Hannah Methven, our product manager for Asia, visited China over the festive period. Read her top highlights of this unique and mesmerising country
Christmas Day 2011 was a little different for me. Rather than a massive turkey dinner and lovely presents to open I hopped on a plane at Heathrow and landed in Shanghai the following morning. Having not visited China before I had spent weeks planning the trip and found it impossible to sleep on the flight. It was one of the best trips I have taken in a long time and here are my top highlights of this amazing trip:
Shanghai: a brilliant city full of life, with striking modern design sitting alongside traditional houses with decorative roofs. The Bund was my favourite place to spend time, a stunning promenade lined with colonial buildings and glittering skyscrapers. I met lots of Chinese families enjoying a stroll and there are plenty of bars to enjoy at the end of the day.
Pandas: There was no way I was missing this out. At the Panda Research Centre in Chengdu I saw nine baby pandas, all around four months old and utterly adorable. Whilst they are in captivity the experience is brilliant, they have huge enclosures and are well looked after. Spoilt children in China are often referred to as a â€˜Chengdu Pandaâ€™.
Warriors: The Terracotta Army at Xian can only be described as incredible. One of the Worldâ€™s most famous archaeological discoveries the site is home to 6000 warrior statues in pit 1 alone. 2000 are visible and the remainder are still buried beneath the ground awaiting excavation once techniques are developed to preserve the brightly coloured paint used on each figure.
Beijing: A visit wouldnâ€™t be complete without seeing the capital. In contrast to Shanghai, Beijing is a very traditional city home to the sprawling Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the beautiful Summer Palace set dramatically above Kunming Lake. To escape the busy streets for a while I went to the Temple of Heaven, set in 659 acres of parkland which looked particularly spectacular on the day I visited as it had been snowing heavily.
The Great Wall: Leaving the city behind I went out to Mutianyu to see a small section of the Great Wall. Reportedly seen from space I was expecting something special and I wasnâ€™t disappointed. I was surprised by how steep some of the sections were as well as how wide the wall itself is. Built more than 2000 years ago, snaking from the border with North Korea to Shanhaiguan on the eastern coast it is a true feat of engineering.
Harbin: Undoubtedly the highlight of my trip was experiencing the annual Snow and Ice Festival in Harbin. Located close to the Russian border, temperatures in Harbin hover around -25 degrees centigrade during the winter. The locals have embraced these conditions and each year there is a celebration where huge sculptures are carved from snow and ice, including full size brightly lit famous landmarks and buildings. This year there was a St Basilâ€™s Cathedral carved from snow!
Why not take a look at our full range of China Adventure Holidays and experience this all first hand.