Category: Guest Post

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

China is, without a doubt, a beautiful and fascinating country. Old habits and customs seem to be intertwined with modern skyscrapers that seem to pop up every minute. While traveling to China was one of my lifelong dreams, there’s nothing in this world, including all the facts available online, that could’ve prepared me for the experience. Some of their traditions I’ve read about online, but some of them have definitely caught me off-guard at times and there were moments and situations where my jaw simply fell to the floor from the sheer amount of shock I experienced.

1.    Counting to ten using one hand

Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to master. There are thousands of different characters, most of which look almost identical to me. The language itself is tonal and unless you’re careful, your intonation can completely change the word you’re trying to say. I know very little Chinese and to make matters worse, very few Chinese people actually speak English. You might think to yourself “but it’s ok, I can probably use my hands to explain what I’m trying to say.”

You, my friend, have no idea how wrong you are. The difference in languages also extends to body language and gestures and the Chinese rely on a single hand to count to ten. Like that isn’t enough, you can also gesticulate larger numbers, like a hundred or a thousand.

2.    Squatters and Kaidangku

From my personal experience, I’ve noticed that the majority of bathrooms in China only offer squatting toilets or a cut in the tiles resembling a squatter. Most stall partitions are knee-high and I’ve seen stall-doors exactly two times. While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, most Chinese babies don’t wear diapers. In fact, what they wear is called “kaidangku”, which literally translates to open-crotch pants. I cannot describe how many times I’ve seen parents unzip their children’s crotch-zipper and let them urinate and defecate near a sidewalk.

3.    Carrying cash everywhere

I have read numerous stories online on how it’s a bad idea to rely on credit cards while traveling through China. In all honesty, I’ve only witnessed maybe a couple of stores that accept credit cards. Fortunately, this is not my first time traveling to countries that don’t readily accept credit cards and I’ve prepared financially by taking out a few personal loans. They’ve helped me pay off some of the more expensive travels which you would normally put on your credit card. But the thing is, online loans don’t butcher people with abnormally high interest rates and they can easily be paid off in monthly rates.

4.    “Poor” manners

What we westerners consider to be poor manners seem to be completely fine in China. Chewing with your mouth open, speaking with your mouth full, slurping loudly and last but not least, spitting everywhere. And I don’t mean the “sorry I have a cold, I honestly have to spit this gunk in a tissue” kind of spitting. People would be standing right next to you spit a slimeball mere inches from your feet.

Don’t get me wrong, traveling to China was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But the difference in culture is more than evident and unless you learn to adapt and overcome your fears and prejudices, you’ll hardly get the chance to truly experience all the wonders China has to offer. Most of it is truly wonderful, the people are friendly and welcoming and the food is absolutely amazing, once you get over the fact that they also eat insects. On a stick. Covered in chocolate.

Lauren Wiseman is marketing specialist, writer and entrepreneur, currently based in Melbourne. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in fast-changing and demanding market environment. Covering finance and investment topics, Lauren strongly believes in a holistic approach to business.

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

How much does a trip to Fenghuang cost? How to travel to Phoenix Ancient Town in the most economical way? Those may be the popular questions if you are planning for the journey to Fenghuang Town. In the following article, I will share with you some experiences to help you make this dream come true only with a limited budget. In my opinion, this trip is the most suitable for those who are between the ages of 18 to 26.

General information about Fenghuang

Fenghuang, or Phoenix, is the name of an ancient town in China (more than 1300 years old). It is located in Fenghuang district which is a county of Hunan Province under the administration of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture. It is nearly 300km from Phoenix Ancient Town to Zhangjiajie city which is also a famous tourist destination in China. To come to Fenghuang Ancient Town, you have to go through Zhangjiajie first, therefore you can combine traveling to Zhangjiajie with the trip to Fenghuang.

The landscape of this wonderland is seemly taken from the historical dramas. There is a diversity of population structure because it is the residence of ethnic minorities, most of which are Miao, Han, and Tzu Gia groups. Fenghuang is also the economic, social and political center of the region. Next to the Da Giang River, the ancient town still retains many ancient citadels, streets, houses, manors, temples, and pagodas. Its age has made Phoenix Ancient Town become one of the living museums of ethnic cultures: 1300 years.

At night, the town seems to be more sparkling, more beautiful than the day. The lights from ancient bungalows down to the surface of the river create a fanciful and ancient scene for the town.

In general, the weather in here is quite comfortable and the best time to visit Phoenix Ancient Town is the spring. Based on my experience, you should avoid coming here in any Chinese national holiday, especially in the Independence Day of China, because on these occasions, Fenghuang will be more crowded.

To ensure the plan of working and studying, you can visit here in summer or any long holiday of the year because Fenghuang is beautiful all year round, not necessarily to go in the spring. In addition, you should go in a group to reduce travel expenses.

How to come to Fenghuang Ancient Town the most economical way

There are 3 ways going to Fenghuang as follow:

By plane

You will move from your location to Guangzhou and then from

Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie. After that, you catch the bus from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town (it is obliged because no other choice is available).

The airfares for these routes are quite expensive so you can refer 2 other ways to save the cost: by train and by bus.

By train

In Pingxiang, you do immigration procedures. When filling in the declaration form, in the part of Intended Address in China, you write “Nanning” to complete. After that, you buy the train ticket from Nanning to Jishou train station in Zhangjiajie. It takes nearly 15 hours. The train departs at 17:50 in Nanning and arrives at Zhangjiajie at 8:20 of the next day. You can book the train ticket in advance on travelchinaguide.com.

Finally, you move more than 50km more by bus to come to Phoenix Ancient Town.

By bus

At Youyi Guan international border gate, you have to pay about 0.5$ for the electric car and it will take you to the place of entry procedures.

As same as going by plane, they will give you a declaration of entry. The declaration is available at the table near the counter. You just take the pen and open the passport to copy information only. After that, you can walk or go by electric car (0,9$) to the bus station.

The bus from the border gate to Nanning train station departs at 12:30 and arrives at 16:00.

You can choose between the 2 following types depended on your budget and the number of people in your group:

  • 12-seat car: 17$/person or 68$ (renting the whole car).
  • Bus from Zhangjiajie (Jishou train station) -5 buses per day: It takes 3.5 hours and the ticket price is about 12$/person.

From the bus station of Phoenix Ancient Town to the center, you can move by taxi at the price of 3$.

Suggested summary schedule in 5 days

The 5-day trip is reasonable for you to visit Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang Ancient Town, including 2 days of moving, as follow:

  • Day 1: Nanning – Zhangjiajie
  • Day 2: Visit Tianmen Shan (200m from Zhangjiajie). In here, there is a famous glass road.
  • Day 3: Take the train from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town.
  • Day 4: Discover Fenghuang where there are a lot of beautiful landscapes to visit.
  • Day 5: Phoenix Ancient Town – Jishou – Nanning.  

 

Notes when traveling to Fenghuang

  • For the Chinese visa, you should apply 15 days before your trip.
  • Money: you should prepare about 2500-3000 yuan during the journey ($350-$450). In Fenghuang Town, ATM (automated teller machine) is not popular and the credit card is not accepted when you buy food or drink.
  • If going by train, you should prepare some snacks and water.
  • English is useless in here, so you should study some common Chinese sentences or buy a SIM card in the gas station or the airport to use Google translation tool. A SIM card costs about $7.5. Another way which may be helpful for you is setting up Pleco application (an online Chinese dictionary) on your phone.
  • Bring your coat or a thin blanket because at any time of the year, the weather in Fenghuang is bitter cold.
  • Spend at least 2-3 days to explore this ancient town. In the evening, along 2 river banks, there are many bars, coffee shops, and restaurants at the affordable prices.
  • Download Astrill to access Facebook and Viber because China blocks the international network.
  • Do not be ashamed when bargaining and you will definitely get a discount.
  • The food here is very delicious and cheap but also quite spicy. If you cannot eat the spicy dishes, tell the cook before he or she prepares the food for you.
  • The landscape here is incredibly wonderful, so you will take a lot of photos as well as shoot many videos. Therefore, remember to bring a rechargeable battery to not miss any beautiful moments.
  • In Phoenix Ancient Town, there are many hotels available. You can book in advance or find yourself a good place to stay after arriving. The room price is about 15$/day/twin room (not included meals).

I hope that the above information will be helpful for you. Have a nice trip!

My name is Jim, writer at Asia Marvels. I love traveling around Asia and share my stories & travel guidelines to my readers. I want people from all over the world to see the beauty of the landscape, people and culture of Asia.

 

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Traveling if you’re on a vegetarian diet isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Thankfully, you can now easily go online and find more information about the new places that you want to visit. You can plan ahead and see what kinds of dishes are available and applicable to your vegetarian diet.

Before you start packing for your next trip, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your travel without ruining your eating habits.

  1. Know the culture of the country you are planning to visit. Most Asian countries serve a wide variety of healthy foods but the ingredients may be different from what you are used to. Understand how they usually cook their food and check if they can serve meals according to your vegetarian diet.
  2. Understand their menu. When you go to a restaurant (especially in Asia), it’s likely that you’ll get confused with the name of their dishes. Search for their common dishes so you have a better idea of what dishes to order once you get there.  
  3. Check the ingredients of the country’s vegan and vegetarian meals. It can be hard to communicate in English when you are in another country. They may not understand your vegetarian diet and as a result, you will end up with some foods that you are unable to eat.
  4. https://pixabay.com/en/almonds-nuts-roasted-salted-1768792/

    Check the local restaurants. Search for restaurants that serve vegetarian meals. Most vegetarians say that it is easy to find vegan breakfasts and lunches in Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. As a quick tip, know if Buddhism is being practiced in the country you’re traveling to. China, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and other Asian countries are home to some of the world’s biggest Buddhist groups, so you’re sure to find good vegetarian meals there.

  5. Pack your snacks and bring them wherever you go. Packing your own food is the best way to stick to your vegetarian diet while traveling. Walking around a new city can be exhilarating, but it can tire you out as well. Thus, it’s safe to keep your stomach full while visiting different spots to avoid giving in to the temptation of eating whatever you find available while on the road.
  6. Check out the pictures on menus. One of the safest ways to eat in China (as well as in Hong Kong and Macau) is to look for a menu that has pictures. If you don’t understand the names of the dishes, pictures can help you determine what food to order.
  7. https://pixabay.com/en/males-children-picture-board-2930539/

    Learn some foreign phrases in the country you are visiting. Know the words that will help you order the food of your choice. You can’t expect everyone to understand your vegan diet, especially when you can’t explain what kind of foods are you looking for. By learning a few phrases from another language, you can easily place an order if you know the names of the foods that you like.

  8. Ask your hotel or hostel for recommendations. They can provide you a wealth of information regarding their local cuisine.
  9. If you have the budget, look for hotels or hostels that feature a kitchen. That way, you can cook your own food and store your healthy snacks if you don’t find any local dishes to your liking.
  10. Dine with local vegetarians. You can check out vegetarian forums online and meet with them. They can tell you about some great spots that serve healthy meals.
  11. Bring some hot sauce and spices with you. Sauce and spices can enhance the taste, which can help a lot when the local dish is too bland for your taste buds.
  12. Explore the local markets. They can offer more variety of healthy foods at cheaper prices. You’d be surprised at the local fruits, vegetables, bread, and other vegetarian meals you’ll discover.
  13. If you’ll be traveling by air, make sure to indicate that you prefer a vegetarian or vegan meal when booking your flight. You don’t want to be stuck with a non-vegetarian meal and find yourself starving on your way to your destination.

Claire works in marketing team at Brillopak, a premium quality, small footprint robotic packing, food packing machine and palletizing machine manufactures in the United Kingdom. In a former life, Claire worked as a content specialist and she loves writing, reading & cooking.

 

Hongcun: China’s Link from the Past – Guest Post by Judith Ann Abayari

Hongcun: China’s Link from the Past – Guest Post by Judith Ann Abayari

Do you want to see what China is like a millennium ago? Hongcun, found in the Anhui province is a 900-year old village in China. Being there is like traveling through time and seeing a part of that era preserved so beautifully. Here is a travel guide for all the people who are interested in going to Anhui and see this magnificent ancient place.

Where is Hongcun?

Hongcun, literally Hong Village in Mandarin, is a part of the eastern Anhui province in China. Anhui is more than 400 km from Shanghai. So that will take about four hours and 30 minutes of driving. If you are around Tunxi, you can get there with a bus for around 20 minutes of travel. If you are coming from Tankou, then minibuses will take you there in 35 minutes.

Best time to go…

If you are coming in the late quarter of the year, the best time would be around early of November. It is autumn at that time and everything is vivid and picturesque from any vantage point.

March and April is the ideal time to see the “Sea of Flowers” as it is at that time the valleys are in full blossom. Colors of life and nature would inspire the hidden artist in everyone visiting Hongcun.

A short history

Hongcun was established during the Song Dynasty around the year 1100. It flourished through the Ming and Qing dynasties as it became the center of trade at that period.

The village was originally the ancient home of the Wang clan. And through the years, Hongcun experienced numerous changes, while preserving most of its infrastructure and culture. Additionally, they preserved most of its customs, cuisine, and regional arts. That is why stepping into the village will feel like being transported to an ancient era where technology has less influence than anyone could hope for.

Attractions

Aside from the natural sceneries such as the sea of flowers and autumn beauties, the Hongcun village pride itself from having an authentic architectural art. You will be able to see the Ming and Qing dynasties’ influences in the buildings around you.

The overall layout of the village resembles the shape of an ox. The villagers have masterfully used the canals to divert water to their courtyards creating a crisscrossed network of artful water structures. The houses will seem like paintings from afar, with little gardens around them. There is also the famous Moon Pond that you can enjoy for blissful scenery.

Hongcun may be a tourist attraction but it does not feel like one. Stalls and other tacky souvenir booths are not placed all over the village so avoiding them will be easy. That means more time for everyone to look around in its full glory. Just do not forget your camera when you go there.

It is said that the village was designed with good feng shui in mind, hence the shape of the ox. Since drones are popular nowadays, looking at the village from top view will be much easier, and will let you take a breathtaking shot.

There is much to Hongcun that words cannot describe. So it is highly advised that you get there personally and see everything for yourself. Aside from Hongcun, there are nearby tourists spots as well if ancient beauty is what you crave for. There is the Xidi, the Tachuan village, and the epic Mount Huangshan that is best for hikers alike.

How To Travel China Without Speaking Chinese – Guest Post by Cara Crawford

How To Travel China Without Speaking Chinese – Guest Post by Cara Crawford

Let’s face it, China is a confusing place. The culture alone is so jarringly different from virtually anywhere else in the world it’s hard to even know where to start. Between the noise, the pushing, the use of umbrellas on a sunny day, all the weird foods that always happen to be “good for body” and a million other cultural nuances I could fill a list a mile long with, my head’s already spinning…and we’ve haven’t even gotten to the language yet!

But for real, are they kidding me with all those symbols? I mean, the cultural differences are strange, although entertaining in a way, but now you expect us to try and navigate in a country where we not only can’t understand or speak to other people, but we can’t read the stuff either?!

Trust me, I feel ya. China can be a really overwhelming place your first time here. I’ve been there. And with so many barriers it’s no wonder many travelers steer clear of the place in favor of easier destinations.

But just when I started to think that clearly, the only people traveling in China were expats and tour goers, I came across the backpackers. These elusive unicorns have somehow used their unicorn magic to transport themselves to some of the most remote and difficult places to travel in all of China. I’m talking some serious back-country, like, 10-hour bus ride to the middle of nowhere type places. I studied Mandarin Chinese for a year and a half before I dared attempt to travel to some of these places, so how did they do it?

As I found out, quite easily really! Now for the good news, China is nothing to be afraid of, and the language is certainly no reason for not coming to visit some of the many out-of-this-world-amazing destinations this country has to offer. If they can do it, you can too!

Stay in International Hotels/Hostels

Cycling through Tibet on a trip through Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces.

This one has a bit of a two-part explanation.

First, not all hotels in China will accept foreigners. We’re a lot of work, you see, with the whole reading a foreign passport dealio that is a staff requirement when checking in. If the hotel doesn’t have any English speaking staff or anyone willing to deal with foreigners, they’ll just tell you to go away. No bed for you!

Now, if you can speak Chinese you can debate this, and possibly win as the law on this is extremely outdated and pretty sporadically enforced nowadays, but without any language skills, forget it, best to just avoid this situation in the first place. Plus, to be honest, most of the hotels that don’t accept foreigners you wouldn’t want to stay in any way.

Second, any hotel or hostel that markets themselves as “international” will have at least one English speaking staff member to assist you. Hallelujah!

How do you make sure your hotel accepts foreigners?

Well if it straight up says “international hotel” or “international hostel” as part of their name then that’s a pretty big giveaway. But, if not, almost all the properties listed on foreign booking sites like Agoda or Booking.com will accept foreigners unless they say otherwise on the listing. China has their own booking sites that the locals use when booking domestic hotels, so if the hotel doesn’t want to accept foreigners they just won’t list their property on any non-Chinese site.

Save the Chinese name of your hotel on your phone.

Sunset view from the roof of our hostel in Xingping, Guilin.

When you arrive at the airport in China, unless your hotel has arranged a car to pick you up or you’re brave enough to take a whack at China’s ever confusing bus system, you’re most likely going to have to take a taxi. Most taxi drivers don’t speak a lick of English, which, without any Chinese language skills, could cause a problem, but, luckily for you, you’ll have your destination saved in Chinese characters on your phone, so no sweat. Just whip out your phone and show the taxi driver. Easy peasy. Even if he doesn’t know the place off hand (which does happen sometimes as Chinese taxi drivers are not the most knowledgeable of folk), now he can just type the name into his GPS and you’ll be rollin in no time.

Know the culture before you go.

Celebrating Lantern Festival in Zhuhai.

While learning a whole new language might be a bit farfetched for just a simple vacation abroad, studying the culture is something that is not only super easy, but also extremely underrated. You can accomplish so much just by understanding how things work in a certain culture. Knowing the societal norms will enable you to know how to get things done and what to expect in certain situations.

Some things about Chinese culture are pretty widely known, and, dare I say, obvious, like, for example, the Chinese eat with chopsticks, but there is a lot that’s not talked about. Even knowing the little things like the fact that in most restaurants you seat yourself, for example, can save you a lot of frustration. It also allows the Chinese to be at ease when interacting with you, an incredible asset considering how timid a lot of people are here when it comes to communicating with foreigners.

How can you find out what to expect before coming to China?

It’s as easy as reading a couple articles online or a few chapters in a book. A great resource for us was the book Decoding China by Matthew B. Christensen which will tell you everything you need to know and more about how to get around in China.

Do some background research about the sites you’ll be visiting.

Most places don’t offer guided (or self-guided) tours in English, and the majority of the information signs will be solely in Chinese. If you’re not a history buff and are just going to said place to see the pretty scenery (cough, cough, guilty as charged) then this won’t be much of an issue for you. If you do want to know the history of the places you’re visiting though, it’s best to look that stuff up before you go.

Take a business card from your hotel.

This Chinese guy thought he was so sly photobombing me in front of the Giant Buddha in Leshan.

Virtually every place of business in China has business cards available with the address, and, a lot of times, even a map of the business’s location. Most hotels have them sitting on the front desk. Remember to grab one to keep in your wallet. This way you’ll never have to be worried about finding your way back to a bed at the end of the day. Just show the card to a taxi driver, or person on the street if you’re lost, and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Download Pleco

Pleco is my best friend when out and about in China, and trust me, it will be yours too if you ever get into a communication bind. Pleco is a free offline English/Chinese dictionary app you can download to your phone. It provides more accurate translations than your typical translator and will speak the words aloud so you know how to say them.

The offline aspect of the app is especially handy for travelers, as unless you are connected to wifi or paying for international data, your phone won’t be able to connect to the internet to look up translations when you’re out and about.

Choose a restaurant with a picture menu.

Typical Chinese cuisine from Sichuan Province. Every province in China has its own unique type of food.

This one is a lifesaver, especially if you’re not a particularly adventurous eater. I have to admit, even though I can read a lot of the Chinese on a menu, picture menus are still my jam when it comes to eating out. A lot of Chinese dishes don’t come with super intelligible names, even after you translate them. “Ants Climbing a Log” anyone? Don’t worry, there are no ants involved, it’s actually noodles. But how would you know without seeing the dish?

What do you do if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and your only options are written Chinese menus with no pictures or translations?

Walk around with your waitress/waiter to other people’s tables and point at dishes that look good. Yes, I’m completely serious. Will you feel like a creeper, yes, will you eat a yummy meal, you sure will.

A rarer third option is that the waitress will invite you back into the kitchen so you can see all the meat and vegetables and pick out what you want. You’ll just be left guessing as to the preparation, but at least you’ll know it’s made with stuff you like. The one place this method is extremely common is at seafood restaurants, where everyone picks out their own live seafood, a treat if you’ve never had the experience of picking out the exact fish you want to eat for dinner!

Mime

When all else fails, channel your inner mime. You’d be surprised how much information you can communicate using just your body language. Hand signals and facial expressions can really go a long way. In fact, research shows that a surprising 55% of communication is done through body language. Take full advantage of your body language, and you’re already halfway there.

There are so many universal cues you can communicate using just your body. Rub your stomach or pretend to shovel food in your mouth if you’re hungry, lean your head against your hands if you are looking for someplace to sleep, you can even draw or show someone a picture of something you’re looking for. Get creative and you’ll be surprised how easily you can get by without words.

Ask your hotel’s receptionist for help.

When I was in Chengdu, the receptionists at our hostel told us exactly which buses to take, and where the bus stops were so that my friend and I could go see the Pandas!

Receptionists are often a wealth of information about the local area. It’s part of their job to provide guests with information on cool things to see and do and tell how to do them. Even now, I always ask the receptionist at my hotel in China a million and one questions before I head out exploring. They can always tell me how to get to a certain place or make suggestions about cool local places that I never even knew existed.

A lot of times they can even arrange transportation for you, whether it’s calling a cab and telling the driver where to take you, hiring a private car for the day, etc. A lot of times it’s hard to find information online about how to get to and from certain places you want to see in China, so if you can’t find all the information you need online, don’t sweat it. Your hotel receptionist will probably have better information anyway.

Bargain with a calculator.

If you’re shopping at a local market, most of the time you’ll have to bargain for prices. Seems like quite a daunting task for someone with no language skills, but with the use of a calculator, whether it’s in physical form or on your phone, you can throw numbers back and forth like a pro without having to say a word. You might not be able to verbally spar, but you can both understand written numbers. Pen and paper will also do just fine in a pinch.

Bonus Tips

There are some English terms that China has adopted into their language. 3 incredibly helpful terms to know are:

  1. ATM – most Chinese will understand this, so if you’re in need of cash, just ask for an ATM.
  2. WC – WC stands for Water Closet, aka toilet. So if you need to go to the bathroom, ask for a WC.
  3. Wifi – How do you say wifi in Chinese? You guessed it, wifi.

Ready to tackle traveling in China?

This amazing country truly has so much to offer. From stunning natural landscapes and an incredible 3500 years of history to some of the most bustling modern cities in the world, China has something for everyone. Ignite your sense of adventure and your taste buds, use these tips, and get ready to explore, shop, and eat your way through this amazing place with ease.

Cara is an equestrian, photographer, writer, and lover of anything that includes the words “adventure” and “exploration”. Currently living as an expat in China with her husband, Justin, together they are on a mission to travel and see the world on a budget. Veering off into the unknown to really experience the local culture and natural scenery is what they yearn for. Cara shares all their experiences, lessons learned, and travel guides on Crawford Creations to help others replicate their unique form of travel.

 

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup – Recipe By Tiana Matson

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup – Recipe By Tiana Matson

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup

Lamb is good for you and is perfect for warm winter casseroles and satisfying comfort food. Lamb can increase your body heat to resist the cold, so it is one of the best ingredients for winter meals.

I remember during my childhood, my thrifty grandparents ate mostly vegetarian, but always cooked up a big batch of lamb soup every winter.

Lamb has a stronger smell than beef and poultry that is not liked by everyone, and some simply won’t eat it due to its unique ‘aroma.’ Lamb is so versatile, and often a cheaper alternative than beef, so it’s worth taking a good look at what you can do with it besides a leg roast and chops.

The method of cooking lamb is the same as for beef. You can braise it, stew it, make soup with it, even stir fry it. The difference is that to reduce lamb’s smell and increase its aroma, wine and spices are often used.

I often use lamb mostly for soup if I want a meat soup, however, it is also delicious braised and served with rice noodles. Today’s recipe is an Asian twist on lamb soup, and I’m sure you’ll love it!

The standard practice for lamb soups is to use herbs, but this time I’m using fresh bamboo shoots.

Sweet bamboo shoots are low in calories, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and fiber. Served with lamb (or steak) chops, the sweet bamboo shoots aid digestion.

This soup is different from the usual thick winter soup often made with lamb, but it highlights the lamb chops and sweet bamboo shoots, rather than just using the lamb as a stock base.

Ingredients:

300 g peeled sweet bamboo shoots

300 g lamb chops

150 ml cooking wine

800 ml boiling water

1 x 2” piece ginger

1 tablespoon tea oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

 

Method:

Step 1

Wash the lamb chops and drain.

Step 2

Cut the sweet bamboo shoots in half lengthwise and wash. Slice the bamboo diagonally and put aside.

Step 3

Add the sweet bamboo shoots to a pot and fill with enough water to come to the top of them.

Step 4

Bring the bamboo shoots to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Step 5

Remove the bamboo shoots with a skimmer and put aside.

Step 6

Add the lamb shops to the water and boil for 20 seconds. Remove and put aside. Discard the water.

Step 7

Wash and slice the ginger.

Step 9

Pour the tea oil in in the pan and spread it to cover the surface.

Step 10

Add the chopped ginger and sauté for a few seconds, and then add the lamb. Stir fry until golden brown.

Step 11

Pour in the cooking wine and simmer for 30 seconds.

Step 12

Pour in the 800ml of boiling water.

Step 13

Skim off the foam floating on the surface with a spoon.

Step 14

Transfer the meat and the liquid to a ceramic soup pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 15

Add the sweet bamboo shoots and continue to simmer the soup on low for one hour.

Step 16

Finally, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

COOKNG TIPS:

  1. Tea oil has the effect of ridding the ‘fishy’ smell from the meat, however, if you don’t have any tea oil at home, you can use other cooking oil instead.
  2. The green wine can be replaced with cooking wine.
  3. Boiling the sweet bamboo shoots helps to remove the oxalic acid.

SUMMARY

Warm and hearty, Sweet Bamboo Shoots and Lamb Soup is a perfect tummy filler for those chilly days. Fragrant and satisfying!

Tiana is a food blogger who loves to cook, she is the creator of https://www.yumofchina.com/, a site that shares authentic Chinese recipes and China culture.

Best Traveling Apps for Exploring China – Guest Post By D Scott Carruthers

Best Traveling Apps for Exploring China – Guest Post By D Scott Carruthers

China is one of the most amazing travel destinations and visitors are fascinated by the vast cultural inclusions they are served once they arrive. But many people want their trips to be filled with a unique thrill, so their preferences will be based on getting the best destinations, which is one of the challenges visitors have to deal with. But according to D. Scott Carruthers, a travel expert who has been guiding tourists for years, you don’t need to rely on anyone to understand some of the best places to visit while in China. There are many traveling apps you could install that give you accurate and reliable information about different destinations across the world. Below are few that you might want to consider.

Instagram

Built to work as a photo-sharing platform, Instagram has grown to one of the best social platforms and now has a wide base of travel enthusiasts and experts, who regularly update useful information about travel destinations. If you are planning on visiting China and are looking for a great traveling app, you should start by searching for Instagram accounts that specialize in highlighting popular travel destinations across the country, and from this you will learn about the different amazing destinations you are able to choose from. The beauty of using Instagram is that unlike other travel apps you are offered free access to quality information.

Like a Local

This is an awesome traveling app that offers you useful information from the people who reside in a destination, and this is one of the most reliable options out there as it comprehensively covers cities and towns to allow you to understand well the various destinations. It focuses on the things to do in a city, and searching through it is easy and fast. However, unlike Instagram, for this you will need to spend $1.99 for each city guide you subscribe to.

Nearify

You might also want to enjoy good times while in China and for this you will also need to make a choice. One of the traveling apps you could choose for the purpose is Nearify, which directs you to local events and gigs that match your preferences. It offers you an opportunity to browse through what is happening so you can pick a destination that is matching to your demands. You will find stacks covering different categories including music, eating, comedy, and drinking experiences.

Spotted by Locals

As the name suggests, Spotted by Locals is a travel app with which you can search for destinations based on the information provided by locals themselves. The app was drawn from a blog that covered Amsterdam, but now has stretched its coverage to other cities including ones in China. To get the complete guides, you will need to spend only $3.99, and this goes to each guide, but you are given future tips for free when you choose this option. Finding a perfect travel destination is an easy process when you have guiding information as highlighted above, so don’t hesitate to try one of these apps.

D Scott Carruthers is a lifelong traveler and photography enthusiast. His writings can be found at www.dscottcarrutherstravel.com/

Square dancing, Chinese style – Guest Post by Daniel Otero

Square dancing, Chinese style – Guest Post by Daniel Otero

Chinese Square DancingWith the proliferation of Sino-Pop around the world came a new dance craze. It was a grand moment for a culture that used to keep everything private. Suddenly, people began doing things outdoors.

People started to gather around the plazas and town squares to listen to tunes, and from here it was developed into a form of square dancing.

A generation began to move and groove. These people wanted what they had missed: mambo, cha-cha, tango, and electronic-pop. They did it to a new vibe, you know, to those old-syrupy tunes from back in the days of Teresa Teng. Yes, when her hits began to scorch the charts and rhythms became a permanent part of the Chinese psyche with “Sweet Honey”.

And what did millions of Chinese began to do?

They formed clubs or associations and then took to parks across China to learn how to dance to a classical tune.

Chinese Square DancingChina began experimenting certain social changes with the Baby Boomers and Generation ‘X’, who began to radically transform the country. It manifested in music and body movement. And what began as a simplistic notion turned to something not seen since the dancing culture of the Han Dynasty.

The weekends came and went. But one thing became a symbol of the new China. It was to do a communal gathering every Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evening. And it formed into something special, catching with a fever like wildfire across the nation.

What you have today is something that now symbolizes and it is China. It’s certainly part of every city and town. The local gathering and to dance the night away for three or more hours.

It’s a way to admire people in their 40s, 50s, and as late as their 80s, sweating away their frustrations. Most of the middle and elder ages come together to have fun, associate, mingle with the neighbors, enjoy the local gossip, and, of course, dance! Dancing has become a staple to keep fit and young.

Most people who get out there to have fun are usually women. Men also gather as part of the action; however, the females outnumber the males 10 to 1 in the performance of the dance.

While moving in an almost perfect Ying and Yang circle once they get the momentum going.

Inside a culture that is most likely very shy, these people are out and about.

It has been my experience that whether in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, Nanjing, Jiangsu or Chengdu, Sichuan, you can see the older people grooving and having a good time!

Chinese Square DancingEven for a foreigner like me, I’ve risen a couple of occasions to dance the night away and learn something not often seen in America. A possible phenomena as old as time, and for me it’d be my greatest wish for it to catch on around the United States in a way to sweat away the calories and slim down our backsides.

What’s my biggest fear is the following…

This cultural and stylish phenomena can easily disappear in the next 40 years. Why? If the millennial generation doesn’t get away from their phones and shyness to swing around, they’ll lose something that has become quite unique with China and ingrained in its culture, the desires for the dance.

For now and while I’m in China, I’ll still head out during my weekends to have a gorgeous moment and square dance in a Chinese style.

 

Daniel Otero was born on the tough streets of Brooklyn, New York.  He’s a passionate teacher and freelance writer who loves his work and by the summer of 2018 his second book will be published, “The Artist of War”.

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Before you decide to spend the rest of your life in one comfy place and do the same things every day, why not invest in travel? Whether it’s for a much-needed vacation or in pursuit of knowledge, traveling to foreign, exotic places is indeed fulfilling. But there’s a better way to improve your lifestyle while reaping the rewards of a great adventure — making money while traveling.

You’ve probably heard a lot about people quitting their regular jobs to find another source of income. Others have tried traveling while still earning money with a nine-to-five desk job. If you belong to the latter category and want to keep your regular job, yet still earn extra moolah while on a trip, here are some tips on how to travel on a budget and make money while traveling.

  1. Start a travel blog.

This is the common route for a lot of people whenever they think of making money from their travels. Although it doesn’t really guarantee an instant, stable flow of income, starting a travel blog can help boost your earning potential. For one, featuring sponsored content on your blog is usually where most of the profits come from. Once big organizations take notice of your content, they may actually start paying you to travel and blog for them.

You don’t even have to restrict yourself to a written blog or a vlog. You can do both! Plus, launching — and maintaining — your blog is a great way to build up your experience AND portfolio. If you’re dedicated to it, you will soon establish a good rep and solid footing as an online travel journalist.

  1. Sell your travel photos.

One of the many joys that come with traveling is taking photos of your adventures. To add to the previous point, photography also means big business for bloggers. You can post your photos on Instagram or any social networking site to promote your work, so you can eventually sell them as stock images and prints for big organizations.

Another freelance platform that you can consider selling your travel photos in Upwork. Turning your pictures into cash cows can be a great source of passive income while focusing on other matters. If you want to get another source of extra income, Upwork offers a variety of online opportunities such as video production, game development, virtual assistant work, and a lot more. With that, you can work anytime and anywhere while still having the money and time to travel.

  1. Find or make products you can sell on eBay.

Another option is selling retail travel items on eBay, provided that you’re credible enough to do so. eBay is usually the best place to sell exotic items you’ve purchased abroad. If you’re the artsy type, you can craft your own products based on your travels (e.g. the brush paintings you’ve seen in China) and sell them in online art stores such as Etsy.

  1. Rent out your space.

Say you’re traveling to the United States and leaving your flat in China behind for a few days or a week. Turn that into an opportunity to earn some money while traveling — rent out your space! You can sign up to be a host at AirBnB (though it comes with a registration fee), but you can get that investment back when somebody rents out your space. Be sure to take attractive photos your place, describe it accurately, and have someone to check on stuff while you’re gone, especially if it’s your first time to rent it out.

You can also check out other sites for listing your space, such as Craigslist and Apartments.com.

About the Author

Lysha works at Lalco Residency – Hotel Mumbai and she loves her job. Helping clients and monitoring the progress of business strategies along with her leadership skills makes her a perfect fit for hospitality services. You can catch up with Lysha at Lalco Residency in Mumbai.

Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

There’s a reason people travel when they have time off. Taking a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. It’s a chance to explore different places, take in the scenery, and even broaden your horizons. Just getting out of the house and office for a weekend can do wonders for your mood and mind.

That is unless you face a travel disaster. What if something happens to your home or even your pet while you’re traveling? And how relaxing will that trip be if you are stressed before you even get on a plane?

First, you don’t even need to consider these problems “disasters.” They are problems to be sure, but there are ways you can prepare for them.

Image Source: Pixabay

Flight Delays and Overbookings

What are your rights when it comes to overbooking and bumping? Here’s what you need to know and plan for to make your travel experience more relaxing.

As Money magazine explains, most airlines overbook their flights on purpose. That’s because there are some people that never show up for their flight. When everyone actually does show up, the airline has to bump (or remove) someone from that flight. But you do have the right to compensation if they cannot get you on a flight that arrives within one hour of your original arrival. That ranges from twice the cost to $1350.

What happens if a flight is delayed or canceled? You have fewer rights since these situations are often not the airline’s fault. You are entitled to a refund if the delay is severe. Check out this WIRED article for more information, such as dealing with lost luggage or big delays.

Damage or Theft Back Home

Having a nice, relaxing flight to your vacation destination can feel unimportant if you discover problems at home as soon as you arrive. You can feel powerless if your home is damaged or robbed when you’re so many miles away. As with flights, some planning and knowledge can help reduce your risk.

Home thefts occur more often when you’re out of town. No thief wants to catch you at home. Here are a few tips to help make your home less attractive to would-be criminals:

  • Make sure your door locks are strong and locked before leaving.
  • Do the same for all windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Set lights on a timer.
  • Put a temporary hold on your mail.
  • Hire someone to cut your grass, pick up any newspaper, or even shovel your driveway.
  • Consider hiring a house sitter.

Besides thefts, one big problem that can hit during travel is water damage. Leave one window open during a storm can really cause problems. USA Today recommends making sure your gutters, sump pump, and pipes are all maintained and clean.

When Pets Stay Home

Hopefully, your pet dog or cat won’t create any damage while you’re away! But that can happen when you leave a pet home while you travel. Pets get bored, and when they do, they can damage your property just so they have something to do.

PetPlus has a few tips for helping keep good care of your pets, including hiring a pet sitter, boarding your pet, or leaving your pet with a trusted friend until you get back. Just knowing there’s someone feeding and playing with your furry friends can take a lot off your mind.

You Can Handle This

Again, going on a vacation should be relaxing. By knowing your rights for air travel, taking precautions to keep your home safe, and taking care of pets staying behind, you can enjoy your vacation much more easily and avoid some common traveling disasters.

SIGN UP AND GET A SNEAK PEEK AT THE FIRST CHAPTER OF MY NEW NOVEL THE EMPEROR'S SEAL
We respect your privacy.