China is a fascinating vacation destination for the whole family. The world’s oldest continuous civilization can’t be categorized or summarized in a few paragraphs, let alone a few pages. Diversity is the keyword here, and expect to see a vast difference in geography, culture, language and gastronomy across the vast nation.
Despite its old age, China is a country that is by no means sitting still—modernization is moving at a pace unmatched by any other place on the planet. Visit one of the thriving modern metropolises, rural rice fields of the south, or take your chance at the Chinese side of the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest. And as one would expect with a country of such massive size, there are countless numbers of outdoor activities and natural sights that can be reached by plane, train or foot, so pack your most comfortable shoes and get going today!
FLIGHTS TO CHINA WITH SAS
SAS flies to China via Oslo, Copenhagen or Stockholm (depending on route) from Chicago and Los Angeles. With daily departures from multiple locations, you can easily find a departure to suit your travel plans. Book early to save on airfare and when you choose SAS, enjoy a 24-hour right of revocation on your flight tickets and online check-in 22 hours prior to departure. Passengers on intercontinental flights can enjoy food and drinks on board. In addition, Wi-Fi is available for a small fee. We look forward to welcoming you on board!
If you are travelling with children under 2 years (without own seat) they fly either free of charge or with a 90% discount on the flight portion of the ticket price, depending on the destination. Children from 2-11 years get a 25% discount. The discounts do not apply to taxes and fees.
THE CHINESE CULTURE
As the home of the world’s largest population—approximately 1.4 billion people—it’s no surprise that China is diverse. Very diverse. There are great variances in culture, linguistics and even physical appearances across the more than 3.7 million square miles, nearly the exact same area of the U.S. (including Alaska). What may be surprising, however, is that despite these many regional and ethnical differences, a mutual Chinese culture does exist, rooting deeply in classical Chinese philosophy and religion. A cultural adherence to collectivism, putting the good of the group in front of individual needs or desires, is a cornerstone of Chinese ethics. In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on work ethics and politeness that characterizes the Chinese people coming from the old philosophies Confucianism and Taoism which, mixed with Buddhism, make up the largest creed in modern China.
Furthermore, other ancient texts and stories such as Number Theories and folklore are still an importance guide to the culture of many Chinese today. The practice of Feng Shui, for example, is based on these ancient Number Theories. In addition, important symbols of Chinese mythology, such as the Chinese Dragon, are icons of happiness, and still used in modern day architecture and at the celebration of the Chinese New Year. Ancient martial arts techniques are widely practiced in modern China; in the big cities thousands of people gather in parks to practice Tai Chi before going to work.
DELICIOUS CHINESE DELICACIES
For visitors from the U.S., Chinese take-out is about as American as they come. Surprising right? And while “Chinese food” may be available on any corner of any small town across the country, you can be sure it isn’t quite the same as the authentic kind you’ll find in China. There are more than 1.4 billion hungry mouths in China, with an endless variety of dishes and delicacies spread across the regions.
In summary, Chinese cuisine can be categorized across several regions: Northern Chinese food (salty and simple, with less vegetables and a lot of wheat like noodles and dumplings); Western Chinese food (hearty, halal with lamb typically taking center stage); Eastern Chinese food (sweet and light, using a lot of sugar, wines, vinegars and soy sauces and an abundance of ingredients); Central Chinese food (spicy with a lot of flavor, typically from garlic and chili peppers); and Southern minority food (there are many minority groups in this region with their own cultural dishes, typically sour and spicy).
THE FORBIDDEN CITY
A must-see on any trip to Beijing, China’s Forbidden City is the largest and most well preserved collection of ancient buildings, and palace complex in the world. The term collectively describes the more than 800 buildings with 9999 rooms, which functioned as the imperial palace from 1422 to 1922, when China's last emperor Puyi formally abdicated and the Republic dethroned the last Qing emperor. The name was aptly given to the Forbidden City because it was inaccessible to the uninvited for more than 500 years, and those that entered without permission faced certain death. Instead, only the imperial family and members of the court were allowed to access the area. Today the Forbidden City is one of China's most important attractions and has been included on UNESCO's world heritage list of protected areas since 1987.
VISIT THE VENICE OF THE EAST
Sūzhōu is a historic Chinese city located in the Jiangsu Province in eastern China. The city is famous for its classical gardens, bridges and canals, giving it the nickname “Venice of the East”. It was also the cradle of the Wu Culture, which influenced this part of the country in the 900s. Historically, Sūzhōu was connected with ideals of grandeur and elegance, attracting artists, writers, scholars and those in China’s high society with its beauty. The city is one of the oldest settlements located by the Yangtze River, China's largest river. Visitors can enjoy many attractions such as the symphonic grouping of natural element such as rocks, water, trees and pavilions to echo the Chinese appreciation of balance and harmony. In addition, there are many beautiful gardens, temples and bridges that can be explored on foot or by bicycle. The city's nine gardens – the Classical Gardens in Sūzhōu – was included on the UNESCO's world heritage lists as examples of classic Chinese landscape design in 1997.
SKYSCRAPERS, NEON LIGHTS, AND COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE IN SHANGHAI
Shànghǎi is the largest city in China, it’s global financial nucleus and home to approximately 20 million people, including the suburbs. In this modern Chinese metropolis expect the unexpected. It’s home to the world’s second largest skyscraper, though that is definitely not the only giant to root itself in the city soil, but also many smaller architectural delights such as those from the art deco period of the 1920s and 1930s.
The people of Shànghǎi are often dubbed “little capitalists” for their penchant for the high-end (keeping in mind Chinese shoppers make up 47% of the luxury goods market) and reflected in the neon advertising and endless shopping streets throughout the city. For those on a budget, don’t worry; China’s largest city features tons of small little shops, pop-up boutiques, markets, vintage shops and designer outlets to satisfy your retail sweet tooth.
But it’s not all modern either, one of its most famous sights, The Bund, is famous for giving a glimpse of life in old Shànghǎi. The Bund is a street that runs along one of the shores of The Yellow River cutting through Shanghai. One side of the waterfront promenade is lined with a number of important Western buildings from colonial times dating back to the early 1900s. On the other side of the lovely promenade, you’ll find an excellent view of the new financial center on the other side of the river.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
No introduction needed here. No matter what your preconceptions of the sheer awesomeness of the Great Wall of China, prepare to be blown away. The incredible structure belongs to the illustrious list of the Seven Wonders of the World. It stretches nearly 4,000 miles at a width of approximately 23 feet wide—though it can be between 19 and 33 feet in some places and reaches a total of 52 feet in others! It’s considered China’s greatest engineering triumph and is a must-see on any trip to the majestic country. One of the best spots for viewing the Wall in all its glory is in the Běijīng municipality, though sights are impressive from most of the northern Chinese provinces. Also, it’s a good idea to go there early if you want to avoid big crowds.
EXPERIENCE THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Chinese New Year – or the Spring Festival – is by far the most important Chinese celebration. Unlike the U.S. New Year, however, the Chinese celebration varies from year to year due to the variance in the Lunar Calendar, though it always falls at some point between January 21 and February 20. The New Year’s celebration is the longest festival in China – lasting for approximately two weeks depending on the region.
As expected, the Chinese New Year is bursting with traditions. The days leading up to it are spent cleaning and decorating the home with red paper cuttings wishing “happiness”, “long life” and “many children” written in beautiful calligraphy. The Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year and although traditionally farming and a good harvest were at the heart of the wishes, today you will find business and profits taking center stage in many regions.
The New Years Evening itself includes a gathering of the family, with a luxurious dinner and fireworks at midnight. The days following New Years Eve are spent visiting family and friends giving red envelopes, new clothes and maybe even some red underwear! The end of the Chinese New Year is marked 15 days after at the Lantern Festival – a kind of Chinese Valentine's Day with music, dancing and lights from beautiful lanterns.