Inspired by Chinese New Year celebrations, we take a look at options for travel to China in the year ahead
It's a long time since my first and only visit to China - about 20 years ago actually. I'd just finished my first year of study at the University of Melbourne and I decided to go to China to visit my cousin Katrina who was studying languages at the University in Xiamen.
We met in Hong Kong and then embarked on an amazing journey that included stops in Guangzhou, Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, and then a long ferry back to Hong Kong.
There were so many amazing highlights - walking along the Great Wall, feeling like you were actually in a post card; marveling at the vastness of Tiananmen Square, just a few years after the protests and massacre that had shocked the world; the ancient history of the Forbidden City; epic train journeys across the county; the millions of cyclists that ruled the roads; and eating fried dumplings at every opportunity.
As students, we were doing this trip on a very tight budget - so there were plenty of lowlights too. Going to the toilet was always an adventure - always clutching your own roll of toilet paper and learning to cope with the extraordinary sights and smells that you inevitably encountered as a result of shaky sewage systems; the hostel showers often felt like some kind cruel and unusual punishment - cold water coming out at you hard and fast, "like a cow urinating" as my cousin described it; long train journeys in cramped conditions where people though nothing of spitting on the floor or clearing their nose out of the window.
The world has changed a lot in 20 years, but by all accounts China has changed beyond recognition.
In this, the year of the snake, I have begun planning my long over-due return to China.
One of the key lessons that I learnt on my last visit is that China is a vast and diverse country, so there's no point kidding yourself that you're going to see and do everything.
I'm giving myself ten days (which is about my limit for any sort of extended travel) so it's going to have to be targeted, there will have to be sacrifices and things will be missed. That's just the reality of travel.
I've decided to give the following a miss:
Like a precision sniper, this time around my trip is going to focus on Shanghai and the surrounding area.
I'm feeling quite pleased with myself and have designed the perfect itinerary.
When to go:
How to get there:
What to do:
Where to stay:
Your choice of hotel can make or break a holiday, so I'm playing it relatively safe and going for quality.
Shanghai - Hotel Indigo, bang on The Bund and delivering jaw-dropping views
Hangzhou - Banyan Tree, I love Banyan Tree hotels and this one sits within the Xixi reserve - China's first national wetland park.
Suzhou - Kempinski Hotel, a hotel brand you can trust with a bit of lakeside luxury thrown in.
A lot to look forward to, and as long as there are plenty of fried dumplings to be had then I'll be happy.
Follow Gareth Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GTVlondon