Want to travel this October, but can’t afford to go to Thailand?  Don’t want to visit Guilin or Hong Kong again?  Well then this post is for you!

A little over a year ago I wrote a post detailing Pingyao, Xiahe, Tongren, Macau, Louyang, Emei Shan, Chongqing, Kashgar, Turpan, and Xishuangbanna as ten places to go to escape the Laowai tourist trail. Today, I’m going to add seven more locations to that list.

Rocky Shores and Sacred Temples of Putoshan

Putoshan, Zhejiang – Joining Emei Shan, Jiuhua Shan, and Wutai Shan as the four Holy Buddhist Mountains in thiscountry. Putoshan is not as tall or as striking as its peers, but it makes up for it in atmosphere. Located on an island just off the coast of Ningbo is this incredibly relaxing place. It is perfect to stroll around by the windy, rocky shores, and hike around some great temples. It reminded me a lot of Nova Scotia, but with more incense.

Glen Recommends – Head to Shanghai for two to three days, then take the bus or train to Hangzhou for another two, take the bus and ferry to Putoshan for the last three days to effectively unwind.

Shaolin Temple, Dengfeng, Henan – Sure you’re probably all “templed out” after spending a bit of time in China, but the birthplace of Kung Fu deserves a trip. It is set in the beautiful Songshan Mountain ranges, and full of live martial arts demonstrations. The coolest part is wandering through the area for all of the young monks training. Apparently there are martial arts classes you can take there as well.

Glen Recommends – Xi’an for a few days, bus/train to Luoyang for a few more, bus to Shaolin Temple, bus to Zhengzhou to fly or train back.

Kharakoram Pass, Xinjiang – I can not possibly recommend this enough.  The highway connecting Kashgar to Pakistan is simply the mos stunning bit of scenery I have ever seen. My biggest travel regret is not spending more of my time on this road. I would have loved to go all the way into Pakistan, but if that’s not possible, there is plenty to see on the way.

Glen Recommends – Two full days in Kashgar (one of which simply must be a Sunday), then at least two days on the Khartoum pass. I only made it as far as Karakul, but I wish I had continued at least to Tashkurgan, if not further.

798 Art District, Beijing – Have an extra day to kill in the Capital after you exhausted The Great Wall, The Forbidden

Now where did I put my shirt made of bricks? - 798 Beijing

City, and Tienanmen Square? Then this is the place for you!  The newly redone modern art area in Dashanzai district is well worth the trip. Several old factories have been redone and turned into a very trendy, avant-guard art space that you wouldn’t expect to see in a conservative place like China. There are a ton of very large, very strange exhibits that can showcase a side of contemporary China that you may not have known existed.

Glen Recommends- Set aside at least half a day of a trip to Beijing to head out here, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

INTERMISSION/DISCLAIMER: A reminder that this list was made by one person (me) and I only have limited time/money so there are a ton of places that I haven’t been to but are high on my to-go list and hope to have on the next list I make. That list includes (but is not limited to): Jiuzhaigoa, Xiamen, Fenghuang, Wutai Shan, Dunhuang, Kaifeng, and anywhere North of Beijing.

And obviously nowhere here is truly “Off the Beaten Path” thus the inclusion of the word “Slightly” in the title. It is a country with over a billion inhabitants, who all love to travel. You are bound to see people everywhere you go, unless you head way out into the wilderness, and I’m not quite brave enough to do that just yet.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

Victim of the Cultural Revolution - Xizhou, Yunnan

Xizhou, Yunnan – I know that the area around Dali is covered with more cool stuff than you could possibly fit into a week long holiday, but Xizhou is well worth your time. This cool old town hasn’t yet undergone the “cute little town” development that has struck other similar places around this country. This is especially noticeable that there are still broken statues and scratched out paintings from the Cultural Revolution everywhere.  It is easily doable as a day trip from Dali, but I bet it would be cool to stay there (note: I didn’t). There are tour guides in this city and in Dali that can take you around and into some of the great old houses that are around there.

Glen Recommends – Dali is worth at least 3 days of any holiday, which would include a jaunt up to Xizhou (it’s on the way to Shaping Market), from there go anywhere else in Yunnan, it’s all awesome.

Nanjing, Jiangsu – Sure it’s a big city that we’ve all heard of, but how many laowais actually go there? It seems to be neglected when people do the Shanghai-Suzhou-Hangzhou loop, which really is unfair. Obviously the must-visit attraction is the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. It is an incredibly well done museum with a lot of information, it goes over the top a few times (the cheesy music in the mass grave comes to mind) but it will give you chills. After you’ve done that, there is still a great town to be explored, including the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum at Purple Mountain, and the old city walls.

Glen Recommends – Two to three days each in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Nanjing sounds like a fantastic week to me!

Alright so the path here is pretty well trodden...but it's still awesome!

Guangzhou, Guangdong – Alright, I’m biased, I’ll admit it. My new home away from home is a very cool place thatseems to be ignored as a tourist destination. Of course it has a bad reputation for being dirty, with rude people, but I think that is a thing of the past. The city is undergoing a massive renovation for the Asian Games (which should be done next week for the holiday), so the dirtiness should be no more. The original International Zone in Shamian Island is a walk to a Colonial Past, and Baiyun Mountain is a great way to be at one with nature in a city of 12 million people. Of course, the quality of the food may go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: the food here is FANTASTIC. While it often gets overshadowed by Hong Kong, make no mistake about it Guangzhou has style like Shanghai, and soul like Beijing.

Glen Recommends – Four Days in Hong Kong, take the train (only two hours) to Guangzhou for the next three days. Buy Glen a beer on night two.

….that worked right?

So I know that there are billions of locations that I missed, any more suggestions?


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  2. Good post! Good job on putting Putuoshan up – its a place we are considering going to but not sure about over the October holidays, might be over-run with Chinese Tourists! As you saw, Qinghai is definitely a place to visit.

    • Yeah Daniel, I think it may be a little crowded over the October holiday. We left on the Saturday morning of a long weekend and I felt like I was a hero in one of those zombie/outbreak movies going against the crowd of fleeing people to save the day.

      …alright so that may have been over dramatic, but there were still a lot of people there!

  3. Personally I had to stop at Putuoshan last year on the way back from some of the other islands because I wanted to change to the overnight ferry that leaves most nights. What I saw rather disturbed me as far as how much that place has changed in 10 years having been built up into a major tourist trap as well as mecca for all the Buddhists heading there. I would personally not pay the high ticket just to go on the island, which is essentially a down payment on more gouging to come. I liked Mayi dao and Taohua dao much more as local islands, clean air, little in the way of “touristy” and locals more used to the sincerity of their lives without the “abuse the foreigner” mentality that these tourist traps breed. There are loads of ferries from the two ports in Shenjiamen connecting many islands and it is very cheap to go on them. Just don’t limit yourself to Putuoshan – though maybe we all should go there at least once – the other islands are lovely and also are not built up as Buddhist cash-cows. I love the idea and agree 100% go to Hangzhou, chill and then take the bus/ferry to Zhoushan’s Shenjiamen port and go from there.

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