Experiencing China with Kids

13 years
10 years
6 years
2013-06-12 to 2013-07-10

China is a destination which earns divided opinions, especially when you consider a trip to China with kids.  If you ask around you will get more than one opinion. Before going there I received a confusing flood of information, ranging from 'do not go, no way' and 'my sister was there with four children and really enjoyed'. I was told that you cannot find bread over there. Some claim Chinese do not know a word in English, and even the way they count differs from what we know. I was told that they have a kind of rolled stuff with green beans and it's sweet and delicious, and that they eat pig tails. I was told that the views are stunning but the people are not nice. A few said the south is great… the north is great. A couple I met at a guesthouse in Pokhara left me a phrasebook of English - Chinese and out of sincere concern recommended me not to go at all.

In short...I floundered between China and India. But I was in India (three times) and tickets to China were really cheap and I had to escape the frightening monsoon in Nepal and I was going to get to Mongolia anyway and China is just on the way ... so should l miss it?

No. So I went.

And I was terrified. Alone with three children in a country where people do not speak English; and where they eat pig's tails. Oh my…

We landed in Chengdu where we spent two weeks, including a magnificent visit to a renowned panda breeding center and a five-day trip to the Jiuzhai Valley and a visit in two nature reserves: Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. The trip was spectacular in its beauty and one that allowed us to encounter fascinating Tibetan populations and completely different from anything we encountered in China. From Chengdu we went on a journey of several days to Beijing, a journey that included buses and trains of different types.

We started the journey at Xi'an, a city which prides its tourism with an amazing collection of Teracotta soldiers.

We continued to Ping Yao, an ancient town preserved in a rare way. We spent a few days there walking the ancient alleyways, sleeping in a guesthouse that was once a traditional Chinese house, with an enchanting interior courtyard and marvelous wood carvings that covered the entire outer structure.

The town is surrounded by a wall and carries a lot of interesting buildings with long historical and cultural value. It was very interesting to go through the streets and enter the ancient temples, tea houses and palaces, Chinese style courtyards, heavy and high wooden doors.

The food was in a different style compared with the food we have tasted so far. And yet equally spicy.

We fell in love with that picturisque little town and decided to stay there longer than we planned and give up other stations on the way to Beijing.

We rose to a sunny day, disconnected from the feeling of one million years ago and are thrown straight into the new millennium in a cool express train ride that arrived within hours to Beijing. The train ride almost felt like flying.

We spent three days in Beijing. We climbed the wall, of course and there were mixed feelings because the stories within those walls were not easy narratives. A lot of people died during its construction and buried among the stones. And of course the thousands of tourists who came with us to climb didn't really add to the experience.

We went to visit the Forbidden City, but after three hours of scorching heat of the sun, we decided to give up and settle in a view from the outside.

We participated in a traditional tea ceremony, which was very pleasant and educational (and also delicious).

We took pictures with 'the Nest'.

Local food in Beijing was more delicious than in any other place we had been in China. In Chengdu for example, we almost avoided local food and we settled for more Western alternatives - at first Starbucks and Pizza Hut and then we found a small sushi stand, cheap and excellent and we ate there almost all the time (and we laughed about being in China eating sushi J). In fact only in Beijing we were able to find foods that are Chinese and are also very tasty.

After three days we took a sleep bus, 17 hours to the border town Erenhot. Everyone says its charmless and boring but I actually liked it.

And after a month in China, we crossed the border to Mongolia.


What was fun:

  • The Chinese were surprisingly good and in fact most of the locals we met were exceptionally nice, even if they did not understand a word of what we said.
  • The visit in the nature reserves was the highlight. It is a work of art made ​​entirely by nature. Amazing and spectacular as only nature can offer.
  • The panda breeding center in Chengdu was nice, and to see the pandas manage their lives, and the cubs playing and going wild was an exciting experience.
  • The express train was a fun experience.
  • The small town of Ping Yao was a pleasant and quite treat.
  • In the big cities there is great modernization. It's nice - China has everything -  everything is huge, everything is spectacular. And to find corners a little more 'Chinese' you have to make a litte effort.
  • In Chengdu, there are some nice gardens which is fun to walk around, sit in the tea houses and watch the local residents all playing Chinese games that everyone is now downloading to their mobile phones..
  • The nature reserve which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also belongs to the Biosphere program: http://www.jiuzhai.com/language/english/index.html

What was less fun:

  • The food. We certainly did not get along with it almost at all.
  • The communication problems make everything difficult and unbearable.. even in hotels in Beijing where you would expect a little English - they could not help me when I asked for instructions/directions on how to get to 'the Great Wall'.
  • And so were are all the orders of public transport tickets. If we wouldn't have connected with some kind local residents, we would not have even been able to buy train or bus tickets, or even figure out where they go and where they stop and when you should replace them and when to get off ..


Jiuzhaigou Valley
Jiuzhaigou Valley
Jiuzhaigou Valley
Article Type: 
General Destination Info


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