Foreigners venture off the beaten path into interior provinces

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/17 18:28:39

Exploring China

More and more foreigners are arriving in China to explore the mysteries of this ancient country. Just in the first half of this year, China received 14.25 million visits from foreigners, an increase of 5.8 percent, according to data on official website of China National Tourism Administration.

A foreigner takes a photo of Tiananmen. Photos: CFP and Chen Shasha/GT

The Bund of Shanghai


Off the beaten path

Metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing are no longer exclusive travel options for foreigners, as many are seeking cultural experiences beyond the big cities. Several foreigners interviewed by the Global Times recently shared their impressions of Chinese cities they have been to.

"I visited three major cities, Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou, and I have lived in Suzhou," Perrine from France told the Global Times. For her, these cities are different from where she comes.

"It is very typical, like Beijing and Suzhou. Especially when I went to the Great Wall, it is really impressive, I didn't expect that," said Perrine, who hopes to visit North China someday.

"I have been to Sanya for vacations. It was cool to get sun-tanned and go swimming in the sea," said Katty from Russia, adding that, following Shanghai, South China's Hainan Province is her second-favorite place.

"The first city I went to was Beijing," Katty said. She then traveled to Shanghai, Harbin and Suifenhe of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Dalian of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, Guangzhou of South China's Guangdong Province and Hangzhou of East China's Zhejiang Province.

She said that she likes skyscrapers and shopping malls in Shanghai. But it is not always a sweet experience staying in a city with a large population. "Sometimes, I feel really crowded. When you go on a subway, you don't feel comfortable because there are so many people there. When you go to the Bund in the evening, it is also difficult to take a picture there. I didn't expect so many people," she smiled.

But this has not stopped making Shanghai her favorite city. "The biggest impression on me is Shanghai. Compared with Beijing, Shanghai is more international. There are many foreigners here, so you can find some Chinese people on the street who speak English. But in Beijing, it is almost impossible to find people who speak English to help you out," she explained. "I guess for me, Shanghai is the best place to live."

Terracotta Warriors

No expectations

When asked about the Chinese cities he has been to, Aurelien from France can not recall all the names. "Ten or 20 maybe," he said. Having lived in China for six years and spent three of them in Shanghai, Aurelien prefers Beijing as he was impressed by the food and people there.

"Shanghai is more like a fantasy with tall buildings while Beijing is more historical. Beijing people are maybe more tough in the beginning, but when you become friends with them, they are very nice," said Aurelien, who doesn't have any expectations before going to a specific place, "I just go there."

"Apart from Hong Kong and Macao, which I have already been to, probably I will go to Xi'an to see Terracotta Warriors, Kunming and Lhasa. It is just for traveling because we love to see new things and try to travel as much as we can," said Ellina and Alexandra from Russia.

Same as Aurelien, Ellina doesn't expect anything from a place where she is going to. "I'd like to have the impression that the city gives me," she said. She studied in North China's Tianjin for about three years. "When I was there, I took several trips to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Chengdu," she said, listing Shanghai as her favorite, as it contains a lot of things she likes such as nature, architecture and other expats.

The Great Wall

Visiting megacities

Rami is an Israeli who has been living in China for 12 years and believes it is pretty much as he expected before he came. He has visited around 15 cities including Beijing, Kunming and Chengdu.

"Each one is different because some are beautiful, like the scenery, and some are more like Shanghai with big buildings," he explained, adding that he will next probably go to Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Rami now lives in Shanghai as he believes it is quite convenient. "It is a good combination between Chinese and Western culture," he said.

As development advances, more Chinese cities are now known by foreigners. In an essay published by Bloomberg in July, Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, explained why he has tried to visit as many Chinese megacities as he can.

Cowen mentioned that migration from China's countryside to urban areas has created this development. Despite harmful aspects caused by the transformation, it "has gone fairly smoothly." He went on to explain that each megacity is distinct from the other.

For instance, the well-groomed Qingdao lying on the coast of the Yellow Sea boasts lot of open space, Xi'an has a long history of several ancient Chinese dynasties while Qufu is known as the hometown of Confucius.

"The uniqueness of each Chinese megacity is reflected in its food," Cowen wrote in his article. It is always easy to find food of different flavor all over the place in China. Even spicy food in Chongqing and Chengdu are different in terms of cooking and seasoning.

Kung pao chicken




Alexander and Ellina




Aurelien and his daughter





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