TOP 5 Ways to Experience China at Its Best

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Guarded entrance to the Forbidden City adorned with Mao’s portrait, Beijing, China

It’s no secret that China has gotten a bad rep. Western media constantly reminds us of the evils of its authoritarian government and the severe environmental degradation plaguing the country. While I don’t deny the importance of these serious issues, I believe that the attributes of this extraordinary country also deserve to be highlighted. During the 6 months I spent in China, I fell in love with its people, their culture, and the beautiful diverse land they call home.

I was lucky enough to see China at its best. Here are some tips on how you too can get the authentic Chinese experience:

[1] Leave your inhibitions at home

Culture shock is inevitable in China, so prepare yourself–especially if you want to go outside of the tourist bubble. Hygiene, cleanliness, personal space, and comfort are four things that you may have to sacrifice on. It’s best to keep reminding yourself that it’s all just part of the adventure!

[2] Do your homework

China has a long, rich history, and it really pays off to at least read the cliff notes–it’s sure to enrich your Chinese experience. At the very least, try to have a general understanding of Imperial China and the Cultural Revolution. You may also want to read a bit about Confucius, if you’re interested in going to his hometown of Qufu, which I loved visiting (see photos below) and will discuss more in later posts.

[3] Pick up some Mandarin

Exit sign at a train station in Shandong province

Even if you just learn a few words, it’ll be worth it when you see the faces of the locals light up–trust me. In my experience, Chinese people–especially those living outside of the main tourist centres–love to hear foreigners speak their language. Besides, if you’re planning to venture off the beaten track, you’ll need to pick up the basics just to get around. Hardly anyone speaks English, and it shows in some of the pretty hilarious ‘Chinglish’ signs you’ll see around you.

[4] Free your taste buds

Chinese eggplant, potato and green pepper dish

Eggplant, potato and green pepper dish traditional to the Shandong region

Real Chinese food may not be what you expect. A lot of it is very different from what you may be used to eating out of take-out containers in the West. However, don’t be afraid to try new things. You’ll probably be surprised by how delicious authentic Chinese food really is.

[5] Go where the locals go 

Not only is this true when it comes to restaurants, but travel destinations in China, as well. Some places that are immensely popular with Chinese tourists are practically overlooked by foreigners. I think it’s a shame because those were some of the most amazing places I visited in China. My favourites were Qufu, Zoucheng, Tai’an, and Tai Shan in Shandong province. I will write more about these places in future posts, but for now, I leave you below with a gallery of some of the photographs I took there.

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As always, happy travels!
– Ala

alaserafin.com

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7 thoughts on “TOP 5 Ways to Experience China at Its Best

    • Thanks! I’m going to be adding an article to this post about how to get this kind of authentic Chinese experience. Come back and check it out if you’re interested. Maybe it will give you some ideas for planning your future trip to China :)

  1. Interesting tips about China. I have been trying to get to China for a few years now, I’d love to see some of the countryside there. I find your point number 1 to be intriguing. I guess I’ll have to wait and see…

  2. Nice post! China is a great country to visit. I absolutely agree. I spent 2 months in China and I saw many great things like:
    – the tiger leaping gorge in Yunnan
    – the great wall
    – Panda’s
    – the terracotta army

    There are so many nice things to see in china. Good tip about learning some mandarin. English is far from common in China (even in the big cities). Good blog by the way! I’ll add it my favorites ;-)

    Cheers Bastiaan

  3. Great tips!! I have to agree that learning some of the local language can go a long ways. And whenever my husband and I travel, we always eat where the locals dine and we have made some awesome memories interacting with them and trying authentic cuisine!

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