Holiday favourites … from China
Cox & Kings travel consultant Nick Coy shares his favourite experiences from his first trip to China with a few top tips to anyone planning a holiday to this fascinating country.
Wildlife: Giant pandas, Chengdu
No holiday to China can be truly complete without seeing these rare and endangered bears. I visited several research bases. The base at Dujiangyan was the best: there were fewer Pandas but there were also far fewer visitors. I was able to see them enjoying mountains of bamboo, playing in the enclosure and climbing the trees. There were infant pandas between the ages of two and five, adults and also red pandas, which were my favourite. But make sure to get there early. If you arrive too late in the morning then the pandas are enjoying a post-breakfast nap. I left my hotel at 7.30am and it was a 90-minute drive to get there, but definitely worth it!
Landscape: Li river cruise
This river cruise creates a welcome break in an itinerary packed with cultural sights and city tours. I boarded in Guilin and took the four-hour cruise down the Li river to Yangshuo. I spent almost the entire cruise on the outdoor deck viewing the passing scenery, only returning to the main deck for the included lunch. The slow pace of the cruise is perfect for taking in the extraordinary karst landscapes and catching glimpses of local life amid the riverside villages and rice terraces – simply serene.
Bamboo rafting on the Li river, Yangshuo
Temple: Confucius Temple, Nanjing
You’re likely to see a lot of temples over the course of a holiday to China. For me, the Confucius Temple in Nanjing stood out from the rest for its history, location and design. It was built to honour the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius whose ideas influenced Chinese history for centuries. It was originally constructed in the 11th century during the Ming dynasty but had to be rebuilt after the second world war. It stands on the banks of the river, within the ancient city walls and close to the colossal Zhonghua Gate. When night falls, the temple is lit by lanterns and there is a light show. It becomes the centre point of the city where locals congregate around bars and stalls selling street food.
Confucius temple at night, Nanjing
Hotel: Capella Shanghai
Capella Shanghai is an innovative, luxury hotel located in the old French concession district of Shanghai. Accommodation is in converted 1930s ‘shikumen’ villas, which were formerly occupied by tradesmen and expats, all connected by a maze of narrow lanes. Each luxury villa has four floors comprising a living area, bathroom, bedroom and rooftop balcony. Both French and Chinese heritage are evident in the décor alongside sumptuous modern amenities. The French influence extends to the Michelin-starred restaurant where guests can enjoy the included breakfast and dinner (not included!). There is also a small boulangerie serving tempting pastries and coffee. Take advantage of the complimentary ice cream served here on the day you check in; I had the coconut and it was delicious.
Bedroom, Capella Shanghai
Cuisine: Dim sum banquet
It’s hard to pick a favourite food from the countless specialities that I tried from the many provinces of China. The dim sum banquet that I feasted on in Xian perhaps stands out as the most memorable and tasty. I have always loved dim sum (dumplings) but it was quite different to try them in an authentic Chinese restaurant that specialises in them. There were 12 in total, each with a different filling including a very spicy one (my favourite) and a walnut one for dessert. As a reward for finishing them all I was given four more pork ones! They were so addictive I didn’t have a problem in polishing them off.