Posts Tagged ‘China’

Forgotten about the Chinese earthquake yet?…

October 18, 2008

The 2008 Sichuan earthquake which measured at 7.9 magnitude occurred at 14:28:01.42 CST on May 12, 2008 in the Sichuan province of China. It was also known as the Wenchuan earthquake, after the earthquake’s epicentre in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province. The epicenter was 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with a depth of 19 kilometres (12 mi). The earthquake was felt as far away as Beijing (1,500 kilometres (932 mi) away) and Shanghai (1,700 kilometres (1,056 mi) away), where office buildings swayed with the tremor. The earthquake was also felt in nearby countries.

Official figures (as of July 21, 2008 ) state that 69,197 are confirmed dead, including 68,636 in Sichuan province, and 374,176 injured, with 18,222 listed as missing. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless, though the number could be as high as 11 million (the population of Greece is 11,215,000). Approximately 15 million people lived in the affected area.

Strong aftershocks, some exceeding magnitude 6, continue to hit the area even months after the main quake, causing new casualties and damage.

My wife’s immediate family live 50k from what was the epicentre in the town of Mianzhu.

Their house used to look like this …

My wife has just made her first visit back to her hometown since the disaster struck.

Her childhood home now looks like this…

Not sure how many of us used to our fitted kitchens would react to this being the extent of out kitchen facilities…

The amazing thing is these people constantly comment on how fortunate they are in comparison to others, they probably mean those who were living in buildings like these…

and these…

It’s only natural that what is out of sight becomes out of mind, but it is important we remember that this was a once in a lifetime disaster, and will take a generation to rectify. Obviously some people’s losses are irreplaceable.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the relief effort can still do so via:


 The Chinese Embassy in UK has opened a special account for donation for Earthquake in Sichuan province in Bank of China(UK).


The Chinese Embassy In UK
Sichuan Earthquake Donation Account

Beneficiary Name
:The Chinese Embassy In UK
Sichuan Earthquake Donation Account
Account number
Sort code

3)CASH can be deposited at any branch of Bank of China(UK)Limited
quote a/c no. 10196750

Yangshuo, not really China!

July 7, 2008

Bangkok is a dirty, hustling bustling city. Pollution is rife, it is overcrowded and noisy. However, if you have just spent 3 months on a beach lazing in a hammock, eating nothing but authentic Thai food then Bangkok is manna from heaven. You can catch up with your fellow travellers, bump into people who follow the same football team as you and get your fill of Western food, prior to your next venture off the beaten track. 

For anyone spending a considerable period of time in China then Yangshuo will fill the same holes for them as Bangkok does for those exploring the whole of South East Asia.
That said Yangshuo does not want to be the first stop on your China itinerary. Bangkok is not representative of Thailand as a whole and neither is Yangshuo representative of China.   




However if, you have spent the last 3, 6 or even 12 months trekking around China, being spat on, feeling confused, lost, isolated and ordering/receiving meals in restaurants and not getting what you expected – then Yangshuo is a lovely destination to break you back into the western world before you board your flight home.
Truth be told Yangshuo is not the real China. The real China is without doubt the hardest country I have ever travelled in, Yangshuo on the other hand feels like putting on your favourite jumper. Having spent the best part of 2 years in China myself, I put Yangshuo in my top 3 travel destinations.
The odds are you will have flown in to China via either Beijing or Shanghai – so you are going to be commencing your journey on the East coast, if you didn’t/aren’t then skip this bit.
 I would advise a route of either:
Beijing – Xi’an – Chengdu – Kunming – Yangshuo – Three Gorges cruise Chongching/Wuhan – Shanghai – Beijing – Home
Shanghai – Beijing – Xi’an – Chengdu – Kunming – Yangshuo – Three Gorges cruise Chongching/Wuhan – Shanghai – Home
Either way, which ever route you take, by the time you have wandered off the route numerous times to add on your own individual side trips you will have been in China long enough to appreciate Yangshuo by the time you reach it.
 And reaching itself is quite straightforward despite Yangshuo not having either train station or airport (they would only ruin it).

Most people en route to Yangshuo are going to take the train into Guilin, some 20 km to the South. You might choose to fly into Guilin, but if you are taking internal flights in China then one of the following three statements fits you:

·        You are on a very tight time schedule.

·        You have more money than sense.

·        You take reckless risks with your own life.

You will also be implored to stay in Guilin, after all it is the “most beautiful place in the world”, if you want to stay then stay as long as you like, but the second you arrive in Yangshuo you will realise every precious second you spent in Guilin was wasted time.

From Guilin you are going to either take a mini bus or boat to get to Yangshuo. If you chose the former the easiest place to catch them from is from the square outside the train station in Guilin. If you chose to take the boat, then don’t worry there will be people falling over themselves to sell you a ticket. Journey time 4 hours floating leisurely down the Li River.
I wouldn’t concern you with a schedule for the buses – like most buses in China, they leave when they are full. Expect to pay approx 15rmb don’t give anyone any money until the bus has started moving – a common scam is for people to get on the bus before it leaves and sell you a ticket for an inflated price. Journey time is about one and a half hours, there is a quicker bus that leaves from the Guilin bus terminal but by the time you find it etc. the journey time will end up the same anyway. 
 Another scam to watch out for is when the bus stops on the road outside Yangshuo, a guy gets on and tells everyone to get off as the bus is going elsewhere. You then end up paying them to take you the rest off the way and then end up staying at their accommodation too. The only place you should be getting off the bus is in the terminal at Yangshuo – which is an enclosed courtyard type of affair.

Despite the scams, my advice would be to take the bus. Firstly, you will have ample opportunity to take the Li River boat trip once you are in Yangshuo. Secondly, in winter the water level of the river drops and you can only travel the second half of the journey by boat anyway.

What to expect

Yangshuo is a very small town famous for its surrounding geography that gets 1.5 million visitors a year. The countryside is scattered with Karst hills – limestone hills eroded millennium ago when the whole area would have been under water. The beautiful Lijiang (Li) and Tianjila rivers run through it and nearby. Today the hills look as if some giant had haphazardly sown the hills whilst walking through the valley.

 The town itself was established in the Jin Dynasty (265-420AD) and has developed into one of the foremost tourist destinations in the whole of China. Unlike Guilin development, although rife, is more restrained in Yangshuo – buildings are not allowed to go higher than six storeys for fear of blocking out the view that makes the town desirable. Also taxis are prohibited from the central area.

Initially popular with foreign tourists Yangshuo is becoming increasingly popular with Chinese tourists – just look for the flag/umbrella waving tour guide at the front of the horde of day-trippers coming towards you to disrupt your serenity. Fortunately as late afternoon approaches the crowds disperse.

The central road map of Yangshuo can best be imagined as a ladder lain on the ground. With Die Cui Lu (the more authentic) and Xiejie (West Street) as the two main uprights. The Li River is at the bottom of the ladder and the rungs are represented by a number of smaller streets that join the two main thoroughfares. Of the two main streets XieJie is the one with most of the tourist traps.

Be warned West Street is unlike anything else you will find in China, having a more commercial South East Asian ambiance whilst on Die Cui Lu you will see cages full of dogs waiting for slaughter that may just upset you enough to put you off your food.

Between the two main streets runs a small inlet down to the Li River and a lot of the prettier, quieter bars and restaurants are situated around it.

Most visitors to Yangshuo arrive via the town’s bus station at the top of the ladder. Situated nearby is the People’s Park, which is a great place to watch the locals playing card, knitting etc.

If you are ever unsure about anything in Yangshuo head to Lisa’s Café and speak to Lisa…what Lisa doesn’t know about Yangshuo isn’t worth knowing.

Daytime Activities

Some people will use Yangshuo only as a base for exploring the locality and rarely be seen in town from one day to the next whilst others arrive in town and only leave West Street when they depart town.

Whichever mind set you possess there is ample to keep you occupied. Par example:

A boat trip up the Li River – don’t leave town without doing this. Take your camera. Go home afterwards and amaze your friends with some of the best photos you have ever taken. Most people take the boat up river and then cycle or bus home.

Rock Climbing – probably the second most popular activity in town. There are over 300 recognised climbs around Yangshuo all rated between 5.6 and 5.13. Yangshuo has 5 climbing shops and Yangshuo climbers even have their own watering hole just off West Street.

Tyre rafting – rent a tyre and float down river.

Canoeing – erm, rent a canoe and canoe up or down the river…maybe both.

Caving – Yangshuo has an extensive network of caves open for exploring. Be warned though some of the guides are amateurish to say the least. Talk to your fellow travellers before making your choice rather than just sign up with the first person that stops you on West Street.

Mud bathing – usually done as part of a caving trip.

Hire a hot air balloon for an hour – quoted prices seem to range from £65/ 700rmb to £100/1300rmb approx per person per hour, but by far the best way to view the region.

Calligraphy – take a Chinese writing class.

Chinese cooking – practice your wok skills at the Yangshuo Cooking School and also at Cloud9.

Acupuncture – get to the point, sharpish.

Foot reflexology – sort your bodies ill humours just by letting someone play with your feet for an hour or so.

Tai Chi – classes are given in The People’s Park each morning at 8AM. Otherwise there are also formal schools providing ‘drop in’ classes.

Volunteering — The Volunteer English Teachers program visits local schools to teach  children English.

Martial arts classes – classes are available in Tai Chi, Kungfu, Tai Kwon Do, and other martial arts at the Budizhen school at the top of West Street for ¥80 a day.

Café culture – gorge yourself silly on the local speciality “beer fish” or just grab a burger. Surf the net or just sit and watch the Chinese tour groups pass by.

Cycling – has to be the number one activity around Yangshuo. Expect to pay approx 20/50rmb for the day – get a map and off you go. Local attractions being: Jianshan Mountain, Moon Hill, Shutong Hill, Yangshuo Park, Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Mountain village. The lazier amongst you can upgrade to a scooter for 120rmb per day.

Shopping – Yangshuo is a copyright pirate’s paradise (like much of China) top up your CD/DVD collection for a tenth of the home price. West Street hosts a lot of interesting shops offering some nice pieces, but be warned – the majority will be counterfeit – don’t pay more than a third of any first price you are offered.

Night time activities

Many of the outlets that operate as cafes during the day become bar/clubs during the night. You might want to bear this in mind when picking your accommodation in the first place.

Other activities include:

Impression Liu Sanjie – is a show, which runs every night in the peak season and runs nightly during the high season. The show is set to music and is based on a film of the same name. The show is a son et lumiere with a cast of hundreds dressed in authentic costume. Like a lot of things in Yangshuo prices vary so be prepared to haggle. Some people do say the cheaper tickets offer a better/more panoramic view.

The night market – up by the bus station the market has lots to see and  any of the wildlife that you might have spotted during the day will make its way onto the menu here. Watch out for pickpockets though.

For something a bit different you can go out with a night fisherman and watch the ancient tradition of cormorant fishing – whereby the birds (with rings around their necks to prevent them from consuming their catch) are trained to dive under the water, catch a fish return to the boat and regurgitate it. Nice.

If West Street at night is a bit too noisy for you head on over to Die Ciu Lu where things are a little quieter.

Where to stay

I’m not going to single out any one particular place because good places go bad and vice versa. If you want someone else’s recommendation then get yourself a copy of the Lonely Planet. But unless you arrive on the busiest day of the year there will be countless accommodation options open to you ranging from budget places directly on West Street to some top end places just outside the town centre. 

For a guide to prices I would say expect to pay :  

Budget : 40 rmb for a room with shared facilities.

Middle :  50/ 120rmb private shower/Western toilet.

 Top  :  150rmb upwards. There are some excellent properties a bike ride from the centre – I’ll let word of mouth point you in the right direction.

NB At the top of West Street is the Paradise Hotel – I am going to do something I have never done and recommend against this hotel as it is exactly this type of mass tourism Yangshuo does not need. Apparently it is rubbish anyway and anything they offer there you can get outside its confines for half the price.

One last thing if you see THE little old lady, buy something and wish her well…you will know her when you see her…and if you tarry outside a café on West Street believe me, you will see her.

Beijing – Olympic City 2008

June 26, 2008


Stuart Bass


Since the time of Deng Xiaoping, the great liberator and champion of an open China policy more and more travellers have been heading East, pulling back the bamboo curtain and taking trips to China. This August with the Olympic games being hosted by China more visitors than ever will be following in the footsteps of Marco Polo.


I made my first visit to China over a decade ago and have been returning with sufficient frequency to make Beijing my second most visited capital outside the UK.


So, with the Olympics looming I thought I should take time out to make known my lists of “ Beijing do’s and don’ts” .


Beijing Do’s (in no particular order of merit)


1) Beihai Park, Dōngchéng District.


Just North of the Forbidden City stands Beihai Park- originally planned in the 10th century it remained part of the Forbidden City until the early part of the 20th century.

An excellent destination to try and escape the Beijing traffic, if not always, the crowds. Half the park is given over to a lake, which houses the famous White Dagoba in it’s centre. The Dagoba dominates the landscape of the park and is supposed to be the site where Marco Polo met the Kublai Khan.


Beihai Park also houses one of only 3 Nine – Dragon screens in China. The Nine-Dragon screen is as its name implies a screen…with nine dragons inscribed on it. You can see another in the Forbidden City but if you come across the third, situated in Datong city, Shaanxi Province, you are either lost or planning on spending a longer visit to China than the duration of the Olympics.


2) Beijing Underground City, Chóngwén District.


One of my favourite destinations in Beijing and one I believe which epitomises China perfectly. A destination I had to have on my list despite the fact that I have never actually been inside. On one of my first tourist visits to Beijing I was desperate to see something off the tourist map and the underground city The underground city fitted the bill perfectly. The City was mainly built in the nineteen seventies to safeguard against the threat of Soviet bombing and it’s passages are said by some to rival The Great Wall in length, Having spent the best part of an afternoon in locating the entrance my guide and I were ecstatic to finally find it – only to be met by three Beijing grandmas ensconced in their knitting. Without dropping a stitch the grandmas informed us that although the underground city was open, every one who paid the admission, currently 20RMB, emerged shortly afterwards non-plussed and demanding their money back. An enquiry as to whether we could peek inside to see whether we thought it was worth the entrance was flatly refused, but a request for a photograph of the three was warmly accepted. My advice is go –apparently these days a 20 minute tour is offered-but only to see if the knitting is finished.


3) Tiananmen Square, Chóngwén District.

Tiananmen Square is another part of the capital, which perfectly epitomises the country as a whole. Tiananmen is a huge open space surrounded on all sides by imposing official buildings. Apart from being a popular gathering place for tourists and kite flyers, it is still often used for any big celebration and for the government leaders to address the people.

Tiananmen SquareIf you can try to get there in time for sunrise as the raising of the flag ceremony is performed. People come from across all of China just to see this get there an hour or so before if you want the best view.

If at all possible, you must check out the square at night as well as during the day. The atmosphere at night is different again and the square is beautifully lit. But don’t arrive too late, at 10.30pm the soldiers come and evacuate the whole thing in minutes and its sealed off for the night.


In between sunrise and sunset at Tiananmen you can explore :


v The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall


v The Forbidden City Front Gate


v Gate of Heavenly Peace


v Monument to the People’s Heroes


Also bordering Tiananmen is the Great Hall Of The People, but to be honest I wouldn’t recommend it. A very ordinary looking building used for conferences – enough said.


4) The Temple of Heaven, Xuanwu District.


Bigger than the Forbidden City but smaller than the Summer Palace. Built in the 15th Century as an altar for Winter Solstice sacrifices to heaven. Today the temple of Heaven is sometimes missed during a frantic visit to Beijing, but those who do miss out. Try to get there early in the day to check out the acoustics prior to the advent of the crowds of day-trippers. At the Three Echo Stones if you speak when standing on the first stone you will hear one echo, standing on the second stone two echoes and third stone …well you can figure out the rest for yourself.


More echo fun can be had at the Echo wall, but to appreciate that you need a friend or fellow traveller to stand at the other end of the wall.


Another attraction of the Temple of Heaven is the Vermillion Steps Bridge, which was believed by past emperors to lead directly into heaven.

5) Forbidden City, Dōngchéng district.

The Forbidden City is a vast complex of halls, temples and housing, which make up the former residence of the ancient emperors. Also known as the Imperial Palace, the complex is said to contain 9,999 rooms. The complex is divided into a northern and southern part. The southern area is where the emperor would hold ceremonies and entertain guests. The northern half was kept completely private residence accessible only to the select circles of the emperor.

If you take the audio guide you might recognise the English speaker’s dulcet tones as none other than Roger Moore, which pleased me greatly as I meandered round this imposing site.

Today, the Forbidden City is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions and lately becoming ever more popular with film crews who pay a hefty price to film Chinese period pieces. Be warned, the Forbidden City might have 9,999 rooms but on a busy day it will seem half of China is attempting to view the one room you wish to see. I first visited on China’s National Day and came away with a lot of photos of the back of people’s heads.

6) Jingshan Park, Dōngchéng District.


Any who has visited Beijing will tell you what a rewarding experience it can be. They will also tell you that the constant hum of man, engine and business can wear down the hardiest of souls. And for that reason another Park makes it onto our list.


Situated just North of the Forbidden City Jingshan Park has an excellent view of the City and Beijing itself. My advice is to take a packed lunch with you to the Forbidden City and then when you are finished there take the short trip up into the Park to recuperate. Just find yourself a bench (the Chinese aren’t great fans of grass dwellers) and enjoy the view ( smog permitting).


7) Confucius and various other Temples, Various Districts.

The Temple of Confucius was where people paid homage to Confucius between the 13th and early 20th Century. Today it is now home to the Beijing Capital Museum. It is the second largest temple in China erected in honour of China’s greatest thinker.

Look out for the Evil touch Cyprus tree in the courtyard – this 700-year-old Cyprus is supposed to have once taken the hat off a treacherous visitor to Confucius – so legend now has it the tree can discern between those of good and evil intent.

For those of you whose appetite isn’t sated by the Confucius Temple there are many more to choose from before Temple fatigue sets in. I have listed some of the more popular ones below. But inspiration comes from within and your favourite might turn out to be one not listed here.


  • The Lama Temple, is the base for the Yellow Sect of Buddhism in Beijing, the head of which is the Dalai Lama. Originally the home of a long forgotten prince and now home to the monks in this working monastery. The Lama Temple also houses what is supposed to be the largest wooden sculpture on Earth, an 18 metre tall Buddha carved from a single Sandalwood tree.


  • The Fayuan Temple, claims to be the oldest Buddhist Temple in Beijing and has some fantastic buildings. Famed for the hundreds of Lilac bushes it had which were unfortunately destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, pleased to say they have now been replaced.


  • The White Pagoda Temple also claims to be the oldest in Beijing and it’s architecture rivals anything The Fayuan Temple has to offer – one of the lesser visited temples in Beijing and because of that one of the more authentic and peaceful.


8) The Terrace Tea House, Dōngchéng District.

What could be more Chinese than taking tea in Beijing. And The Terrace Tea House have been dishing up some of the best for as long as anyone can remember. Situated within a teacup’s throw of the Forbidden City East Gate, the full address is 69 Donghuamen Dajie. Expect to pay £2 to £4 per cup – a small fortune by Chinese standards, but well worth it.


9) The Great Wall, Badaling section.


And in at number 10, it’s the pretender to the throne as strictly speaking it’s not really in Beijing but let’s face it if there was one thing you wanted to see in China then this is it. Great by name and it has to be said Great by nature. For me seeing the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an was a big disappointment but my visit to the Great Wall lived up to all of my expectations.

From Beijing you can get to a few different pieces of the Great Wall within 2 or 3 hours by bus or car and the only negative I can draw against Badaling is that this section does suffer as being the day trippers preferred section of wall.

That said, the wall here is fully restored and you can walk for two hours in one direction before having to turn around – very few people do.

A word of warning though, in August it will be sweltering and the Great Wall is extremely hard work. Some sections have steps and railings, other sections are just gradual steep slopes. My advice pack extremely comfortable shoes, a lot of water, and a light snack and give yourself plenty of time.

For those spending longer in China you might want to try either the Simatai or Xiangshuihu sections for a rougher less manicured section of wall where you can escape the crowds somewhat and enjoy even more fantastic scenery.


10) The Summer Palace, outskirts of Haidian District.

The largest Imperial garden in China, again a short way outside central Beijing, built following the destruction of the old Summer Palace by British and French troops. In 1998 UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace an “outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole.”


Mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, three quarters of the Summer Palace is actually lake. The earth excavated for the lake went to make the hill. The Summer Palace is also home to a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.


Do’s and don’t do’s…


1) Currency . The Chinese currency is the Reminbi, more commonly known as the Yuan. The Yuan is made up of 100 Feng. The system is exactly the same as sterling pounds and pence. Some universal rules apply in China as they would do anywhere:


ü Obtain currency before you go, try to get all of the major denominations and familiarise yourself with them. You won’t be able to obtain Feng but just remember the smaller the note size the lower the value. I have heard reports of people being given Feng change in China when they should be receiving Yuan.


ü Always try to change your currency at a bank rather than your hotel, you will get a far better rate of exchange. If you take traveller’s cheques The Bank of China will probably be the only bank willing to encash them. However, if you wish to withdraw cash from an ATM I have been able to do this at Bank of China and China Agricultural Bank.



Finally be on the look out for counterfeit currency. As a tourist you will be regarded as an easy target for anyone wishing to dispose of funny money. The 100 Yuan note is the most commonly counterfeited.


2) Hotels


Like the majority of countries you will be unable to check into your hotel without a passport. Although you should carry a copy of your passport don’t expect to be able to use the copy at the reception desk.


Avoid any hotel which has a karaoke bar attached – unless you wish to stay awake until the early hours of the morning listening to drunken Chinese murder the hits of the seventies.


3) Road safety.


When crossing the road feel free to use Zebra crossings. Just bear in mind that to many Chinese drivers – cyclists included – they are a decoration rather than a regulation. Crossing the road in China was once explained to me as follows: Never make eye contact with the driver of a vehicle, as soon as you do responsibility for any accident passes from them to you.


If you are a passenger in a taxi the safest seat is always the one directly behind the driver.


4) Racism/ Discrimination.


Being a white male this is something I have never experienced in China however, there are widespread reports of prejudice towards non-Asians and women.


Every traveller in China though, becomes a “Laowai” the second your plane touches down in China. You will rarely hear this in Beijing but the further you are from the capital the greater of occurrence of it’s utterance. Laowai is used in conversation by all Chinese to refer to foreigners. Some travellers find it annoying to hear the words uttered by onlookers wherever they go, however, it is hardly ever said with anything but surprise and curiosity,


Bear in mind though that the old Chinese saying remains as relevant today as it did during the Boxer rebellion “We can always fool the foreigners.” Remember that you are visiting a country where many consider you a big nosed barbarian interloper.


5) Scams


Be careful of the bait and switch, where the item you select is not always the item that ends up in your bag. I have heard tales of this happening with electrical equipment at Beijing airport!

Beware con artists are widespread in China. Ostensibly friendly types invite you for tea, under the pretence of practising their English upon you. Your new found friend will then order food and say they have no money, leaving you to foot the bill. The variation upon the theme of this is that you are taken to a bar where your Chinese friend will order a whisky priced anywhere between 500-3000RMB. All prices are displayed, and the bar will deny all knowledge of your ‘friends’ association with them, they send in the heavies if you refuse.

Don’t take a taxi without the meter running unless the distance is very far and you agree a price in advance. Taxis will wait at train & bus stations and try to take you to a hotel of their own choosing -OR- they will ask you where you want to go then offer you a price without turning on the meter. It will almost always be a higher price than the meter would be. Better to go out to the street and flag a taxi.

Beijing in August you are going to need a lot of water and as in so many other countries the only water you ought to be drinking is of the bottled variety. However, the bottled option is not always legitimate. Some water sellers recycle bottles and caps and refill them with water from non-safe sources. The only way you can check this is by having a careful look at the lid and ensuring the protection circle is still around it and intact. You will see water bottles for sale with straws in them – these should be considered unsafe.

Be alert at all times if changing money on the black market. One trick is for the money-changer to take your money and then say he has made a mistake and wants to recount the money he has just given you. Taking the money back as if to recount it, the last you see of him and your cash is his heels moving at velocity down the road.


6) Prostitution

No matter how many stars your hotel has if you use the sauna/spa you will be offered a massage, however, apparently the Chinese translation of the word massage is “sex for money”.


Also, if you wander off the main thoroughfares in Beijing you may stumble upon some streets with more hairdressers than would seem normal. Furthermore these hairdressers might have more young ladies gathered within than might seem normal in the UK. If this is happens and you enter within expect to be offered more than just a haircut. Whilst there are many perfectly honest barbers plying their trade in Beijing many hairdressers across China are in reality a front for prostitution.


Bear in mind getting too intimate with Chinese residents, especially women, can land you in big trouble with the Public Security Bureau.


7) Theft

Wherever you are you need to keep your bag close! If you have a strap purse make sure it has a long strap to hang across you and keep it to the front. Wallets should be kept in either an inside pocket or a front closable pocket. If you use a backpack you may want to wear it with the bag in the front at times. I have used the sleeper compartments on Chinese trains and on two separate occasions have woken to find razor cuts in my bag allowing thieves access.


8) Pollution


Don’t expect clear blue skies here. Pollution is a serious problem in China and can make travel unpleasant for everyone, but especially if you have allergies, skin conditions, or chest, eye, nose and throat problems. According to the World Bank, China has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. With Beijing being the 28th most polluted city within China.

9) Spitting

Not such a problem in the major cities nowadays but be warned the Chinese believe it is much better to expel than retain the bodily humours. The Chinese also fail to understand why Westerners would wish to retain body fluids, trap them in a handkerchief and carry it around in our pocket.

Spitting should not really affect your trip to China but beware if you sit at an open window on a bus or a train – sometimes things that are blown out are blown back in again.

10) Queues

There is no Chinese word for queueing! Instead when a bus/train arrives it is an oppurtunity for those present to audition for the national Rugby team.


11) General Advice

a) Obtain a free city map from the airport, bus station, or your hotel. If you can’t get a free one, purchase one.


b) Remember that all official documents have to be written in black ink.


c) At the very least you should learn the numbers and carry a phrasebook or electronic translator with you.


d) Don’t walk outside of crowded places by yourself at night. In other words, do not find yourself alone on a dark street.


e) This has not been confirmed to me but there is anecdotal evidence to suggest a scarcity of O group blood for transfusion purposes.

f) Never assume your fellow travellers are as honest as you are.

g) If something of yours is stolen, you should report it immediately to the nearest Foreign Affairs Branch of the PSB. If you have travel insurance (highly recommended), it is essential to obtain a loss report.

h) Carry your own plastic chopsticks and avoid using wooden ones.

i) Take your own toilet paper.

j) If travelling by train, retain your train tickets until you have left the train station – the reason for this will become apparent.

k) Give nothing to child beggars – in doing so you are rewarding parents who keep their children out of school in order for them to beg for them.

l) Don’t visit Beijing in August. A comparison of airfares to land you in Beijing in time for the Olympics gave an average airfare of £802.90. The same search for the day after the Olympic circus leaves town gave a fare of £437.30.

Finally, since this piece was written China has been hit by a natural disaster that comes only once in a generation.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the relief effort can do so via:


The Chinese Embassy in UK has opened a special account for donation for Earthquake in Sichuan province in Bank of China(UK).



The Chinese Embassy In UK
Sichuan Earthquake Donation Account

Beneficiary Name
:The Chinese Embassy In UK
Sichuan Earthquake Donation Account
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3)CASH can be deposited at any branch of Bank of China(UK)Limited
quote a/c no. 10196750