Kempf - China is the most affordable trip of the year

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In my book, China has become on of the most affordable and exotic trips of the year. Most people do not realize how affordable and easy traveling to China has become. The average eight-day trip in a budget hotel runs about $1,200 per person up to luxury hotels at $1,500 per person with all airfare, transfers, guides, everything you need except food.

The People's Republic of China, located in East Asia, is the world's third largest country by area (after Russia and Canada) and the largest by population in the world. Most people want to visit the capital of China -- Beijing. Beijing is the city that jogs most peoples memories; however, the country's largest city is Shanghai. One of our vacation companies describes Beijing best:

"Beijing is known for its grandeur -- wide boulevards, China's finest museums, impressive temples, and the grand Forbidden City, which is made up of 800 buildings. It is the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China.

Outside the Forbidden City and throughout Beijing, hidden between the ever emerging skyscrapers, you'll find the Hutongs, where the ancient way of Chinese life goes on as it has for centuries. The Hutongs are synonymous with a close-knit neighborhood or small town, where families have lived in the same home for centuries. Every one knows everyone, and the market is just around the corner."

Here is a fact: More than one-fifth of the world's population lives within China's borders.

Calling all animal lovers

Because mountains occupy about 43 percent of China's land surface, there is a rich diversity of environments in China allowing a wide range of wildlife. People from all over the world flock to view tigers, monkeys and dolphins. The most famous animal known worldwide and related to China is the famous panda bear.

Ask about the weather and you will find it is very diverse -- ranging from tropical rainforests to frozen tundra.

The official spoken language of the Chinese is Putongua, but there are different dialects scattered through its many provinces. This is similar to America -- talk to someone from Boston one day and Alabama the next, and trust me, we have a variety of dialects inside our own boarders.

History

China's history dates more than 3,000 years, which means even the most curious traveler will be in awe and desire to return. Visit the Forbidden City, which is the former residence of the emperor of China. There are gardens of stone warriors, and your trip will not be complete without seeing the Great Wall. North of Beijing are some of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall -- an unbelievable sight as it snakes over the rugged and rolling hills and goes on for more than 3,000 miles.

Easy to get to

Believe it or not, China is so easy to get to. Really one connection and you're there. Flights operate almost daily and are very affordable. I have clients going in January and they have an eight-day trip, with a luxury hotel within easy walking distance of the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square for about $1,500 per person.

Looking for something exotic for the perfect Christmas gift -- look no farther than China.

Carolyn Kempf is president of Elite Travel in Cape Girardeau. (334-1234, 1-800-999-6003 or elitetravelinc.com)

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