Studying Chinese in Shanghai or Beijing for a couple of months offers the perfect opportunity to do some traveling to the top places to visit in Mainland China. Whether you’re taking Intensive Chinese Classes or doing an internship in one of these two cities, the travel possibilities for a fun weekend are endless!
This UNESCO World Heritage listed area is one of China’s top scenic attractions. Its landscape with impressive peaks, strangely shaped pine trees, dramatic clouds and overall spectacular landscape has been the source of inspiration of many painters throughout Chinese history. Spending two days in the Yellow Mountains is enough to see its most notable peaks and viewpoints, so it makes for the perfect weekend getaway! And to get even more out of your trip, try to book a hotel in the mountains instead of in the small villages at the foot of Mount Huangshan. It is a bit more expensive, but it’s definitely worth it because it’s the perfect opportunity to see the sunset over the mountains.
Tip: for those who have some more time on their hands, a trip to Hongcun is just one hour drive away from the mountains. This picturesque village, that some of you may recognize from the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage. An afternoon walk around this little village will bring you back to ancient China (if you ignore all tourists that is). It’s rather difficult to get there by public transport though, so your best option would be to take a taxi.
Another UNESCO listed place, and often dubbed as the Venice of the East, Suzhou is one of the many picturesque water towns close to Shanghai. So if you’re studying in Shanghai, you should definitely not skip the beautiful scenery in nearby Suzhou. Known for its traditional narrow streets, canals, bridges, pagodas and gardens, this ancient piece of heritage in China makes for a pleasant place to spend your Saturday or Sunday. Go there to walk through its ancient streets, go for a gondola cruise while enjoying your boatman’s singing skills (and the view of course), indulge in all the snacks you’ll find along your way (try the sesame cookies if you find them) and finish your day in Suzhou with a nice cup of tea or coffee in one of the many cosy cafes.
Hangzhou, one of the country’s seven ancient capitals and one of the Four Garden Cities in China, is a short trip away from Shanghai. Famed for its beautiful natural scenery and with the West Lake as its best-known attraction, Hangzhou is a popular travel destination among many travelers, Hutong School students included. The West Lake area contains more than 60 cultural sites and multiple places to enjoy its natural beauty. So while you’re there, a cruise is the perfect way to see several historical and natural sites. If you want to enjoy a panoramic view of the city, then the “Ten West Lake Prospects” might be your thing!
There is an ancient Chinese saying that states “East or West, Guilin Scenery is best”, so this travel destination should definitely be on your list of travel plans while in China. The strangely shaped hills, known as karst mountains, huge bamboo trees on the riverside and beautiful caves make for a stunning landscape and the perfect weekend getaway destination. If you go to Guilin, be sure to take a bamboo raft down the Li River to get the best view of the mountains or rent a bike to discover the countryside.
Tip: it might be a nice idea to take a picture of yourself in front of the famous viewpoint as seen on the 20RMB bank notes.
Tip: After your trip on the Li River, spending a night in Yangshuo is recommended. This city is surrounded by karst mountains and has a nice laid back atmosphere. Perfect if you want to relax after a day of hiking and exploring Guilin’s scenery. You could even make this your base, and make day trips from Yangshuo to the surrounding villages.
If these places mentioned above are too much nature for you, then Xi’an might be your thing. As one of China’s ancient capitals, this city has an extremely rich history. A trip to Xi’an should not go without a visit to the Terracotta Army. Dating from 210 BC and discovered in 1974, this amazing piece of Chinese history has quickly become one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites and one of the country’s most famous landmarks.
Of course, the Terracotta Army is not the only thing to see in Xi’An. As the most complete city wall that has survived in China and as one of the world’s biggest ancient military defense system in the world, visiting Xi’An City Wall is a must. A bike ride or a walk on the city wall is definitely recommended. You can circle the entire inner city by bike in less than an hour and you get to see all the various neighbourhoods from above. With its historical location at the Chinese beginning of the Silk Road, Xi’An has been a trading hub for centuries and thus been influenced by people from many cultures. There are traces of this all over the city, so a guided city walk is recommended for those with an interest for historic landmarks.
The Muslim quarter is another high light: with a covered bazaar and a bustling food street, you can easily pass an afternoon here sampling street food from all over Central China while picking up strange souvenirs. The spicy flat breads are a must!