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The Ultimate Cruise Destination Guide: China

China is vast. The sort of size that makes your head spin a little if you think about it for too long. It’s a bustling sprawl of ancient civilisation and up-to-the-minute fresh ideas spun together to make one of the most advanced and exciting countries on the planet. Whether you’re travelling for mist-wreathed temple-

peaked mountains, the flashing lights and sci-fi cities, or the ever-changing, ever-developing culture that contrasts so much with our own, China has it all and in abundance.


Where better to start than China’s notorious capital city, made that bit more famous in the Olympic games of 2008? The most populated city in the world, and the second biggest city in China, Beijing is heaving with things to do and see, and seeing as I can’t list them all, here are some of the favourites! I’m pretty certain nothing is associated with China more than a great big wall. Of course, I’m referring to the only Great Wall that matters right now, which, for your information, is best viewed at Mutianyo. A large part of the area here has been restored, but despite its upgrade, it’s remained tranquil and calm, which is the only way to enjoy something as majestic as the Great Wall of China.

Nestled in the very heart of Beijing, surrounded by a 52m-wide moat, the Forbidden City is a collection of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world. So called, because the city was off-limits for a while, it’s now a palace hotspot with more than 9000 rooms spread over 250 acres. What once would have cost you your life for a visit, now costs no more than £6.00. Sheer scale and huge collections will amaze you, and many people who’ve been will tell you that if you haven’t seen the City, you haven’t seen Beijing.

The Summer Palace is a wide-spread ground of Imperial gardens, alongside the iconic palaces. It’s well worth an entire day’s exploring, to see the gardens around Kūnmíng Lake, the curious statues that peer at you as you wander, and the light-hearted entertainers near the shops and restaurants of the North Gate.

Seeing as you’re making the Imperial rounds, it’s just as worthwhile to stop by the Temple of Heaven, described by Lonely Planet as a “tranquil ocean of peace and methodical Confucian design in one of China’s busiest urban landscapes.” If you’re into specifics, it’s actually an alter rather than a temple, so you won’t see any worshippers or incense. You will see great crowds who come to practise martial arts in the peaceful area outside, and lines upon lines of ancient trees, some as many as 800 years old, standing guard of the area.

Tian’anmen Square rounds off your sightseeing adventure in Beijing, as the largest public square in the world (with a maximum capacity of about 1 million people). The site is a historic landmark, a place of protest, expansion and the location of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong

Intense, enigmatic, bold, brave, ceaseless, and wild. Hong Kong is incomparable, and one adjective will never be enough to paint the picture of a city that ties together so much culture and life. The only way to understand is to go, see and explore these places...

First things first, the skyline. Yes, you’ve seen skylines before. Maybe you’ve seen New York, or Sydney, or even Dubai. But Hong Kong trumps them all. Catch the morning sun glistening off skyscrapers from the harbour in Kowloon, or see the city come alive at night from Le1880 restaurant with a view that takes your breath away. Maybe you’ll catch the tram, see the city, head for Victoria Peak (where you should definitely grab a dinner at The Peak), and see the night light show from the mountain.

Now that you’ve done that, you have to stop by the Po Lin Monastery. The Tian Tan Big Buddha statue is an incredible 34 metres tall, constructed from 202 bronze pieces, and is obviously the landmark you’re there to visit. It’s said it can be seen as far as Macau on a clear day, but it’s worthwhile climbing the 268 steps to see it close up. And in case you aren’t feeling the steps, there is a small access road, typically used by those who can’t make the climb.

Tsim Sha Tsui promenade would typically be written about alongside the section on Hong Kong’s skyline, but the experience is so unique that it deserves its own paragraph. By day the promenade is a hub of activity, as a lovely place to take a stroll, with an uninterrupted view of the cityscape. At night the Symphony of Lights light-and-sound show involving more than 40 different skyscrapers takes place and the view is spectacular.

Markets are an element of Hong Kong that many people don’t talk about, but experiencing the city and its culture through the people is the best way to do so. Ladies Market (on Tung Choi Street) and Temple Street Night Market are two favourites, where you can buy trinkets, clothing, food, antiques, and electronics, haggling prices to your hearts content.

Ocean Park, Hong Kong’s very own jungle-like park, finds itself ranked 7th as one of the world’s most popular theme parks, with zoos, aquatics centre, and plenty of themed rides. Vast amounts of money have gone into this amusement park over the last 5 years, and hailed as a beautiful and engaging competitor for Disney Shanghai, it brings you the joyful experience that you just can’t get from sombre temples and statues. Panda sanctuaries, Marine Land, Thrill Mountain, Aqua City, and Polar Adventure are all just a small taste of the modern entertainment that China has to offer. Like visiting Florida and not stopping off at Disneyland, Ocean Park is a must see whilst you’re in Hong Kong.


As a city with its roots in the colonial-era, ritual, and tradition, Shanghai has its head in the clouds and its mind in the future. It bears the proud title of the global financial hub, and is actually China’s biggest city. The city has its heart in The Bund, a beautiful promenade and waterway lined with colonial-era

buildings. There is so much to do and explore here, but here are just a few of Shanghai’s highlights.

As with Hong Kong, Shanghai’s skyline will wow you. Without a doubt. Catch it lit up in a fading pink sunset from the skywalk observatory and you’ll have pictures that will have people in awe for the rest of your life. The Observatory and Skywalk give you a bird’s eye view of some of the most iconic buildings,

including the World Finance Centre, and you can enjoy the view at any time of the day!

Another place for great pictures is the Bund, lined with buildings that look they’ve been pulled from the 1920s. People come from all over China to see what the fashionable people of Shanghai are wearing, and to find out hottest trends in fashion, music, food and so much more! Whether you’re there to find out what’s hot, watch people watching people or enjoy a stroll through 1925, the Bund is the place to be.

Not as if you’d expect anything less, this futuristic city has the world’s first magnetic-levitation train, in use from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the Shanghai Metro station where passengers can continue to the city centre. With top speeds of 267mph, the mag-lev (Transrapid) is a perfect metaphor for Shanghai’s smooth and speedy travel into the future.

For lovers of art, 50 Moganshan Road is the heart of Shanghai’s creative world. Once abandoned warehouses now house Shanghai’s best collections of modern artwork, including work by Ding Yi and Zhou Tiehai, who you can see at work! Contemporary pieces from this area can sell for millions, and you can’t miss the opportunity to watch the artists at work.

Shanghai Museum next, an iconic landmark situated in the People’s Square, with one of the biggest collections of ancient Chinese artefacts in the whole of China. The museum gives out 8000 free tickets a day, so if you want the guarantee you can stop by or call to reserve for a visit. If you want to see ancient treasures still in circulation, make sure to check out Dongtai Road where you’ll find plenty of antiques and collectors shops with all manners of trinkets and trophies to bring home.


Lonely Planet calls Xi’an’s fabled past a double-edged sword. Fitting for a city whose main source of interest lies in tens of thousands of ancient stone warriors. Yes, the city of the Terracotta warriors from the Qin dynasty is what everyone wants to see, but little does everyone know, there’s more to proud Xi’an than just stone men.

As the symbol of the old line Xian, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is your perfect first stop in the city, to see the ancient building and holy place for many Buddhists. Built in 652AD, the building is now over 210 feet, and ideal if you can climb the many winding stairs inside to look over the beautiful and peaceful city. And if you’re feeling adventurous find a trustworthy local to tell you why they believe the building has its unique name!

Next stop is Xi’an’s symbolic Bell Tower, built in the Ming dynasty of 1384, this is the grandest of its kind in the whole of China! Towering close to 130 feet, with huge bronze bells, the building covers over 1350 square metres and is surrounded by legend. One such tale regards a vast dragon that lived in the river stretching through the city and caused many earthquakes. They say that hundreds of blacksmiths and builders worked day and night to chain this dragon and keep him secure under the Bell Tower. From that day, Xi’an has never experienced an earthquake.

To the northwest of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda lies one of the largest history museums in China. Shaanxi History Museum houses over 370,000 relics, including many intricate statues, coins, pieces of armour, paintings and more. The museum gives away 4000 free tickets a day, but make sure to take your passport as they use this to register tickets for those from overseas!

Of course, China’s wall is just so great it can’t help but be mentioned at least twice. Though Xi’an doesn’t highlight how close it is to the Great Wall of China, you can still visit the ruins, enjoying a walk on or alongside it. Some parts of the wall are in disrepair as this area hasn’t been specifically designed for intrepid world explorers, so watch your step if you’re keen to risk the walk on top. Wherever you are in China, seeing the Great Wall by night is a unique experience that leaves you feeling calm and at peace.

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