High-speed trains are a top choice for travellers given the on-time, safe, and comfortable service. China’s first real high-speed railway was built in 2002, offering a faster mode of transit than the earlier-built CRH railway system. Today, more than 20 routes connect major cities along the country’s east coast, and construction is underway to include cities in the west. On frequently traveled routes, the time between two trains is as little as 3 minutes, and the average speed is 300 km/h.
All high-speed trains are relatively new with modern facilities on board. There are first class, second class and business class seats. Some long distance trains also have hard and soft beds. All seats are soft cushioned and adjustable, with tray tables. Plugs are available under the seats for passengers who need to charge electronic devices. Above the door of each car, an LCD screen displays the current travelling speed and the availability of lavatories.
Lavatories are at the end of each car. They are siphonic toilets, which make them cleaner. Toilet paper is supplied, but it is advised to bring your own in case it runs out and isn’t refilled quickly.
Crew members are easily identifiable by their uniforms. They sell snacks and drinks to passengers and generally clean up from time to time during the trip. When they are not tending to passengers in the car, they can be found in a small office located at the car connection point.
Eating on the trains is easy. There is usually a restaurant car where passengers can order food, or crew members will push a trolley of lunch/dinner boxes at meal time. They are mostly rice with fried vegetables and meat; no western food is served. Most people like to bring fast noodles since the meals on the trains are high priced. Hot water is available on each car to make your own noodles.
With the rapid urbanization in China, high-speed rail service aids efficient mobility of both people and products from place to place.
The Beijing to Shenzhen railway is currently the longest high-speed railway in the world. Several segments connect to create a total route of about 2,240 km. Designed for travel at 350 km/h, it cuts through the vast land of China from its political capital city to the country’s first special economic zone after opening up to international trade. There are 17 stops, each at a city worth paying a visit. Be sure to consider the spots mentioned below for day trips along your travels.
Beijing has many popular attractions including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the Summer Palace, the Hutong (alleys) where local life plays out, the Ming Tombs, the Temple of Heaven, Olympic park, the busy nightlife and more. With so much to do in such a large city, it’s a good idea to do your homework first and make a list of things you’d like to see the most, be it architecture, nature landscapes, cultural life or food tasting! Taking advantage of organized day trips is highly recommended, just to save the hassle of navigating metro lines and buses when you don’t speak the language. Here’s a page of different trips that might be helpful
Among all the “must-see” sites, these two will leave strong impressions on you: the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven. The Wall was designed well for defense. It’s tough terrain: high on the mountain ridge with some very steep slopes, windy all year round, and no protection from the summer sun or winter elements. It’s impossible to get around. The Temple of Heaven was built for offering sacrifice to the Gods. It rises high above the ground and fosters a calm and peaceful feeling among visitors. The echo wall still works. Try telling a secret to a friend there!
Temple of Heaven
Bring your walking shoes to the Forbidden City and the Ming Tomb. It’s a huge park where you can view and admire amazing architecture and the change of dynasties. Chinese people like to joke about ghosts in the Forbidden City because when people lived there, they had a way in but no way out. The Summer Palace and Beihai Park are very nice parks for walks and boating, while the Olympic park represents modern China.
No matter what you’re interested in, you can find it in Beijing. For foreigners who are used to seeing images of China’s streets full of people on bicycles, be prepared to be surprised as the modern city has all the amenities, and automobile traffic, found in any bustling metropolis.
The first railway stop south of Beijing, Baoding had served as a gateway to Beijing. The name itself means “safeguarding the capital”. Its major attractions are natural landscapes and WWII sites.
Baiyang Lake in Anxin County, the largest lake on the northern China plain, is one spot combining both natural beauty and war history. The area is named after the largest of 146 lakes created by the irrigation canals and ditches crisscrossing the expanse of water and reed-filled marshland. It is described as the Venice of Hebei Province. Boats are the main form of transportation for locals and visitors alike. Visitors can rent a motorboat to tour the marshland, lush with lotus blossoms, water chestnuts and water lilies. The story of how locals took advantage of the lakes and marshlands to fight off invading Japanese was adapted into the film “Baiyangdian”, making it famous throughout China. Xibaipo and Ranzhuang Tunnel are the two war remnants here that history enthusiasts will want to see.
A day’s trip in Baoding can start with a tour in the Office of Zhili Governor-General from the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China. It is like a museum where you can see how a government office was arranged and the typical layout of a house. After this you can rent a car to go to Baiyang Lake. On arrival, you can find a restaurant to enjoy a fresh fish meal and then go boating along the intertwined waterways.
Tourism is not a major business in the city so be aware that facilities for tourists are limited. . You can request transfer services with a hired car and driver from China Highlights.
Shijiazhuang, in the center of Hebei Province, is one of the most developed cities in northern China. It’s great development began in 1902 when it was chosen to be a stop on the railway built by France and Belgium. It remains an important traffic hub today due to its proximity to Beijing. The city itself is another one of China’s modern cities with tall buildings and busy streets, but two of its towns are home to a few of the world’s precious treasures.
In historical Zhao County, 50 km from the city center, Anji Bridge (also known as Zhaozhou Bridge) spans the Jiao River. The bridge is the world's oldest open-spandrel stone segmental arch bridge, constructed in the years 595-605 during the Sui Dynasty. It is the most famous historical site in this county but not the only one. The Tuoluonijing Tower, a religious structure sculpted out of granite upon which Buddhists carved scriptures, was built in the year 1038 with exquisite sculpturing techniques that hold important artistic value today. Bailin Temple is another popular spot. It was first built in Han dynasty and experienced rises and falls in its long history. A cypress inside the temple that is more than one thousand years old draws numerous pilgrims.
North of Shijiazhuang City you’ll find another important old town: Zhengding County. Its old walls are well preserved. At one time in history, Zhengding County along with Beijing and Baoding were the three most important towns in north China.
Nature lovers will also find several mountains to climb around Shijiazhuang City. Cangyan Mountain is one of them, and it offers more than cliffs and springs. The Fortune Celebration Temple was built on the mountainside and is known for the Bridge-Tower Hall that connects two cliffs, providing a full view of the gorge beneath it.
All these places are located in different directions around the city, so it’s best to pick one of them and dedicate a whole day to it. Just don’t forget to have a taste of donkey burger. A Chinese saying suggests “Donkey meat is the best meat on earth”.
Handan is the last stop in Hebei Province before the train heads into Henan Province. It was the capital of the State of Zhao during the Warring States period that lasted from 403 BC to 221 BC One Chinese idiom is the story of a man from the State of Qi who heard that Handan people walked graciously, so he came to Handan trying to learn but failed and made a joke of himself. The moral of the story is not to follow others blindly. Toddler Bridge was built here for this idiom. Close to the bridge is Congtai Park. The park is built around an architectural relic called Congtai. It was built for the king of the State of Zhao to watch parades and musical and dance performances.
Guangfu Town is another well-preserved ancient city that has a history of over 2,000 years. Located XXX from Handan, it is complete with walls and surrounded by water. A day’s trip can start from here. You can choose to spend half day or longer and return to Handan to visit the park and the bridge, which are within 10 minutes walking distance of each other and each would only take about half an hour.
Hebi is a relatively small, thus not well known, city in the northern part of Henan Province. Its name means “cranes inhabit on the cliff”.
The Qi River passes through the city and its beauty is frequently mentioned in Chinese poems. North of the city, the river winds its way around and forms a landscape that looks like a Tai Chi Bagua.
This place has given the ancient, extraordinary man named Gui Gu Zi. He is full of knowledge about the world and is a traveller; he reads stars and knows better than anyone the art of war. His two students were the most respected war advisers of their times. He liked to go to Yunmeng Mountain to pick herbs and practice Taoism. Statues of him stand today near Yunmeng Mountain. The mountain also features waterfalls, caves and cliffs.
A relaxed day trip in Hebi would be to one of the places above. But, they’re not too far away from each other, so those who are energetic can try to see both in a day. A trustworthy driver will be helpful and can be arranged through China Highlights.
Zhengzhou is the capital of and largest city in Henan Province in north central China. It serves as a major transportation hub for central China, and is one of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China. The ancient city was the capital of the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th Century BC), the second dynasty recorded in Chinese history. Ancient packed-earth city walls can still be seen in some parts of Zhengzhou. A green ceramic glaze pot unearthed in Zhengzhou has been shown to be the most ancient porcelain in China.
Its long history left the city with many cultural and historic sites. Shaolin Temple, situated at the foot of Song Mountain, is the birthplace of Shaolin Kong Fu. One of the four Academies of Classical Learning in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), Songyang Shuyuan gives a complete depiction of Chinese ancient education. In addition, many ancient tombs, temples and battle sites are the manifestation of the richness of culture in the city. Henan Provincial Museum also showcases the important position the city held in ancient times.
If you want to see more on a day trip in Zhengzhou, it’s best to hire a car. You can start very early at Erqi Square, where you can see a double pagoda memorial of a workers’ strike during the construction of the Jing Han Railway in the 1920s. Then while going up to the Henan Museum, you can detour a bit to pass the Shang Dynasty walls near People’s Square without stopping. If the tour in the museum can be limited to 2 hours, you can drive out at late morning with a sandwich lunch box, and arrive at Shaolin Temple about 2 hours later. You can stay there until closing and return to the city to eat at a night market. Again, it’s advised to rent the car service through China Highlights.
Henan was the geographical center of ancient China, and Zhumadian City in the center of it was a national transportation hub. The name literally means “the place to stop and have the horses rest”.
Several folk stories can be traced back to Zhumadian. It is where the Chinese version of the Romeo and Juliet story took place. But the Chinese story ends with the two lovers becoming a pair of butterflies that flew away, leaving all earthly troubles behind. Pangu Mountain, located in Miyang County of Zhumadian, is said to be the place where the mythical Pangu created the universe. In addition, the widely celebrated Double Ninth Festival, held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, also originated here. It’s customary on the day of the festival for families to get together, climb to a high place and appreciate chrysanthemum wine.
While in Zhumadian, many visitors make the one-hour drive to nearby Runan County. The Nanhai Temple there has a long history, but what you see today is newly built, and built to impress. In the north of the county, there is an artificial lake covering 167 square kilometers. The name means it’s a lake the ducks stay. If you head out to the lake in the morning, you can enjoy an early fish lunch and then drive one hour south to the memorial site of the lovers. You’ll get to see their tombs where they became butterflies and sculptures of the couple. It will inspire romance.
The name of Xiaogan city, located inHubei Province, reflects an essential Chinese cultural practice – filial piety. In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is a virtue of respect for one's parents and ancestors. Long ago, a son from Xiaogan named Dong Yong sold himself to bury his father. This place thus got the name that translates to “filial piety has touched the God”.
It is a good place to see some shows. Although Shadow Play did not originate here, it is popular with the practice of three styles. Chuju, a type of traditional Chinese opera, originated from this area and remains popular in the city.
About 30 km out of Xiaogan, Shuangfeng Mountain Forest Park is another attraction. There is a karst cave in this park that long ago people lived in. Visitors can also hear the sounds of an underground river when in the cave. Ancient military camping sites are also interesting to see. They are built with rocks on the mountaintops.
A Xiaogan tour could start with a day in the fresh air of the forest park, viewing ancient structures and ending at an opera house for either the Shadow Play or Chuju.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, is the most populous city in central China. It is a major transportation hub and one of the most ancient and civilized metropolitan cities in China, more ancient than Beijing, Xi'an and Nanjing. It is now the conglomeration of three cities: Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang. In the 3rd century AD, one of the most famous battles in Chinese history and a central event in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms—the Battle of Red Cliffs—took place in the vicinity of the cliffs near Wuhan. In AD 223, the Yellow Crane Tower was constructed on the bank of Yangtze River and was sung in a poem by a poet in the Tang Dynasty, making it the most celebrated building in southern China. Wuhan is known for its oppressively humid and hot summers, giving it the nickname of one of the Three Furnaces of China, along with Nanjing and Chongqing.
This trip is recommended https://www.chinahighlights.com/tour/wuhantour/wh-1/. It will take you to the famous Yellow Crane Tower with a good view of the Yangtze River. A tour of the Hubei Museum will help you learn more of the city’s rich history and its Chu culture as featured in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province. In the first millennium BC, it was an urban center in the state of Chu, thus over 3,000 Chu tombs have been excavated here. In recent history, New China’s first Chairman Mao Zedong started his political career here, as a newly arrived country boy from the nearby village of Shaoshan. The connection with Chairman Mao makes the city a destination for those interested in the heritage of the Red Army.
Xiangjiang River runs through Changsha. In its center lies a sandbar of 0.9 square kilometers, one of the largest of its kind in the world. Parallel to the sandbar on the riverbank is Changsha’s most famous mountain, Yuelu Mountain. At one point in Mao Zedong’s war career, he stopped on the sandbar looking across the running river to the Yuelu Mountain and saw the whole mountainside covered in brightly red leaves. He wrote a poem about it that was inscribed in white marble that stands in the mountain’s central park.
Yuelu Mountain is a pleasant retreat from the urban chaos of Changsha. Visitors can take the cable car up in the morning, and spend the day winding down the tracks. There are plenty of teahouses, pavilions, and the occasional temple to stop at on the way down. And, one of Changsha’s most important treasures is at the bottom of it.
Yuelu Academy was established at the foot of Yuelu Mountain in 976 in Song Dynasty. It has witnessed the change of times but remained a place for higher education and academic research. Now part of Hunan University, Yuelu Academy is open to students from around the world. The campus spans an area of 21,000 square meters. Major constructions such as classrooms, libraries, gardens and temples from the Ming and Qing dynasties are well preserved and present a picture of how an ancient Chinese academy was organized. Within the academy, there are also plenty of tablet inscriptions and plaques worth viewing.
One thing not to miss while travelling in Changsha is the famous local cuisine, Xiang Style (a word of caution: many find it very spicy). A braised pork is a signature dish. If you’re very experimental, the tofu is another snack to try!
A day trip in Changsha could start at Yuelu Mountain, wander down to Yuelu Academy and finish at a dinner table with spice!
Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province, the well-known to the western Guangzhou. The city is known for its early development in China’s opening-up in recent decade, yet in contrary to its modernization, the locals maintain a very relaxed lifestyle. Its isolation from the rest of 'typical China' by mountainous topography and early exposure to the outside world has resulted in its unique lifestyle, liberal ideas, distinctive cuisine and tremendous wealth. It is no surprise that Guangzhou is a cradle of many reforms and revolutions that changed the fate of China forever.
Food is a centerpiece of life in Guangzhou. The city has the country's largest number of restaurants per capita and is the birthplace of what westerners call 'Chinese food' (Cantonese food). Here you can grab the authentic taste of sweet & sour pork, wonton soup and dim-sum. Few travelers leave the city hungry.
Touring in Guangzhou can be as laid back as the city itself – most of the sights are located around the city center. Zhujiang River and its tributaries form a network of waterways that run through the city and cut out islands of different sizes. A ferry tour along the river gives you an overview of the city and you can also walk or run on the pedestrian road along the river. A night stroll is especially fun since you’ll come across people singing, dancing with a group, playing music instruments and couples enjoying romantic moments under the glittering neon lights.
Shamian Island on the Zhujiang River is a historical area that serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and lined with historical buildings in various states of upkeep. In the 19th century, it was divided into two concessions for France and the United Kingdom. A French Catholic chapel, Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, was constructed in 1892, has been restored and is open to tourists.
North of the Shamian Island is a well preserved ancestral temple, the Temple of Chen Family. Built by the 72 Chen clans for their juniors' accommodation and preparation for the imperial examinations in 1894 in Qing Dynasty, it now houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. The complex is symmetric architecture consisting of 19 buildings with nine halls and six courtyards. A large collection of southern China art pieces, including wood carvings and pottery, is also displayed here. A tour of the temple is an introductory session on traditional Chinese architecture and decor.
The revolutionary leader who ended China’s imperial era, Sun Yat-sen, was born in Guangdong Province. In memory of him, a memorial hall designed by Mr. Lv Yanzhi was constructed between 1929 and 1931. It is a combination of Chinese and western architectural styles.
As said, tourist sites are quite centralized and each generally takes a visitor about 45 minutes. So, you can combine everything together and cover even more with an optimized route. The exercise will also help you quickly empty your stomach for the rich food Guangzhou has for you.