But one thing I have realised is the beauty in travelling in China during the country's winter. Generally off-season for international travel in China, it's actually one of the best times if you don't mind the cold up in the north. (To be fair, I did struggle sometimes!)
Still, it's one of the best decisions I've made. Here are the reasons why I loved a trip during Chinese winter.
The Great Wall? I could see the Wall without a person in sight. Leshan Giant Buddha? I actually managed to get a photo of it without someone else pushing me for it. Giant Pandas of Chengdu? I walked straight in and straight up to the "pandamonium" and didn't have any actual pandemonium to get a good photo of the lovely pandas making cute noises and eating bamboo.
With fewer tourists around, you actually get to see more of the sights without someone's camera constantly nudging you in the back.
Although one place I still felt was popular was the Forbidden City in Beijing. I could find some peace and quiet sometimes in the huge complex, but there was still a semi-constant stream of people. I can only imagine what it's like during high season...
The better part though? Tourist attractions will often lower prices of admission during low season (around October/November to February/March), meaning you can get in for cheaper. You can then use than extra RMB20 or 30 on food or a souvenir.
Sometimes the locals will take photos, but mostly they will take such an interest in you due to you often being one of the only foreigners they've seen on their own travels. They ask you where you're from, and if you can say your country's name in Chinese, they are impressed!
One lady even gave me a whole bag of food on a bus just because I could say 'Australia' and where I was going to visit in China! So generous.
The people are mostly welcoming and hospitable. But when you're the only foreigner around, you can become the centre of attention. If you avoid the hawkers trying to sell you stuff, you'll enjoy the people's smiles and questions. The fact that I travelled alone made everyone quite surprised and willing to offer their tips to help me out. Being a solo traveller during low season definitely gives you more opportunity to converse with locals.
Nearly every hostel I stayed in I was upgraded into a smaller-dorm room than I booked, with the price I paid online (though Hostelworld - love that site) being considerably cheaper than the price listed in the hostel! Excellent outcome in my opinion.
Although some of my dorms have been a bit quiet (meaning I was one of only two or three in the dorm) it's just the right mix of privacy and people time for me. If you're constantly into partying, you can often find the bars and the right hostel hitting the party notes. But if you just want to escape and enjoy the shower and rest after a long day, having a quiet hostel can be a godsend.
So if you're thinking of travelling in China, I think winter would be a wonderful choice.
Have you travelled in China in off-season? During the high season of summer? Let me know what you think.
~ Olivia (WM)