A truly huge country, China is where it is claimed the pandas are the cutest and the walls the greatest. It's also where google, facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube are all blocked and inaccessible; no wonder they are thriving so fast.
English is not common so I highly recommend having an offline translator. You should download WeChat (to use free wifi, pay for stufff) as well as an offline map app. My itinerary was as follow: Guangzhou ➜ car ride to Qinyuang ➜ bullet train to Guilin ➜ boat ride to Yuangsho ➜ train to Shenzen ➜ flight to Shenyang ➜ flight to Dandong ➜ train to Beijing ➜ flight to Shanghai.
Guilin is a compact city that is known as "the beautiful visiting card of China". The main draw is the stunning landscape during the boat ride to Yangshuo. The dome-ish shaped hills or karsts, the verdant vegetation, and crystal clear waters make up a magical experience.
Guangzhou is often overlooked when people are picking a Chinese city to visit, but this is very much the face of modern China. If you want to get a feel for where China’s incredible economic growth is going, you can find the answer in the sleek skyscrapers, fast cars and big malls of Guangzhou.
Near the Sanpai mountains, the Yao Village is a preserved village showcasing the history, culture, art, customs, architecture, costumes and folk entertainment of the Yao ethnic minority.
Set just across the Chinese border, Shenzhen is where Hong Kong and China blend together. The main reason to visit is shopping - especially for cheap big brand items such as LV handbags though I can't comment on their authenticity. The city itself is a sign of the modern riches of China, with gleaming swanky skyscrapers lining up the skyline. If you're looking for traditional China, you won't see much of it in Shenzen.
With a long history dating back to approximately 5,000 years, Foshan is a city that gained its name from the three Buddha statues unearthed in this area in the Tang Dynasty. Foshan was one of the earliest ports to engage in foreign trade since China's open door policy. Kung-fu fanatics will be very familiar with Foshan, as it's the home of Huang Feihong who was Bruce Lee's teacher.
Shenyang is the largest city in northern China. Mainly known as an industrial city, Shenyang is also a celebrated old city with more than 2,000 years of history which can be traced back to 400BC. It is the birthplace of the Qing Dynasty, and has many cultural relics which symbolize the prosperity and subsequent decline of China's last feudal dynasty... The most famous of these is the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is of great historic and artistic significance and second only to the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Dandong is an oddly charming city. What puts it on the map is its most unique neighbour, North Korea. Dandong is the gateway for tourism and trade for the Koreans and Chinese. Dandong is located less than a mile away from the North Korean settlement of Sinuiju. The two cities — divided only by the narrow Yalu River — are so close that people can easily see over the border, and into each others' lives. Life in the two cities seem vastly different — while Dandong is a sprawling urban centre, Sinuiju remains a sleepy industrial space. Dandong is also home to quite a large ethnic Korean population, who have opened restaurants serving North Korean food. Dandong capitalises on its location by operating tours along its side of the Yalu River to get even closer to North Korea.
Another highlight of Dandong is the Hushan section of the Great Wall located just 20km out of town. This section of the Great Wall is much less crowded than the Great Wall in Beijing (in fact, we were the only visitors that day). You will see North Korea from the very top, usually army barracks and occasionally NK farmers working.
Beijing is one of the most visited cities in the world, a great blend of old and new. Definitely avoid the holidays though. I made the mistake of arriving in April during "Tomb sweeping Day", a national holiday when people pay tribute to their deceased ancestors. Unknown to me, during Chinese holidays most hotels only accept Chinese nationals. It took me almost the entire day to find a hotel catering to foreigners, and obviously it was not cheap. There are hundreds of tourist spots and historical sites. What you should do or see in Beijing depends mostly on your tolerance of crowds.
Qingyuan is a rapidly developing city that is known as "the backyard garden of Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta". One nickname is not enough in China, hence Qingyuan is also known as "Land of Hot Springs". The city is home to numerous hot springs which are promoted as good for health, sports, relaxation and "entertainment with business meetings".
New visitors to China are often, rightly, awe-struck by the skyscraper-festooned, hi-tech megacities connected by brand new highways and the world's largest high-speed rail network. Shanghai is the country's biggest city and a global financial hub. Its heart is the Bund, a waterfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings. Across the river rises the Pudong district's futuristic skyline.