China in your hands
China on your bucket list but looking a bit daunting? Get the lowdown from experts
With everything from terracotta warriors to pandas, casino cities to mountains to five-star river cruises, China is a truly special destination. I’ve visited Hong Kong and Macau but mainland China with all its famous sites has long languished on my bucket list because it’s a little more tricky. If you’ve had similar thoughts then read on because we asked our friends at Sussex and Kent travel experts Baldwins Travel Group to give us the lowdown on the best way to explore this beautiful land.
How to get there?
‘Go with Wendy Wu!’ they told us.
‘Who is this Wendy Wu who’s going to kindly take me on holiday with her?!’ you’re thinking. Well, I can confirm she is a lovely woman – I actually met her at a travel event once – but she has also given her name to the tour operator she founded. Wendy Wu is now one of the UK’s leading Asia specialists (who can actually take you worldwide to places like Latin America too), but they’ve managed to hold onto that personal touch and they’re particular experts in China.
But they do coach tours, right?
Think escorted tours are just for retirees? Think again, because Wendy Wu tell us the average age of travellers on such trips has recently dropped by a decade. And to keep up with demand travel companies are now offering cooler, authentic experiences that allow for the kind of authentic cultural immersion that the younger traveller enjoys (see below).
Most importantly China is a place where even keen independent travellers like myself put their hands up and let the experts take over over. Because of the language barrier, unless you are fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese getting around on your own is very difficult – no one speaks English, you won’t even be able to read signs… then there’s the red tape. On an escorted tour everything is organised, from food to visas.
Want to see all the famous sights?
Wendy Wu’s popular Wonders of China tour is a 16 day journey covering all the classics, including Beijing (the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and many more iconic sites), Xian (Terracotta Warriors), a Yangtze River cruise and a Panda House visit. You also take in the beautiful and stunning scenery of Guilin & Yangshou in the South and finish off in Shanghai, the most modern city in China. How’s that for the ultimate whistle-stop tour of the ‘bucket list’ bits?
Want a cool city break?
Hong Kong and Macau is the cool twin-centre trip you may not have heard of. Hong Kong of course is famous for shopping and Michelin starred restaurants. Macau meanwhile is its quirky lesser-known neighbour which I can personally recommend. It has a long, eye-popping casino strip with a lot of the same famous glitzy and themed hotels you find in Vegas. Added to that, in its heritage areas is has a Portuguese influence from colonial times mixed with old and present day Chinese culture. So, you get mosaic cobbled streets and Catholic churches and those moreish custard tarts all blended together with Buddhist temples and dim sum. On top of that it even has some decent beaches! Check out Wendy Wu’s Hong Kong and Macau Short Stay Trip
At the moment you take a ferry ride between Hong Kong and Macau but in 2018 a new road bridge will open making it even easier to twin these two fun and fabulous destinations.
After a bit of adventure?
Travellers nowadays aren’t content to just sit on a coach and watch the scenery, they want to get involved with local customs and activities. If this sounds like you then check out Wendy Wu’s new Immerse Yourself discovery tours, that include such experiences as hiking the Great Wall of China, visiting one of the less touristy panda reserves, and, beyond China, taking a tuk-tuk around the famous Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia (I’ve done that, it’s glorious!) or a Vespa tour around bars and food stalls in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or perhaps a jeep tour of Rajasthan in India. You can even visit Everest base camp in Nepal (need I go on…?)
What about those pandas?!
Most Chengdu stops include a visit to a panda sanctuary. Wendy Wu’s In Pursuit of Pandas experience is a nine-day tour that takes you through the imperial treasures of Beijing through atmospheric Xian (with its famous legions of Terracotta Warriors) to reach the city of Chengdu, where you will meet its most famous residents – the captivating Giant Pandas. Here you can actually roll your sleeves up and get involved in conservation work – helping to clean up the habitat of these endangered creatures. Awww.
So there you go, China in your hands… and you safely in the hands of experts.