Why go to China ?

 

You will find here the results of our backpackers' survey as well as comments on some aspects of China.

We asked backpackers who had traveled in China for more than three weeks already to answer the followings :


Do you like China ?  97% of the backpackers surveyed (75) say yes !
(same)
For various political reasons, China and the Chinese are afflicted with a bad image. As a consequence, quite a few westerners simply refuse to consider China as a backpacker's destination.  "Why bother with China while Thailand is next door ?" The facts are : nearly all the travelers who had the courage to come enjoyed it, would happily come back and would recommend it... As a global travel experience, few countries can beat China !

 

Would you happily come back ? 96% of the backpackers surveyed (75) say yes ! (same)

China is such a huge country that it is difficult to see it all in one shot. You would require a minimum of 4 months and still miss some extreme parts... The travelers we asked would however come back mostly because they enjoyed it ! As simple as that.

 

Would you recommend China ?  95% of the backpackers surveyed (75) say yes ! (up)

Not only were most of the backpackers we asked happy with their experience but they were also willing to advertise for it !

 

 

We also asked them to rate the followings :

The tourists attractions        Backpackers : 16.27 /20 (down)
An overall good rate for China’s sights. Considering its size and unique culture, China is a tourist attraction in itself and arguably the most interesting country to visit in Asia : beautiful scenery, delicate temples, massive monuments, exquisite gardens,… China is so potentially rich that it is expected to become the first country visited in the world by the year 2020. It might be a good idea to go there before the crowd...

The city scenery       Backpackers : 11.20 /20 (up)
OK, so you basically do not go to China for its cities. With a few exceptions, the idea behind the urbanism process has more to do with efficiency (how to pack as many people as possible in the less possible space) than aestheticism or ecology. The basic model is a set of depressing concrete buildings with a People's  Park  and some commercial centers. Fortunately, the busy streets and various cultural shocks always add color and interest to the scene. And in some cases like Chongqing, you might even  be surprised to discover that ugliness actually has got some charm…

The natural scenery         Backpackers : 17.35 /20 (same)
There is a misconception about China that this is a country to visit mostly for its cultural heritage. In fact, while some people are disappointed by the cultural attractions, China’s scenery usually deliver well above the expectations. The choice is wide and the quality is high : sand dunes (Dunhuang), snow peaks (Songpan), alpine lake (Tianchi), rice terraces (Longsheng), karsts peaks (Yangshuo), deep gorge (Tiger Leaping), grassland (Mongolia), mountains (quite a few places), caves,… With the exception of tropical beaches or jungle, China could set the reference for the rest of Asia...

The cultural opportunities        Backpackers : 14.74 /20 (up)
Being for the monuments, temples, museums or the Chinese culture as a whole, China is certainly worth a long visit.  Still, China might leave some people slightly frustrated. Here is a country which advertise more than 5,000 years of history but whose population, being too busy trying to make money, seem to care little about their cultural heritage.  The atmosphere is certainly better now than during the "Cultural Revolution” of the late 60's  (Chinese people climb on the monuments only to make photos nowadays) but it remains somehow as superficial as the flashy  restored monuments designed to attract tourism all over the country...

The food         Backpackers : 17.17 /20 (up)
One of the great pleasure of traveling in China ! Ordering it might be sometimes problematic but Chinese cuisine, with the exception maybe of its exotic extremes, is definitively one of the best cuisine in the world. One of the most varied also thanks to all the regional preferences. Sichuan dishes are particularly famous (and spicy) with such specialties as Chicken with peanuts (gongbao jiding) which you can order everywhere in China with various success. Prices, as you would expect for a developing country, are very reasonable, provided that you avoid some ridiculously expensive "delicacies"...

The infrastructures         Backpackers : 12.53 /20 (up)
China is on the motorway to development and is improving its infrastructures at the speed of its trains. The roads that were considered bad and dangerous two years ago are likely to be of acceptable standard by now and travel times are being shortened accordingly. This does not mean that the roads are perfectly safe or that traveling in some areas is less of  an adventure than before, but it means that you are most likely to easily find a transport to your next destination, which is already a performance. 

The cost of living and traveling        Backpackers : 14.29 /20 (down)
A fair rating : the east coast & big cities are expensive but the minorities or remotes areas are dirt cheap, the tourist attractions are expensive but the food is excellent value, transportation between places is not cheap but local beers cost nearly nothing... Avoid the expensive places, save your money for what is really worth seeing and China will become an economical place to visit ! 

The safety        Backpackers : 16.80 /20 (down)
From a western perspective, China is a fairly safe country to visit. Still, the usual precautions prevail, in particular in the big cities and around the busy places : watch your bags and keep your valuables out of sight. Physical aggressions are uncommon with foreigners and fights are usually reserved for the locals after a traffic accident...

The cleanliness        Backpackers : 9.28 /20 (up)
If you arrive from India, you might be impressed by the cleanliness of China's streets. Otherwise, it is as you would expect from a developing country... Actually, tourists areas are usually well maintained and the main streets of the big cities are quite clean  but as soon as you leave the crowd or take a small alley, you discover real dirty China !

The pollution        Backpackers : 7.03 /20 (up)
The lowest rate of all the survey ! Yes, China is polluted ! According to the World Resources Institute in Washington, 9 of the 10 most air-polluted cities in the world are in China ! Globally, air pollution accounts for 300,000 deaths every year. This is due to the sad fact that China rely at 75% on coal for its energy. Those scary statistics should however be more of your concern if you plan to work in China than just traveling through a few dirty cities on your way to a mountain area...

The Shopkeepers' attitude       Backpackers : 11.59 /20 (up)
An average rate for a very average behaviour.  Chinese shopkeepers are usually not agressive but they can be pushy (when you wish to have a look) or sleepy (when you wish to buy something). In addition, they usually try to overcharge their customers (Chinese or foreigners alike). This is certainly annoying but part of the game of shopping in Asia...

The Minorities' attitude        Backpackers : 14.98 /20 (up)
A difficult question with a big scale of answers. Indeed, how to rate the 55 ethnic minorities of China which represent 7% of the population ? Some are friendly (most of them actually) while some are primarily interested by your money... As a whole, minorities areas offer some of the best experience / cost ratio of China : wild countryside, charming villages, colorful costumes, ancestral traditions, specific dialect,... But some of those areas also have their downside : lack of hygiene, poverty, bad transportation, very basic accommodations,... To go there is sometime an adventure. But what an adventure !

The Chinese people's attitude        Backpackers : 14.22 /20 (up)
No, the Chinese people are not as highly civilized and sociable as some writers would like us to believe. But on the contrary, they also do not qualify as "spitting dog eaters with a fondness for destroying temples" ! Actually, most of the backpackers reckons that, despite communication problems, the Chinese people are fairly friendly and helpful. Still, any amount of time spent in China will at one point or another play on your nerve : the Chinese people live naturally and pay little attention to the disturbance they might cause to other peoples...  If you can read French, see the section culture shocks for more details.

Entertainment        Backpackers : 10.47 /20 (down)
Backpackers do not usually go to China for the fiesta and this is better that way as they are less likely to be disappointed. In the big cities, discos and bars provide some kind of distractions but in the rest of the country, going out means singing at one karaoke parlor or watching a kung fu movie.  The best places for partying are backpackers' paradises like Yangshuo or Lijiang but, then, this is  not  real China...

Shopping        Backpackers : 14.61 /20 (same)
China's made products are cheap so it's tempting to buy quite a few things. Bear in mind however that the "made in China" label is not yet synonym of quality.  It is therefore usually better to stick to what China does best : traditional Chinese products. When shopping, always negotiate as it is part of the game for the shopkeeper to try to overcharge you. As for souvenirs, China boost what is probably the widest (and wildest) choice of kitsch stuff in the world !

Generally, the country        Backpackers : 16.43 /20 (up)
A good overall rate for Great China : numerous tourists sights, great scenery, intriguing culture, welcoming locals, available transportation, tasty food and reasonable prices, all spiced with a lot of culture shocks...  A guaranteed change from the old routine !

Value for money        Backpackers : 15.95 /20 (down)
Globally, China remains a good travel bargain. But it is a big country and the  state of development and costs vary according to the area.  If you are money cautious, spend more time in the remote parts than on the east coast... 

 

Give your opinion !  If you have traveled in China for more than 3 weeks, please participate to our surveys !

Compare China with the other countries and see the evolutions in the Asia Section. 

 


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