Tag: Traveling in China

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.

 

Your Local Cousin Helps You Travel Like a Local

Your Local Cousin Helps You Travel Like a Local

Hi everyone, I came across this really cool company and wanted to let you know about it!

What Is Your Local Cousin?

cousin1Your Local Cousin www.yourlocalcousin.co, is disrupting travel and is part of the sharing economy. We have been in business since February 2015 and match travelers looking for customized advice with actual locals in over 80 countries and 200 cities. Travelers looking to get a local perspective on where to find the best beaches in Maui, shop in the Grand Bazar in Istanbul or where to find the best paella in Madrid can choose to text, e-mail or speak with a local. We typically charge between $15 for a 30 minute Skype call and also offer customized itineraries for $25 – $60 and travel maps for $10. We pay locals 70% of revenue and vet all of them over Skype.

How to Use Your Local Cousin

Travelers can find locals by the city or country that they plan to visit and then pick the one that they feel will be best able to plan their trip. Each local’s profile mentions their interests, in other words what they can advise you on and also includes the kind of traveler they can help i.e. families with kids, expats, business traveler, senior citizens and backpackers etc. Travelers can decide to speak with a local, connect with them over text message or whatsapp or ask them to prepare detailed itineraries depending on the duration of their trip. Once connected, the traveler can provide further detail about their trip and ask any questions from the local. The more detailed your questions the more useful are the recommendations! Once don with the interaction, travelers also rate locals on the quality of information provided and responsiveness.

How to Become a Local Cousin

Local experts, aka ‘local cousins,’ are individuals from various backgrounds who should be fluent in English (additional languages are always a big bonus), love to talk about their city and are passionate about helping others have a great experience when they’re visiting and of course don’t mind getting paid for giving advice :). Our local are individuals who live in a city, went to school there recently or own a business / home there, thus they possess in-depth information about a place and are not passers-by or outsourced agents. Locals get paid via Paypal and are also rated by travelers. Locals and travelers do not have to meet in person or provide any personal details to the traveler other than perhaps their Skype handle or email address. If you want to become a local, please register on www.yourlocalcousin.co by clicking on “Become a Local Cousin” on the top right of the home page and complete your profile.

About Your Local Cousin

I founded Your Local Cousin with my actual cousin, Aarti Kanodia (based in New York) and have a CTO also based in NY. I have traveled to more than 30 countries and decided to help travelers solve the problem of wading through information overload online, heavy and outdated guidebooks and sifting through biased reviews on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor only to get stuck in tourist traps. We want travelers to get customized advice from real locals who share common interests at price points that are affordable. We allow travelers to get the “inside scoop” on where to find all the cool places locals love to visit and avoid the tourist traps. We want to bring the old-school back into travel planning which is seriously missing the ‘human element’ these days. We are YOUR next best thing to speaking with a friend who lives in the city you are visiting.

Press:

We have been featured in Travel and Leisure
http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/your-local-cousin-travel-startup
and USA Today
http://roadwarriorvoices.com/2015/08/21/these-startups-help-travelers-explore-the-local-side-of-the-city/
and Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/travel/sc-trav-1229-sharing-economy-20151216-story.html

Social Media:

Xi’An’s Very Own Capsule Hotel

Xi’An’s Very Own Capsule Hotel

Today’s guest post was submitted by Karen. I love staying in inexpensive hostels when traveling around China. This new capsule hotel might be worth checking out if you ever visit Xi’an. 

capsule 2Taking up an entire floor of a commercial center near Xi’An’s train station is China’s first, fully-functional capsule hotel. Capsule hotels were popularized by Japan, and China’s construction of the same concept is a nod to the Japanese culture that’s popular among the Chinese youth.

Each capsule in the Xi’an Youth Capsule Hotel is 1.25 meters high, 1.2 meters wide, and 2.1 meters long. For about $10 a night, people can sleep cozily in a capsule that is complete with a WiFi connection and a small flat-screen TV.

Apart from the hotel rooms’ personal size, Xi’an’s capsule hotel differentiates itself from the rest by having zodiac sign themed areas. The staff classifies guests into different star-sign zones upon checking in. Men can only sleep in the Taurus and Sagittarius zones, while women may stay at the Aries and Virgo zones. Guests who snore loudly are assigned to the Leo zone, the zodiac sign for lion.

The hotel’s staff says that the Leo zone is not meant to embarrass anyone. It was constructed in order to be fair to guests who want peace and quiet while sleeping.

capsul hotelWhile the hotel is still very novel to both locals and tourists, experts are worried about the lack of amenities. Hotels around the world rely on casinos in order to bring in serious revenues. Staying in the hotel may only cost $10 a night but apart from an Internet connection, TV, and a small area for table games that offer entertainment like ping pong, there are no other facilities to entertain guests. Pundits have been suggesting that the hotel employ the services of an online casino provider since there’s WiFi and a small screen TV inside the capsules anyway. It would be very advantageous for the hotel to have an online casino service, and InterCasino – one of the biggest slot gaming providers in the world – enumerates several benefits of such games on this page. The capsule hotel’s management, however, doesn’t seem to be very interested in the idea yet. But hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the establishment looks to offer more entertainment to its visitors.

The Xi’an Youth Capsule Hotel is located at Building 7, Wanda Plaza, Mingle Yuan Xincheng District, Xi’an.

Have you ever stayed at a capsule hotel? Where do you like to stay when you visit Xi’an?

If you would like to submit a guest post to Two Americans in China, email us at TwoAmericansinChina@gmail.com. 

China – Not As Safe As You Think

China – Not As Safe As You Think

In the past, when people have asked me “is China safe?” I have answered “yes.” And most people would agree. In fact, if you Google “is China safe?” you will find plenty of forums that tout the safety of China, even for women. Yet I have been seeing more and more incidents of Western women assaulted in China and have experienced it myself. The truth is no country is “safe.” Assault can and does happen everywhere. It might happen more frequently in other countries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t become a victim of assault. In fact, I believe that China is far more dangerous than people let on. Part of the problem is that not enough women speak out about it.

Chinese Women in China

1307010010Let me clarify that yes, this article is mainly about the experiences of expat women in China and not local Chinese women or expat women of Chinese ethnicity. This is because China is extremely dangerous for Chinese women. China has some of the highest rape and domestic abuse rates in the world. In some studies, as many as 60% of women surveyed admitted to being abused by their partner and in other studies nearly 25% of men admit to raping a woman. Even in public, most people will not stop a man from assaulting a woman because they don’t want to get involved in a “domestic situation.” China doesn’t even have laws to protect women from domestic abuse. However, being a Chinese local and being a tourist or an expat are completely different experiences. Many times, expats are lured into a false sense of safety. And it is this false safety that has me concerned. I believe assault among expat women is much higher than we have been lead to believe.

Expat Women Assaulted by Chinese Men

I’ve actually been wanting to write this post for a long time. Late last year, Jocelyn Eikenburg at Speaking of China wrote about the time she was sexually assaulted by a Beijing private driver and the way she is constantly street harassed. She says,

It happened in Beijing when a driver a friend arranged to send me to the airport ended up touching one of my breasts. He did it just before I was about to leave his car – as if he had wanted to touch me the entire time and held out for the right moment. It was creepy and despicable and the kind of thing I hope will never happen again.

She also says

Years ago, I often told friends how I would walk through Shanghai late into the evenings and never feel worried about getting raped or jumped by anyone.

But now I wonder if I really had it right or not. Was I safe in Shanghai because we lived in the center of the city, where lots of people streamed through the streets day and night? Or was I simply naïve?

Unfortunately, I think she, like me, was simply naïve. A large reason is because, as she also says “I’ve not wanted to share it for a long time – believing, as she did, that somehow it was all my fault.”

When women don’t share their stories, the stories simply pile up. If you read the comments, you will see many, many more stories about assault, harassment, and stalking.

There was a guy who just kept popping up everywhere I was and he seemed to know my schedule. He would always try to chat and get my phone number. One day, I got on the bus and he followed me on it.

 

Things like that have happened to me as well. I once got a massage in Xi’an, I was with friends and it was supposedly a “reputable place.” The masseuse started to finger me and I didn’t know what to do.

 

I lived in China for three years and faced a few similarly bad situations. I’m glad you’ve brought this up, because although I would still consider Shanghai to be a safe place, bad things happen everywhere and I often felt my problems were dismissed because ‘China is a safe place!’

There is an extremely frightening account by Zhou JiaYi on her blog Shandongxifu about her assault by three men in Shenzhen.

There were 3 men. They were middle aged and obviously transients to the city from their country-side, labor-worn appearances.

“She speaks Chinese!” one of the men exclaimed. Now I had really sparked their interest. They got closer and started to critique my appearance more. They told me how I didn’t look American because I wasn’t fat. They said they loved my blond hair. I kept walking assuring myself that I was in public in broad daylight, but I felt awkward.

They started talking about my pale skin. Then as one of men pointed out I was slighted tanned on my chest, he literally used his hand to point it out by brushing his finger above the opening of my button down dress.

I reactively swatted his hand away and looked the man in horror. The men smiled. I was feisty.

I started forward but was detained. The other men had grabbed my arms and my attempts to get away only brought them forward with me. Panic rushed through me. I momentarily looked around at the passersby who watched me with curiosity and pity. I had been in China before and I knew that no one would ever help a stranger; They would simply stop and watch. I had been in Shenzhen long enough to know that the police wouldn’t help, even if I had happened to see one in that very second. I was scared.
I fought against the three men as they started to pull me away out the crowds, move their hands towards forbidden places, and start to tear at buttons on my dress.

You should really read the whole post. She doesn’t say when exactly the incident happened, but it is clear that a considerable amount of time passed between the assault and when she finally worked up the courage to write about it. Once again, she stayed silent while everyone else went along thinking China was totally safe.

My Experiences with Assault and Harassment

me and morotbikeI’ve never been sexually assaulted in China, but I have been assaulted, and I’ve written about it before.

As I started to pull away, the man grabbed me by the arm. At first, I was shocked. How dare he touch me?!? I instinctively tried to pull my arm from his grasp. But he didn’t let go and started talking angrily in Chinese. I revved my bike to help me get more force to pull myself away, but when I did he grabbed my arm with both of his hands letting go of his own bike and started yelling at me. At first, I was just offended, but now I was scared. My Chinese is still very poor so I just started screaming in English “help me! Help me! He is hurting me!” which he was. He had on gloves that were of some strange rough material that was digging into my skin and his grip was very tight to keep me from escaping. 

Thankfully, nothing like this has happened to me since, but I still feel panicky when I think about it.

Most recently, I have been at the forefront of fighting harassment here in Shenzhen. There is a Chinese man who calls himself Nathan but I call The Shenzhen Creeper who has been harassing and stalking expat women in Shenzhen for over a year. He is the reason we had to turn the Shenzhen Writers Circle into Women Writers of Shenzhen. The women in the group simply didn’t feel safe with him in our community. Whenever a new expat woman would join our group (only expat women; he has never stalked a Chinese member of our group), he would get their WeChat (like China’s Facebook and instant messenger) and their email address and continually message them. Most of the messages may seem harmless enough, asking if the women want to get coffee or go to a movie, but several of them have been creepy, asking where the women live, work, or go to the gym. He has sent long love songs to women and asked if they “see themselves” in his love poems. I should also mention that Creeper is married and has a one-year-old daughter.

Most of the women simply tried to ignore him, say they were too busy, and stop attending events. But the messages never stop. Several of the women have told him directly to stop messaging them, but he hasn’t. I confronted him about his behavior, but he denied that he was doing anything wrong and has claimed that he is the victim of gross mischaracterization and persecution by me.

Many people may think a few messages are “no big deal,” but from a woman’s perspective, any unwanted attention can be seen as threatening. And Creeper has reacted with verbal and emotional violence. He has threatened to have me arrested, sued, and has threatened my employer. He has even threatened my guy friends who have stood up for me, telling them that they would also end up in court if they take my side. The women are not unreasonable in their fears that Creeper could escalate things if they were to outright reject him. Even though he was ejected from the writers group, he still finds ways to contact our members occasionally. He has also found other social groups that have large numbers of expat women and has been stalking their members.

Speaking Out

I am not saying that the onus of stopping assaults and harassment in China is on the victims. However, if women don’t speak out about their experiences, many more women could be hurt by this false belief that “China is safe.” There is no shame in speaking out if you have been a victim of abuse. And no longer should people stick their head in the sand and pretend that assault in China doesn’t happen. If you have been assaulted, speak out. If you know that someone is being assaulted or harassed, speak out against it. Everyone must work together to stop abuse.

 

Throwback Thursday – On the Li River

Throwback Thursday – On the Li River

Yangshuo, Guangxi Autonomous Region, about an hour from Guilin, is one of the most beautiful towns in China. We spent about a week there when we first came to China since that is where the Buckland Training Center is located. We’ve been there twice since. There are so many beautiful and interesting places to visit in China, but we lost our hearts in Yangshuo, so we love going back there.

CIMG3631Yangshuo is a great blend of old and new, East and West, country and comfort. It’s a small town with lots of expats, so many people speak English and there are lots of local and international restaurants. The countryside is gorgeous and there are lots of outdoor activities. The hostels are really affordable and are typically just outside of town in renovated village houses. If you haven’t been, I would highly recomend it.

The only problem with Yangshuo is that it is a bit out of the way. It was about a 14-hour train ride from both Changsha and Shenzhen, so we haven’t been back in a while. The last time we went, we took a train for 14 hours, stayed in Guilin for a night, and the next day took a river boat down the Li River to Yangshuo. That was a lot of fun.

But as of December, there is now a fast train going directly from Shenzhen to Yangshuo, cutting the trip down to about 4 hours. After our America trip, we are hoping to be able to take some weekend trips to this beautiful town.

What about you? What are some of your favorite places in China to visit?

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