For those after more, well, unique memories … nǐ hǎo!
China … it conjures up whimsical images of ancient monuments, delectable cuisine and a host of touristy hot spots like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors Museum. But if you’re after a slightly more left-field selection of things to do in China, leave that older-person mentality at home and embrace a bit of weirdness.
Sometimes feel like your life is a little topsy-turvy? Then spare a thought for the construction workers who built Shanghai’s Upside Down House. Enter through the front door (which is actually an upstairs window) and you’ll find yourself surrounded by fittings and furniture glued to the ceiling. You’ll either start to channel your Mr Twit (à la Roald Dahl) or feel like a stiff shot of baijiu post-tour to calm the nerves. Gān bēi (that’s Chinese for cheers).
A rather controversial theme park located near Kunming, The Kingdom of the Little People features, not surprisingly, employees who are no taller than 4 foot 3 inches (that’s just over a metre). Criticised by human rights groups for treating dwarfism in an exploitative way, your experience will include acrobatic song and dance performances overseen by the Dwarf King. The actors have gone on record saying they love their jobs. We’ll take their word for it…
Like to expand your knowledge of ancient, sexual artifacts? Look no further than the China Sex Museum in Tongli. A slightly creepy project by a retired uni professor, it was relocated from Shanghai for being ‘too sexy’. Enjoy a stroll through the sculptured garden (selfies are optional) and view four exhibitions conservatively titled, Sex in Primitive Society, Marriage and Women, Sex in Daily Life and Unusual Sexual Behaviour. Mind blowing (excuse the pun).
Located in the mountains outside Beijing, sits the Mausoleum of Tian Yi, a memorial to one of China’s most famous eunuchs (men who have lost their wobbly bits). While it’s probably more about the concept than the actual location, things you may discover whilst there include the fact that during the process of Chinese castration everything was removed and a spring onion was placed in the urethra while the wounds healed. Eyes watering yet?
Forget the standard sections of the Great Wall (you can see them from space after all), a few hours north of Beijing you can discover parts of it (with the aid of a wetsuit and scuba gear) submerged under the murky waters of the Panjiakou Reservoir. Yep, you’ll freeze your bits off and yep, visibility is pretty ordinary, however imagine telling the grandchildren you’ve seen the actual Underwater Great Wall which itself hasn’t seen the light of day since 1977. Now that’s the spirit of a true-blue explorer people.
Get in touch with your inner Dr Doolittle and explore one of Chéngdū’s most popular attractions, the Giant Panda Research Breeding Base, home to over 100 giant pandas and quite a few red ones as well. It’s worth a morning visit when they’re most active (the rest of the day they just sleep – yawn) and during March to May is ideal as that’s their ‘falling in love period’, so you might spot one or two newborns in the nursery (after the panda deed is done in private of course).
Featuring a castle bearing an uncanny resemblance to the one in Disneyland, the Shijingshan Amusement Park has copped its fair share of flack for copyright infringement. That said, it’s one of Beijing’s oldest theme parks and has been captivating visitors since 1986. If you’re not too precious about the ‘real’ Snow White, Mickey Mouse or Shrek, you’ll be in naff-world heaven, though since it’s ‘refurbishment’ in 2011 some of your favourite childhood heroes may be a little light on the ground.
Again, touted as a theme park that “treads a fine line between inspiration and infringement”, World Joyland (and yes, there’s heaps of it here), features the Sky Scrapper (no, that’s not a typo) – an 88-km-an-hour flying roller coaster. With characters from the World of Warcraft and Starcraft computer games traipsing about the joint, gamer freaks will be in their own fantasy word nirvana.
You’re loving China but does travelling make you think about the other top sites you’ve seen around the world? Then look no further than the Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen. Featuring more than 100 reproductions of the world’s most famous attractions, you can immerse yourself in a universal wonderland without even leaving the People’s Republic. Check out Italy’s Colosseum, Camodia’s Angkor Wat and Egypt’s pyramids, all while basking under the majestic splendour of the 108-metre-high Eiffel Tower.
Remember prancing about in your karate gear as a kid imitating Hong Kong’s martial arts icon, Bruce Lee? No? Well, here’s your chance to fine-tune your self-defence techniques. Situated in Junan Town in Guangdong, Bruce Lee Paradise Park is a $200 million resort featuring the world’s largest bronze statue of Bruce Lee as well as a not-so-relevant science museum and, um, vegetable garden. Get your ninja on! (In the garden even).
Get all zen-like with a visit to the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuanis, a 71-metre tall statue built during the 8th century’s Tang Dynasty. Surrounded by a UNESCO world heritage site, the process of intricately carving one of the world’s largest Buddha images into a mountainside took thousands of people over 90 years to complete. Need some relevant scale? The nine-metre-wide instep can seat 100 people and the 24-metre-wide shoulder is about the size of a basketball court. Yep, he’s a big fella.
If you’re feeling decidedly energetic, head to southwest China and tackle one of the deepest and most spectacular gorges in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the tiger-leaping statistic, however, as the gorge is 16 kilometres long and has a maximum depth of around 3790 metres from river to mountain peak. The hiking path is well maintained and besides the breathtaking scenery, has been known to exhibit ‘the odd danger’, possibly due to often-impassable tracks. Hell, if the donkeys can do it, you can too, eh?
And after all this exploring involving immersing yourself in the weird and wacky nether regions of China, you’re sure to be hungry. Got a hankering for a meat and three veg meal? Why not sample some local delicacies instead, like ‘local style braised bamboo rat’, garlic-flavoured braised dog meat in a clay pot’ or save some coin and get some takeaway.
In Hangzhou, vending machines sell live ‘hairy’ crabs, considered a delicacy. Oh and there’s also duck’s feet, pig’s brain, live fish, fried bees and scorpions on a stick on offer.
Knock yourself out!