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29/10/2013

Fantastic Vacation in Huangsha

Last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we were finally able to spend a few days with all eight of us together! Although we had been Zhenjiang for nearly three weeks, our sisters had been very busy attending school Monday through Saturday and preparing for their final exams. But as their school year came to a close on Tuesday we were finally able to all be together for the first time since we arrived! To celebrate, Stephanie, Michelle, and Megan’s parents brought us to stay and explore in the Huangshan Mountains (famous attraction for your China travel deals) of the Anhui province, just Southwest of Zhenjiang and Jiangsu.

 

We all set off on Wednesday morning and arrived at our bed and breakfast hotel in a small valley-town just in time for lunch. The weather was wonderful, much cooler than Zhenjiang, and surrounded by beautiful mountains and bamboo forests. We headed out to explore right away, taking a short, guided hike through the mountains nearby. At one point we stopped to rest in front of a bamboo-covered stage and the kind performers from a mountain tribe offered to demonstrate and even teach us their traditional dances! It was amazing to see!

 

As we reached the bottom of the small mountain we decided to try one more thing: rafting! Oh it was so much more difficult than I had expected, though! I think we completed most of the course spinning in circles, and we probably set a record for the number of times we got stuck on rocks . . . but it was great!

 

That evening we played cards, teaching our sisters “Uno!”, then watched Harry Potter (a common cultural joy, that along with Titianic, as you can see from the picture below), and taught our sisters the fundamental understanding that when your parents say “Go to bed early so you’ll be ready for the big hike tomorrow” it is truly code for “Stay up late and watch two more movies”!

 

We probably could have used a bit more sleep, though, as we were downstairs for breakfast at 5:30 the next morning, then heading off for a 10 km (just over 6 mile) hike through the mountains! We had quite a ride to get there, though: a small van to a big bus and then a gondola up to our starting spot. By the time we were ready to begin it was past 9:00!

 

The hike was amazing, with cool, fresh air and spectacular views looking out into an endless sea of solid rock mountains. We took our time at first, snacking, taking pictures (we were so excited to have our first full group picture!), and resting . . . almost too much, though, as with six kilometers to go we suddenly realized we had just two and a half hours to reach the gondola before the final round to the bottom of the mountain was made at 4:30!!! We pretty much bolted the rest of the way, sliding in coolly with ten minutes to spare.

 

Friday we were out and about again as we drove to visit an old, traditionally-built neighboring mountain town, Hongcun (famous ancient village should be contained in top 10 China tour packages). The tiny settlement was beautiful, with fresh water from the mountains flowing right through and around it. Little canals ran along the ground beside each of the walking paths, bringing water to all of the homes. We toured the old, lavishly built homes of the wealthy families who once lived here, filled with fine wood carvings, colorful scrolls, and displays to honor their ancestors. It was really interesting to witness the paradox between the modern people living in the old homes of Hongcun as the antique buildings which lack running water (unless you count the side canals outside their homes) are filled with wifi, televisions, and cell phones galore!

 

In the afternoon we returned to the hotel, still quite worn from the previous day’s hike. After short naps and a nice dinner we all gathered to watch a scary movie in honor of Friday the 13th! I think it may be appropriate at this point to label this last section as “Our Misadventures in China #6”: Well, as I was saying, we agreed to watch a scary movie, right? Of course, sitting in the middle of the mountains, our options were quite limited, so we consented to watching the scariest movie we had: Pirates of the Caribbean. I think perhaps Katherine, Julie, and I were quite relieved by the limited horror and gore . . . The others, not so much. But it turned out to be quite scary indeed.

 

Around 8:00 we all made our way to Chara and Stephanie’s room where, all eight of us cramming onto their bed, we turned out the lights and each clambered to find a spot where we could view the film on the iPad. About half way through we noticed with surprise that the stormy seas were not alone. The thunder outside nearly blocked out the movie’s sound and the lightning lit the entire room every few seconds. We continued watching anyway, as our surroundings added to the suspense. Then, all of a sudden there was a knock at the door. We all jumped up, each attempting to untangle herself from the mass of seven other girls piled on the bed. It probably sounded like a herd of elephants tumbling down the stairs, but six of us scrambled to hide behind the wall anyway, while Stephanie and Chara answered the door to their room.

 

Then Stephanie screamed! We all sprinted toward her at the door (blowing whatever limited cover we’d had behind the wall, as we were supposed to be asleep right now, not watching movies together), but we were terrified as we looked to see what could have caused such a fright and found a two large men standing in the dark hallway holding candles.

 

“How many girls?” one demanded, struggling to ask in English. We were scared out of our minds! Then as he raised the candle to count for himself we realized . . . It was Katherine and Chara’s fathers.

 

“The light is gone,” Chara’s dad pointed out, reaching inside to demonstrate the lack of response as he flicked the switch.

 

“The electricity has gone out from the storm?” Megan asked. Her father nodded, handing her the candle. There was a collective sigh of relief and a few spouts of nervous laughter. We had not noticed as we had already been without lights, watching the movie from the iPad. Now, sitting around a single candle with lightning flashing through the blinds and thunder blocking out our sound as we watched Pirates together, it was the perfect Friday the 13th.

Tags: popular China tours and travel to China

08:11 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

25/10/2013

Beware of Tourist Traps

1. Bund Tourist Tunnel

After reading the posts on here about the tourist tunnel, I have to disagree. If you are at the waterfront and you want to go across the river to the waterfront on the other side, the tunnel is the best way. Otherwise, you will spend a good 45 minutes or more walking to the subway station, taking the train, then walking back to the waterfront. Yes, the tourist tunnel costs more. Think of it like you are taking a ride though - does the cost of the tunnel seem like a fair price to ride a ride at an amusement park? I would say yes. More than that, it does something practical in getting you from one place to another. I was more than happy to pay and sit in the car as it went through the tunnel than to have to walk the distance, which I was expecting to do, in what is sometimes called the pedestrian tunnel. Besides, the ride is downright psychadelic and pretty cool in a slightly cheesy/tacky sort of way. So you can consider it for your affordable China travel packages.

2. Ask to use meter in cabs

There will always be people trying to take advantage of tourists. Perhaps they are thinking that these "rich" tourists can afford to pay more for the service. Perhaps some people can afford but that's not the point is it.

Just like any city in the world always nicely ask the driver to activate his meter once you leave. In fact you should tell them outright before you board the taxi. Once you journey is completed be sure to get a receipt from the meter.

Fun Alternatives: You can always use the Shanghai metro. It's fast and cheap. The only yhing you have to contend with is the crowd in the train.

3. VISITING SILK FACTORY

When first arrived at the silk factory, I met a guide who gave us a tour of part of the factory. I also learned that when the worms build their cocoons, where silk (the main product along ancient Silk Road where you can have Silk Road tour) comes from.

There was a machine that takes the single cocoons and makes it into thread on a spool. The spools are then used to make silk clothes and pictures. Some of the spools go through a dyeing process to turn them into different colors.

The last room was the demonstration on how the double cocoons are used. The double cocoons are wetted and then stretched over a hoop. About ten double cocoons are stretched over one hoop before the pile is removed. The pile is then stretched out to make a filling for a blanket. We even got to take part in this process.

4. Beware of Friendly Chinese at People Square

I went to People's Square and three attractive girls strike up a conversation and say how one of them are taking her friends around. They ll talk to you and praise you and they ll ask you if you want to go for a show of which all of them are going for and how they have got to book the ticket now. Well i declined coz i was busy with other plans and walked on. One minute later i was approached by 2 guys and a girl telling me more or less the same thing but there is another show nearby a tea ceremony and a Kung Fu show (must-see for your top China tours). I thought it was too friendly and normally Chinese people are not so friendly. I was on my way to the Shanghai Museum and told them i was not interested and they said the Museum was really packed and you cant see much in there. My instincts told me that it was some kind of con so i just moved on. Then 1 minute later another couple tried to do the same thing and i just brushed them off. So guys if attractive ladies come up to you in Shanghai something is not right! I confirm this is a trap coz i met a foreigner working here and he said they ll take you to some place and charge you big bucks for the tea and maybe even take your money. So Beware!!!!

Unique Suggestions: Say hello and tell them you are traveling with friends and they are waiting for you on the other side. Smile and move on or just speak your language and walk on. i spoke malay to them and they did not know what to do. Do all this with a smile.

Tags: China travel guide

10:12 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

24/10/2013

All useful and helpful shopping info in Shanghai from real travellers

1. Xiangyang Fashion and Gift Market: What to shop or see a local market?

 

Xiangyang Fashion and Gift Market offers nearly everything except food in Shanghai (the main travel city along Yangtze River where you can have Yangtze River tour). The stalls are often filled with fake designer goods, but you can also find many local brands. Available goods: clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, watches, gifts, local crafts, games, etc.

 

What to buy: It depends what is your view on buying fake designer goods. But you can get, for example, Adidas running shoes for RMB 100-130, shirts RMB 30-50, bags RMB 100-150.

 

What to pay: Between 10 and 30% of the initial price. Make sure to bargain hard - that's expected!

 

2. Super Brand Mall: The Biggest shopping mall in Asia

 

The biggest (?) shopping mall, Super Brand Mall, in Asia is situated in Shanghai. It is at the Pudong area.
There are a lot of shops but a lot of empty space (Apr 04) as well. It was spotless clean but as it was so huge one easily gets the impression that its almost empty as well. But actually thats not the case.

 

On the top floor are situated an "entertainments" like cinema, children play-rooms, games etc.

 

One floor (5th?) is dedicated to food. There you can find f ex sushi and Thai food, pizza and Korean BBQ and coffee shop.

 

What to buy: Here you can find almost anything; home eletronics, clothes for both women and men, home furnitures, food, leather and bags, jewellery, toys, golf, home deco, hair care & salons... you name it!
Brands like Lacoste, Nike, Samsung, Panasonic, The North Face, Esprit are sold here...

 

What to pay: depends what you're going to buy...

 

3. Xiangyang Market Shanghai Art of Bargaining

 

Start at 70%-80% Discount off the price. Dun waste time with only 20%. If they ignore you, then try walking away. If that still fail, then try slightly higher. Never Look Eager.

 

They sell everything from Fake Hangbags, Wallets, Luggages, Golf Clubs and almost anything you can think of.

 

The touts there are really persistent. Trick is to just ignore them and say no. Do not follow anyone into their shops outside the market which is not regulated and look really dodgy. I have not met with any serious incident in my adventure into those dark alleys but they are more persistent and things can get more heated up inside without the safety of crowds.

 

What to buy after China vacation deals: Homeware, clothings, watches, sourvenir (Nothing from the Qing Dynasty) .Sports wear, jewellery (Fake Tiffany - Bad quality though), Ties, Jackets...the list goes on.

 

See my comments on my recommended price.

 

What to pay: Achievable Price in Brackets. Golf Clubs - (RMB1500-RMB2000 (3W, 7 I, AW,PW,SW putter, bag, shoe bag, umbrella, travel bag. All Fiberglass Shaft . Recommend the beaded handbags (RMB 100-150). Other bags around RMB 50 or less. Clothings - Min 50% - 80% discount . Ties - Good Quality(RMB100-120) & Inferior (RMB 20-30. Watch stiching & materials. Ensure length not too short cos some save on material. Fake watches - Max RMB250. Do not last but at US$30, is a fair price for automatic watch. Shoes - Too narrow at the toes. Ski Jackets - Max RMB 150-200 for a fake northcliff Jacket. Luggage/Briefcase -Max RMB 150 - 250 depending on size and design.

 

4. The Old Town

 

The area is surrounded by stores and restaurants. It's always busy, even on a rainy day. Taxicabs and cars cannot go inside the bazaar, so people can walk around inside. There are so many things that they sell here, mostly Chinese antiques, herbal medicines, teas and surprisingly Starbucks too. It is good to come here during the day, but I think it's better in the evening, because they lit up the area with lights and they look so festive.

 

What to buy: I bought many stuff from different stores there, such as the blooming jasmine tea that looks like a big seed until you pour hot water on it, a Chinese leather painting, tea mugs, and purple corn for snacks. It was a fun experience.

 

What to pay: You can spend about US$20 for a painting or nothing, because you can just walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Tags: popular China tours and travel to China

10:28 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)