In 2012, I traveled solo for the first time in my life.
I still remember how scared I was before the trip. With only a small backpack, a Neil Gaiman book, a thousand dollars, and a will to get out of my comfort zone, I boarded the plane to Bangkok. As I was checking in, there were no butterflies in my belly, only a great fear that I might find myself unfit for the travel lifestyle and come running back home earlier than planned.
Where I’m from, when you say traveling to China, it means touring one of these five cities: Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Guangzhou. Outside the travel circles and blogging communities, only a few have heard of other Chinese destinations. Everything else can already be considered “off-the-beaten-path.” But if there’s one thing that my journey from Guilin to Zhangjiajie has taught me, it’s that this vast, vast country has a gazillion surprises tucked in its provinces.
We asked travel and food enthusiast Wai Zhou, co-founder of Eating Adventures Food Tours, for other marvelous places in China that every explorer must experience. She has traveled extensively throughout the country with a particular interest in Yunnan, Guangdong and Xinjiang provinces. Here are her recommendations, words and photos by her.
I’d always imagined myself touring the Li River at sunrise. In my head was a picture of me, rafting through the mist that hugged the cliffs that rose from the banks while a cold, purplish blue light covered the scene. That picture, for the longest time, had been framed and nailed to the walls of my mind. If I would ever find myself in Guilin, that scene would have to happen. River. Cliffs. Dawn. Perfection. It had to happen.
But I am not a morning person. Absolutely not a morning person.
Zhangjiajie was not part of our plan.
I was supposed to exhaust all 14 days that my visa allowed me entirely in Guilin and Yangshuo. But when I stumbled upon a photo of the Tianzi Mountains while planning for this trip, I knew that I had to squeeze it into my already solid itinerary.