This is teaching English to spoiled Chinese kids in real life. I never figured out why the King of Pop is never gonna die in China, but at least he helped me kill time in class….
To those who thought it couldn’t be done: it was a great swim. It didn’t kill me so I must be stronger, more resistance to nuclear fallout. Looking back, I’m shocked how ghostly I became after a year without seeing the sun beneath China’s protective sphere of pollution.
This is a fine example of the massive cultural differences between China and the rest of the world. Why they waste their time with these “exercises” I’ll never know, just as I’ll likely understand very little about Chinese thought (even if I devoted the rest of my life to it). And yes I had to re-evaluate myself once I realized what I’d become: a creeper filming people from the bushes.
As I traveled through the streets of Shanghai, Marco and I came to the sorry realization that the areas of China that we like tend to have a lack of what we consider Chinese characteristics. For instance, are the streets piss-free and less dense than a brick of lead? Do the buildings lack the soulless architecture of China’s communist era? Do the restaurants serve food that isn’t soaked in oil?
As we continued looking for non-Chineseness in The Bund, the viewing platform of China’s financial bastion Pudong, we came across Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull.
A writer for the Wall Street Journal blogged about the trend of stroking the bull’s junk for good luck.
Compared to festivals in the west, the International Qingdao Beer Festival looks like a joke when you first walk in. As you work your way into the tents you’ll see some kind of gross distortion of of festivals back home: bad food, horrible music, Chinese dancing and hyperconsumerism (cars on stage?).
We stayed at the Kaiyue International Youth Hostel, one of the best hostels I’ve ever seen, for 55 kuai a night. Their address is 31号 Jining Road Shinan, Qingdao, Shandong China, 266000 and phone number is +86 532 6665 3920
This is another tempting but mostly unrewarding destination in China. The pictures of Heaven Lake were enticing enough to draw me all the way to the fairly remote border region with North Korea. The time and money it took to get here though made the disappointing reality of the park all the more painful.
The beauty of the landscape at Changbaishan and the novelty of seeing North Korea on the other side of the lake make it a place of interest. But the remoteness, expenses and the rules of the park that even block its visitors from taking a small hike are all hard pills to swallow.
To get here I took an overnight train from Beijing to Changchun and then another overnight train to Songjianghe for 110 kuai, hard sleeper. From Songjianghe you can access the Western slope of the mountain and Changbaishan Canyon, an easy 40 minute hike. Busses (around 45 kuai) and trains (11 kuai, hard seat) run between Songjianghe and Baihe, where you can access the Northern slope. To get to the park in Baihe, take the circular route city bus (1 kuai) and ask for the stop at the Changbaishan Bus. This bus costs around 15 kuai. You can stop before the park for access to the 68m waterfall that runs off Heaven Lake, and also hot springs where vendors boil eggs in the water for sale. In between the park’s entrance and the waterfall turnoff is a 30 minute walk to the Underground Forest, a crater filled with trees. The park’s admission fee is 100 kuai, 75 kuai for students. Busses to the other areas of each slope are included in the admission, but the vans to the top of the corralled Heaven Lake viewing area cost another 80 kuai return.
Most people hoping to see the Great Wall go to Badaling. Those who go there have to stand in lines shoulder to shoulder just to get a chance to see an overcrowded section of the wall that was actually built in 1985. A much better option is to hike the Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai, a distance of about 10km. Jinshanling has restored sections at the beginning of the hike, but towards the end deteriorates to some of its original condition. Seeing this section of the old wall was one of my absolute favorite things of my trip through China.
Unfortunately Simatai has been closed since June 2010, but rumor has it that it will reopen sometime soon. In light of this, you can still hike to the west end of Jinshanling and return the same way.
To get here, we took a bus from the Beijing Long Distance Bus Station to Miyun for 15 kuai. Watch out for the guys who come on the bus and snag confused foreigners to try and sell expensive rides to the Wall. In Miyun you can find another small bus station, where Bus 26 will take you to Gubeikou, from where you’ll need to hire one more short taxi to Jinshanling. We were lucky enough to meet a couple of other travelers in Miyun and we all decided to hire a van all the way to Jinshanling for 150 kuai.
Shanxi’s Ice Cave is an overall big letdown. Between being far out of the way, expensive to get to and expensive to get inside, it only deserves mention as a warning. It’s fairly neat that this is a cave full of ice so close to the desert, but there’s no real compulsion to go here other than to take a nice photo and leave.
To get here we took a poorly planned option, a taxi from Datong. Expect to pay around 3 to 400 kuai. Tickets are 120 kuai, 60 kuai for students.
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