|Language:||Mandarin, various others|
A land that kept itself apart from the rest of the world for decades – if not centuries – is now ready to open its gates to curious foreign visitors. So what should you expect from China, the country of legendary dragons and martial arts? Elegance, adventure, grandeur and a clash of ancient and modern buildings all along the way. Everything here seems to take mythical proportions.
Beijing will welcome you with its historical imperial Forbidden City, while also alluring you with the exquisite colonial Art Decors and the crazy bazaars and markets. Admire the famous Terracotta Army of Xi’an and learn to play Mahjong, Go or Chinese chess, while enjoying martial arts festivals in public parks. Tai Chi can be studied by simply visiting those parks early in the morning. Master practitioners will be more than happy to teach you calligraphy, a national hobby and you’ll also be able to play traditional Chinese instruments, by taking some classes in exchange for extremely modest fees.
Away from Beijing, why not play a role in saving the Giant Panda from extinction by engaging in conservation projects? Alternatively, take a boat and flow over the quiet Erhai Lake or the beautiful Lugu Lake, the so-called “Pearl of the Plateau”. And don’t forget about the Great Wall, not that you need reminding – most backpackers spending a gap year in China will gravitate towards this vast structure at some point on their trip.
Working in China
China, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is also home to large swathes of people that live on the edge of poverty, so if you decide to spend a gap year in China, you should consider volunteering. It’ll be one of the most rewarding experiences you can experience while on your stay. Of course, there are also many paid English teaching jobs and business internship opportunities to pick from, with many of the latter being found in Hong Kong.
China’s borders are so vast that the choices for onward travel are huge. Heading down into South-East Asia is a favourite among backpackers, while making the flight across the East China Sea to Japan is also incredibly popular. India and Nepal are other great choices, especially for those looking to continue their cultural or spiritual adventures. Do you really want to leave China yet though? After all, you can’t possibly have explored the entire country…