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China is enormous, there’s no getting around that, but a vast portion of the population and major cities can be found relatively close together along the east coast of the country.

The rapid development of China can be most clearly seen in the cities that line the eastern seaboard. There are numerous cities here that are iconic tourist destinations but also offer an amazing lifestyle for anyone that has the time to hang around. These cities offer a mix of traditional Chinese and Western cultures with temples rubbing up against huge shopping malls.

The summers can get hot in the eastern cities with average highs of 32C in Shanghai and high humidity. This reason is why a lot of Chinese people head to the abundance of air-conditioned shopping centres, restaurants and cinemas before heading out on to the streets after sunset


Shanghai is a perfect example of the modern and traditional living side by side. Head down to the banks of the Huangpu river along ‘The Bund’ that flows through the city to view the legendary skyline with some of the world’s tallest buildings. Then turn round and check out the ornate, historic buildings in a mixture of old European and Chinese styles.


Other cities such as Hangzhou with the legendary West Lake, the student city of Nanjing and Suzhou, the ‘Venice’ of China are just a few hours on the train from Shanghai.

Amongst the modern developments, it’s not difficult to find traditional Chinese culture all over the streets as communities head out to the squares and parks across the cities for huge dance practices or games of chess. An evening spent people watching in one of the many ‘People’s Parks’ is an evening well spent.

In these cities, you’ll usually find a large ex-pat community at the Western restaurants or bars around the cities. There’s always an interesting tale when you’re chatting to a an American English teacher, at an Irish bar, in the middle of China, drinking Belgian beer and eating Mexican food. This also means that there are more likely to be Western products stocked in the larger supermarkets too.

This area is not just about the city life though - if you venture further inland from Shanghai, you’ll get to one of China’s holy mountains, Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain). One of the inspirations for James Cameron’s Avatar and peaks disappearing into the clouds, this is often one of our participants favourite place to travel.