Here’s the truth about China and how you should visit the world’s most populous country. Here’s my simple tip: AVOID Shanghai and Beijing. Once you have escaped the realms of those two, then China suddenly becomes more real, more authentic and more rewarding. To be honest, visiting Shanghai and Beijing isn’t really visiting China. I’ll give you you a rundown on how to really travel in China…and remember almost everywhere in China is “off the beaten track” for the non-Chinese.
I’m talking about mainland China here – not Hong Kong, not Macau, not Taiwan. I’ll also take Tibetout of the equation as it’s a separate political matter but the real China is also mainland China. From my endless visits to China, I list Shanghai and Beijing as the worst two cities or places to go in order to see China. They are on a level with Hong Kong and Singapore as global cities these days. With Italian restaurants, Irish pubs and French bakeries in those cities, they somehow seem a bit less authentically Chinese nowadays. You need to head to places where there is not a hint of anything thatis not Chinese. Get completely off the beaten track!
Until you sit down in a village that nobody has ever heard of, to eat food you’ve never seen, miles from any major city and with no other foreigners or foreign writing in sight, then you haven’t really seen China!
So get off the beaten track to see the real China. If you experience these things then you are really in China:
1. There is nobody around who speaks a word of English (and sometimes not even Chinese – they use only local dialect).
2. You cannot understand the bus timetable and end up in the wrong village.
3. Chickens are more common than cars in the village you stay in.
4. There is absolutely no internet anywhere, nor computers, nor mobile phones!
5. Nothing on sign posts is written in any language other than Chinese.
6. You eat something and you have NO IDEA what it is!
That’s my take on how to really see China – you don’t have to listen or take it all in and of course you might find what you need in Shanghai and Beijing. But honestly, if you really want to see China and Chinese culture which hasn’t changed in generations, then head off the scent to places like Jin Ji Cun, Shaoguan and Kaiping. You’ll be gasping for more of China once you’ve seen what it’s really like!