If You Like
China has one of the most vibrant, eclectic, and often downright avant-garde art scenes this side of Paris. Beijing is arguably the center of China's contemporary art scene, and it's in China's capital that well-known artists like sculptor Wang Guangyi (who blends propaganda and icons from the cultural revolution for what some consider cynical effect) and painter Feng Mengbo (whose hallmarks include mixing oil painting and computer graphics) ply their trades.
Dashanzi 798 Art District, Beijing. This former military electronics complex in Beijing's Chaoyang district houses dozens of galleries and the workshops of many of the city's up-and-coming artists.
Suzhou Creek Art District, Shanghai. In a renovated factory area on Suzhou Creek, more than 100 of Shanghai's top artists have their studios. Galleries including EastLink, Shanghart and Art Scene Warehouse have also moved in since 2000.
Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou. Denizens of the Pearl River Delta, though normally thought of as caring more about making money than art, have a number of museums and galleries worth visiting. This museum is well respected throughout China.
He Xiangning Museum, Shenzhen. This beautiful new museum in the Overseas Chinese Town district hosts an annual exhibit each autumn featuring the best works of art students from all over China.
In the not-too-distant past, China was known as "The Bicycle Kingdom," but as cars become more popular, the iconic sea of bicycles that once filled the avenues of Beijing and Shanghai has dried to a trickle.
But this doesn't mean that bicycling enthusiasts should lose heart. While the two-wheeled herd has thinned out considerably, you'll hardly be riding alone. Most hotels will be able to help you out with bicycle rentals, or a brand new Flying Pigeon (the bike of China) should only set you back a few hundred yuan.
Beijing. Though notorious for its bad air and automobile gridlock, the capital is still our favorite urban bicycling ground. Its wide avenues and impossible-to-maneuver-by-car back alleyways make it an ideal city to tour by bicycle.
Xi'an. The city center is small enough to make it perfect for exploring by bike. For a unique experience, take a tour on top of the city wall, the only one left fully intact in all of China.
Shanghai. The Pearl of the Orient is also two-wheel friendly, though you'll be asked to dismount and walk along the Nanjing pedestrian area.
Chengdu. The spiciest city in China is also as flat as a Ping-Pong table, which makes it one of our favorites for exploring by bike.
Taking It to the Extreme
An increasing number of Middle Kingdom visitors are coming not merely to see the Great Wall but to engage in more adrenaline-intensive activities (jumping over the Great Wall on a skateboard, for example). This new breed of China travelers will be happy to hear that adventure sports are alive and well in the People's Republic.
The Great Wall, Huang Hua. This crumbling section of the wall, just a few hours outside of Beijing, is far more rugged than the more tourist-popular Badaling section, and offers amazing views and seriously challenging climbs.
Rock Climbing, Yangshuo. Yangshuo has become the spot for aficionados of rock climbing, and the area has hundreds of routes for climbers of all levels. Possibly one of the most challenging routes is the inside track of Moon Hill, which draws some of the world's best climbers each year.
Long-Distance Bicycling. Rural touring is exploding in China, and an increasing number of Western visitors are choosing to see the country not by train or tour bus but by bicycle. Bike Asia runs tours for all levels of experience and endurance, from the rolling hills of Guangxi and Guizhou to the serious-riders-only mountains of Tibet.
Windsurfing, Qingdao. It's no accident that this seaside city in Northeast China was chosen to host the Olympic sailing events of 2008. The shape of the beaches combined with average wind speeds makes Qingdao an ideal place for those who get their kicks sailing.
Much has been written about the cuisine of China, and for a very good reason—it's some of the best (and most varied) on the planet. Most visitors will be happy to stick with well-known dishes such as Peking duck or kung pao chicken, but for those who want a culinary walk on the wild side, might we suggest a few less well-known regional favorites?
Stinky Tofu, Fujian. Though it's hotly contested whether this highly odiferous dish originated first in Fujian or later in Taiwan, the overpowering snack is readily available on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Its cubes of tofu fermented and deep fried to a crispy brown smell like extremely ripe cheese. Best enjoyed by those who prefer their food on the pungent side.
Yak-Butter Tea, Yunnan, Tibet. This beverage is ubiquitous throughout both Tibet and the higher mountain regions of Yunnan Province. Thick and tangy, the main ingredients of yak butter tea are yak butter, tea, and salt. Though its adherents drink it by the gallon, considering it delicious and healthy, unsuspecting imbibers have likened its flavor to melted blue cheese, or even wood polish.
Stewed Chicken Feet, Guangzhou. To a Cantonese chef, nothing should ever go to waste, and the claws of the humble chicken, stewed until the fat and skin are nearly dripping from its tiny bones, is considered a crucial part of any dim sum feast.
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