China is one of the countries that Singaporeans like to pretend they know. Not only is the majority of our population of Chinese descent, but we live amongst and interact with thousands of Mainland Chinese every day.
But in reality, the average Singaporean has only been to Hong Kong, or at most Beijing and Shanghai.
Here are six exciting Chinese destinations that you can visit by taking an affordable budget flight from Singapore.
Dalian (top) is a very popular destination amongst domestic tourists as it’s a young, stylish city with lots of shopping and entertainment options.
In fact, it’s gained a reputation for being a fashion mecca of sorts, with an annual International Fashion Festival.
Shopaholics will want to make a beeline for the many glitzy malls, including Dalian Friendship Shopping Centre, New Mart Shopping Plaza, Victory Plaza and Parkland.
The Qingniwaqiao, Tianjin Street and Times Square shopping areas can easily keep you busy for days.
Check out Russian Street in the Xigang district for bizarre-looking Russian colonial architecture, as well as Zhongshan Square for Japanese and Russian colonial buildings.
There are some good museums in Dalian, including the Dalian Modern Museum and Dalian Natural History Museum.
Price: Scoot flies to Dalian twice a week for about $200+ to $300+ each way.
The palm trees and tropical beaches of Sanya on Hainan Island don’t exactly fit the stereotypical image of China.
Head to Sanya for snorkelling, kayaking and seafood, or to relax at a fancy resort at very affordable prices.
Sanya Bay Beach is the city’s main beach, but as it can get crowded try checking out some of the other beaches such as Yalong Bay and Haitang Bay if your resort doesn’t have its own beach space.
Time Coast Bar Street is where people go to party, so get yourself a couple of beers there or book into a KTV lounge.
The streets of Sanya City are filled with night markets and shops, so tear yourself away from your resort to explore Sanya First Market and Jiefang Road
Price: Jetstar flies to Sanya. Tickets can be as cheap as $100+ each way.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to load up on chilli, you’ll have met your match in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, where everything is spicy as hell.
This is a city with lots of cultural activities, teahouses, bookshops… and pandas.
For many visitors, seeing pandas is worth the air ticket to Chengdu. Head to Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the world’s biggest giant panda breeding facility, where you can see the black and white creatures up close.
Some areas in and around Chengdu retain atmospheric old-style architecture, such as Jinli Ancient Street or Liujiang Old Town.
Jinsha Archeological Site, discovered in 2001, features artifacts and art dating back 3,000 years.
Price: Air Asia flies to Chengdu for about $150 to $300 each way.
Nanjing is a must-visit for history and culture buffs, and is stuffed with ancients sites and traditional architecture.
Give yourself at least several days to tour the various monuments and historic sights.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, containing the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor who founded the Ming Dynasty, is a must-visit.
The Ruins of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace are located in the city centre and served as a model for the Forbidden City in Beijing.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is a huge, sombre tribute to the Chinese victims of the Japanese during World War II.
Price: Scoot flies to Nanjing for about $130 to $200+ each way.
Xi’an needs no introduction for Chinese history buffs as the historic city where the famous Terracotta Warriors can be found. It’s also home to numerous museums and well-maintained temples.
The terracotta warriors are located a short bus ride from the city centre, and your ticket includes entrance to the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum.
Tang Paradise is a theme park featuring replicas of traditional architecture, squares and gardens. It’s like an oriental Disneyland without the rides.
Muslim Quarter – Most of the restaurants, street food stalls and shops in this atmospheric area are owned by Chinese Muslims.
Price: Scoot and Air Asia fly to Xi’an for about $160 to $200+.
Suzhou is known as the Venice of the East due to its many canals.
Thanks to its many scenic gardens, parks and courtyards, Suzhou is one of China’s quaintest and most romantic cities.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a very beautiful example of a classical Chinese garden, with its pagodas, pavilions and mini mountains and streams. It is just one of many scenic gardens in the city.
Suzhou is also home to lots of beautiful temples and pagodas such as Ding Hui Temple, Cold Mountain Temple and North Temple Pagoda.
Ligongdi stretches across Suzhou Jinji Lake and makes for a nice waterfront stroll. It also happens to be a popular nightlife destination, so treat yourself to a cocktail.
Price: Scoot flies to Wuxi for about $170. Suzhou is about 40 minutes’ taxi ride from the airport.
The article first appeared on MoneySmart
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