Three thousand years of history are clearly visible at China's Great Wall, Xi'an's Terracotta Army, the Forbidden City, Shaolin temples, and countless other historical destinations. But its high-tech and modern city planning is equally evident in structures like Beijing's Bird's Nest, and Shanghai's towering skyscrapers. Despite both of these, it is still possible to find the simple life in a small Chinese village such as Cuandixia, or a 'water town' like Zhouzuang. For a sun-and-sand vacation, Hainan Province alone has more than 20 beaches which are well worth a trip in the summertime, but to spend some quality time on China's waterways, take a cruise down the Yangtze or Yellow River.
Northern Chinese towns like Turpan give you a glimpse of China's long history with Islam through its beautiful architecture and ancient art and across the vast central plains are Tibet's silent monasteries carved precariously into the mountainsides. If you have a day to spare, make your way to Harbin — a Chinese city on the border with Russia. Its futuristic buildings and frozen landscapes make it feel like a time-warp, and there's plenty of vodka to make sure you have a good time!
Remember that food here is probably quite unlike the so-called 'Chinese' food you've had back home, so pick up your chopsticks and try all the regional cuisines to get an authentic taste of the country's food. Beer and the powerful 'Báijiǔ' are widely available, along with more conventional liquors and if you're seated with a group, remember to raise a toast every time you take a sip!
China has a growing number of international airports, and with the country being so vast, it's best to get a flight to an airport closest to your final destination rather than travelling by intercity road or rail transport. The main gateway airports are in Hong Kong (HKG) and Shanghai (SHA and PVG). There are also airports at the capital city of Beijing (PEK) and a number of smaller cities around the country. Direct flights from Canada to Hong Kong are frequently more expensive than flights to Beijing. Cheap flights to China are available on Air Canada which has daily direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Vancouver (YVR) as well as some direct flights from Toronto (YYZ). Other airlines that fly on this route include Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Cathay Pacific, United, Continental, and American Airlines.
The climate is extremely varied across such a large geographic space. Summers are hot in the Northwest and humid in the South, while northern winter temperatures fall well below freezing and the South gets a lot of rain. The best time to visit, generally speaking, is between March and May or from September to November. However, the former is a peak tourist season when accommodation rates and airfares skyrocket. In Hainan however, wintertime is the peak season when the Chinese and foreign tourists alike flock to the beaches. If you're well prepared for temperamental weather conditions and armed with a good all-weather coat, it is quite possible to travel to China at any time of the year.