china with kids


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)

Spice up your family trip to Chengdu with these under-the-radar activities!

Pandas, pandas, pandas, pandas! Did we mention pandas? It’s impossible to mention the busy city of Chengdu, located in Sichuan province, without hearing the “p-word” on repeat. Somewhat unknown among foreign tourists (especially in comparison to Beijing and Shanghai), when Chengdu does get a mention outside China, it’s usually in relation to the giant black-and-white cuties who have been living here for a lot longer than the human inhabitants. A number of high-profile panda breeding and rehabilitation centers are the main attraction for families in Chengdu, but there’s an awful lot to do in this friendly city other than pat the pandas. Most visitors make a beeline for the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, which results in minimal queues and crowds elsewhere. As is often the case in under-the-radar Chinese cities, Caucasian kids are something of a novelty and may get something of a rockstar reception. Those with light-haired kids shouldn’t feel offended if locals for photos with the kiddos–it’s just friendly curiosity.


Get a Taste for Tibet

With opportunities to reach Tibet by plane, train, or car from Chengdu, this city is a gateway to that mysterious mountain region. Arranging visas to Tibet can be a major hassle, but families in Chengdu can almost feel as though they’ve entered Tibetan territory without leaving Sichuan. Chengdu’s Tibetan Quarter, which spans several streets close to Wohou Temple in the south-west of the city, is the place to barter for Tibetan arts and crafts, and tuck into traditional dishes like yak meat and yak butter tea. Home to one of the largest Tibetan settlements outside Tibet itself, this colorful corner of the city is notable for the large numbers of maroon-robed Buddhist monks that stroll around its rather ramshackle lanes, and it all feels intriguingly at odds with the chain coffee stores and high rise hotels that are cropping up elsewhere in modern Chengdu.


Visit the Wenshu Yuan Monastery

Wenshu Monastery itself can hardly be considered off-the-beaten-track (pandas aside, it’s one of Chengdu’s most popular attractions), but you and your brood can still experience the grounds the local way, rather than following the group tours. It’s a working monastery home to some 80 Buddhist monks, many of whom can be spotted playing sports in the vast grounds. Kids are unlikely to get bored in the 13 acres of gardens, but you can make things extra interesting by challenging them to spot some of the treasures dotted around the complex, including Liang Dynasty (502-587 CE) stone inscriptions; 300 Buddha statues made from mud, stone, and iron; and a jade Buddha thought to have been carried from Myanmar on foot by a particularly hardy monk. Locals and tourists rub shoulders at the on-site tea rooms and the vegetarian café, while a number of simple spots nearby sell tasty noodles and other easy eats for kids.


Take a Side Trip to a Historic Town

The countryside surrounding Chengdu is home to dozens of tiny Tibetan villages and historic Chinese towns, many of which make an easy independent day trip from the city. Frequent buses serve many of the routes to these towns, with one notable example being Huang Long Xi Ancient Town. Some 30 miles southeast of Chengdu, in Shuangli County, this fascinating town has a history stretching back more than 1,700 years. It’s become known locally not only for its three magnificent temples, but also for its super-abundant tea houses–bamboo tables and chairs placed along the riverfront are cheap and cheerful spots to take the weight off and refuel. Take the kids to see the giant watermill by the river, and the 1,000-year-old banyan trees, whose giant gnarled roots are the subject of many local legends.  


Hotpot Hotspot

Chengdu is almost as famous for its hotpot fare as it is for its pandas. While much of the bubbling stuff served in the city is too spicy for most kids’ palates, there are some tamer versions that may well whet their appetites for the city’s favorite dish. While there are hotpot restaurants across the city, it’s worth making sure you go to a goodie. The huge lines of locals that form outside Shu JiuXiang are a good indicator of its quality, and with diners able to choose their spice levels (as well as the fact that the cooking pot is shaped like a dragon’s head) this is a popular choice for families. If that’s still too much like hot stuff, promise kids a visit to one of Chengdu’s now-ubiquitous ice cream and frozen yogurt shops to cool their tongues down after dinner.

Need some ideas to infuse your family trip to China with nature, luxury, and/or adventure? Check out my collection of articles for families traveling to China!


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?


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.



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.



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.


Giant pandas. The greatest wall in the world. The Terracotta Army. Magnificent mountains and over 5,000 years of history… China has plenty to appeal to kids and teens, and there’s no need to mention the stunning landscapes and 20-plus UNESCO World Heritage Sites that will have grown ups’ eyes popping. Visiting this enormous, culturally-exotic country en-famille might sound like a mammoth undertaking, but China is well geared up to tourism, and luxury family holidays in China offer heaps of excitement and adventure without sacrificing any creature comforts – in fact, China’s finest five-star hotels are among the most luxurious anywhere in the world. Our 14-day itinerary offers a chance to catch China’s big ticket attractions, as well as some off-the-beaten track kiddie-pleasers and some seriously swanky accommodations.

? Tip: China is a kid-friendly country, and families are made to feel welcome the length and breadth of the land, and your kids may well feel like mini-celebrities if they have very ‘Western’ looks. Be prepared for plenty of snapping cameras and curious locals, especially if the kids are very fair-skinned and light haired. .

Day 1-5: Beijing

With its towering skyscrapers, honking traffic and sheer enormous scale, touching down in Beijing can be a giant culture shock for families who have just arrived in China. A stay at the fabulous Four Seasons Beijing will ensure your luxury family vacation in Beijing gets off to a smooth start. Pre-arrange a transfer (the hotel can do this for you, and having the driver greet the family from the plane can be a major stress-saver when arriving at this vast airport after a long flight). The Four Seasons is epic in scale and luxury levels, as a good location among the grand Embassy buildings of the Central Business District, and offers some great family-focused extras such as kids’ spa treatments, table tennis classes, traditional Chinese craft-making classes, and fascinating tea ceremonies – there’s even a library on the Executive Level. The hotel can arrange private sightseeing tours (and a private driver is a good way to see all that this enormous city has to offer. However you choose to see the city, be sure to get out early at least one day to see the locals going about their group morning exercise classes at the stunning Temple of Heaven. Other must-visits for families in Beijing include the gigantic Tiananmen Square (look out for vendors selling kites – kite-flying is a popular family activity here) and neighboring Forbidden City (just the word ‘Forbidden’ is usually enough to pique kids’ interest, and it’s impossible not to be impressed by the largest palace complex in the world, protected by a six-meter deep moat and 10-meter high wall) . A visit to the Great Wall at Mutianyu is another must-do, as is a trip to see the giant pandas at Beijing Zoo. Boat cruises on the city’s beautiful Kunming Lake, taking in the Summer Palace, are nice extras, and evening activities for families in Beijing might include watching a Kung-Fu class or puppet show, as well as getting to grips with chopsticks at some of the city’s excellent high-end restaurants.

? Boxout: Let’s Go Fly a Kite A popular extra activity for kids in China is a kite-making class. The traditional craft has been practised for centuries, and kite-flying is a hugely popular pursuit in Chinese cities. The intricate kites are made from bamboo and silk, and children of all ages tend to enjoy learning how to create their own.

Day 6-9: Xian

Take a transfer to the airport for the 2h 15min flight to Xian (multiple flights daily), where your family will get to meet the 6,000-strong Terracotta Army. There are several high-end accommodation options for your Luxury Family Trip to Xian – for modern luxury on a large scale, try the Sofitel Xian on Renmin Square, while more boutique accommodations come courtesy of Epoque Hotels, which has two upmarket, characterful boutique properties for your luxury family trip to Xian.

A trip to see the Terracotta Army is the main draw in Xian, but there are plenty of other impressive attractions here: dating back to the 11th Century BC, the former capital has a staggering amount of ancient ruins, tombs, pagodas and temples, as well as a Ming Dynasty city wall, and natural wonders including Mount Hua – one of China’s mightiest mountains – and the relaxing Huaqing Hot Springs. Again, the best way to take it all in is to arrange a private driver/tour guide. Try to catch a shadow puppet show at Gao’s Courtyard- a popular draw for families in Xian.

Day 10: Guilin

Take the 2h 15 flight to beautiful Guilin (several flights daily with multiple operators), and pre-arrange a transfer from the airport to Shangri-La Guilin – a super-swanky hotel with a traditional pagoda-style architecture, and a magnificent location between mountains and river. The real appeal of this spot is the beautiful setting, prepare for some rest and relaxation (plan some spa and pool time at the hotel), as well as more active family-friendly pursuits such as bamboo rafting down the river or hiking in the hills

Day 11: Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo

From scenic Guilin, take a cruise down the astonishingly-beautiful Li River (think mist-shrouded mountains, serene riverside villages and locals punting along on home-made rafts). Your hotel should be able to make bookings on luxury boats (or charter a private boat and skipper) to make the 3-hour journey to Yangshou. Allow time on the way to check out the Reed Flute Cave, with its dramatic stalagmites and stalactites (tours take about an hour). Yangshuo itself is more about peaceful retreats than truly luxury lodgings, but Li River Resort, high in the mountains above the city, has priceless views, a lovely pool and impeccable service, with families made to feel extremely welcome. Your family visit to Yangshuo should include activities such as hiking among the rice paddies and gloriously green hills, and the hotel can also arrange family cookery classes and painting lessons.

? Box out: Charming by day, Yangshuo town center gets packed and noisy after dark, and loud disco music may keep light sleepers awake. For a good night’s sleep, take the family to one of the peaceful hillside towns and villages instead.

Day 12-14: Shanghai

It’s a couple of hours’ drive to Guilin airport, where you’ll take a flight to Shanghai City (2h 15mins, several flights daily). Check into the plush-but-family-friendly Peninsula Shanghai and arrange to be picked up by one of the hotel’s own fleet of Rolls Royce cars. The pool and spa are both among the best in town, so allow for time to enjoy them. Super-modern Shanghai has a lot to pack into a couple of days, but highlights for a luxury family trip to Shanghai should include a visit to Shanghai Natural History Museum, a stroll and picnic through Ying Dynasty-era Yu Garden, whose lakes, pagodas and rockeries are a delight for small children and frazzled parents. Visiting the nearby market for keepsakes is another highlight, and an evening visit to catch a super-skillful Acrobatics show (ask at the hotel for bookings) is a cross-generational crowd pleaser and makes a fantastic last-night’s activity to round off your vacation in style before the flight back home.

Check out this post as well: 15 Things You Need to Know When Going to China with Your Family.

And for more luxurious ideas try this website

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!

A second before summer vacation, a lot of the families I escort can already smell the flight date getting nearer. And the closer the moment comes for them, I feel a sort of confusion, a need to hold on to something, a minute before they lose control and head into the unknown.

So for their sake, and for any others that feel the need, here are the two most important tips I can give:

1. you already made a basic plan (after in depth research or maybe in less depth), bought flight tickets, consulted with a traveler’s clinic. Everything is more less arranged? Great.
Now let go. Leave the travel guides be. Leave the facebook groups, leave the blogs (even mine).
From now on, let the road set the way. Sit quietly, breath deep. Live already knowing that each one will get his/her own journey. It doesn’t matter if it rained on you on the way to Dharamsala or if it was boiling hot. If you have a hotel in New-Delhi or not. Those things are no longer in your control. All that’s left is to look on the road, the view, on what your journey will bring you.
That the decision that whatever comes your way- you’ll deal with. That you’re open and ready for adventures, of every kind and color. To meetings with others, with yourselves, with your family members. Accept that the way won’t necessarily be what you imagined it would be, or (and especially) what you planned. Changes and surprises will come. They’re part of the journey.

2. the hot springs in Vashisht are a huge gift. A little piece of heaven I’m grateful for everyday I’m here. We enjoy them and learn a lot from the experience of going to them.
Things that would’ve been very hard to teach my daughters any other way. And that I probably couldn’t teach them any other way, if it wasn’t for our stay here.
But not everyone sees it that way. In fact, most tourists that come here to see the hot springs don’t spend time on them, and definitely don’t dare to actually swim in the pools.
They see that place in an entirely different way. They see grey cement, dirt, bare brick walls.
And they run away.
And I want to thell them- wait a moment. Stop. Take those western glasses off for a minute. And look. Lean. Without prejudice, without criticism, without judging. Leave the west outside. Come try. Open a door to experiences, to curiosity, to love for something completely different, and not necessarily better or worse.
Open yourselves. Completely. Don’t close down because that’d be a shame. To visit a different place, a new place, totally different from anything you know and manage to really experience it on a deep level- that’s amazing. A whole world suddenly opened. A million flakes of inspiration, a million new points and each one of them can lead to a different and spectacular way. And it’s a shame to miss that.
Oh… all the things I learned in the last five years. From everyone. The tourists. The travelers. The views. The locals. There’s so much wisdom in them, a different wisdom, odd and fascinating. Yes, they think very differently from us. They see things differently. But that’s what’s so interesting!
I see tourists that made an effort and saved money for a very long time, invested a lot of money and and went really far. And all that for what?
Leave the books, the researches on the internet. Leave them. Go see the world with clean eyes. Sit with the locals, talk with them, ask them where they think you should go. Where is the best local food. And how exactly do you eat it. How to get from this village to the other one. Join that journey you took yourself into.
Come take of your clothes, slowly slowly dip your legs in the hot water, until you get used to them, look around you, see the women, the youths, the old ladies. How everyone here, free with their bodies, washing each other, dipping naturally in the pool, chit-chatting, laughing.
Come, get in, like it’s your first day alive.

watch this video– the girls talk about their experience at the hot springs in vashisht.

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“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.”
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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).

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Travelling in southeast Asia, even with kids, doesn’t mean being banished to the land of the wild things.

I write this post following a number of inquiries I got on the subject. The fear that becomes bigger the closer your flight is, that you’ll have to sacrifice your soft skin, not to mention those killer selfies, in return for the dust of the roads and adventures, probably lurks in every woman’s head.
(ok maybe it skipped me, after all, I ooze sexiness naturally).

So here are a few tips I learned from my five years of experience:

♦ Southeast Asia is a cosmetic heaven. It only looks scary from the outside. Once you get here, once you stick your head to the first store in India, you’ll see that a lot of your fears were empty. But really empty. A wide range of amazing companies (and every ‘Himalaya’ product you can dream of), tons of natural products, oils, soaps, creams, scrubs. In short: pack light.

♦ Just never forget to check the expiry date before buying anything.

♦ One of the more important parameters is the weather. The main principle in taking care of your face is matching the cream to the weather.

♦ Invest in a night cream, something that gets the job done. And during the day find something appropriate for the weather.

♦ When we made our way by night bus from Beijing to the Mongolian border, I slept on a bunk when underneath me was a beautiful young Mongol woman. at some stage, before she went to sleep, she shamelessly pulled out her toiletries bag, and during the drive, in front of everyone, took cotton swabs and tonic, cleaned her face, put cream, oiled her hands and went to bed. Since then I take her with me everywhere. 40 days and 40 nights of staying in the Mongolian wilds (you thought I was kidding with the title?!), no matter how tired or lazy I felt. Cotton, tonic, face cream. In darkness, cold, heat, rain, in the good, the bad. No half assing.

♦ Keep those in a place that’s easy to reach.

♦ Make sure to wash your face in clear water (even a river, waterfall, lake… whatever) at least once a day.

♦ Have a scarf in your bag. The local women use it to cover their faces and protect them from the road’s dirt whenever they find themselves on a bus/bike. I don’t do it but I’m just lazy.

♦ Watch what you eat. In southeast Asia it’s easy to take care of your face’s skin using fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, different kinds of tea, fruit juice. Pay attention and don’t go wild with the junkfood.

♦ Even if you’re trekking or adventuring in remote places- eat fresh cooked food (over instant for example)- what the locals cook for themselves, drink water or tea (not chemical juice), snack on nuts and dried fruits. Sweeten with honey.

♦ Beauty salons are everywhere. But everywhere. Waxing, eyebrows, moustache. And maybe some face treatments, haircut, color. You can maintain everything even during a trek. Just ask the locals. And there’s a chance you’ll earn a conversation with a fascinating local woman and maybe even learn a few new techniques.

♦ Invest in a hat that looks a-m-a-z-i-n-g on you. You’ll be surprised how useful it can be…

♦ Don’t let pimples erupt. For that there’s a small narrow tube containing a colorless jell for focused treatment (In every other shop in southeast Asia) that neutralizes them within hours.

Make-up: personally I’d recommend one core principle when it comes to make-up: keep your face skin soft and pretty, so you’ll need the minimum and the minimum.

◊ Now, depending on the season but southeast Asia can get reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaally humiiiiiiiid. No make-up is equal to this kind of weather. For this reason, I wouldn’t use much powder, mascara, or black pencil and all its variations.

◊ If anything, it’ll be in the locals stores that you’ll have a chance of finding the super eye-liners that you you could fly to the moon and back with without a single smudge. And it’ll probably cost 20 rupees.

Hair: same thing here. Keep it shiny and healthy. Not so hard in southeast Asia because the range of hair products is simply never-ending. Asian women take care of their hair obsessively.

◊  And of course all the gadgets and stuffs and things for your hair. Everything is dirt cheap and the range is unbelievable.

◊ And let’s say you went on a trek and didn’t wash your hair for a few days- baby talc will absorb the extra oil and give off a nice smell. I heard there’s also “dry shampoo”.

Skin and body care: depends on where you’re traveling. In Vietnam for example there are amazing (and cheap) spas. In India there are hot springs and natural oils, in Nepal there are amazing organic products, in short… go and discover. One of the pleasures or traveling this way is entering a cosmetics store or try out a new massage. I can tell you that the mud bath I did with my daughter, and the swim in a mineral water pool, and the other experiences we had in that area will not be soon forgotten :-).

◊ I use salt as cleaning-disinfecting pilling mask to the skin, preferably natural Himalayan salt (sometimes mix it with a bit of some oil) and honey as massage/cleaning face mask. But that’s only because I am too lazy to carry too much with me. I buy a small amounts and if anything is left I leave it behind.

Nails– mani and padi there’s everywhere. I don’t see a problem. All the other decorations for nails I also saw almost everywhere.

♦ Yoga- it balances you both inside and out.

♦ It’s likely that travelling and the freedom and that feeling of letting go will also express themselves in how you take care of yourself. Don’t be surprised if you want to make rainbow stripes in your hair. Or if your whole definition of beauty completely turned on its head.

♦ And it’s also likely that your adventures, passion, love, adrenaline, and pleasure will all show themselves in the spark in your eyes, the flash of your cheeks and the light in your eyes. Spread out all the love within you.

♦ And then there are places that make you feel like the hottest woman in the world. Let them.

And a few nice links on the subject:

 Packing Secrets from Travel Pros
 Travel Beauty Tips! What to Bring with you on Vacation/Holiday!
 18 Travel Beauty Tips — to Go
 35 travel bloggers reveal their-top beauty tips and tricks
 Stay Sexy on the Road: 6 Beauty Blogger Tips

BTW- you don’t have to be skinny to look hot. here is an awesome link for plus size hotness.

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!