Today is New Year’s Day, well, certainly as far as the Chinese calendar is concerned anyway. As the Year of the Snake draws to a close, we welcome in the Year of the Horse and a whole new year of China cruises too. With thousands of years of history to its name, China certainly is a fascinating place to explore and the good news is that there are many different China cruises to choose from. Most Far Eastern itineraries will naturally take you to a number of countries but here’s a look at five popular Chinese destinations you can discover on your travels, and the best things to experience while you’re there.
Things to see in Beijing on China cruises
China’s capital is a natural place to start this blog, not least because it’s such a popular choice of destination for China cruises. After all, the country’s most-visited tourist attraction is easily accessible from the city and visits to the Great Wall of China are understandably very popular. You can visit the wall at a number of nearby locations, though the fully-restored section at Mutianyu is arguably the most satisfying.
In Beijing itself, don’t miss the awesome and expansive Summer Palace. Once a retreat for emperors, it’s now open to the public and you can explore the 290-acre park, where you’ll find enough temples, pavilions and tea-houses to scratch any ‘authentic East’ itch. The palace itself, now referred to as the Palace Museum, is a complex of more than 9,000 rooms and fascinating to explore. Speaking of temples, the Temple of Heaven in Tiantan Park is another popular attraction – it’s China’s largest worship building and a beautiful place to explore.
Seeing Shanghai on China cruises
Shanghai’s where you go if you want to get a real taste of contemporary China, and I’m not just talking about the myriad restaurants. Here, you can witness for yourself the soaring skyscrapers and neon wonders which make this city such a popular location. The Shanghai World Financial Center is an unmissable landmark in every sense and the 100th floor observation deck is the highest in the world. Not quite as high but certainly architecturally unmistakeable, the Oriental Pearl Tower is the city’s most instantly recognisable landmark and its metallic spheres home to viewing decks, dance halls, restaurants and bars.
When it comes to less-lofty attractions the Bund is certainly not to be missed. This is one of the city’s most historic areas along the waterfront and home to some beautiful colonial buildings. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city on a cruise and stay, be sure to explore at night when it’s especially beautiful. If you want to explore China’s history in a little more depth, don’t miss the Shanghai Museum, which houses 11 different galleries which contain a host of fascinating pieces from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Witness Hong Kong on China cruises
Hong Kong’s a major destination when it comes to China cruises and indeed, Far East cruises in general. It’s a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which means it can make a number of political decisions independent of the rest of the country and as such presents somewhat of a different feel for those visiting on China cruises.
Hong Kong’s biggest attraction is its truly stunning skyline, which is believed by visitors to be the finest in the world (and that includes travellers who’ve cruised into New York, too). It’s a truly impressive sight from the water and you can explore it in more detail with a waterfront stroll. Another great way to view the skyline and its accompanying harbour is by taking a trip up Victoria Peak, the huge mountain which towers over the city below. The Peak Tram is an attraction in itself and the most popular way to get to the top. If you want to see one of the world’s largest Buddha statues meanwhile, be sure to head over to Lantau Island where Big Buddha resides. Those in search of some true Zen shouldn’t miss Chi Lin Nunnery – peaceful and calming oasis offering all the traditional oriental garden landscapes you could hope for, right in the middle of the city.
Exploring Xiamen on China cruises
This contemporary and attractive city consists of a number of islands and as such, it offers a number of contrasting experiences to the visitor too. If you’re in search of a peaceful retreat then a cruise with Xiamen on the itinerary would be perfect as Gulangyu Island is completely vehicle-free and the calming atmosphere it creates is what makes it one of the city’s top attractions.
Gulang Huandao Road is where to head if you fancy sampling a little of the local cuisine, as it’s lined with many outlets and eateries. It makes for a beautiful scenic beach stroll destination too and the whole stretch is also geared up for cyclists as well, with miles of routes on offer. Xiamen’s great if you like nature too, with the Botanical Garden, Shuzhuang Garden, Haiwan Park and Jimei Turtle Garden all popular destinations. For a commanding view of the whole city, be sure to head out to Riguang Mountain, with its purpose-build viewing area.
Discovering Dalian on China cruises
Dalian’s where many Chinese holiday-goers flock to get their home-grown fix of beach life and its beautiful bays and sandy expanses make it popular with cruise ship visitors, too. Tiger Beach is one of the most popular and home to Ocean Park – which is none other than the world’s largest polar aquarium.
In the city itself, there’s plenty to keep seekers of authentic Chinese culture occupied, also. Xinghai Square in the park of the same name is a popular tourist attraction, built in 1997 to mark Hong Kong’s return to China. Its eye-catching monument is its unmistakeable centrepiece. Zhongshan Square is located in the heart of the city and regarded as one of the city’s must-see attractions. There’s some great architecture to appreciate and the towering skyscrapers which surround the park don’t interfere with the more traditional buildings which line it. It’s a great place to shop too, with plenty of independent stores to browse.
By Simon Brotherton