6 mins

9 ancient highlights and flavours of China

In China at the start of the Spice Route in the Far East, the warm flavours of szechuan pepper and smoky ajwain inspired the OPIHR Gin's Far East Edition. We explore this ancient land...

Things to do in China (Shutterstock)

The Maritime Silk Road journey starts in China, at the beginning of the Spice Route in the Far East. It’s here that the spicy and smoky culinary trends of this vibrant country inspired the creation of the OPIHR Gin's Far East Edition, which sees the warm flavours of szechuan pepper and smoky ajwain come together to create a bold and intense richly spiced gin. From the beautiful Blue Moon Valley to the multi-hued Yuanyang Rice Terraces, we take you on a journey through China to uncover the incredible sights and flavours of this ancient land.

Read on for 9 ancient highlights…

Click here for your chance to win a £2,000 travel voucher plus loads of OPIHR Gin treats

3 must-visit sights

1. Hanging Temple of Hengshan

The Hanging Temple of Hengshan (Shutterstock)

The Hanging Temple of Hengshan (Shutterstock)

This 5th century temple around 60km southeast of Datong will take your breath away before you even get up close to it. High up in the mountains, hugging a narrow shelf in the cliff face, it seems impossible that the Hanging Temple of Hengshan manages to keep its balance. Climb up to the temple to gaze out at the views from its balconies and walk the winding bridges that link the northern and the southern part together. The temple combines three religions – Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism – and gilded statues from them all can be admired inside the halls.

2. Blue Moon Valley

Blue Moon Valley (Shutterstock)

Blue Moon Valley (Shutterstock)

Named after its turquoise crescent moon-shaped river, the Blue Moon Valley in Lijiang with its terraced waterfall, surrounding wildflower meadows and Himalayan backdrop is a beautiful place for a hike.

The river is fed from melted snow and ice from the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, meaning the water is freezing cold year-round. One local tradition is that when two young people fall in love, the man must stand barefoot in the river to show his commitment.

Another local name for the river is Milk River, due to the white colour of the water as it falls over the terraces that make up the waterfall. This rushing water with the mountains behind and the brilliant blue river below it is a sight you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.  

3. Guǎngzhōu

Guǎngzhōu's historic harbour (Shutterstock)

Guǎngzhōu's historic harbour (Shutterstock)

Once one of the most important cities on the Maritime Silk Road, glittering Guǎngzhōu today offers a more laid-back city experience than busy Beijing and Shanghai. Start by exploring the harbour which was once used for exporting spices and other goods out of the country. Nowadays, the harbour offers views of skyscrapers melting into the water’s surface.

Further inland, wander the cobbled streets to find hidden temples and mosques. At Enning Lu, the city’s old town, you can walk through hundreds of years of history. Pastel coloured houses built in the 1920s and 30s line this wide and beautiful street. Look out for the Cantonese Opera Art Museum for a fascinating insight into the important part opera has played in China’s history. The past home of kung fu icon Bruce Lee can also be seen on this street.

3 must-see beauty spots

1. Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces (Shutterstock)

Yuanyang Rice Terraces (Shutterstock)

Look carefully and you’ll see that these seemingly multi-coloured rice terraces are actually reflecting the blue and cloud-dotted sky. These tiered man-made rice fields are undeniably beautiful, and the Hani people have been growing rice here for over 2,000 years, creating swirling accidental art along the way.

Visit during sunrise to watch the changing colours of the sky – from purple to orange to blue – dance over the surface of the water-filled terraces.

2. Jiuzhaigou Lake

Five Flower Lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park (Shutterstock)

Five Flower Lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park (Shutterstock)

The enormous 90,000 square metres Five Flower Lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park offers another riot of colour. Some believe that if you sprinkle water from this lake on the ground, flowers and trees will spring up. And you can’t blame them: surrounded by thick forest and green-cloaked mountains on every side, the lake is a true natural haven.

It’s not just the lake’s surroundings that offer colour, but the surface of the vast lake itself. At the bed of Five Flower Lake lies algae of oranges, reds, blues and greens. This causes the water of the lake to change colour. Add this to the reflection of the colours of the mountains, trees and plants and you could be walking around a lake that changes colour multiple times in one day.  

3. Dunhuang Sand Dunes 

Dunhuang Sand Dunes (Shutterstock)

Dunhuang Sand Dunes (Shutterstock)

A swirl of undulating sand dunes burn a fiery orange under a brilliant blue sky. The splash of the Crescent Lake and clusters of green trees adds a sense of scale to this seemingly never ending scene. Visit Dunhuang at sunrise to see the dunes at their most magnificent. Whether by foot or on camel back, a climb to the highest dunes is worth it for the views.

But don’t just look: listen. This sandy desert on the ancient Silk Road is famous for the singing sound it makes when the wind blows across the dunes.

3 must-try dishes 

1. Dumplings

Chinese dumplings (Shutterstock)

Chinese dumplings (Shutterstock)

Dumplings have been enjoyed for more than 1,500 years in China. With popular fillings including pork, shrimp and beef, these flavoursome parcels will keep you coming back for more.

2. Wonton soup

Wonton soup (Shutterstock)

Wonton soup (Shutterstock)

Dating back to the 1600s, wontons are similar to dumplings. Stuffed with a protein-rich filling, these triangle-shaped parcels are often fried and served in soup.

3. Hot pot

Chinese hot pot (Shutterstock)

Chinese hot pot (Shutterstock)

Hot pots have been enjoyed in China for hundreds of years and the traditional meal is still a firm favourite today. What you get in your hot pot will vary depending on whereabouts in the country you are. Essentially, a hot pot is a big bubbling bowl of broth to which meat and vegetables are added. No matter the flavour, every bowl dishes up a huge dollop of comfort.  

Try OPIHR'S Far East-inspired cocktail 

While you’re planning your exciting adventure, why not enjoy a taste of the Far East with OPIHR’s Spiced Red Snapper? The Szechuan Pepper within the gin adds a subtle spice kick, creating an exceptional flavour combination.

To the recipe

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