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Spice up your trip with some of the lesser known attractions X’ian hasto offer especially for families

Two words: Terracotta Army. If you and your adventure-loving brood are heading to Xi’An, China, you’re going to be hearing an awful lot about these world-famous soldiers. But while it would be a crying shame not to take the kids to see the awe-inspiring army during your family visit to Xi’An, there’s a lot more to do in this ancient city besides this near-obligatory port of call. Happily for families who like to avoid the hordes and soak up some real local flavor on their travels, Xi’An is still under-explored among foreign visitors, and chances of seeing big lines anywhere other than at the Terracotta Warriors exhibit is pretty minimal.  While many visitors make a brief stop here as part of a quick-fire sightseeing tour of China, families who linger longer will find a whole host of kid-pleasing activities that don’t feel like they’ve been designed for the benefit of tourists. Steeped in thousands of years of history and a former capital with a key location on the Silk Road, Xi’An has museums and ancient buildings galore, but if that’s unlikely to stir up much enthusiasm among the kids, read on for some alternative things to do in Xi’an.

Peek at Excavation Efforts in a Mammoth Mausoleum

The crowds that flock to see the life-size soldiers of the Terracotta Army are conspicuous by their absence at  Hanyang Tomb , Xi’An’s ‘other’ underground museum, but it’s a mini-kingdom unto itself, filled with clay animals and human figures and arguably made all the more appealing by the tiny numbers of people that visit. Located in a somewhat out-of-town location around 20 km from the city proper (it’s served by infrequent local buses,  take a fixed-price cab if time is of the essence), it’s a little off-track for most tourists, but certainly worth taking the time to visit.

Occupying almost 5 hectares, the mausoleum serves as the joint tomb of Western Han Dynasty emperor Liu Qi and his beloved Empress Wang, and was built in the year 153 – a mere couple of millennia later, it opened as a museum in 2006.

Visitors to the underground museum can walk on glass floors to peek into pits and see what the extensive ongoing excavation works have uncovered over the years – all manner of tools, religious artefacts and artworks among them. Signs in English explain what’s going on in each of the pits, which takes the guesswork out of things for parents of kids with plenty of questions.

Eat Your Way Around the Muslim Quarter

There’s no shortage of places to eat delicious Chinese food in Xi’An, but for the most weird and wonderful concoctions in town, head to the Muslim Quarter. You’ll feel like you’ve briefly left China as you wander through this busy (keep a tight hold on belongings and, indeed, offspring) network of streets. While the main drag is packed with tourists and vendors yelling about their wonderful wares, taking the time to properly explore pays kid-pleasing dividends in the form of shadow puppet shows, a vast, fragrant flower market, and all manner of edible goodies, from candied ginger, intricate sugar creations and fruit leather to cuttlefish on a stick. Visitors can pay a minimal entrance fee to enter the area’s grand mosque, too.

Visit a Cave Village (and even stay in a cave!)

Shaanxi Province is home to any number of simple cave dwellings, known as yaodongs. These simple earth structures keep things cool in summer and warm in winter, and can often be found grouped together in small villages, offering an insight into traditional forms of housing in this central region of China. Heading out on the main highway from central Xi’An to the Terracotta Army site, families visiting Xi’An can take a detour to visit these ‘farmers’ caves’ – it’s easy enough to do this independently, but going with a recommended local guide may provide more insight for those that aren’t proficient in the local lingo. Should that pique your kids’ curiosity, it’s even possible to spend the night in a Yaodong.

🍦 Get an Unusual Ice Cream Fix

There are times when only an ice cream is going to revive kids’ flagging travel spirit, and luckily Xi’An has a whole lot of them. One of the best spots for kids to get a sugar rush with local flavour is Shaanxi 13, by the bell tower at 270 Bei Yuan Men, where flavors such as Hanzhoung Peanut and Fresh Tofu are surprisingly moreish (no need to tell the kids you’re sneaking a bit of protein into their sweet treats)

A family trip to China is never going to be dull: the simple act of ordering a meal or crossing the road can be a white-knuckle experience in the big cities. But adventurous families looking for adrenaline-packed thrills and spills can rest assured that there are plenty of extreme activities in China that will step up the insanity levels a notch or 10. The only question is, are you brave enough to tackle them?

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The Ultimate Skywalk: Coiling Dragon Cliff Walkway

A head for heights is going to be essential for some of China’s most extreme attractions! You don’t need to be in perfect shape or be above a certain height to experience this daredevil attraction on Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hunan. A glass walkway stretches for 100 meters around the mountain, clinging perilously to a cliff edge 1,400 meters high, while offering mind-blowing mountain views for anybody calm enough to appreciate them. The 1.5-meter-wide walkway is open to anybody game enough to step out onto the heart-stopping skywalk. Opened in 2016, it’s the longest and most dramatic of three similar walks in the Tianmen Mountain Scenic Area, and looks out over Tongtian Avenue, which makes 99 dramatic turns as it snakes up the mountain.

 

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Take a Walk Across the World’s Highest and Longest Glass Bridge

Hunan is establishing itself as quite the destination for thrill-seeking visitors to China! In addition to the hair-raising, cliff-clinging skywalk, iit also hosts the world’s highest and longest glass bridge. At a height of more than 300 meters, the bridge stretches 430 meters over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, and visitors can add extra spice to the experience by bungee jumping or ziplining over the abyss.

? Tip: Don’t try to wing it with this one–there’s some advance planning needed. The bridge can hold a maximum of 600 people at any one time, and entrance (from around $18 USD for bridge only) needs to be reserved in advance for a specific time slot. A Chinese ID card is required to book on the official site, so families on holiday in China would be well advised to book with a tour agency.   


⛷ Boxout: Even taking a trip to Walmart can be an adventure in China! Expect to see whole sharks, turtles and crocodiles on ice, and even live, hopping frogs. Being brave enough to cook and eat one is a further step up the adventure ladder.


 

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Tackle the World’s Biggest Skate Park

If heaven is a half pipe, then the SMP Skate Park, on the outskirts of Shanghai, is Paradise itself. This is the world’s largest skate park, hosting seven concrete bowls, a 40-meter half pipe, rails and a mock street-scene, all set out in a somewhat spooky lunar-esque landscape. Built by skate specialists Convic at a cost of around $25 million, it’s the ultimate place to showcase your mad skills (or just watch the offspring showcase theirs). Entrance to the park is around $10 USDThe park has bleachers seating several thousand spectators, and gets busy at weekends for major skating events. During the week things are quiet – somewhat eerily so, allowing visitors to hone their skills without onlookers.

 

Brave this Terrifying Cliff Swing 

Ahhh, swinging through the air, so relaxing…except when you’re being pushed off a cliff edge into misty nothingness over a 300-meter sheer drop! Few parents are going to willingly watch their kids be strapped into this vertigo-inducing swing at Wansheng Ordovician Park. The highest mountain swing in the country comes complete with safety harness, but this might be one that’s strictly for the grownups. In addition to the swing, there’s a daredevil footbridge over a canyon to reach a lookout point, and the world’s longest and highest cantilevered walkway, which juts out in an A-formation for more than 80 meters from a sheer cliff edge. White water rafting, climbing and canyoning are other activities in the park.

 

Keep Cool with Whitewater Rafting

Daredevil families in Shanghai can escape the city swelter and get an adrenaline rush with white water rafting trips out remote locations such as Xinan Jiang, near Huangshan, and Bairma Tan, Anqin. Against an impossibly scenic backdrop, visitors will navigate Class III and Class IV rapids (on a 1-6 scale, 6 being near impossible). Dragon Adventures offers trips that can be tailored to meet families’ individual needs, and younger visitors can simply splash in calm pools.

You can also try our route for nature-loving families going to China.

 

As the biggest country in the East, China is a place to be attended to with care and precision. Short of moving there for the rest of your life, it might be difficult to conquer the vast amount of natural delights China has to offer (for example, its 225 national parks!). That being said, while you might not get to excavate every unique, cultural crevice and crack, taking a month off with your family to explore China’s innate and man-made wonders is definitely the way to do it.

Day 1-2: Hong Kong

Getting there: Fly into Hong Kong international airport from your home country.

After flying into Hong Kong, you’ll want to spend a little time getting a feel for the city’s bustling streets and becoming accustomed to the language. If you’re keen on delving right into nature, take a day to walk around (make sure to see the markets in Mong Kok and try the eggettes) and get ready to head out to Yangshuo after a good night’s sleep. Your destination? The Li River.

Day 3-8: Li River and Guilin

Getting there: Take the train from Hong Kong to Lo Wu station in Shenzhen. After passing through customs, head upstairs to the bus station, where you can take the sleeper bus to Yangshuo (leaving every night at 7:30 PM).

While a bit touristy, the Li River (or Lijiang) is surrounded by karst mountains and stunning river views all around. It spans the 51 miles up to Guilin, and you can take a bamboo-raft or fancier cruise ship to get a feel for it. Explore the countryside for a couple of days, and then head over to Guilin for another three nights, via the express bus from Yangshuo station. Some sights you may see along the way include the Reed Flute Cave, decorated in stalagmites and stalactites, and Elephant-Trunk Hill, aptly named as it looks like an elephant drinking water. Your little ones will love it!

Day 9-12: Wulingyuan and the Zhangjiajie Forest

Getting there: There are no direct trains from Guilin to Wulingyuan as of yet. However, there is a short, direct flight (about an hour and forty-five minutes) between the two cities. If you prefer to take the train, you can take the bullet train to Changsha South Railway Station, and from there, a bus from the Changsha West Bus Station to Zhangjiajie.

From Guilin, your next venture should be to the “Avatar Mountains,” i.e. Wulingyuan National Park. The Zhangjiajie Forest makes up most of the park, featuring towering mountain pillars that allow for climbing, hiking, and of course, magnificent photo opportunities. You can take the family rafting, or simply spend your time comparing the Zhangjiajie mountains to the floating rocks your kids remember from Avatar. Either way, give yourselves three to four days to wander through all the park’s main attractions, before making your way to Chongqing.

Day 10-17: Chongqing and the Yangtze River

Getting there: The quickest way from Zhangjiajie to Chongqing is by flight (around three hours; note that there are only three flights per week), but the best alternative is probably by train. You can hop the train from Zhangjiajie station to Yichang East, from where you’ll transfer to the train to Chongqing. Allow yourself a full day of travel time, as you may have to wait awhile for your transfer train, and the voyage is long!

Here, the 9th-13th century Dazu Grottoes will make for some interesting family discussions, as they portray the ins and outs of life in olden-day China. These intricate rock carvings can be found on the hillsides of the Dazu area, and will tell a story of religion as they delight aesthetically. Following this day trip, it’s high time to experience the Yangtze River- the longest river in Asia. From deep into the Tibetan mountains and flowing all the way to Shanghai, the river spans a number of interesting cities and the famous Three Gorges, which are best experienced from aboard a cruiseship. You can spend anywhere from three to twenty days on the cruise, depending on how many sights you want to see (like the Shibaozhai Temple or the “ghost city” of Fengdu), but when you’re ready to move on, you can head over to Chengdu, in the south-western Sichuan region.

Day 18-21: Chengdu and Mount Qingcheng

Getting there: Your cruise! The easiest way from Yangtze is to sign up for a cruise that lets you off in Chengdu, but you can also take a bullet train from Chongqing Station to Chengdu Station.

There’s much to do in Chengdu, like hug a giant panda and check out the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system. Mount Qingcheng is nearby, which is a great place to learn about Taoism and its origins. The scenery is stunning, of course, and there’s enough culture there to satisfy the family for days.

Day 22-25: Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong

Getting there: You can take a one-hour flight from Chengdu to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, and then catch a bus from the airport to Jiuzhai Valley. Or, you can opt for an eight-hour bus ride, either from Xinnanmen or Chadianzi Bus Stations in Chengdu. While much longer, it’ll give you a great view of the natural scenery along the way!

You can’t travel through China’s glorious parks without stopping at Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, also in Sichuan. Some must-sees in Jiuzhaigou include include snow-covered peaks, many-colored calcite pools, hot springs and stunning waterfalls. If you get lucky, you might get a peek at a world-famous giant panda, or even an Old World golden snub-nosed monkey- but you may not want to get too close! Similar astonishments can be found in Huanglong, as well as remarkable, multicolored ponds that you could spend days staring at. Two days in Jiuzhaigou and another day in Huanglong should be enough to get your fill; however, photographers should take an extra day, as there is just too much beauty to capture.

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Day 26-28: Leshan, Kunming, and the Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Getting there: You’ll have to retrace your steps through Chengdu the same way you came (it may be worth it to buy round trip plane tickets to save you time), and from there, a short train from Chengdu East Station to Leshan.

While staying in the area, you may want to spend a few days in Leshan. Here, you’ll find the 71 meter Giant Buddha, carved in a red, sandstone cliff. You can also trek up the infamous Mount Emei, which is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. From there, take a short plane to Kunming and plan a couple of day trips. A must-have experience lies to the south of Kunming in the Hani Yuanyang Rice Terraces, which will really give the family the flavor of the East if you don’t feel quite like you’ve tasted it yet. It’s scenic, it’s colorful, it’s cultural, and it has sunsets equivalent to none. The time you can spend exploring the terraces is endless, so it’s probably best to just go to one more place from there- Beijing.

Day 29-30: Beijing

Getting there: From Kunming, you can take a 3 hour flight to Beijing, or an 11 hour train from Kunming Station to Beijing West Station.

China’s capital boasts the modern interwoven with the historical, and comes with a lot of traffic on the roads. Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City are two of the many main attractions to visit, but of course, nothing beats the infamous Great Wall. Seeing this World Wonder up close is sure to be a bonding experience, and the perfect way to end off your family vacation. Before your flight home, make sure to try some of the local cuisine- such as Peking duck or Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)- and don’t forget to check out the palaces, temples, alleyways and parks that permeate the city streets. Who knows; they may give you a reason to come back!

For almost a month now we’re enjoying ourselves on a private beach that sits in the middle of a small bay on a beautiful* island in the Philippines.
We drink fresh Coconut milk, and eat pineapples and watch the Starfish. The water is clear and warm and we swim every day.
We’re in an area that lies outside the tourist road, and so we get the local Filipino experience in all its glory.
Meeting the village people, going fishing with them, play basketball with them, go out for some barbecue in the tiny local restaurant, that also fixes bicycles.
In the local market they offer fresh cocoa beans just like that, in baskets. And all sorts of fruits and vegetables and pastries we’ve never even seen before. Actually… today on the way to the ATM I saw in a small bakery store the little sweet pastries we loved so much in Vietnam. Where they sell it very cheaply in carts. Immediately I bought some for the kids. How fun it is to remember something we loved to eat in another country.

Click here to get a month’s worth of food filled adventure in the Philippines.

“Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and it’s fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment”.~Paul Fussell, Abroad.

I feel that this experience, like many others we’ve had, both for me and for the kids, is incredibly enriching. Just as is, natural and wild and real and pure. Without make-up. But in comfort and with all the luxuries (we actually have a tv after all…).
The combination of the beautiful waters, of passively watching the tides, the effects of the moon and the weather. Walks on the beach and seeing dozens of living creatures, the refreshing swim. Playing with the village children. And so much more.
From time to time the owner of the house we stay in comes to visit. She stays a few days. In those days she takes us on a journey deep inside the Filipino culture. She teaches us to cook Filipino dishes, explains to us about the oceans life and the creatures in the ocean. Opens the door to experiences like fishing at night using a flashlight, coconut peeling and explaining everything you can do with coconuts. She explains about the leafs they put in the soup and why they’re very healthy, and why in all the gardens around people cover their plants in empty eggshells.
Today she told me exactly where I can see dolphins. And how to get there.
For me the stay here is the peak of the good life. Sun, ocean, soft sand, and fresh coconuts. You don’t really need anything more. Just let me lie in the hammock and look at all that blue.
And if I can write to you a bit more personally, I feel like this place is drawing me deep into myself. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the quiet. Maybe it’s the dream coming true in living here. One dream of many :-). Both for me and for the kids there is a sort of understanding, realizations that pop up, and a type of maturing. Of sharpening.
And the love I hold for life and the world bursts out in joy.
♦ So how did we get here?
We make friends fast, fall in love fast, stay very open, brave and free. All those create non-internet-opportunities that express themselves in exceptional and exciting friendships and experiences. When you start your own journey pull your nose outside of the internet. From the guides. Give the road a chance. Don’t be scared. Come to it with your love, and you’ll see how it rewards you. There’s a whole world outside. An exciting world full of love.
♦ Ok ok. So bottom line: how much does it cost me?
◊ The whole house, all three rooms, the amazing gallery, the handmade furniture, the balconies, the accessorized kitchen, the barbecue station in the yard, the fertile coconut trees and all their coconuts, the banana trees, the privaaaaaate beeeeeeeeeeaaaaach.
◊ Laundry.
◊ And transportation (cause a girl need to go on the back of a motorbike from time to time)
All that costs me 15$ a day.

*the island is called Bohol and it’s one of the better known and more touristic islands in the Philippines. It’s a beautiful island but its tourist centers are very small and focus in very specific areas. the rest of the (pretty big) island is tourist free.

You can watch the girls talk about this experience here.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Do you also dream of leaving the nine-to-five? Of forgetting about that pesky snooze button? The dishes in the sink? Well, I’m here to help you. take a wonderful break.

Whether you’re planning a short vacation to Vietnam, a one-year tour of southeast Asia, or an open-ended trip across continents, I’m here to answer all your questions, address all your worries, concerns or fears.
I offer an hour long session, during which I can explain to you everything you’re uncertain about, address all the fears you have of your trip, recommend locations and things to do in those locations, advise about your budget and anything else you might want to know. From small to big, I am here.

I will also send you a list of sure-proofed accommodations and local contacts you should have. As well as many tips and detailed info (such as how to handle money on each specific destination, which ATM is the best one to use, how to buy a sim card or how and where to get internet, and more).

For that I only charge 70$.

Contact me

 

 

A first aid kit is one of those things that make you feel safe, even when you’re in the middle of nowhere in southeast Asia, and especially when you are with kids. When you always have one in your bag, you can be as spontaneous as you like and still be a ‘responsible adult’. It’s important, though, to never forget it in your room because that will be the one time you actually need it. Yes… I learned that the hard way :-).

Things I recommend taking:

  • Basic first aid- sterile pads, disinfectant, plasters of different sizes, bandages, tourniquet, and something special for burns.
  • Hand sanitizer (a small bottle just in case you really need but don’t have one).
  • Mosquito repellent. I always have some in my bag, but in my first aid kit I always carry some wet wipes with mosquito repellent, just in case.
  • 2 hygienic bandages in a sterile wrap.
  • And empty plastic bag.
  • Multiple purpose disinfecting liquid-  a little bottle that can disinfect anything, cuts, surfaces, toilets.
  • A salve to sooth the skin- stings/sun burns/nettles.
  • Antihistamine.
  • Two unopened tooth brushes+paste. The small kind they give in hotels and airplanes. Yes, sometimes you have dinner at a friend’s home and the girls decide to stay to sleep there.
  • Lavender oil for everything- scratches, cuts, burns.
  • Soap pages in a travel pack.
  • Lipstick for dry lips.
  • Hair bands.
  • A lighter.

In addition, it’s best if you give your kids a few basic safety rules. Whatever seems important to you. For example, my kids know to beware of certain plants that irritate the skin- you just need to point it out to them and tell them to be careful. They also know not to touch shoe soles or anything off the floor, or to come close to a motorbike’s exhaust pipe (in southeast Asia there are more bikes than cars)

You can buy a ready-made first aid kit and just buy a few more things that are important specifically for a trip in southeast Asia with kids. That’s what I did to begin with, but as time went on the bag got ripped and ruined so I bought a camera bag. A square bag, waterproof, opening from the top and divided to several compartments. I chose the size that fits comfortably in the bottom of our bag that still goes everywhere with us, and put everything in it.

1. because China is a bit different than what we’re used to, it’s important to make sure the landing is as soft and as easy as possible. Especially when traveling with kids. The most important thing to make sure of is a good hotel or another place that can give you information in English.

2. In China there is a network of youth hostels that provide everything the western traveler needs. Rooms with a great price range- from the cheapest (a bed in a dorm with shared bathrooms and showers) an up to the expensive intimate rooms. And the staff is made of Chinese youth (most are working there as a part of a student program) and western youths, studying Chinese volunteering there to brush up on their Chinese. They help with everything you need. They helped me buy a local sim card, book bus tickets, organize a birthday party for my daughter, they wrote a note with Chinese sentences I asked them to, explained to me how to get everywhere and much more. In every hostel there’s a common room where there is a bar, a small restaurant, a few strategy/thinking games (the staff is always happy to play with you, or at least teach you how to play), art materials, computers, books, sometimes table-football or a snooker table or a tv room with loads of movies for you to choose from. Within a day or two the staff knows all your names.

3. in short- I warmly recommend you to book a room with one of the youth hostels spread across china, they’ll make your trips that much easier, especially in the first few days after landing.

4. don’t come to china without an app that translates words and sentences to Chinese, preferably one that also sounds the words, and that doesn’t require internet.

5. anyway it’s recommended to buy a local sim card on the first chance so you can use the internet comfortably on your phone.

6. that way you could also use maps and navigate in busy streets, whose names are written in Chinese.

7. the taxi drivers in china are very strict on the max number of passengers- four. So anyone going to china with three or more children is going to have a problem. To find a taxi, especially in the big cities, especially in the tourist centers, is not an easy task, and finding two is a nightmare. Easier to find two rickshaws or deal with the public transportation.

8. If you chose to walk notice that the green light for the crosswalk is very short and there’s an arrangement with the two-wheelers so warn the kids.

9. and about the public transportation: in China there’s a very wide range of buses and trains. From old trains, stuffed so full of people that you can’t breathe, sweaty and sweltering, through to a relatively comfortable sleeper trains all the way to express trains that look like they’re taken straight from a futuristic film. The same goes for buses.

10. in the sleeper trains they lock the bathrooms in the morning long before you actually get to your destination. Just so you know.

here you will fond a special route for nature loving families traveling to china

11. the Chinese, even those that speak good English, tend to get confused between the ‘teen’ numbers (11, 12, 13…) and the whole numbers (20, 30, 40…) it’s best to always make sure exactly what they meant. There is a big difference sometimes. (how many hours is this bus drive? 40??? Ahhh 14.)

12. in restaurants and street foods they use a lot of tasting powder (msg). you can tell them “no msg” and most will understand.

13. public restrooms: I have to say that the public restrooms in China were the most disgusting I ever saw. But really. Those on the roads, in between, at bus stops during long drives. They were actually a long narrow hall, with an open draining tunnel (sewage) and two long boards on the sides, to step on. Everything is open, without even partitions. There are places where this even costs money.

For few more extreme experiences in china click here :-).

14. the rumors that the Chinese are not nice proved entirely false. The Chinese people we met, almost all of them, were simply charming, and sometimes really went out of their way to help us any way they could. Even those that didn’t speak a single word in English.

15. the Chinese, like the Indians, and a few more, have a favorite hobby. They love taking pictures with tourist. Especially with kids. Especially those that don’t look like them (=curly hair for example). Sometimes, and in very touristic places, you need a lot of patience to take pictures with all of them. Prepare the kids.

To find a youth hostel to your taste you can begin with this link

Or simply google ‘youth hostel’ in whatever specific destination you have in mind.

OR- you can take a look at Our favorite  hotels & guest houses  in china.

before going to China, try to learn some mandarin. it will be very beneficial!
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China is a destination on which opinions divide. Especially when thinking about China with kids, if you ask around you’ll get more than one opinion. Before I went there I got a confusing shower of information, ranging from ‘don’t ever go there for any reason’ to ‘my sister went there with her four kids and they had lots of fun’.

They told me it’s impossible to find bread. They told me the Chinese don’t speak a word of English, and even the way they count to ten isn’t the way we know. They told me they have pastries filled with sweet green Beans and that it’s a delicacy. And that they eat Pig’s tails. They told me that the views are incredible but the people aren’t nice. They told me the south is awesome. They told me the north is awesome. A couple I met in a guesthouse in Pokhara (Nepal) gave me a Hebrew-Chinese dictionary and out of genuine concern warned me not to go there. Anyway..

I was thinking whether to go to China or India. But I’ve already been to India (three time) and the tickets to China were really cheap and I had to escape the monsoon in Nepal and anyway I’ve been meaning to go to Mongolia and China is really just on the way…so should I give it up??

No. so I went there.

And I was terrified. Alone with three kids in a country where no one speaks English. Where they eat pig’s tails. petrifying.

We landed in Chengdu where we spent two weeks including a trip to the panda reserve and a five-day trip to Jiuzhai valley and a visit to two national parks: Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. A trip that was breathtaking in its beauty. As well as a meeting with a fascinating Tibetan populace that was entirely different from anything else we’ve seen in China. From Chengdu we journeyed a few days to Beijing. A journey that included all different types of buses and trains.

china with kids, family travel china

We started the journey in Xian, a city whose main tourist attraction is the Tera Cota warriors.

From there we moved on to Ping Yao, an ancient town that is amazingly well preserved. We spent a few days there walking among the ancient alleys, staying in a guesthouse that used to be a traditional Chinese home, with a charming open courtyard and stunning woodworks that covered the whole front of the building.

The town is surrounded by walls and has in it a lot of interesting building with huge historical and cultural value. It was very interesting to travel in its streets and enter ancient temples, tea houses, castles. Chinese style gardens, tall heavy wooden doors.

The food was very different from what we’ve had so far. But just as spicy.

We fell in love with that small picturesque town and decided to stay there longer than planned, and give up on a few more stops on the way to Beijing.

And so we found ourselves one sunny day, torn away from the feeling of being a million years ago and getting thrown right back into the 21st century in a ride in a cool express train that got us to Beijing in only a few hours.

I felt like I was in an airplane.

We had three days to spend in Beijing. We walked on the great wall, of course. With mixed feelings. Because the story of the wall isn’t a simple story. A lot of people died building it, and were buried underneath it. The weather was hot and humid. And of course, the thousands of other tourists that also came to walk the wall haven’t really improved the experience.

We went to the forbidden city, but after three hours waiting in lines in the hot sun we decided to give up.

We took part in a traditional tea ceremony, which was very nice and educating (and delicious).

We took photos with the ‘bird’s nest’.

The local food in Beijing was tastier than anywhere else that we’ve been to in china. In Chengdu for example we avoided local food and made do with more western alternatives- Pizza Hut and Starbucks to begin with and afterwards we found a small Sushi place, cheap and excellent and ate there all the time (and laughed that we went all the way to china only to eat SushiJ). In fact, it’s only in Beijing that we found good Chinese food.

china with kids- food  food- china with kids

click here for a post with many lesser known great attractions in Beijing

After three days we took a sleeper bus, 17 hours to the border town Erenhot. Everyone says that it’s a boring town lacking charm, but I actually liked it.

And at the end of a full month in China, we crossed the border to Mongolia, to an experience, that while we didn’t know it yet, would be one of the more amazing ones we’ve been through.

What was fun for me and the kids in china:

♦ The Chinese people were a pleasant surprise and in fact most of the people we’ve met were exceptionally nice. Even if they couldn’t understand a single word we said.

♦ The trip to the national parks was the highlight. We’re talking a work of art by mother nature. As Wonderful and as breathtaking as only nature knows how to make.

♦ The Panda reserve in Chengdu was nice, to see the Pandas living their lives, the cubs playing and roughhousing- it was an exciting experience.

china with kids, family travel china

♦ The express train was really fun.

♦ The small town, Ping Yao, was a tasty treat.

What was less fun for me and the kids in china:

♦ The food. We definitely couldn’t get along with the food.

♦ Communication problems made everything feel difficult and heavy… even in hotels in Beijing, where you’d expect at least a bit of English- they couldn’t answer me when I wanted to know how to get to the great wall.

♦ And that’s also how it was with getting public transportation tickets. If we didn’t get along with some nice locals, there’s no way we could even buy bus or train tickets or even understand where they’re going and where they stop and when do we need to change and when to get off.

♦ The big cities are very modern. It’s nice- in China there’s everything, everything is huge, everything is spectacular. But to find places a bit more ‘Chinese’ you have to work hard.

♦ Anyway, in Chengdu for example there are a few nice gardens good for a walk, to sit in tea houses and watch the locals play their Chinese games that now everyone is downloading to their smartphones…

Sources worth checking:

The national park that is also a world heritage site and part of the biosphere plan: