Many visitors enjoy the views from the temple on Shibaozhai Mountain. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
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, frequently called the Bonsai Tree of the Yangtze River.
Muslim Quarter, Xian
Past Xian’s ancient Drum Tower lies the equally historic Muslim Quarter, a maze of bustling streets and alleyways lined with mosques and chatting vendors. Produce, handicrafts, a range of prepared Muslim snacks and other wares are sold here throughout the day, but a stroll through the quarter at night is especially magical, with steam rising out of vats of hand-pulled noodles and mutton stew and city lights twinkling in the background.
Pudacuo National Park, Shangri-La
Yunnan province is home to Pudacuo National Park, established in 2007 and the first of its kind in China. Among the flora and fauna in the reserve are orchids, wild boar, leopards, black-necked cranes and a number of endangered species. Pristine pastures dotted with yaks and the clear waters of Bita and Shudu lakes create an idyllic escape for both domestic and international tourists. http://en.ynta.gov.cn
Hiking in Hong Kong
Most visitors to Hong Kong take in city views from Victoria Peak, but nature buffs who prefer dirt paths to glass escalators might opt for a hilltop hike instead. There are plenty of trails in Hong Kong to choose from, but Dragon’s Back is among the more popular paths. Reaching the trailhead requires a subway and bus ride but the sweeping views of Shek O Peak and the South China Sea are well worth the effort. www.discoverhongkong.com
Outlet Shopping in Lantau
Hong Kong’s first outlet mall, Citygate Outlets, has been a popular destination since its opening in 2006, offering deep discounts on international brands like Diane von Furstenberg and Vivienne Tam. A movie theater, spa and plenty of dining options make Citygate feel more like a theme park than a mall — there’s even an outlet mascot. Located on Lantau Island adjacent to Hong Kong International Airport, the mall is easy to get to from just about anywhere in the city.
To entice foreign customers, the center offers various promotions throughout the year. From now through Nov. 30, tourists who spend approximately $325 in one day receive a $50 gift card for on-site Kee Wah Bakery. Big spenders can also register for the “Top Spender Reward,” which gives the month’s highest spender one free night at the Novotel Citygate Hong Kong hotel. www.citygateoutlets.com.hk
New and Noteworthy
Doughnut in the Skyline
Set for an official opening in October is Sheraton Huzhou Spring Resort, a 321-room, doughnut-shaped hotel designed by Chinese architect Ma Yansong, set on the banks of Taihu Lake. The hotel features indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center and Shine Spa for Sheraton with a full menu of spa treatments. Favorite sites nearby include Feiying Ta Pagoda, Temple of the Iron Buddha and Mount Mogan, a common summer destination rich with bamboo forests, hiking paths and waterfalls. www.starwoodhotels.com
World’s Largest Structure Opens in Chengdu
Measuring more than 18 million square feet, Chengdu’s New Century Global Center is the largest building on the planet. An entire city can be found within its walls, including a five-star, 990-room InterContinental hotel, a 14-screen IMAX movie theater, office space, shops and restaurants, a Mediterranean village and an indoor waterpark complete with an artificial beach and sea breezes.
The New Crowne Plaza Xishuangbanna
Situated in the tropics of Yunan province, the new Crowne Plaza Resort Xishuangbanna is the ideal base for exploring an untouched region of China. Nearby sites and activities are easily accessible via organized tours through the hotel, including the Wild Elephant Valley, traditional Dai villages, night cruises on the Mekong River and the White Menglong Pagodas. The 520-room hotel and its grounds are inspired by local architecture and Dai culture. www.ihg.com
Get Happy in Chocolate Happy Land
China’s first chocolate-themed park opened earlier this year in renovated sections of the Shanghai World Expo site. It’s no surprise that Chocolate Happy Land is a haven for all sweet-toothed visitors, with its chocolate castle-building contests, do-it-yourself baking activities and chocolate waterfall. Chocolate replicas of The Terra-Cotta Warriors, Hello Kitty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are also park highlights, displayed in a temperature-controlled room to keep them from melting.
Welcoming Families at Grand Hyatt
The Family Package from Grand Hyatt Shanghai is designed for travelers visiting the city with children under the age of 12. The package includes daily breakfast for two adults and one youth, tickets to Shanghai Ocean Aquarium or Shanghai Jinmao Tower Observatory and a special welcome gift for the child. Complimentary parking, late check-out and upgraded airport transfers are also part of this offer. If a family prefers two rooms, the second room will be discounted 50 percent. The package is available through Dec. 31, 2014. www.shanghai.grand.hyatt.com
Panda Package in Chengdu
The Impressions of Chengdu package from Shangri-La Hotel, Chengdu highlights one of the city’s most popular attractions: Chengdu Panda Base, a research and educational center that focuses on conservation of endangered animals including giant pandas, South China tigers and golden monkeys. The package includes roundtrip transfer from the hotel to the base, one admission ticket and a panda toy. A daily breakfast buffet for one person is also part of the price, as is complimentary in-room Wi-Fi access. The package is available through Dec. 31 and costs $535 for a two-night stay for one or $568 for two. www.shangri-la.com/chengdu
Jingdezhen International Pottery and Porcelain Festival
Jingdezhen has been producing high-quality porcelain pottery for centuries, and every year the city celebrates its rich history and traditions with the Jingdezhen International Pottery and Porcelain Festival. Pieces from the Tang and Qing dynasties, as well as pieces made by contemporary artists, are on display for visitors, and there are opportunities for them to participate in hands-on potting and painting. (Oct. 1–31)
Fragrant Hills Red Leaf Festival
Every autumn, when smoke tree leaves have turned from shades of green to bold oranges and reds, thousands of tourists visit Fragrant Hills Park to see the fiery display. The three-week-long Fragrant Park Red Leaf Festival and is the ideal time to take in the park’s autumnal beauty. Guests can hike past lakes and temples in search of the best vantage point or ride aerial cable cars for a bird’s-eye view. The 395-acre park is just 17 miles outside of Beijing, making it an easy day trip. (Oct. 15 - Nov. 7)
Guilin Scenery Festival
Since Guilin sits alongside the Li River and is surrounded by beautiful karst hills enshrouded with greenery, it’s no wonder there’s an annual festival to celebrate the city’s geographic appeal. At the Guilin Scenery Festival, visitors admire the surroundings via guided tours on land or by boat. There’s also a lantern fair on the Li River after nightfall, featuring cultural dancing and folk singing unique to this region of Southeast Asia. (Oct. 31 – Nov. 8)
Harbin Ice Festival
Harbin City in northeast China is known for its incredibly cold winters, but low temperatures never keep travelers from attending the annual Harbin Ice Festival. Artists from around the world build detailed snow sculptures for the Snow Sculpture Art Expo, guests observe fauna of the polar region at Siberian Tiger Park and the frozen Songhau River becomes a stage for winter swimming, diving and fishing shows. (Jan. 5 - Feb. 28)