Tired of crowds, air pollution and the concrete jungle? Seeing China differently is closer, and more convenient than you might expect.
Let’s face it; living in China’s modern megacities can be an amazing experience, but also an overwhelming one, particularly for expats used to living in less crowded countries. Every once in a while, we need to get away from it all.
How about breathing some crisp Tibetan air, or learning the secrets of fine chinaware? Do the thoughts of practicing kung fu among mist-shrouded peaks, or foodie adventures in exotic Yunnan Province leave you with itchy feet?
Read on to discover short getaways that will take you out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Most imagine needing to take one to several weeks off to enjoy the charms of Tibet, but they’re wrong.
Roll on Shangri-la, Yunnan’s heartland of Tibetan culture, offering crisp highland air, jaw-dropping mountain vistas and gold-gilded temples.
Set in the province’s remote northwest, the town is reputedly the mythical Tibetan paradise described in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”.
If the incense-filled rooms of Yunnan’s largest lamasery don’t intoxicate visitors, the winding lanes of the old town will have most leaving the modern world in no time.
Outside of town, wilderness beckons, with big open grasslands, national parks and excellent hiking trails around sacred Mount Meili.
The Art of Porcelain
Ever wondered where China got its name?
Deep in rural Jiangxi Province is Jingdezhen, the world capital of fine porcelain – China’s namesake.
For nearly 2,000 years Jingdezhen provided dynasty after dynasty with fine porcelain ware, and helped to spark the West’s interest in China, yet by the late twentieth century the city had been forgotten.
These days, art and history buffs can learn the centuries-old craft of porcelain making, try their hand at creating their very own masterpiece and witness archeological excavations at the Imperial Kiln.
The surrounding mountains are rich with the precious clay once used in the city’s countless workshops. Climbing them makes the ideal morning workout, before visiting an ancient village that once prospered from the porcelain trade.
Another must-see is the bustling arts community at Taoxichuan, converted from a disused ceramics factory. It sits at the heart of the city’s revival, where contemporary ceramic artists can be seen remodeling the future of Jingdezhen.
It’s hard not to relax the moment one arrives in Dali, the jewel of Yunnan, as it sits snuggly between luscious green mountains and glistening Erhai Lake.
The town is steeped in old world charm, with unique cultures, traditions and mouthwatering dishes waiting around every corner of its time-forgotten alleyways.
Dali is renowned for its cultural and gastronomic diversity; visitors can discover it’s unique cheese-making industry as they make Rushan cheese with local farmers, followed by visits to historic Muslim villages.
Local Bai people welcome visitors into their homes to help them cook over quaint courtyard stoves, revealing the secrets of their irresistible cuisine.
It’s easy to burn it all off with bike rides next to Erhai lake, or hiking in the stunning surroundings. Taoist masters will also help visitors find their inner Zen with private Tai Chi lessons beneath snowcapped peaks.
The best way for deskbound urbanites to exercise both their legs and mind is among the holy peaks of the Wudang Mountains, the tranquil surroundings that inspired the earliest masters of Tai Chi and Gongfu (Kung Fu).
Being at center of the Tao Buddhist universe, visitors can easily explore Taoism in discussion with priests and even a cave-dwelling philosopher. Following Taoist principles, only sustainable, locally sourced foods will be brought to the table.
Most people rise at dawn for meditation, before honing their kung fu skills alongside students at the mountainside Gongfu School. Visitors can also wander through ancient temples, and join the many pilgrims who ascend mist-shrouded peaks in search of enlightenment.
What better way to learn this ancient martial art than in its very birthplace, this serene Taoist heartland?
Helping you see China differently is WildChina, an award-winning travel company, specializing in boutique tours throughout the middle kingdom, named as one of National Geographic’s “Best Travel Companies on Earth”. Let us plan your next eye-opening weekend getaway.
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