinese proverb

As a kid, someone probably told that if you kept digging a hole, you’d eventually end up in China. Hopefully that person wasn’t your science teacher otherwise you probably also learned that humans hunted dinosaurs to extinction.

But my point is, China was another planet as far as you knew — some far-off, alien place that you’d never see. The closest you could hope for was a Panda Express in the food court at your local mall followed by a lame Jackie Chan buddy-cop movie.

Today traveling to China is almost as common as the clichéd summer backpacking tour through Europe. And with an upgraded tourist infrastructure following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — China’s impressive coming out party — it’s never been easier to explore one of the world’s most fascinating civilizations.

So what are you waiting for — start digging fool!

2008 Olypmics, Beijing National Stadium ("the Bird's Nest")

The Sleeping Giant has woken

Writers like to describe China as a sleeping giant that has woken from a long slumber. If you’ve been reading the news, you know that China has not only woken up, it woke up with morning wood, had some strong tea, and is honking its horn all the way to work.

Yes, without a doubt, modern China is now wide awake and overly-caffeinated. And for better or worse, it’s growing into a global power that will help shape the next millennium.

Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” — another Chinese proverb

But prepare to have your preconceptions shattered. Indeed, it’s easy to get an inaccurate picture of China from “what they say.” There’s no shortage of negative press: government crackdowns, earthquakes, corruption, poisoned dog food, and out-of-control pollution. But these media fragments give a hazy, distorted view.

"You betcha!"

In contrast, I wonder what impressions a first-time visitor to the U.S. must have? A war-loving and water-boarding government, drive-by shootings, terrorist bombers, serial killers, crazed postal employees, levee breaks, and oil spills. Do they think we’re all Super-sized, gun-crazed, gas-guzzling, road-raging, celebrity-obsessed, Octomom freakshows? (the fact that it’s all true is beside the point)

My point is, to even start to understand modern China you need to leave your preconceptions at home and dive in headfirst.

I hope this site will inspire you to go see for yourself.

Shanghai: The Bund

A Nation of Superlatives–interesting facts about China:

  • China is the world’s most populous country, with 1.3 billion officially (up to 1.5 billion by some estimates). Nearly one out of every five humans on earth lives in China.
  • China has 21 cities with population over 5 million (compared to 2 in the US). Has more than 150 cities with over 1 million people (compared to 9 in the US).
  • China is the world’s fastest growing economy — achieving an eye-popping annual average growth rate of 9.5% or more for 28 consecutive years.
  • China overtook Japan as the the world’s second-largest economy in Q2 2010 (faster than most economists predicted).
  • Over 40% of China’s office workers work 10+ hours of overtime a week. And 7% of the entire population works 60+ hours/week.
  • China is currently sitting on world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves (thanks for nothing Wal-Mart!)
  • China currently exports more than a trillion dollars worth of goods annually and will soon account for 50% of the world’s trade.
  • Three quarters of the world’s tall construction cranes are in China.
  • China’s estimated 200 million migrants who left the fields for cities in recent years represent the largest human migration in history.
  • China has the world’s largest standing army (fortunately no stealth bombers…although I’m sure a bootleg version is in the works).
  • China has the highest number mobile phones in the world: almost 800 million active phones and rising rapidly (compared to #3 US with 285m phones).
  • China is Starbucks’ second-largest market (I guess tea doesn’t pack enough punch for this energetic country. Note to self: Buy Red Bull franchise in Shanghai).
  • China is currently the second-biggest market globally for computers. In 2010, China passed the US to become the world’s biggest market for cars (which means millions of new drivers on the seemingly lawless roads. Note to self: Don’t forget travel insurance and adult diapers).

China’s tourist attractions

My hope is that this site will give you a better appreciation of China’s stunning sights, both natural and man-made. A big country (duh), China is packed with diverse sights — stretching from the snowy wildernesses of the north to the Gobi Desert to the lush sub-tropical south.

Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains)

Without a doubt, China has some of world’s most spectacular, jaw-dropping natural sights. If you like mountains, China has the Himalayas Range — home to Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Or climb the much more accessible and stunning mountains of Huangshan and Taishan. Take a river cruise down the Yangtze or through the gorgeous karst topography of the Li River. While you’re there, check out the postcard-perfect rice terraces nearby that have been farmed for thousands of years.

Other destinations are testament to the power and glory of China’s past. Soak in the extraordinary Forbidden City, where China’s emperors lived for over 500 years. Then take a drive to see the Great Wall of China as it snakes thousands of miles across the country. And no trip to China is complete without seeing the ancient Terracotta Army, built over two thousand years ago (making the F-City look “new” by comparison).

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