Even if you’ve never been to China you already know that it is a vast country with a population of 1.37 billion and an extraordinary culture and history extending back more than 4,000 years. Westerners, however, are less familiar with the amazing variety of the country.
The topography and weather in China ranges dramatically. To the west, there are high plateaus and mountains, including the eastern side of the world’s tallest mountain range, the Himalayas. The Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts stretch across the north central area, the northeast has forests and small mountains. The center and eastern areas are covered in plains and coastal deltas while the south has semi-tropical jungles. China has two of the world’s longest rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. Although China is slightly less in area than the United States, it has 160 cities with a population over one million compared to 9 in the US. Each region of China has a distinctive character, cuisine, history and often, language. With its rich history, intriguing cities, regional cultures and natural scenery, the travel possibilities are infinite.
Prior to the reforms of the early 1990s, few Westerners visited China. When the country opened up, there wasn’t the infrastructure to handle large-scale tourism. That has changed. There were 26.4 million foreign visitors to China in 2009, not counting Hong Kong and Macau, and 1.6 billion domestic trips within China. By 2015, China may be the world’s most popular tourist destination, according to Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
China is a country in transition on a scale the world has never seen, and its tourist industry personifies this change. Visitors will find modern resources in the large cities, while the facilities in the countryside are still developing.
So where do you begin planning your trip to China? What should you expect when you get there? Click on the China 101 tab for a few random thoughts for the first-time traveler. Many of these areas such as doing business, shopping and especially insider’s information on where to go and what to do in China will be covered in greater detail in the future. Your feedback is welcome. Click on the other tabs at the top for specific articles on locations such as Xi'an, Hong Kong, Gui Lin and Chengduand other themes such as martial arts.