How High? Beihai and Houhai!

On June 20, 2012, in Beijing, China Attractions, Cool Places, Nature Scenery, Nightlife, by Jack Li

Restaurants, live music, and the lake; what more could you possibly ask for in an evening? Houhai Lake offers all of the above listed things and more. When you travel to Beijing, I guarantee you will not experience an area in any other part of Beijing quite like Houhai Lake. Comparable to South Beach in […]

Restaurants, live music, and the lake; what more could you possibly ask for in an evening? Houhai Lake offers all of the above listed things and more. When you travel to Beijing, I guarantee you will not experience an area in any other part of Beijing quite like Houhai Lake. Comparable to South Beach in Miami, Houhai Lake area is one of the most fun areas that I have visited in Beijing. When you make plans to  travel to Beijing, Houhai Lake is an area that you should take time out of your schedule to go visit. Houhai Lake is not only a great tourist attraction, but also an area where you can experience many of the local cuisines and music.

Houhai Lake is located in the Gulou area of Beijing and is a great place to spend an afternoon outdoors. During the summer, you have the ability to rent paddle boats or to ride in a boat with someone rowing it for your group. Tickets are relatively inexpensive and the boat rides typically last for about an hour and take you all around the lake. Similar to Houhai Lake, Beihai Lake also offers these same activities. Both lakes are relatively close together and both attractions can be visited in one day. These lakes are an immense amount of fun and I would go to both if the option is a possibility.

Along with renting boats or riding in a row boat, Beihai Lake has one of the largest Chinese Gardens in the area, which is beautiful to see as are the lily pads floating in the water. It also contains a place called Bai Ta or as we may know it, the White Pagoda. Its body is made of white stone. Sun, moon and flame engravings decorate the surface of the tower. The White Pagoda is situated on the highest point in the area and offers a three hundred and sixty degree view of Beijing. The view is absolutely amazing and mirrors the beauty that the rest of the park has to offer.

When you travel to Beijing and visit Houhai Lake and Beihai Lake, I recommend that you visit the lakes in the later portion of the afternoon and start at Beihai Lake. If you begin at Beihai and see the garden and White Pagoda, you can then make your way down to Houhai area and walk around to the different street vendors. They sell everything ranging from clothes to fried scorpion. If you are feeling adventurous, they not only sell fried scorpion, but also fried sea horse. I myself am not that adventurous and stuck to the food the restaurant had to offer me, but if you want a chance to try some of the “local cuisine,” there are many street vendors selling a variety of foods. The options for restaurants with a lakeside view are endless. You can eat anything ranging from Chinese food to American food. We chose a restaurant offering both and although it was a relatively pricey meal, the atmosphere more than accounted for the price we paid. After dinner, you can walk around and listen to the live music that many of the bars and cafes have to offer and enjoy the scenery simultaneously. Visiting the Houhai Lake area made for an amazing afternoon and evening!

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Hot Pot!

If you ever travel to Beijing and want to try some traditional Chinese food, hot pot is a dish you should definitely consider! Comparable to fondue, hot pot is a delicious meal that can be shared with either a large group or a select few individuals. Either way, if you decide to go to a […]

If you ever travel to Beijing and want to try some traditional Chinese food, hot pot is a dish you should definitely consider! Comparable to fondue, hot pot is a delicious meal that can be shared with either a large group or a select few individuals. Either way, if you decide to go to a hot pot restaurant, be sure to put aside plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy it. When people are planning to travel to Beijing or any other city in China, they are typically skeptical about the food and expect it to be the opposite of delicious, but hot pot is a dish that will easily change that mindset. Hot pot is one of my favorite dishes that I have tried so far since arriving in Beijing.

When you order hot pot, you can expect to have several “soup” options, which is what you will be cooking your food in. The flavors range from being milder to slightly more spicy or you can get two different kinds of soup flavors depending on the restaurant. I opted for a spicier soup, which was very tasty with a lot of flavor. After ordering the soup to cook your food in, you can order meat, vegetables, or a plethora of other Chinese cuisines. Depending on what you order, you also can make your own dipping sauce. Due to the fact that I ordered shrimp dumplings, I mixed a seafood sauce with garlic and onion, but because I was cooking my food in a spicy soup, I found that my sauce was unnecessary. However, there are many options when making your dipping sauce. Your dish can be as flavorful or spicy as you wish.

Hot pot has been in existence for over one thousand years and has consequently become popular in all areas of China. Depending on the region, you can find different styles of hot pot. The main ways in which hot pot differ have a lot to do with the ingredients used. In different regions, there are differences in which ingredients are available and which ones are not. In Beijing, I found it surprising that we were unable to find any sort of chicken on the menu, but there were many different variations of beef. Although the translations as to what things are in English may seem to be a bit off, do not let that deter you from trying something. For instance, on the menu they had an option they translated as “urinating beef balls,” which sounds really strange, but we gave it a try and it was just a juicy meatball and was absolutely delicious. Do not be afraid to be a little adventurous, but feel free to play it safe as well.

Similar to most Chinese dishes, hot pot is delectable and will not be a disappointment. When the decision is made to travel to Beijing, the decision to try hot pot should occur simultaneously! Since arriving in Beijing, all of the food I have had the opportunity to try has been amazing, but I have yet to try something I enjoy as much as hot pot.

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Vitamin Boost

On April 9, 2012, in China Travel Gossip, Restaurants & Food, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

No matter if you travel to Beijing or any other Chinese city you’ll find a much bigger variety of fresh fruit and vegetables than most European people are used to. It’s almost a paradise for people who love fresh fruit and there are lots of opportunities to try new things. People really interested in China’s […]

No matter if you travel to Beijing or any other Chinese city you’ll find a much bigger variety of fresh fruit and vegetables than most European people are used to. It’s almost a paradise for people who love fresh fruit and there are lots of opportunities to try new things. People really interested in China’s culinary variety might be interested in culinary China tours which introduce you to different types of food and often even include cooking lessons for the hands-on experience.

In all cities it’s easy to get something fresh and full of vitamins at every street corner but some vendors with their little stands might charge tourists above the regular price. You’ll see that in the supermarkets fruit and vegetables are a little more expensive so if you get the chance have a look at one of the open markets which are a great place to see anyway.

Especially fruit is a great, healthy and easy snack in between. Let’s take for example the dragon fruit (火龙果, huolongguo) which you can also find in European supermarkets if you look for it. But the price here is definitely lower and you can get it almost anywhere. With its pink or red outer skin with something that looks like green yellowish flames it definitely deserves its name. The flesh of this fruit is white with lots of little seeds in it like a kiwi. It’s hard to describe the taste of something but it’s definitely refreshing and has a subtle sweet and sour flavor. To eat it you slice it and eat it like a melon just leaving the skin or you simply chop it in half and scoop out the insides.

Another interesting fruit is the mangosteen (山竹, shanzhu). It’s pretty small and sometimes looks a little sticky on the outside. It has a thick dark purple skin and a green part on top. The easiest way to eat it is to gently crush it until it breaks into two parts. The white fleshy insides are very juicy and taste a little similar to a peach.

Anyone who likes lychees will probably also like longan (龙眼, longyan), literally meaning dragon eye, a small brown fruit usually sold on little branches. It’s not as fleshy as the lychee but still similar in flavor and it also has a dark pit in the middle.

 

The sweet, crimson Waxberry (杨梅, yangmei) with its bumpy surface is also worth a try. It tastes like a mix between raspberry and strawberry and you can it eat whole. Just spit out the seed that’s in the middle.

 

Vegetables are harder to try out unless you have the opportunity to cook and someone who can give you some advice how to do so. In many Beijing hotels you’ll have a good selection of original Chinese food. There you’ll definitely get the chance to try some delicious and traditionally prepared vegetable dishes.

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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 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!

 

 

Ganges Indian Restaurant – A Must Visit!

On October 10, 2011, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, Restaurants, by Jack Li

Chinese food is interesting, varied, cheap and tasty, however whilst on a China travel trip sometimes you just crave familiar food or your favourite take out/restaurant cuisine from back home. There are many varieties of alternate cuisine around including American, Italian, Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern, and this post is focused on one of the […]

Chinese food is interesting, varied, cheap and tasty, however whilst on a China travel trip sometimes you just crave familiar food or your favourite take out/restaurant cuisine from back home. There are many varieties of alternate cuisine around including American, Italian, Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern, and this post is focused on one of the greatest Indian restaurants in central Beijing. Ganges is a restaurant which consists of 5 different branches across the city so you are sure to find a restaurant near to your Beijing hotel location.

 

Ganges Indian Restaurant

The restaurant has properties in five central areas within the city. One of the most centrally located is situated in Sanlitun Village shopping complex (nearest subway Tuanjiehu) and there are other locations in The Place shopping mall (Yonganli subway), Haidian (Wudaokou subway), the Lido area and opposite the Australian Embassy.

Opening times are 11am and depending on the location they close between 10.30 and 11pm. They will also deliver to your hotel and have an English speaking telephone number to place orders over the phone.

Ganges has won many awards for it’s excellent food, ambience and service including ‘Best Indian’ in The Beijinger magazine, ‘Outstanding Indian’ in That’s Beijing magazine, and ‘Best Indian in Beijing’ for four consecutive years in City Weekend magazine.

 

The prices at the restaurant are very reasonable, and about equal to the average take out price at home for an in restaurant meal. There is also a weekday lunch time buffet which is extremely good value at 48rmb per person, this includes unlimited starters, mains, bread, sides and desserts. There is a large variety of food on offer at the self service buffet table, and there are various meat and vegetable dishes from mild to very spicy.

The menu itself has a huge selection featuring traditional and fusion dishes from both North and South Indian cuisine. Familiar Indian dishes available include Tikka Masala, Biryani, Korma, Vindaloo and Rogan Josh (available in Chicken, Lamb, Prawn or Vegetable). All food served in Ganges Indian restaurants is halal.

If you are visiting for a meal in the evening, there are often entertainment performances with Indian style belly dancing alongside traditional and modern music videos projected on a large screen. The restaurant’s can also provide catering for private events and host parties at their restaurant locations. Eating at Ganges is a must on your next trip to Beijing!

 

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