January – Chinese New Year:
If you have yet to experience Chinese New Year in China, this is one festival that you might want to plan well in advance for. However, you should also realize that during the week of the festivals, employees all over China have the entire week off – with just a few exceptions.
This means that for two weeks prior and two weeks following, hotels are operating at a minimum service level, many restaurants may be closed— especially if not in the center of a major city— and transportation is at a premium, forcing you to wait for hours sometimes to get a ride.
Still, the red decorations on every street, building, home and government office is vibrant eye-candy. The smiling faces, sweet rice balls, exuberant energy fills the soul and mind of everyone in the country simultaneously.
And, if you forget to bring red underwear for the festival, you can find it on sale in every market, grocery store and shopping center! Red underwear is worn to ward off bad luck and misfortune.
Dragon Boat Festival – Late May to Mid-June dates vary by year:
According to legend, before the First Imperial Dynasty of China was formed, an advisor to the throne of Chu (a nation-state in 221 BCE) lost favor with the King and went into seclusion to write poems that are considered classic Chinese literature even today.
When Qin overran Chu, the poet committed suicide by drowning himself, the people were so sad over his death that they made zongzi – rice dumpling filled with vegetables or meat and wrapped in bamboo leaves – and threw it to the fish so that they would not eat his body. The dragon is said to live beneath the sea and protects fisherman during the festival.
Panda Keeper Program and Giant Pandas:
There are several Panda keeper programs that prepare you to handle Giant Pandas at one of three bases:
- Dujiangyan – China Conservation and Research Center – once you have taken the course, you are allowed to direct interaction including holding the pandas and taking a picture with them – you will need at least one full day for this experience
- Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center – This one takes about half a day and also allows for direct interaction with the Pandas
- Bifengxia Giant Panda Base – Take part in the volunteer program for panda keepers; 2 day experience and about 3 hours from the city of Chengdu
At Ocean Park in Hong Kong, you can see Li Li and Ying Ying, the pair given to Hong Kong by China as well as An An, JiaJia – the oldest living Panda who will be 39 on August 10th 2017.
The Terracotta Army of Xi’an – In Shaanxi Province:
Located in north-central China, Xi’an is the home of the Terracotta Army found in Qin Shi Huang’s tomb – the First Emperor of the First Imperial Dynasty of China who reigned from 221 – 207 BC. So far, more than 8,000 life-sized terracotta statues including horses, chariots, musicians, officials, concubines and soldiers have been unearthed.
There are street markets, shopping districts, shopping malls and back alley shops in nearly every major city as well as rural towns of China that offer all kinds of gifts and souvenirs that you could want. Be sure to ask what items are made from before buying so you don’t buy something you don’t want.
Sleeping and Eating
In the last several decades, China has become known as one of the most modern countries in the world. Luxury hotels abound and restaurants with excellent food are everywhere at every price point. You should note that food in China – traditional Chinese foods – are not anything like those you will eat in the western world– even in the most traditional of Chinese restaurants. The food is even better!
A Country Too Big For One Trip
Not only is China too big for one trip, it’s too big for ten trips. If you wish to enjoy any of the major festivals, you must be sure to reserve your place at least 3 months in advance and more if possible.