8 bucket-list things to do while teaching in China

From the winding courses of the Great Wall to the sizzling pork kebabs of Shanghai, the bucket-list treats of the People’s Republic are multitudinous. That’s why we’ve put together this selection of must-do things for all those TEFL-ers teaching in China…

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“The Great Wall of China” – 长城 | © Marianna/Flickr

See the Great Wall (obviously)

First thing’s first, as they say. And what could possibly be more ‘first’ than China’s undisputed national icon? This winding structure – said to be visible even from space, no less – peaks and troughs with the verdant hillsides in the north of the People’s Republic, running from the seaside city of Dandong all the way along the wild borderlands of Inner Mongolia. It was built over a period of more than 1,300 years, starting with projects under the First Emperor of Qin. The aim? To fend off attacks from the tribes of the Russian steppe – in case you’re wondering, the mighty Genghis Khan just went around (ahem). It’s good news for those teaching in China’s capital too, because the popular viewing points at Simatai and Badaling are all under two hours from Beijing!

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Forbidden City, Beijing | © Colin Capelle/Flickr

Wonder at the Forbidden City

Rising in a medley of gabled roofs and terracotta-topped palaces from the bustling midst of downtown Beijing, the Forbidden City is one of those sights that everyone teaching in China – nay, everyone traveling China – should see. The UNESCO site started life as the epicenter of the Ming Dynasty court, but quickly became the focal point for Chinese politics and power for the next half a millennium. The name comes from the tradition that the whole sector of the Forbidden City was considered sacred, and permission to enter was granted only to those proclaimed worthy in the eyes of the seers. Don’t worry though, admission today is for all, and tickets start at just CNY 60.

Teaching in China
Shanghai food | © philippe/Flickr

Taste Shangai’s cuisine

From sizzling poultry barbeques between the tight-knit alleys of Qibao Town to aromatic pancake houses where bent-over locals flip pastries on a steaming grill, Shanghai is awash with tasty treats and immersive dining experiences like few cities on the globe. In fact, traveling foodies have proclaimed it as one of the world’s top eating destinations. That means anyone teaching in China should be sure to set aside a weekend or two to make their way through the smorgasbord of shiny braised pork, deep-fried hairy crab (don’t worry, it tastes way better than it sounds!), wontons in soup and duck blood broths.

Teaching in China
Evening Hong Kong | © Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr/Public Domain

Go to bustling Hong Kong

Teaching in China doesn’t just limit you to the bucket-list experiences that beckon on the mainland, mind you. It also means you have easy access to some of Asia’s other great metropolises. And while Bangkok and Hanoi are all just a short flight away, none are easier to get to than buzzing Hong Kong. Just hop across the Pearl River delta to experience the energy and panache of this global metropolis. Delve into its steamy food courts for some authentic Canton dim sum. Scale Victoria Peak for panoramas of Kowloon and the downtown skyscrapers. Seek out dolphin pods in the water, and laze on the beaches of Lantau. Yep, it’s all happening in Hong Kong!

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Longji | © Toon Bronselaer/Flickr

Gape at the Longji Terraces

The locals of rural Guangxi have been carving their terraced rice farms into the hills of Longji for more than eight centuries. The practice helps them to make the most of the steep-sided but fertile valleys that sweep across the breadth of southern China. The result is a truly breathtaking set of vistas, with cascading dashes of verdant green and reflective-blue paddies falling from the summits to the winding rivers below. The whole region is also a photographer’s delight, with mist plumes and snow dustings often meeting on the ridges overhead.

Teaching in China
China Breeding Programme | © Frontierofficial/Flickr

Meet the pandas of Chengdu

You’ll have to head six miles out of the center of Chengdu city to find the black-eyed bears of the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Trust us: you won’t regret the journey! These uber-cute animals native to the Chinese forests have suffered immensely in recent centuries, with some estimations placing their numbers at around just 2,000 in the whole world. This facility in the foothills of beautiful Sichuan is now leading the conservation effort, and offers visitors the chance to learn about panda behavior and watch the smile-inducing creatures play in their natural habitat.

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Tiger Leaping Gorge | © Mulligan Stu/Flickr

Scale Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the undisputed treasures of the mighty Yangtze River. It carves its way through the rocky landscapes of Yunnan in a series of almost vertical valleys and canyons. Some are dressed in green dashes of rice paddies, while others have protruding rock formations and gushing river sections that rarely fail to get the spine tingling. A famous hiking path – the so-called High Road – offers outdoorsy and intrepid types the opportunity to walk the whole wonder. Be sure to check if conditions are okay to do the walk, and watch out for waterfalls and rustic tea houses along the way.

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Terracotta Army | © Robin/Flickr

Face up to the Terracotta Army

Few artworks can sum up the ambitious nature of China’s onetime leaders like the vast Terracotta Army. Found hidden beneath a great mound of earth on the edge of the ancient city of Xi’an, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is thought to have been the force that Emperor Ying Zheng (more commonly known as the First Emperor of Qin) decided to take with him into the afterlife. It’s made up of more than 8,000 ceramic figures, and comes complete with everything from cavalry to chariot riders. The tomb of the emperor himself also resides here, but remains untouched and untroubled by diggers, perhaps in case it angers the army to life? Be sure to join the thousands of tourists who head here during your time teaching in China – it’s totally worth it!

Are you teaching in China and have some other bucket-list ideas to add to this selection? Be sure to pop them in the comments below. Or, are you interested in getting qualified and heading out to the Far East for your TEFL this year? Be sure to check out our courses page


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