Beijing: Home Away from Home

On April 19, 2012, in Beijing, Nightlife, Nightlife, by Jack Li

This article is intended for anyone who will travel to Beijing and stay long enough to feel they miss some comforts from their western homeland. Sure, the malls in Beijing offer plenty of outlets which you can find back home such as McDonalds, Zara and Starbucks; but outlined below are some venues where you can […]

This article is intended for anyone who will travel to Beijing and stay long enough to feel they miss some comforts from their western homeland. Sure, the malls in Beijing offer plenty of outlets which you can find back home such as McDonalds, Zara and Starbucks; but outlined below are some venues where you can unwind and even forget your in a foreign country. All the places mentioned below are well within the city and thus suitable Beijing hotels will not be a problem too far away.

In particualar, some places down Guangqu Road might interest you. Here is where you will find western-style venues; namely, The Brick, Grinders Bar and Lily’s American Diner. If you are looking for a pub/bar, the Brick fits the bill. After noticing the brick walls when the walk in, the name of the bar becomes clear with bare ‘brick’ walls covering the interior. At first glance, the Brick might pass you by because of its small size, yet this place is worth having a relaxing drink with friends. The laid-back décor of the Brick means customers can chill out over a pint in quite an intimate setting. Hanging above the bar, for instance, you will be able to spot an old bike whilst up the spiralling staircase you and your friends will be able to enjoy a few games of pool.

A couple of doors up from The Brick is the North American-style bar, Grinders. The bar is attractive and spacious and an ideal environment to watch a sports game, drink a beer and grab a bite to eat, with the bar providing at least three decent sized screens. Perhaps the only criticism of the bar is that it is relatively expensive compared to other local venues. However, this makes sense after considering that the wide-range of their tasty beers is imported. The selection of beers on offer includes European, North America and Australian brands. Typically, you might expect to pay around 40RMB for a drink and 50RMB for their signature sub-sandwiches (which, after sampling, are definitely substantial and delicious).

If any readers are a fan of the late-1990’s early-2000’s TV show Friends, then the ‘Friend’s Café’ in Beijing is a must-see. The owners of the café have meticulously fitted the place with furniture and items to give the appearance of Central Perk café from show. Situated on the sixth floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, the café was founded in 2010 by Du Xin (who has himself been likened to ‘Gunther’, the manager of Central Perk!) The Friends Café is the perfect place to unwind and sit on the couch as the TV characters often would. The only difference here is that you have the opportunity to watch countless Friends episodes while sipping your coffee and nibbling on a cake. Alternatively, you can hang out in ‘Joey’s Apartment’ next door and play some table-football. Once a week, the café may even host some entertainment for customers to enjoy and even participate with songs and games from a Phoebe look-alike!

One more place for your consideration is Paddy O’Shea’s which is Beijing’s only Irish-owned and Irish-managed bar. This venue is full of life and was voted as the ‘Best Sports Bar in Beijing’ for over three consecutive years. The bar is roomy and, of course, serves stouts and Ireland’s famous Guinness (again, these might be quite costly). Nevertheless, this is another prime location to socialise with friends as the bar holds regular events such as weekly quiz nights and live music. Note that Paddy O’Shea’s is also the perfect place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and becomes teeming with jovial customers. That said, all these abovementioned places will hopefully encourage you to book you Beijing flights even sooner!

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Beijing Supermarkets

On April 18, 2012, in Cultural Experience, Shopping, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

No matter if you are in need of daily consumer goods or you’re just interested to see how supermarkets in China are different from the ones you’re used to, you won’t have trouble finding them. If you travel to Beijing you’ll find many international chain supermarkets, like Carrefour, Wal-mart, Metro or Merry Mart, just like […]

No matter if you are in need of daily consumer goods or you’re just interested to see how supermarkets in China are different from the ones you’re used to, you won’t have trouble finding them. If you travel to Beijing you’ll find many international chain supermarkets, like Carrefour, Wal-mart, Metro or Merry Mart, just like in any other big city in the world. Smaller supermarkets can be found in almost every corner of the city and if you book one of the Beijing hotels there will certainly be several of them in the vicinity. The smaller ones might be slightly more expensive than the big ones but still very convenient if you don’t need much.

When you walk into the supermarket building you’ll pass numerous stands or little shops where you can buy shoes, bags, flowers, jewelry and you’ll pass those again on your way out. Also, in front on the supermarkets are usually vendors selling fruit, DVDs and other things. So in general it’s more than just the supermarket itself where you have the opportunity to buy things. Inside the market you can find nearly anything. There is not only a huge amount of food but also clothes, electronic household appliances, household goods etc.

There is a large variety of products that most people from Europe or America have probably never seen or bought before. Anyone who’s open to new things should give it a try and go for some unknown products like the various snacks that come in little packages for example. Especially in the bakery section there is not much you can do wrong, even if you can’t read any ingredients, and there are many tasty things to find. On the other hand, a lot looks familiar because many products from other countries have become quite popular here and international brands can be found as well, no matter if they offer soft drinks, laundry detergent or special kinds of sweets. Some international brands even print the ingredients in Chinese and in English, although you really have to look for it. A very interesting section is the fresh fruit and vegetable section which offers both known and unknown products. Things like lotus root, palm hearts or okra that are hard to find and very expensive in other places are common products here.

The general rule about the price is that everything you buy from the open boxes is cheaper than buying it already wrapped in a package. For example eggs are cheaper if you chose them from the big boxes and pay per pound. The friendly supermarket staff will hand you a bag and you choose how much you want. Then you just need to hand it back to them to have it weighed and get a price tag for it. It works the same way in other sections of the market, such as the bakery and the vegetable section, and for many products like flour, rice, beans etc. Products that are not common in Asian nutrition, like cheese for example, are hard to find and rather expensive.

Once you’ve found what you were looking for you might need some patience to get through the check-out. Nobody seems to be in a rush even if the lines are long and especially afternoons and evenings are usually pretty crowded and so are the weekends. If you’re planning to go on one of the China Tours it’s also interesting to see the local differences and you can compare the regional products and try some different food.

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A Quiet Spot in Busy Beijing

On April 16, 2012, in Beijing, Temples, Towers, Pagodas & Grottoes, by Jack Li

Everybody who stops by in Beijing on a China tour might only have time to see the main tourist attractions. But if you have enough time for more, you should take a closer look at the less crowded and maybe even hidden places and there are many of those throughout the city. Of course, you […]

Everybody who stops by in Beijing on a China tour might only have time to see the main tourist attractions. But if you have enough time for more, you should take a closer look at the less crowded and maybe even hidden places and there are many of those throughout the city. Of course, you can’t travel to Beijing without visiting at least one or two of the numerous temples. The Five Pagoda Temple (Wutasi) is a very good recommendation because it’s not too popular with tourists and a comparably quiet place in this busy city with a great atmosphere. When it’s a little windy you can hear the jingling sound of the bells from the five pagodas.

The temple is not far from the north gate of Beijing Zoo in Haidian district. The closest subway station is in front of the National Library, a good opportunity to take a look at it on the way to the temple. The entrance fee is 20 RMB and there is the possibility to rent an audio guide in five different languages at the entrance gate for more profound information. The original name of the temple is Zhenjue Temple, meaning ‘True Awakening Temple’, and has a long and eventful past. First built during the Ming dynasty and completed in 1473 it was since then burned down to the ground twice and had to be rebuilt.

The main element of this temple is a little hidden behind two huge Gingko trees growing on either side. It consists of a square five-storey foundation, known as the throne, which is 55 ft (17 m) high. The outside is decorated with carvings of Buddhas, Buddhist shrines and Sanskrit letters on all four sides. Five small stone pagodas rise from the base like diamonds. There is a larger pagoda in the middle of the throne surrounded by four smaller ones on each corner. Just like the foundation they are engraved with images of Buddha, animal figures and Buddhist symbols. It is an Indian-style construction with some influence of Chinese architecture and has therefore a unique character.

The temple grounds around the five pagoda construction are used as the Art Museum of Stone Carvings and display numerous exhibits from different dynasties. There is a large display of tombstones in different sizes from the Tang to Qing dynasty, stone inscriptions in several languages, sculptures, calligraphy tablets as well as stone altars and other stone objects.

The building at the north end of the main construction is used as an exhibition hall separated into three sections. Many objects, mainly from the Beijing area, are displayed. Nearly all explanations on the inside are in Chinese and English and it gives lots of interesting information about stone carving, the history of the temple and preserving historical sites and objects. Inside the building there is also a small souvenir shop and the tables and chairs outside invite to sit down for a rest or to enjoy a little snack. So don’t miss your chance to see this peaceful place when you go on your personal Beijing tours.

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The Inspirational 798

On April 13, 2012, in Beijing, Modern Architecture, Must-sees, by Jack Li

Established over ten years ago, 798 Art Zone lured much of China’s and even the international art community to travel to Beijing. Set in the Dashanzi District, 798 sprang up from the remnants of a 50 year old factory complex. Originally, most of the buildings were used for the production of military electronics. In contrast, […]

Established over ten years ago, 798 Art Zone lured much of China’s and even the international art community to travel to Beijing. Set in the Dashanzi District, 798 sprang up from the remnants of a 50 year old factory complex. Originally, most of the buildings were used for the production of military electronics. In contrast, 798 now acts the bohemian hub of Beijing with a labyrinth of art studios, galleries and cafes lining its streets. Fortunately, visitors would be pleased to know that the community-oriented outlook of 798 means that the majority of galleries are free of charge. Apart from artwork, 798 also hosts many fashion shows together with corporate events. These events have presented famous names such as Sony, Toyota and Cindy Crawford. Hopefully, these facts alone should encourage you to book Beijing flights for your next vacation.

With numerous factories and warehouses, the buildings certainly reflect the industrious past of the place. The fact that an artistic regeneration project has occurred in the area does, in itself, send out a statement of change in Beijing’s history. Comparisons have been made with other famous artistic centres such Greenwich Village in New York. Interestingly, parallels can be drawn between the area’s international past and present. In 1951, for example, the workers at this factory complex gave rise to the first Chinese trade delegation to East Germany with a view to importing electronics. Whilst at present, a different trade is happening, but with many international artists and art collectors visiting the site instead.

Innovation has been at the forefront of the complex, ever since its design in 1952 to appeal to the factory workers. The buildings, for example, have been designed to optimize natural light by providing large interiors and ensuring that windows face north. In light of a more contemporary approach, dotted around 798, you can find various sculptures of all shapes and sizes which further signify the shifting dynamics of the place. In particular, the random nature of 798 can be seen by some of the zany, (yet eye-catching), sculptures around the complex streets. Such include three huge red dinosaurs in a cage and a man heroically scaling a building.

The art zone of 798 is recognised for its avant-garde style and some of the works do exhibit a shock-factor. For this reason, it is best to visit with an open-mind and it may not necessarily be suitable for a family outing if you have young children. Beside avant-garde, the complex does however display more mainstream works of art with some exquisite pieces pertaining to ancient China. Tourists seeking specialist galleries might like to consider; the Long March Space (for multimedia exhibits) and the 798 Photo Gallery (which displays creative photography and Cultural Revolution prints). Once you have pottered around the galleries, you wish to sit back and admire 798 from one of its several cafes or look for some ‘alternative’ purchases at 798’s gift shops.

Unlike most attractions in the city, the 798 Art Zone is not the easiest location to access. One option for tourists is to go to Sanyuanqiao Station on line 10 of the subway and then take a taxi. From there, taxi prices fetch around 10RMB. To make your stay more satisfying, check out some local China hotels here.

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Drifting on the Beijing Subway

On April 11, 2012, in Beijing, Getting Around, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

In every bigger city in the world there is a subway system and in general they are not that different from each other. But it still needs some getting used to, to find your way around. In most cases it’s a rather cheap, fast and easy way to get around town because it’s pretty much […]

In every bigger city in the world there is a subway system and in general they are not that different from each other. But it still needs some getting used to, to find your way around. In most cases it’s a rather cheap, fast and easy way to get around town because it’s pretty much independent of weather and traffic conditions. When you travel to Beijing you’ll see that the subway system is, unlike some other cities, quite modern, clean and easy to use. When you go on one of the Beijing tours you can experience travelling by bus and being on the road. Taking the subway offers different opportunities and another view of Beijing. If you haven’t travelled by subway you’ve missed one part of the Beijing experience.

One of the hardest parts might be getting the ticket because the machines are quite easy to use but there is no English version. All lines have different numbers and different colors, so if you know the name of your stop in Chinese characters it’s not difficult to use. On the top part of the touch screen you can find all lines, line 2 being the most important one, going in a circle around the center of the city. If you click on it the screen it will show you all stops of this line. By clicking on your stop it tells you the price and you can insert the money. To pay you can either use 1 ¥ coins or 5, 10 or 20 ¥ bills. But pay attention, some machines don’t give change so you have to insert the exact amount. If you don’t have any change or only 1 ¥ bills you can also get a ticket at the ticket booth.

The tickets are only valid for a short period of time after you buy them, so you shouldn’t buy more than you need exactly at that time. Another option instead of the single tickets is a rechargeable ticket card which you can also get at the ticket booth. You have to pay a 20 ¥ deposit for the card and then you can put the amount of money you need on it (10 ¥, 20 ¥, 30 ¥…). When exiting the subway the machine will show how much is left on your card.

One thing that might come unexpected is the security check before entering the gate and the number of police officers. Your bags will be scanned or for smaller handbags and during busy times you can present it opened to the officer. To enter the gate you need to hold your card against the machine to open the barrier.

Once you’re at the gate you just need to find the right direction but there are maps with all the stops in characters and English names. Usually the trains for one line are on one gate right opposite each other going to opposite directions. On the train you’ll find maps above all doors indicating all stops and the transfer lines. Those maps are in English and Chinese and so are the announcements for the next stop.

When you exit the subway you first need to decide which exit to take. There are up to four different ones, A, B, C and D, indicating the direction, e. g. south-west. If you take the wrong exit you might have to cross the road to get where you want, but in general the exits are not that far from each other. To get out you need your card again, if it’s a single trip card you need to insert it, the rechargeable cards only need to be swiped again at the barrier.

At rush hour times, for example on a Friday afternoon, it can happen that at the crowded stations in the center of the city one entrance is closed and only serves as an exit so you need to go to another entrance to get in. That way there is a one way system underground to bring some order into the crowded place. Not only in Beijing but also in other cities, if you travel to Shanghai or Xi’an for example, you’ll see how many people can actually fit into the subway trains. At busy times they are really packed with people and even if it looks full, you’ll still find a way to fit in.

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An Underground Adventure

On January 13, 2012, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Getting Around, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Beijing is a very busy city; it is one of the few cities that never sleep. Therefore no matter what time of day it is, there is always traffic. In your travels within Beijing the best way to get around is via the subway lines, you can also organise and take the train from the […]

Beijing is a very busy city; it is one of the few cities that never sleep. Therefore no matter what time of day it is, there is always traffic. In your travels within Beijing the best way to get around is via the subway lines, you can also organise and take the train from the airport when your China flight has arrived. If you need to get somewhere in a certain time avoid taking a taxi or bus and go underground to experience the subway. However the subways are always hectic as well, so this will outline what to expect and how to survive your subway adventure whilst having a great time touring Beijing.

 

Firstly forget your personal space, in the subways they do not exist at all and they are long gone. Being pushed and squeezed on to the train is always an eventful experience, just try not to get your jacket caught in the door or end up missing a shoe. It feels as though everyone is late for something important so everyone wants to get on this one particular train, so the race is on. However words of advice do not get angry or upset if you do get pushed into the train or that you are underneath someone’s arm pit, it will get you nowhere further in your travels and you are not a victim in this ordeal. Secondly do not hesitate at all, if your mission is to get on that train, go straight for it. Because if you hesitate for a slight second you will never get to your destination and people behind you will go straight pass you. But don’t fret to much, trains come every couple of minutes. So put your game face on and do it how the locals do it.

 

 

The best way to surviveyour trip is to know where you are going before you get on the train. There are many maps throughout the stations as well as online, so study your route before you head to the subway. The reason being is because no one is going to wait for you to work out where you need to go and which station you need to get off at. Everyone prepares themselves to get off the train the stop before and if you are not ready you will get charged at by the people wanting to get on the train. If you do plan your trip and familiarise yourself with the station names and exits, no matter how crazy busy the subway is your trip will be successful and will run smoothly. Within majority of the trains there are maps on top of the door highlighting which stations have already been passed and which is coming up next, so you cannot get lost.


All the major tourist destinations within Beijing are next to or a short walk from a subway station. Therefore the subway is the most desirable transportation to go with. You will usually find that the maps and the voice overs on the train will say which stop to get off in order to go to the attraction. The major shopping markets are near subway stations, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City is right above a subway station and majority of museums and galleries are a short distance from the subways.

Even though the subway sounds very hectic, which it can be, it is the most efficient, quickest and cheapest (2RMB per trip) way to travel around in Beijing. Also you cannot go to Beijing and not experience the subway, just do it with a positive attitude and have a laugh when you get shoved in or out of a train. It is its own little adventure in itself and is a must do in your tour of China.

Great Souvenir Shopping Ideas From Beijing!

On October 18, 2011, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, Shopping, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

If you are in the last few days of your China travel adventure, Beijing is definitely the best place to be to look for a large selection of souvenirs for friends and family back home. There is so much choice around the city, from specialist souvenir shops in Beijing hotels, to giant shopping malls, to […]

If you are in the last few days of your China travel adventure, Beijing is definitely the best place to be to look for a large selection of souvenirs for friends and family back home. There is so much choice around the city, from specialist souvenir shops in Beijing hotels, to giant shopping malls, to the markets and areas surrounding tourist attractions. Here are a few potential gift options:

 

Modelled Dolls

This may be more of a souvenir for yourself, or your family, however the creative model makers found throughout the city can make very realistic replicas of your face from either studying you in person or looking at a good photo. Expect to pay a bit more than you would for a generic souvenir but these are so unusual and detailed it is definitely worth the extra cost.

 

Wooden Dolls

These have a cartoon-like Asian feel, and come in a variety of colours and designs. They are widely available at markets and in small stalls at markets or down side streets in the city. Small dolls (around 4 inches high) can be had for around 10rmb, but there are many different sizes to choose from.

 

Lucky Cats
Often seen when you enter a Chinese Takeaway in the west, the Chinese lucky cat has a presence here and there are many small shops inside Beijing Malls selling the ornaments with a variety of designs and meanings. In addition to ornaments you can also purchase key rings, vases, wind chimes, crockery and phone charms with the theme.

 

Traditional Souvenirs

There are plenty of the popular souvenir items available in Beijing too. Head for the markets, especially Silk and Yashow for the biggest selection. Generally on the higher floors there is a souvenir section, bargain hard and you can get things for very reasonable prices. Items for sale include magnets, shot glasses, snow globes, fans, silk items, chopsticks and lanterns.

 

Food Items

If you are in Beijing around the Mid Autumn Festival you can pick up Chinese Moon Cakes in a variety of sizes and flavours. These make interesting gifts to bring back home and are often decoratively packages. Many other food items are available including selections of tea, dried herbs and fruits, unusual sweets, chocolate and biscuits.

 

Bigger Items

If you have plenty of spare luggage space there is lots of choice for larger and heavier items. The obvious choice would be ‘designer’ goods including handbags, purses and clothing. Jade and pearls are plentiful, both imitation and real. Other popular options include tea sets, paintings, calligraphy, wall hangings and mahjong sets.

 

Personalised Stamps

Nearby popular tourist attractions you can get a stamp carved with your (or any) name in Chinese alongside your Chinese Zodiac sign. You simply write it down, pronounce it out loud and watch it being made in front of you. Again there are many sizes and designs to choose from. They also sell traditional ink and present the stamp in a gift box. They will also test the stamp for you to check you are happy with the result.

 

If you end up shopping to much you can also send your extra purchases home via surface mail although this can take up to two months to arrive. Your Beijing hotel may be able to assist with this as you will probably need a Chinese speaker to help you.

 

Beijing’s Most Photogenic Street ‘Gui Jie’ aka Ghost Street!

On October 17, 2011, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Nightlife, Restaurants, by Jack Li

If you are planning to travel to Beijing and would like to see a glimpse of traditional Chinese culture, you may wish to head out one evening to Ghost Street. This is a local street lined with restaurants and has a very traditional style complete with red lanterns and neon lights. The street (also known […]

If you are planning to travel to Beijing and would like to see a glimpse of traditional Chinese culture, you may wish to head out one evening to Ghost Street. This is a local street lined with restaurants and has a very traditional style complete with red lanterns and neon lights. The street (also known as Gui Jie) is an easy trip from most Beijing hotels. You can either catch a taxi directly there or hop on the Subway to Yonghegong where it is an easy ten minute walk away.

 

Ghost Street is open 24 hours a day, and is one of the most well known food streets in Beijing. It would be the perfect place to head toward for dinner after arriving on a late flight, especially if you are travelling across time zones. It is also an ideal place for some brilliant photos as the colours at night are really vibrant and the red tones are typically what you associate with China.

 

The street itself is 1442 metres long, with the highest concentration of restaurants at the top and bottom sections. The middle has a less dense selection of restaurants and is a lot quieter. The area in general gives you a glimpse into the life of a local, as it is not a heavily tourist orientated place, therefore not many places will have an English menu available nor speak the language. This is not a major problem though as almost all restaurants will have a picture menu and staff are very friendly and willing to help. For extra reassurance it may be best to take your phrasebook or download a translation application to your mobile phone.

 

The local name of ‘Ghost Street’ apparently derives from years ago when the area was used to hold ‘Ghost Fairs’ selling groceries through the night. The name ‘Ghost’ was used as the vendors lights omitted a ghostly light and shadow effect.

 

The street also has it’s own speciality dish which is what is most commonly associated with the area. This ‘signature’ dish consists of lobster, chillies and peppers stir fried together and is known as ‘Spicy Pepper Lobster’. In addition to this famous dish there are a variety of restaurants serving a variety of food styles from Beijing and throughout the rest of China. Another popular cuisine to try at Ghost Street is the Hot Pot. This iconic dish consists of a large pot of broth that is placed in the centre of the table, which diners use to cook the variety of meat and vegetables placed on small plates around the outside.

 

Food at Gui Jie is known for having very reasonable prices combined with a lively atmosphere. There is plenty going on at all hours, with vendors selling a variety of merchandise from carts and stools on the street. So be sure to drop off your bags and head straight here when you step off your Beijing flight, for a variety of authentic food at a time to suit you.

 

 

Dealing with Culture Shock in China: Part 2

On October 12, 2011, in Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

After familiarising yourself with two of the prominent areas that are hugely different from your own country, this ‘Part 2′ will continue on to discuss other big differences you will discover once you step off your China flight. Travel to Beijing and Shanghai is generally easier than the smaller and less tourist friendly areas, however […]

After familiarising yourself with two of the prominent areas that are hugely different from your own country, this ‘Part 2′ will continue on to discuss other big differences you will discover once you step off your China flight. Travel to Beijing and Shanghai is generally easier than the smaller and less tourist friendly areas, however you will still experience the same culturally different things as many are the same across the country.

Shanghai is probably the most traveller friendly, being very international and tourist friendly. After this comes Beijing and other large cities, with rural and more unknown cities being the hardest of all – generally most of the general public won’t speak English or understand Pinyin at all.

 

One element of Chinese culture you are sure to find hard to get used to, particularly in big cities like Beijing, is the large population resulting in almost everywhere being busy and crowded. Nowhere is this more evident than on the subway, particularly during rush hour. This is a completely alien experience as tube carriages are packed full like sardines, often with subway guards cramming people in until the doors barely shut around them. Then for the duration of the journey you are wedged in, with no sense of personal space!

It is quite interesting to watch the chaos as people try to make it on and off the subway without losing shoes, handbags or dropping something. However, once you become familiar with the protocol it is fairly simple, just be sure to get as close to the doors as possible when you wish to alight, and as far away when you wish to remain in the carriage! Another thing to be aware of (although it is changing) is queues aren’t particularly commonplace in China, and although initially there may be a queue formed, as soon as the carriage doors are open it is every man for himself.

 

The sense of hustle and bustle is not only limited to the Subway. In general the traffic on the roads is just as hectic as the Subway lines and attempting to cross the road can at first be very intimidating as cars, buses, rickshaws and motorbikes will not stop or move around you. The best thing to do is follow some locals the first few times and before long you will be weaving in and out of the traffic confidently. One thing to know is the Chinese love to toot their horns, which generally makes you freeze on the spot convinced they are going to hit you, but usually those hooting are infact nowhere near or heading in a completely different direction to you, so just keep moving!

You will get used to the constant noise, whether it be from the roads, the locals talking at maximum volume or the lullaby constantly being blown out of McDonald’s speakers. It is quite exhilarating to experience and sometimes it is great fun to just step back and watch the madness.

 

If you are a bit intimidated by the idea of navigating China by yourself, look into a China tour or multi city tour for a milder introduction to China.

Dealing with Culture Shock in China: Part 1

China travel adventures can seem to many as an exotic cultural mix of opposites to what they are used to at home. From all the new varieties of food to the unusual language and the hustle and bustle of the big cities, there is a range of new experiences to conjure up thoughts of excitement […]

China travel adventures can seem to many as an exotic cultural mix of opposites to what they are used to at home. From all the new varieties of food to the unusual language and the hustle and bustle of the big cities, there is a range of new experiences to conjure up thoughts of excitement and adventure. However many first time visitors are unaware of the culture shock they will face when their China flight touches down at the airport.

This post will discuss a few factors to be aware of before you arrive, so things don’t come as such a surprise when you exit the airport feeling jet lagged and nervous.

 

One of the first things, and something that is impossible not to notice or find difficult to adjust to (unless you already know Mandarin) is the language. Signs, sounds and everyday objects which were once commonplace become replaced by complex looking characters, hard to decipher sounds and items you can’t tell the function or contents of.

An essential item for making this easier is a Mandarin Phrasebook. Ensure you have one that displays words in both Pinyin and Chinese characters and it will make adjusting to China much easier.

 

Another factor to consider is the local food. Chinese food is far different from the dishes available in western countries which have been adapted to suit the western palette. There is a huge choice available and it varies dependant on the cuisine or province the food originates from. For example Sichuan food tends to use a lot of spice and chilli, whereas Beijing food tends to feature noodles and heavy buns due to the harsh climate in winter.

Although in the large cities there is western food available, it is often ‘Chinese Western’ and not fully authentic. Many staple ingredients back home are difficult to source and overpriced out in China especially Cheese, Wine and Steak. Breakfast is far different as well and often consists of savoury rice porridge and dumplings or something similar.

Often different parts of meat are used which can be difficult to get used to, and it helps to know the Chinese view chicken breasts as the most ‘tasteless’ part of the meat so it is less often used. Chicken feet on the other hand are a delicacy and found in many different varieties, including dried, fried and boiled!

 

Once you have got your head around the new cuisine choices, there is the method of eating it! Generally unless you are in a tourist frequented restaurant or a Western place there will not be a knife and fork available. Your utensils of choice will be chopsticks and occasionally a spoon! Chopsticks aren’t too tricky to use after a few tries, and you gain a sense of satisfaction from finishing a meal using them (it also impresses the Chinese locals).

If the thought of this terrifies you, your China Hotel may well have western restaurants or buffets which will provide cutlery. In addition street food and fast food outlets such as KFC, Mcdonalds and Pizza Hut are everywhere if you wish to avoid utensils completely!

 

 

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