3:10 to Shanghai

On June 29, 2012, in Cool Places, Featured China Stories, Shanghai, by Jack Li

My time in Beijing is coming to a close, and it’s time to move on with my China travel.  Beijing has been my home for the last month and I have made great friends, had a *ahem* heck of a time, and seen the sights, but it’s time to move on.  It’s time to travel […]

My time in Beijing is coming to a close, and it’s time to move on with my China travel.  Beijing has been my home for the last month and I have made great friends, had a *ahem* heck of a time, and seen the sights, but it’s time to move on.  It’s time to travel to Shanghai.  I just purchased my train ticket.  I just got my tickets, my bag won’t be packed until the last second, and I’m beyond excited to go.

The railway station is a little overwhelming; luckily I did a little research beforehand so I had a relatively painless experience.  Thankfully Beijing Rail Station is its own stop on the subway 2 line, and the exit for the station is clearly marked.  Walk past the backpackers and travelers, past the entrance to the boarding center, past the fast food restaurants, and you’ll find yourself at the ticket terminal.  There are around 40 booths, and one of them speaks English.  It’s not always open though, so look it up before you go.  You need your passport or a copy of it in order to buy a train ticket.

There are a few options for a train.  The first is the bullet train, which takes around 5 hours between Beijing and Shanghai, and is one of the fastest if not the fastest trains in the world.  It’s a little pricey though.  There are also overnight trains that offer a few options.  There is a soft sleeper, which a bed in a room of four beds that locks.  Next is the hard sleeper, which is a three tiered bunk bed that line a train car.  After that is a normal seat.  I’m in college, so I’m traveling it the seat.  I’m sure the other methods of travel are very comfortable, but I want to see the countryside from my seat at the price of a little comfort.  The overnight train also helps us save on accommodation while in Shanghai, which is a huge plus.

Shanghai is a bustling metropolis with much more western influence than my current home of Beijing.  Its skyline is dotted with skyscrapers, and is one of China’s world renowned cities.  I’ve heard it described as the New York City of Asia, and I’m ready to put those statements to the test.  It’s time for me to travel to Shanghai, and I couldn’t be more excited.  China’s bustling metropolis here I come.

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Cool Couples Coordinating Clothing!!!

On June 29, 2012, in China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, by Jack Li

Would you ever consider matching your significant other whenever you two are out and about together? I personally would say no, but that is not the case for most couples here in China. When you travel to Beijing, prepare to see couples wearing matching t-shirts as well as males carrying females’ purses. When I saw […]

Would you ever consider matching your significant other whenever you two are out and about together? I personally would say no, but that is not the case for most couples here in China. When you travel to Beijing, prepare to see couples wearing matching t-shirts as well as males carrying females’ purses. When I saw this phenomenon for the first time, I thought it was just a weird coincidence, but then as I began to participate in more touristy activities, I noticed everywhere there were couples that were purposefully matching each other. If you travel to Beijing with a significant other, be sure to bring plenty of coordinating outfits in order to fit in!

The very first time I came across this fashion statement, I was on my way home from work on the subway. I looked to my left and slightly chuckled to myself for the couple next to me was so perfectly coordinated. From their shoes to their shirts, the couple was almost identical. The man was wearing neon pink shoes. I do not know of any guy who would be willing to match his girlfriend to that extent. However, after seeing this for the first time, I merely passed it off as them just being a little odd, but little did I know that I would encounter this trend all over the streets of Beijing.

Apparently, this trend began somewhere in South Korea and has made its way over to China. Although I believe that it will be awhile before this trend reaches the United States, if it ever even does, I think it is very amusing. The men who are willing to match their girlfriends are very brave and have to be very comfortable with their sexuality, for the men I know would rather drop dead before wearing the same exact shirt as their girlfriends because then they would be seen as wearing a “girl’s shirt.” Not only do Beijing couples tend to match, they are also a lot more affectionate in public than couples are in America. If it is late at night and you find yourself walking the busy city streets of Beijing, it is not uncommon to see a couple kissing in the middle of the sidewalk. Not only are they very open about displaying affection for each other, but they are also very touchy with one another. If you are behind a Chinese couple in a line, it is not uncommon for the guy to somehow be touching the female or holding her closer to him. This is especially evident on the subways. Although I’m sure there are many other differences between western couples and Chinese couples, these are the main characteristics I have noticed.

When you travel to Beijing, prepare yourself for this site and make a mental note that the first couple you see doing this is not abnormal or just funny. I honestly wish I understood more about this trend, but for now it just remains to be one of those things that differentiate American and Chinese couples. The main thing holding my interest here is why? Why do they match and what does it symbolize other than the obvious fact that they are indeed a couple?

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Stoked For Haikou! It Might Just Be Better Than Hawaii!

On June 28, 2012, in Adventure Trip, Beaches, China Attractions, Festivals, Transportation, by Jack Li

Haikou is the capital city of Hainan Province with a population of 2,046,189. It has abundant amount of tourist destinations and historical Sites. Located on the northern edge of the Torrid Zone, Haikou has many sea beach scenic spots, like Jiari Beach, Baishamen Beach, Xixiu Beach. This city is apropriatly names “Mouth of the Sea”. […]

Haikou is the capital city of Hainan Province with a population of 2,046,189. It has abundant amount of tourist destinations and historical Sites. Located on the northern edge of the Torrid Zone, Haikou has many sea beach scenic spots, like Jiari Beach, Baishamen Beach, Xixiu Beach. This city is apropriatly names “Mouth of the Sea”. The most popular beach is Holiday Beach If you are thinking of coming here for your China travel. Haikou Its nickname is the “coconut city” and the name fits this tropical area with Hawaiian like beaches and clear water to swim in on three sides. I love this because I am an island girl at heart myself. It is also almost entirely pollution free which is great on the lungs! Today, Haikou is becoming a Incredibly complex and unique beach resort with multiple activities such as sightseeing, leisure, convalescence, exhibition and entertainment. However it is not all new though it also has some historic sites such as The Tomb of Hai Rui, The temple of Five Lords, Xiuying Palace. There are several parks here which are all must see places notable ones are: Golden Bull Mountain Ridge Park, Baishamen Park  and Evergreen Park. They are all breath taking and just coming here is worth booking your China Southern Airlines flight.

 

The food is also a sight to see for those who have not yet had tropical fruit or good sea food this is the place to try it. The best options to go for are the ever popular coconuts and pineapple but one should also try the pawpaw, jack fruits and betel nuts. I personally love fresh picked Logan berries, preferably made into a smoothie or juice. As far as sea food goes everything is good but tourist note how delicious the Hele crab is here. I also suggest trying Wenchang Chicken and Jiaji Duck if you see them sold by a street vendor or in a restaurant.. I suggest going to the street markets because they have a fun hometown feel to them. In addition this city has an annual music concert in the summer that is well worth the trip. For those who are looking for nice China Hotels this place has some of the best. And just like in Hawaii they are right on the beach I know I might be hopping on a sleeper train to go to this island this weekend. Maybe I’ll catch some waves or soak up the sun. I just don’t know why it isn’t more popular considering how beautiful it and scenic it is. Maybe its because it looks so much like Hawaii and the Bahamas foreigners have not yet discovered this unique island get away.

 

Hidden

On June 27, 2012, in Beijing, Cool Places, Nightlife, by Jack Li

Those of you who do not know where the Hidden Lounge is and how to find it are not alone.  As its name implies, the Hidden Lounge is sneakily tucked away inside the CBD International Apartment complex in the Shuangjing District.  Open the door under a dimly lit sign, and walk down the stairs into […]

Those of you who do not know where the Hidden Lounge is and how to find it are not alone.  As its name implies, the Hidden Lounge is sneakily tucked away inside the CBD International Apartment complex in the Shuangjing District.  Open the door under a dimly lit sign, and walk down the stairs into another world.  It’s a mellow/chic bar and lounge that offers a delicious selection of cocktails and hookah.  It’s been weeks since I got off my China flights, and I’ve only just found it myself.  The bar is littered with cushions, couches, and curtains that make you feel right at home.  The atmosphere is relaxed, and the background music is an eclectic mix of dance music, jazz, and Latin music that speaks to my soul.  In addition, it’s the only place I’ve found in China that serves salty popcorn that isn’t coated inside and out with sugar.  It’s one of the best lounges to stop by in when you travel to Beijing.

Hidden is a great place to unwind after a long day.  After a nine hour work day and two hours of Chinese Lessons a little nagging voice tells me to pass out.  The angel on my shoulder tells me I need to contact friends and family back home, and work on my own projects, and his counterpart tells me I should go out with friends and blow off some steam.  Hidden lets me do all three.  The wifi allows me to be semi-productive (I did some work on a startup I help run, while some of my friends worked on their Chinese homework), the relaxing atmosphere lets me relax with my friends, and the absurdly comfortable seating lets me take a load off.  Hidden is the kind of bar where you can have your cake and eat it too.

A huge part of the environment is the owner, originally hailing from Orlando Florida.  He’s been in Beijing for the past eight years, has lots of great stories and advice for travelers.  With his help I finally know where to find Mexican food in Beijing, something I’ve craved since I first arrived.  Just remember to leave him a tip, a habit that has been beaten out of me here in China.  No matter how great it is to travel, it’s always nice to have a little bit of home, and I promise you that he won’t find it rude.  When you travel to Beijing, make a stop at Hidden.

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Shopping in Beijing

On June 27, 2012, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, Shopping, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing, you will end up wanting to bring a piece of Beijing home with you.  Depending on what you want to purchase as a souvenir, there are many places to shop in Beijing. From the minute you step off of one of your China flights, you are greeted with not only […]

When you travel to Beijing, you will end up wanting to bring a piece of Beijing home with you.  Depending on what you want to purchase as a souvenir, there are many places to shop in Beijing. From the minute you step off of one of your China flights, you are greeted with not only a massive airport, but also many places to shop. From the markets to shopping malls to street vendors, the options are endless.

If you wish to purchase knock-off brands then either the Silk, Pearl, or Yaxiu Market are the places to visit. Items here are relatively cheap, but haggling is a must. The silk market is one of the most popular markets for tourists in Beijing with every floor differing in what it offers. Due to this market being a popular tourist destination, the majority of the salespeople will speak a reasonable amount of English. This market also has vendors that will make custom-made suits or dresses for travelers, but as always, be careful to not get tricked into overpaying for these items.  The Pearl Market, similar to the Silk Market, has floors that differ in what they offer. Near the temple of Heaven, the Pearl Market is also a popular tourist attraction and sells an assortment of inexpensive Chinese relics. It is also essential that you bargain here and it is advisable to cut the seller’s price in half initially and then work from there. Lastly, Yaxiu Market is located in Sanlitun and like the aforementioned markets, the floors are categorized according to the type of products offered. The main way in which this market is different than the others is that is offers a number of small beauty salons that are squeezed in along one of the walls. In these salons, you can get your eyebrows trimmed, nails painted, and feet massaged at a reasonable price. As with the other markets, you must be prepared to bargain. These markets are fabulous places to buy yourself or loved ones inexpensive souvenirs.

If you find that you would prefer to not haggle for prices and would rather go to a calmer atmosphere, then Wangfujing is the place for you. This area is home to three large markets: Sun Dong An Plaza, Beijing Department Store and The Malls at Oriental Plaza. Here, they mainly sell designer clothes, but you can also find an assortment of makeup, jewelry, wines and spirits, as well as tea shops. Although the prices are higher than normal, this is not a place to make a bargain, but also keep in mind the items sold here are of a better quality. However, there is a side street next to Wangfujing, which is the snack street that comes alive after six in the evening. Here, you can haggle for prices because prices will immediately be shot up for foreign people. There is a plethora of foods to try here ranging from scorpions to fried dumplings.

There are many places to shop in Beijing for it is a vast city. Depending on what you wish to purchase, there are many places you can go. For those who are wary of haggling, then a shopping mall or an area like Wangfujing may come as a breath of fresh air. However, if you are willing to buy your souvenirs at a market where prices can be argued over, then it is certainly an experience you should embark on when you travel to Beijing.

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How to Spend Your Last Night in Beijing in Style

On June 27, 2012, in Beijing, Modern Architecture, Nightlife, by Jack Li

I said good bye to one of the coolest people I have ever met last night and were did he chose to bring our recently acquired group of friends but to the 80th floor of the tallest building in Beijing. This bar almost at the top of the China World Summit building is called Atmosphere and […]

I said good bye to one of the coolest people I have ever met last night and were did he chose to bring our recently acquired group of friends but to the 80th floor of the tallest building in Beijing. This bar almost at the top of the China World Summit building is called Atmosphere and it is well worth the effort to dress up in a business suit and go even during Beijing’s hot summer weather. It is also the perfect place to end your China travel, at least in my personal experience. The music is great usually featuring live jazz which moves your soul. The drinks of course are a little pricey for Beijing but it is still only around 15usd-30usd a drink. They are delicious and exotic. The Atmosphere bar sells grapa form Italy, Cuban rum and wine in addition the bar also sells a selection of Cuban cigars. I don’t know about you but I never thought I would find these things in China but I guess every day here is full of surprises. And I am loving all of them! This is defiantly#1 in places to go after your Beijing tours. However, don’t forget you can just have one drink here save your money and get some extreme swag on while overlooking the city of Beijing

As we sat down and drank our drinks I looked at my friends and thought it has been only 3 weeks since we meet but we act like old friends. So I stood up and made a traditional toast to my new found friends stating loudly, “This toast is to our Canadian brother who is leaving us… it seems that out time together here is too short but may we all remain friends for years to come.” After this every one cheered and   shouted gambai but no one killed there drink because they wanted to savor it.  We all then took many photos and pretended to be proper my one good friend sat around and waved like the queen of England which made everyone burst into laughter even at the table next to us. After going to this bar I think if I ever have a layover on one of my China flights I will make this place my destination. I do not say this because it is high class after all I do love a good cheap night out in Sanlitun. But I say it because it is a place where I can sit by the window and recall all of my memories of Beijing my favorite city (so far) in China. Well that and the jazz music I heard here was some of the best in my life. So This Blog is dedicated to Brian and the rest of my new found friends, see you in Spain!  “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

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KTV True Life

On June 26, 2012, in China Attractions, Cool Places, Nightlife, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Back in the States I’ve always been a big fan on karaoke, and this past semester I was graced without Wednesday classes so every Tuesday night my friends and I would go to karaoke at our local haunt.  When I decided to travel to Beijing I was delighted to find that karaoke is extremely popular […]

Back in the States I’ve always been a big fan on karaoke, and this past semester I was graced without Wednesday classes so every Tuesday night my friends and I would go to karaoke at our local haunt.  When I decided to travel to Beijing I was delighted to find that karaoke is extremely popular here.  The first thing I did after I got off my Beijing flights after I unpacked my apartment was to check out some local Karaoke.

A bar with karaoke in The US is usually set up like an open-mic night, with a stage where anyone can sign up to sing in front of the entire bar.  This is a lot of fun, but has two major drawbacks: you have to sing in front of strangers, and strangers have to sing in front of you.  Sometimes this is great and leads to new friends and seeing amazing talent.  More often however, it’s like being forced to watch a string of rejects from American Idol.

Conversely, in China karaoke is a very intimate experience.  With KTV (Karaoke Television) you rent out private rooms for you and your friends that can range for a small room for 6-12 people, to a massive two story hall.  You are given a few microphones, and a computer terminal to the side of the room controls what songs are played.  There is a huge selection of popular Western and Eastern music to choose from.  The songs play in whatever order you choose on the screen.  In my experience everyone who wants to sing crowds around the microphones, and they are passed from person to person.  You’re all singing to each other rather than singing to an audience.

KTV is a great way to spend an evening, and to see a different approach to an international trend.  When I go to KTV I get to sing my heart out with my friends just like I would back home, but with a Chinese twist.  Karaoke is much more mainstream and popular here than it is back home where I usually found myself dragging my friends to the bar and pushing them on stage.  In China, karaoke is a small and intimate experience where everyone gets excited and  everyone participates.  As part of your China travel check out a KTV venue near you, and if you’re staying for a long time like I am invite your Chinese friends!  Nothing brings people together quite like drinks, songs, and laughter.

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A Sure Sign of A Good Time

On June 26, 2012, in Beijing, China Attractions, Nightlife, by Jack Li

Across the street from the club called Vics in Sanlitun is its competitor Mix. Both these night clubs are fairy similar they even rime in name and stay open until the sun is high in the sky.  They are both a great destination after your China Tour. However, they do have some small differences that […]

Across the street from the club called Vics in Sanlitun is its competitor Mix. Both these night clubs are fairy similar they even rime in name and stay open until the sun is high in the sky.  They are both a great destination after your China Tour. However, they do have some small differences that make or break which one you want to go to. Firstly, Mix and Vics usually lets girls in for free otherwise the cover charge is $50. And they both have stages to dance on and two rooms playing different music to dance to. However, at mix only women are allowed to dance on the stage. My friend tried to hide behind the group of people I was with to dance, however the bouncer saw him lurking trough two of my friends and pulled him down. We all had a good laugh but I think everyone should be allowed to dance on stage.  However, I will say it is easier to get a drink at Mix because the bar is further away from the speakers. At Vics the bar is right next to the stage and speakers. They also both have tables and two stories which makes it easy to take a breather. This alone makes both clubs well worth the trip for those who Travel to Beijing.

On the plus side for Vics it has western toilets with toilet paper and multiple bathrooms. This is shockingly absent at Mix which only have the non western toilets but Vics does have bathroom attendants which is pretty swagy. Plus once you get the hang of it both toilets are the same.  But be careful if you have had too much to drink I heard a girl fall in the last time I was there. However I will say that Vics bathroom design and the entire design of the club is aesthetically pleasing.   Another plus to both places that I appreciated was the coat check so if you ride a vespa in and need to store your helmet and keys or you bring a bag you can leave it there. I know Mix is free but I did not use the coat check at Vics so I am unsure of weather you have to pay for it or not.  It is also close to many Beijing Hotels which are reasonably priced if you want to walk. If you want to take a taxi, like I do, be ready to haggle. I will come out on the week end and just to go about a mile which is usually 25rmb taxi drivers will usually try to get 100rmb out of me. One guy gave me a price of 200rmb and I laughed so hard I actually bumped into a taxi behind me. If you are willing to wait for a bit and you know how much the cost should be though you will find someone in a short amount of time who is reasonable. So head down to Vics or mix for a rip roaring good time. “ If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller.

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Jiuhua Spa

On June 26, 2012, in Beijing, China Attractions, Cool Places, Must-sees, by Jack Li

Relaxing, luxurious, tranquil, none of these words even start to do justice to describing Jiuhua Spa and Resort. Despite its beauty and everything it has to offer, Jiuhua Spa does not attract many westerners. That, however, should change immediately for it was one of the best spa experiences I have ever had. If you travel […]

Relaxing, luxurious, tranquil, none of these words even start to do justice to describing Jiuhua Spa and Resort. Despite its beauty and everything it has to offer, Jiuhua Spa does not attract many westerners. That, however, should change immediately for it was one of the best spa experiences I have ever had. If you travel to Beijing and find that you have a free day, you should definitely take advantage of the services that Jiuhua Spa has to offer. I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing and remain in the area during a holiday weekend, which is when I had the good fortune of going to Jiuhua Spa.

Taking a day off and traveling to the hot springs at Jiuhua Spa is a great way to escape the city. Although there are many options in terms of hot springs to visit in Beijing, Jiuhua Spa is one of the best with the longest history in Beijing. It was established during the Yuan Dynasty and was exclusively used by imperial families. That fact within itself should definitely clue you in to how amazing this place really is. There are many different hot spring pools within the area; some with mineral rich waters and others with different ingredients to cure certain ailments or to help certain body parts. Despite it being a holiday weekend when I traveled there, there were relatively few people in the hot springs. It was an amazing way to spend my day, which was topped off with a full body massage.

Jiuhua Spa’s hot springs are of the best quality and the water is even table quality. However, if you want to do more than just experience the hot springs, the resort is very large with more than ten different restaurants in the area. If you decide to stay overnight in the resort, prices start at about 480 Yuan. It would be very easy to stay an entire week in the area. There are several different districts within the resort itself and many different pools to visit. Although I was only able to stay for a day, I could have easily stayed for several just to experience the different pools as well as the different services the resort had to offer. After walking into the main building, you are greeted with several different packages you can purchase. I opted for one that cost me 200 yuan, which included access to all of the hot springs as well as a full body massage lasting an hour. At first, this did not seem to be an option, but if you ask around, the people working there will lead you to another area where you can purchase different packages. My 200 Yuan was well spent!

When you travel to Beijing, you should definitely travel to northern Beijing and experience the hot Springs for yourself. 200 Yuan for a spa day is the equivalent to about thirty dollars, which is unheard of in the United States. I cannot begin to describe the beauty of the resort and how relaxing my day was. I could not have asked for a better massage or experience for that matter.

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1, 2, 3 Bungee

On June 25, 2012, in Activities, Adventure Trip, Beijing, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Have you ever been bungee jumping?  How about Bungee Jumping during your China travel? Well I just Bungee jumping for my first time in China of all places! As scary as it sounds, it was one of the best experiences I have had in my whole life.  And it was incredibly safe the place I […]

Have you ever been bungee jumping?  How about Bungee Jumping during your China travel? Well I just Bungee jumping for my first time in China of all places! As scary as it sounds, it was one of the best experiences I have had in my whole life.  And it was incredibly safe the place I went to was In Shidu just an hour and a half outside of Beijing and it had a European safety certificate.  The only time I had a bit of fear flow through me was as right as I leapt from the 55m drop and thought to myself, “This is not the smartest thing I have done.” However, my fear was soon taken over by the overwhelming feeling of freedom off falling weightlessly and I screamed “wooohooooo!”  Of all the experiences I have had In China so far or even out of all the experiences I have had in my life this has been the best. There is nothing like jumping off a ledge that is surrounded by beautiful scenery, it is a rush of beauty and adrenalin all in one.  The only comparable feeling was the plane landing from my Beijing flights because of the stomach dropping feeling.  Also in Shidu there are lots of people in boats bellow that look up at you and even cheer you on as you fall.

My only disappointment was that the initial fall did not last long enough I would have liked to jump twice to satisfy my new craving. However, I think if I went twice I would want to go three times then four or five. Shidu is not the only Bungee jumping place in china either! In Beijing you can jump of a 38 meter bungee jump in the Olympic stadium. I have added this jump to my list of things to do before I leave Beijing.  In addition there are other ones around China such as Qinglong Gorge and Yangqi Lake. I will defiantly go to the one in Macau on a separate trip because I hear Macau has the highest jump of a total of 338 meters.  There are some pretty unique China hotels in all of these area for the adventurous traveler. However If you are not looking to stay I the outskirts of the city you can always take a bus for cheep to these locations. So don’t forget to get your guts up and jump off a cliff whenever you get the chance because it is an experience you will never forget. I know that I will remember my first bungee for the rest of my life! “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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