China is one of the largest countries in the World by many counts, not least population. This country could keep you occupied for literally months. We are going to start off in Northern China and then take a look at two of the special administrative area, that being Hong Kong and Macau. Finally we are going to take a look at Tibet.
One of the main attractions of this area is rather obscurely it's proximity to North Korea, you can see the border from Dandong. Apart from this, the area offers a wealth of Manchu history, who held the last dynasty before China became a republic, and there are temples and pagodas as well as an imperial palace and a relatively unvisited section of the Great Wall. There's also the border with Russia, visas must be arranged in Beijing.
The majority of budget accommodation takes the form of cheap hotels and guesthouses. The rating system isn't always reliable so it's a good idea to check the room before you accept it, many bottom end places are pretty grim. Until fairly recently it was common practice for some of the lower end places to refuse to accept foreigners but that's now illegal so if you are completely skint, you have access to these places. Student accommodation is often available, even outside of term times, so much do they want your tourist dollars. At the very basic end of the accommodation spectrum, it's often possible to stay in monasteries and temples, don't expect any frills, or indeed anything but a shelter.
China is so vast that unless you want to spend weeks on a bus, it's worth considering an air fare.
To travel around the options are bus and train, the bus can often be faster and cheaper than the train but don't be coerced into getting on board some old rickety thing which the wheels are about to fall off, there's probably a better quality coach going the same way for little more.
Car and bike hire are pretty much out as many places in China are off limits for visitors and they're rarely marked as such so the chance of wandering in unawares are pretty high
In the towns there are often street stalls serving snacks in the evening, foodcourts in the malls are reasonably priced and there are supermarkets readily available if you want to self cater. In general cheap eats can be had wherever you are if you go slightly off the main streets and eat with the locals.
Visit the Germ Warfare base, a former Japanese research centre where horrific experiments were carried out on POWs.
Take a speedboat and get as close to North Korea as anyone needs to be, really.
Visit Heaven Lake and its many myths, but don't go too far south or you'll end up in North Korea and possible dead.
Arrive in Haerbin in winter (with your winter woolies, it's a bit nippy) for the ice festival
Check out the Imperial Palace in Shenyang, like a mini Forbidden City.
It's one of the most Western tourist friendly parts of China mainly due to the relatively recent departure of the British and the fact that they've left behind a load of bilingual signage. The city is easy to navigate and logically set out so despite it's rather imposing appearance it's difficult to get lost. Add the neon, the markets, the reastaurants baring all kind of cubed poultry and you're in for an exciting time here.
There are more places to stay cheaply in Hong Kong than you could ever hope for. There's no particular area for budget accommodation, it's spread far and wide so take your pick. There are backpacker hostels with dorm rooms, cheap guesthouses and low end hotels. And there's no shortage, the only problem you might have is finding some of those with slightly obscure addresses, sometimes hostels are part of otherwise unmarked residential blocks.
Use the underground (MTR) - it's fast, efficient, easy to use, cheap and absolutely spotless. It's worth a ride just to marvel at the cleanliness of the place. Otherwise there's good obvious bus services which don't cost much either.
To eat cheaply you just have to go slightly off the main thoroughfares - behind the bilingual shiny facades and neon lights there's a wealth of reastaurants catering to the locals. The menus are all in Chinese but they often have pictures and there's always pointing. Choose a busy place, it's the best sign of quality, and try not to look too hard at the cleanliness.
Climb Victoria Peak (you can walk but it's more fun to take the alarmingly steep tram)
Visit the night market in Kowloon (it's only a budget option if you don't spend your money. Remember to haggle).
Go to a temple, even if you don't want to worship anything / anyone, it's worth the experience.
Wander up Nathan Road at night and look at all the neon lights.
Take a ferry to Lantau and see the big Buddha
Tibet's been attractive to Westerners for along time for it's mystical qualities partly due to it's strong monastic culture. The reality however is not quite as romantic and you'll need a permit to get into the region. Talking about the political situation is strictly off limits. The monasteries and the dramatic scenery are like nowhere else however and if you can deal with the Chinese authorities, it's a place you shouldn't miss.
It's possible to camp in many areas but bring your own tent, you can sleep in monasteries if you don't mind ano frills approach, or there's the usual array of cheap hotels and guesthouses to try your luck with.
If you want to travel around Tibet then it's by bus on the main routes, in 4WD's if you can get a group together which will make the trip a lot cheaper, or by bike. It's a hefty trek on a bike though and not for the uninitiated, there's not too much in the way of repair stops.
For cheap eats, the staple diet is roasted barley shaped into a ball called tsampa, also popular are dumplings filled with yak meat and fried noodle squares. All should be available in local reastaurants and shouldn't cost a lot. There is a supermarket in Lhasa where you can stock up. Bear in mind that menus in English will be higher priced than those written in Chinese.
Visit the Rongphu Monastery - you have to pay an entrance fee but it's one of the most stunning places on earth.
Take an overnight stay at Nam Tso Lake
Time your visit to coincide with one of the festivals and see the pilgrims
Visit the Menga Nature Reserve in the mountains above the Yellow River
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