Travel

Top five Chinese cities to explore with Hainan Airlines

From historical Changsha to the giant pandas of Chengdu, this beguiling country has never been short of adventure.Saturday, 1 June 2019

Changsha, China.
Changsha, China.

1 Beijing
The world’s most populous capital city oozes history with its Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Great Wall of China — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Visit the Imperial Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for tranquil walks among lakes, gardens and trails. Peking duck is a meal not to be missed, with many restaurants offering their own unique version. Get lost in Beijing’s hutongs, traditional narrow streets and alleys, and visit a Peking Opera for a performance with spectacular backdrops and flamboyant costumes. 

2 Shenzhen
This thriving metropolis is a symbol of modern China. Head to Luohu Commercial City to shop for anything from electronics to tailored suits. Meanwhile, Futian Central Business District is a must-see for those interested in modern architecture. But make sure you take the time to explore Shenzen’s less flashy side, like the beaches stretching more than 12 miles along the coast, and the Nanshan Mountains, which are perfect for serene walks. Elsewhere, OCT Loft Creative Culture Park is a magnet for artists and designers.

3 Changsha
Perched on the Xiang River and carpeted with lush green spaces, this 'garden city' has a rich history spanning some 3,000 years. Historical treasures include The Mawangdui Han Tombs, a family graveyard from the Han Dynasty, and the Hunan Provincial Museum, containing relics of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, while culinary highlights include the spicy, aromatic Xiang cuisine. Be brave and try Changsha’s famed stinky tofu (chou dofu) — it tastes better than it smells. 

4 Chengdu
UNESCO's first-ever City of Gastronomy is famous for its traditional Chinese tea ceremonies and delicious Sichuan food, served up by street vendors, as well as stylish restaurants. The main attraction, however, is to see one of the world's most endangered species, the giant panda. Hop on a bus 11 miles out of the city to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, to gaze lovingly at around 50 of these adorable creatures, even if they do spend most of the day sleeping. 

5 Chongqing
Situated in the south west at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers, China's Mountain City is the place to jump onboard a scenic cruise to see the Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam and hydropower station in the world. The city is also known for its distinctive spicy cuisine and several historic hot spring parks nearby, where you can relax in thermal pools set among the rocks, streams and lush foliage. 

Business Class.
Business Class.

Get there on the new 787-9 Dreamliner

Cutting-edge design
UK-based PriestmanGoode has reworked interiors to ensure utmost comfort on board. Updates include the installation of leather headrests — a first for Hainan Airlines — and a layer of sponge beneath the fabric. The ‘Dream Feather’ concept incorporates an image of a floating feather to reflect the ease and comfort of stress-free travel.

Entertain yourself
New cabins feature state-of-the-art ‘Hai Studio’ hardware and the latest Panasonic EX3 entertainment system, with 18-inch, 1080P HD screens in business, 13-inch in premium economy and 12-inch in economy.

Sit back & relax
Business class has high-end Super Diamond flat seats from Rockwell Collins, with privacy screens, extra leg space and a 46-inch seat pitch. The new Premium Economy class offers four-way head restraints, seat backs reclining up to seven inches, an iPad bracket and a power plug. Economy features the Recaro CL3710 seat, with a newspaper holder — adding an inch of leg room.

Essentials
With codeshare partner airlines, Hainan Airlines offers services from Manchester Airport (MAN), Heathrow (LHR) and Edinburgh (EDI) to more than 50 destinations around the world. hainanairlines.com

Published in the July/August 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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