If you sometimes catch yourself saying “China this” or “China that,” have you ever stopped to question how much of this vast country you really know? China covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometers and exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. During the holidays, many foreigners choose to go abroad, foregoing the advantages that traveling domestically in China can bring. Here are five ways I think traveling domestically in China can benefit expats.
Just like everywhere on the planet, each place in China has its own pros, cons, and unique way of life. All too often, people visiting China, myself included, make generalizations about the food, the people, the manners, etc. For example, if you’ve only lived in Harbin, you might think that Chinese hot pot is terrible. But if you travel to Chongqing, you’ll find out that’s certainly not the case.
Sure, the smog isn’t great in Beijing, but Sanya, Xiamen, Guilin, and Yunnan Province have excellent air quality almost all year round. And while traffic congestion in some bigger hubs isn’t ideal, lots of smaller cities have relatively orderly roads that won’t leave you stuck in a taxi for an hour just to travel just a few kilometers across town.
Only living in one city in China is akin to only reading the first chapter of a book. By traveling around the country, much like reading more chapters, you’ll begin to understand more about the places, the people, their motivations, and the uniqueness of China as a whole. Seeing the bigger picture of the country where you live will help foster a more open-minded perspective in your day-to-day life and routine.
If you’ve ever traveled to Shenzhen, you’ll likely have many vivid memories of modern skyscrapers but few of old cultural sites. Visiting new cities like Shenzhen makes me appreciate living in Beijing, where I can go to the CBD and be surrounded by modern buildings, but also visit the historic Summer Palace or have lunch in the hutongs. Seeing China’s ancient sites alongside its modern wonders will help you understand the epic development journey of this country.
If you’ve lived in China for more than five minutes, you’ll know that forming guanxi is essential. And while Chinese people in the top tier cities tend to be from all over the country, nothing beats meeting someone in their home environment when it comes to truly understanding a local culture. Traveling domestically will help you better understand the way people think and behave as unique individuals and cultures rather than one homogenous group. In turn, you’ll be able to relate better to the people you meet in China, helping to form those all-important guanxi relationships.
You also never know when a contact you met when traveling in China might come in useful. Many opportunities in China can arise from knowing the right person in the right place, so meeting people from different cities and regions can be incredibly useful.
Having a bit of travel experience under your belt also makes for an easy ice-breaker. The first time I went to Suzhou, I was blown away by all the bridges. Now, when someone tells me they’re from Suzhou, I can say, “I loved all the bridges,” which is an easy “in". If a Chinese person told you they visited your home city, you’d want to know what they thought, too.
China has everything, including modern tourist attractions, ancient architecture, stunning natural beauty, and even a smattering of replicated European cities. Seeing everything China has to offer is a lifelong quest that will be fun, eye-opening, and fulfilling.
In addition, China has a surprisingly strong hostel game. Between Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an, there are 86 available hostels just on hostelworld.com, alone. Hostels are cheap and great places to meet likeminded Chinese and foreign travelers. Combine this with affordable and super efficient trains and you really have no reason to go abroad.
So if you’ve been avoiding domestic travel in China, I urge you to get out there and see what this country has to offer. You’re sure to be surprised and delighted.
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Keywords: traveling domestically in China
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The article is good. But be warned, travel during the holidays is asking for seeing the bad side of China. It is extremely difficult to book tickets on the high speed trains prior to a holiday. Getting back to work in the city you work in on time will be a challenge too. The hotels and taxis have caught on to the "western Capitalism". prices go sky high. Even the 2 star hotels will triple their prices.
Jun 20, 2019 10:10 Report Abuse
Foreigners leave during holidays because who want to travel around China when everyone else is? Try going to any scenic spot or taking public transportation or driving on the highways during any holiday in China and you would wish you hadn't. Not to mention the hotels are more expensive during holidays and so are didi's and lots of other things. I agree, traveling around China is great especially with your own vehicle....just don't do it during a holiday.
Jun 19, 2019 16:49 Report Abuse