China almost defies description. It straddles so many worlds – ancient and modern, rural and urban, ethnic and international. It’s 1.4 billion people speaking in a babble of languages, eating a potpourri of cuisines and rushing toward the future as if to make up for the lost centuries.

Yet those isolated ages have produced some of the most spectacular artifacts on earth – The Great Wall, the statues of the Terracotta Army and the Forbidden City. That same creative drive is evidenced today in the fantastical skyscrapers of the Pudong section in Shanghai.

Here is the visual, sensory, artistic and culinary onslaught you’ll embrace in this infinitely faceted Middle Kingdom – a great civilization that’s constantly evolving. China’s people are curious and friendly, gladly showing you the way around to a museum or favorite noodle shop. If you take the time, the massive throngs easily give way to individual faces, smiles, and conversations.

But the Chinese countryside is no less seductive with its deep colors and startling variety. Take a cruise along the Yangtze with its emerald waters, along richly forested shores. Hike the commanding Great Wall over mountains and valleys. Wander in a dream amongst the Yunhe Rice Terraces in the southeast, their 700 layers of terraces impossible to believe.

Whether you’re a city goer, trekker, explorer or foodie, you’ll find an endless horizon of possibilities from which to sample. But don’t worry if you can’t get your arms completely around China during one visit. This vast, limitless empire has stood for millennia and will be ready to welcome you upon your return.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is China on steroids. Its skyscraping harbor, overflowing cuisine, humming alleyways and non-stop markets all echo the Chinese ethos but with a 100 years’ head start. You may have to devour six meals a day just to keep pace with the culinary repertoire of Szechuan, Japanese, French and street food that won’t cease in this food-loving paradise.

But Hong Kong has some surprises that you may not expect. You wouldn’t know it looking at most brochures but 70% of Hong Kong is parkland, mountains, villages, and islands. Here you can work off the glorious gluttony of the city experience by hiking, exploring or even kayaking.

Still, Hong Kong is Chinese to its roots with its shared history and cultural connections with the mainland. You’ll see it in the art on the streets, the tai chi in the parks or a Chinese opera performed in a local theater. Visit China and then finish off in Hong Kong for dessert.