Teaching English in China comes with a number of holidays throughout the year, weekends, summer and winter holidays which can be up to 1 month long. I recommend fully utilizing these times and planning as many trips as possible to really experience the fascinating culture and places to visit all across the country. As China is so huge you will always have somewhere new to visit, each accompanying with wonderful new experiences.
1) Visit The far western town of Rui Li (瑞丽), Bordering Myanmar (Burma)
On my first trip to China, a good friend of mine and I traveled from our school in Guangzhou with no real plan. It was 3 weeks of city hopping, without any guide, plan or advice. After visiting over 20 cities the small town of Rui Li bordering Myanmar on the far West border of China really sticks out in my mind. The town is a clear blend of Thai and Chinese style temples, with some truly fascinating architecture, a clean and simple city with some wonderful local food and a town completely unexplored. When we visited we hired a taxi to show us round, costing just 40RMB for 3 hours and we saw a wonderful collection of fascinating architecture i've never experienced before. It was refreshing because many Chinese cities seem to be very similar in layout, building design, amenities and attractions. This town was really quite different unlike any town i've ever visited in the world. With the closed border to Myanmar in sight we could see armed soldiers patrolling the area and were not allowed closer.
2) Trip to Dali the famous romantic city
If you've ever watched the Chinese movie (心花怒放) a Baidu translation gives “Be wild with joy” released in 2014. You'll know about the famous city of Da li, not too far from Rui li above. The city is famous with Chinese people and is renown for romance. The city is fairly tourist orientated and has a number of old style traditional Chinese “Shacks” selling anything under the sun. A wonderful city to visit even as foreigner.
3) Great wall and terracotta warriors
Got to give these a mention. If you come all the way to China it's worth a couple of trips to visit Xi'An for the terracotta warriors and Beijing for the great wall. Personally, the terracotta warriors were a bit overrated, although the city of Xi'an is an awesome city, bursting with architecture and culture more so than any other city in China.
For the great wall, Do not go to the famous Badaling part of the great wall. It's far too packed with people and actually the entire section of the wall there has been rebuilt with modern bricks! Instead try to go to the furthest section of the wall you can. We took a van to the Mutianyu section, where you have to take a gondola to reach the top of the mountain where the wall sits. From there we walked 3 hours into the mountains following the old original broken and falling down wall. With trees and bushes fully established growing on the wall, and where some parts of the original wall had fallen down it was quite the adventure!
4) Street food and the nearest night market
One of the first places my fellow colleagues took me to in China was the nearest street market (or Light market) in the center of the city, they would shut the main road every so often and the street vendors would open up selling an incredible range of cheap as chips items, clothing, mobile accessories and anything really. The atmosphere is the most amazing part, with so much going on it's really pretty awesome. I highly recommend trying out the street food too, my personal favourite is the barbecued squid, it's yummy and just a few Yuan to buy. There's also a famous hot pot style street vendor always around. They have a selection of uncooked vegetables and meats to put in a basket and they'll cook them in the hot pot right in front of you! Really cheap and incredibly tasty.
5) A trip to the “Vegas” Of Asia – Macau
Macau is a personal favorite, not because of the gambling or the casinos themselves but the high-class Michelin star restaurants which cost next to nothing. In the galaxy hotel, the Thai restaurant in the Banyan tree hotel is one of the special ones for me. The set menu is very reasonably priced ($500 HKD about $40USD per head) including wine, starters, mains, deserts and it really is amazing food. Another favorite is the Taiwanese restaurant on the Casino floor in the galaxy. The boneless sweet and sour fish is one of those dishes we always order when taking friends.