Summer Escapes

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Ten excellent choices for a family getaway

Outside China

Cosmopolitan Adventure
Pack your bags and head to: Tokyo, Japan

What’s the deal?
Officially the biggest metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo has it all: great museums, restaurants, a juxtaposition of ancient and modern culture, and convenient travel to Mount Fuji and other key destinations.

Why you’ll love it
Tokyo’s outstanding train and subway system makes traversing the city a pleasure. Explore the Imperial Palace and the Ueno district, where most museums are concentrated. And when your stomach rumbles, head out for some high-class sashimi or grab a seat at the local ramen joint.

Why your kids will love it
Possibly the most entertaining arcades in the world await. In these digital fun palaces, kids can rack up points chopping plastic sushi or racing a car around an electronic track – make sure you save time for the photo booths.

The nitty-gritty
Air China flies to Tokyo three times daily. Citizens of most Western nations do not need a visa to enter Japan. Warning: Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Still, you can find great deals.

Hiker’s Delight
Pack your bags and head to: New Zealand

What’s the deal?
New Zealand’s rugged geography ranges from pristine beaches to rolling farmland and still active volcanoes. Although it’s technically winter in June and July, the North Island is still a comfortable 15 degrees Celsius. Rent a car and explore the countryside yourselves.

Why you’ll love it
An unlimited supply of fresh, clean air, at last. You can go “tramping” (aka hiking or trekking) in one of New Zealand’s many national parks. And the coast at the Bay of Islands, off the North Island, is a good departure point for a day of yachting.

Why your kids will love it
New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery has served as the backdrop for many a movie, most notably the Lord of the Rings trilogy. See if you can spot a hobbit on your hike!

The nitty-gritty
Visitors from Western countries do not need visas to enter the country. Warning: It’s a long journey. You’ll have to fly from Beijing to Auckland via Hong Kong; flight time from Hong Kong to Auckland is ten hours. Consider breaking up your journey with a short stay in HK.

Surf and Sand
Pack your bags and head to: Langkawi, Malaysia

What’s the deal?
Langkawi is the largest island in an archipelago on the west coast of Malaysia. It’s home to rainforests, rubber plantations, crystal-clear water and pristine stretches of sand.

Why you’ll love it
Although fairly developed as a tourist destination, with its own airport, five-star hotels and golf courses, Langkawi still feels untainted. This is the place to go if you need to slow down, take a break from the bustle of Beijing life, and read a good book. 

Why your kids will love it
Kids will appreciate the prime sandcastle-building sand. Take a tour of the mangrove swamps, or head to Palau Payar marine park to feed the baby sharks, and give your kids what’s possibly the coolest “what I did this summer” story ever.

The nitty-gritty
Air China flies direct to Singapore (6hrs), and Malaysia Airlines offers several flights daily between Singapore and Langkawi (3hrs). Warning: Summertime is “monsoon season” in Malaysia, but the west coast is sheltered from the worst of the rains. Expect a brief downpour in the late afternoons.

Culture Quest
Pack your bags and head to: Italy

What’s the deal?
The home of the Renaissance, the home of the cappuccino, Italy is a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the stomach.

Why you’ll love it
You can pack a lot in without feeling crazed. Start in the old capital of Rome, then rent a car and drive north to explore Florence and the rolling countryside around Tuscany. After a few days, move on to Liguria to check out Cinque Terre, a cluster of coastal villages connected only by walking trails.

Why your kids will love it
Pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, mozzarella, panini, gelato, more gelato, and gelato again, Mom, please!!!

The nitty-gritty
In cooperation with Alitalia, Air China offers a non-stop flight to Rome (10hrs). Warning: You may think the traffic of Beijing is insane, but in Rome there are mopeds thrown into the mix. Be extra careful when crossing the street with your little ones.

Inside China

Cosmopolitan Adventure
Pack your bags and head to: Hong Kong

What’s the deal?
Beijing may be developing at a lightning-fast pace, but Hong Kong is already there.

Why you’ll love it
Hong Kong is a world culinary capital – don’t let a day go by without dim sum. In between meals, you can check out some of the world-class shopping available. Stroll through the fancy air-conditioned malls on Hong Kong Island, or work up a shopper’s sweat in one of Kowloon’s outdoor markets.

Why your kids will love it
Hong Kong’s transportation options will tantalize younger kids: pick a seat at the helm for a scenic Star Ferry ride across the harbor; climb to the top of HK Island on the snazzy Peak Tram; or head to Ocean Park aquarium and amusement park on a double-decker bus. Oh, and did we mention Hong Kong Disneyland?

The nitty-gritty
Direct flights to Hong Kong leave Beijing multiple times a day. Warning: Summertime in Hong Kong can get really hot and sticky. Thankfully, Hong Kongers love their air conditioning.

Hiker’s Delight
Pack your bags and head to: Yangshuo, Guangxi

What’s the deal?
Right down the river from Guilin – the famous city of limestone peaks – lies the town of Yangshuo. Although best known as the unofficial backpackers’ capital of China, Yangshuo has much to offer the non-dreadlocked crew as well. Use it as your home base to head out into the countryside for day-hikes and bike rides. 

Why you’ll love it
Yangshuo is a great place for outdoor adventure, but when your legs get tired, it’s also a fantastic place to study. Many institutes in Yangshuo offer courses in painting, calligraphy, languages, yoga and meditation.

Why your kids will love it
Older kids will love bike riding around Yangshuo. The area provides some of the most beautiful biking in all of China and is flat enough for most kids to ride for hours without getting tired – plan a full day’s ride and pack a picnic lunch.

The nitty-gritty
There are many direct flights daily between Guilin and Beijing. Warning: One of the most inexpensive and accessible activities in Yangshuo is rock-climbing. If you decide to climb, be sure to check your company’s credentials beforehand.

Surf and Sand
Pack your bags and head to: Sanya, Hainan

What’s the deal?
The “Hawaii of China” is home to some picture-perfect stretches of sand. Sanya isn’t overflowing with culture – but that’s not why you go there. It’s all about the sunny skies, white sand and blue sea.

Why you’ll love it
You can spend your days beachside, relaxing at a resort on Yalong Bay, east of Sanya. When it gets too hot, go snorkeling or take a boat out to Ximao Zhou island for a day of hiking.

Why your kids will love it
Your own little monkeys will jump at the chance to visit Monkey Island, a wildlife preserve for Guangxi monkeys that’s within day-trip distance from Sanya.

The nitty-gritty
China Southern flies direct from Beijing to Sanya. Warning: Watch out for sketchy operators if you sign your family up for any water sport – it’s worth paying a little extra for a reputable company that will follow all safety procedures.

Culture Quest
Pack your bags and head to: Xinjiang’s Silk Road

What’s the deal?
Follow the old trade route once traversed by caravans, and stop in the oases along the way. Xinjiang is home to the Uighur people, a Muslim ethnic group with a vibrant culture, and the province has a distinct Middle Eastern feel. Start in Kashgar, Xinjiang’s cultural capital, then visit Urumqi and Turpan.

Why you’ll love it
The bazaars in Xinjiang can be quite an experience – there’s much more than just carpets on offer. And the photographer in your family will love wandering the streets of the old city of Kashgar.

Why your kids will love it
Kids’ll get addicted to naan, Xinjiang’s garlicky, bagel-like bread. And at every corner, a camel awaits! If you can continue your travel down the Silk Road on to Dunhuang in Gansu, be sure to make it to the Mingsha sand dunes, where your kids can ride sleds down huge mountains of sand. 

The nitty-gritty
Fly from Beijing to Kashgar via Urumqi. To Turpan, take a bus from Urumqi (three hours). Then head on to Xian! Warning: Summertime can be extra hot in Xinjiang. Bring lots of sunscreen and take a break at midday when it’s hottest.

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