Housing 20% of the world’s population, China is not a country that does things in small measures. From the vast and varied terrains of desert to tropical forest to hillside paddy terraces; the rich cultural and historical heritage of this ancient civilisation – of which the Great Wall and incredible Terracotta Army reign supreme – are reason enough to visit. Since China opened its doors to the West, tourists have been flooding in, helped recently with the country’s lavish hosting of the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Expo. 

China is a country impatient to develop and exceed its western counterparts. However, there is a cost to this shift from communism to capitalism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the historic hutongs of Beijing and Shanghai, many of which were cleared for development, and in the careless conservation and ‘Disneyfication’ of some of China’s precious artefacts. Luckily many of its natural wonders like Lake Kanasi, Huangshan Mountain and the Jiuzai Valley remain untouched or have come under the protection of UNESCO, like the Wolong Nature Preserve near Chengdu, which houses the precious giant pandas.  Now that its self-imposed isolation has lifted, China is a country trying to find its identity and it is this struggle between old and new that makes it such a fascinating and enriching country to explore. 

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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