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Posted by: CS
Indoor Entertainments in Shanghai

If your trip to China is going to include a tour of Shanghai (the largest city in both China and the world) then you might want to try some of China’s indoor entertainments. These are great ideas to fill a couple of spare hours on your China vacation or just to get back in touch with home after a particularly long day’s travel round China’s more exotic sights.

Play Indoor Baseball

Yes, as you’ll quickly find out during your China trip, foreign sports are getting more popular in China. If you travel to Changhua Lu and then head up to the second floor you will find Cages. This innocuous looking place is home to some indoor baseball and for a handful of RMB you can spend an enjoyable afternoon either practicing your stroke or playing as a team. It’s a good place to grab a beer too.

Shoot Some Serious Hardware

Given that you won’t see many guns during your China vacation; it might come as surprise that you can squeeze a shooting range into your China tour. The East Shanghai Shooting Club at Hongqiao Lu is the perfect place to blow stuff up, empty magazines into inanimate objects and to test some of the Far East’s more exotic weaponry. It’s not cheap (a single bullet costs $2!) but it is a lot of fun. If your budget won’t stretch to that – there’s also the option of archery which is much cheaper.

Play Golf Inside

Pollution, heat and sheer volumes of people make Shanghai not the best vacation destination in China for golf. However in the Bund Square complex you can find a wonderful indoor golf course (a full 18 holes no less) and it’s fully air-conditioned. As you might expect it’s not the cheapest round you will ever play in your life but it is a lot of fun and more importantly; you will never get rained on.

Jump in a Go-Kart and Go Krazy!

Head to East China Normal University (no we’re not making that name up) and you’ll find a wonderful indoor Go-Karting circuit. It’s very good natured and a great way to socialize with locals in an environment where everyone’s relaxed and laughing. It’s also pretty good value for money and much cheaper than go-karting in many other countries. There’s also a nice bar on the premises where you can grab a beer after the main event.

Hangout with the Locals

Given that space in Shanhai is at something of a premium; not everyone’s home in China is big enough for their friends to hang out in. So if you want to hang out like an ordinary Chinese person you need to travel to Day Day Holiday which is essentially the home people would have if they could only afford the space. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a beer or to play Xbox games or just chat to a stranger. It’s wonderfully decorated and there’s a certain hint of carnivals to be found there too.

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Posted by: CS
Great Markets in Beijing, China

Sure you can shop anywhere on your China vacation and wherever you are on your China tour there's a bargain to be had. But… if you're going to travel to Beijing, China's capital, you'll want to take a trip to some of the best markets in China before you part with your last holiday RMB. Here are some of the best markets in Beijing:

The Furniture Market (Chaoyang)

You wouldn't normally make too much effort to travel to Chaoyang; it might be kindly termed as “industrial China” but this furniture market (on the wonderfully entitled Gaobeidian Folk Culture Street) is full of wondrous wares for house, home and office too. It's also incredibly cheap; if you want to get a new three piece suite made up for home this is the place to do it. Of course you will have to arrange the finished work's trip from China to the United States too but the savings you can make are incredible.

Lai Tai Flower Market (Chaoyang)

And while you're in Chaoyang; why not take a tour of the biggest and best flower market in China? We imagine that enthusiastic amateur botanists would make this place the centrepiece of their China vacation. It is simply the largest collection of flora and fauna for sale in the country. It's worth noting that you cannot take any fauna home and you need to be very careful about the flora that you pack too. It might be best just to look, take photos and enjoy the sights and smells.

The Zoo Market (Xicheng)

You will be relieved to know that no-one will be going home with a Giant Panda in their vacation bags after a visit to The Zoo Market. In fact, there are no animals for sale here at all not even China's less rare species. This place gets its name because it's not very far from Beijing Zoo (and if you're not going to Chengdu on your China trip then you may want to visit the zoo to see their giant pandas). What you will find is women's apparel and lots of it and at incredibly low prices. Sadly, it may not be there for much longer thanks to a ban on markets that is due to be enforced in this part of the city from 2016 onwards. It's a big place so take care not to get lost within its confines.

Muxiyuan Fabric Market (Fengtai)

There's something so decadently wonderful about having clothing and/or bedding made to order. You choose the materials and the designs and the tailors and seamstresses go to work making your dream into a reality. Now, as the tailors are separate from the fabric vendors here – it's a good idea to visit a tailor, discuss what you want, get sized for it and then get their instructions on how much material you need to buy to make your items. It's always a bit disappointing to go back and find that your work trousers are now a pair of shorts… The Fabric Market is one of the best places to buy fabrics in the country.

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Posted by: CS
Cool Art Galleries in Beijing

Want to get the most out of your China vacation? Want to see a little of China that most people never see on their tour? Why not take a trip round some of China’s best art galleries when you reach Beijing. China’s capital is a major travel destination and these galleries let you put the finger on the pulse of China’s current culture:

The Red Brick Contemporary Art Museum (Chaoyang District)

The best spaces for artists to express themselves in are always designed by artists. This is as true in China as it is in the U.S. This funky and hip museum was designed by Dong Yugan who is considered to be one of China’s best artists and architects. You’ll find plenty of traditional cultural and folk arts here interspersed with more modern pieces from students and in vogue artists. If you explore thoroughly you can also catch up contemporary film and performance pieces. We like the fact that it’s set in a beautiful garden so once you’ve finished your tour of the museum take a trip outside and relax.

The Central Academy of Fine Arts (Chaoyang District)

The name makes this sound more formal than it is. This is a collection of some of the finest art across China; it’s true but it’s very accessible too. There’s a lot of space dedicated to contemporary art too and you’ll find some bold and daring material from Chinese artists here. You can easily travel here after you visit the Red Brick Contemporary Art Museum easily and that gives you two museums for the effort of one on your China vacation too.

National Defence Art Zone (Tongzhou District)

This has nothing to do with the military despite the rather martial sounding name. In fact this may be the largest community of artists in China today. Travel the streets and encounter works from over 2,000 artists! It’s all centered on the park but there are galleries, exhibitions, displays, etc. galore. You can’t find a better art space anywhere in China. So don’t miss out.

Feijiacun Artists Village (Chaoyang District)

This is the new-Bohemia of China. It’s where the artists who can’t afford the most established districts have migrated to in order to create their works with more freedom from the commercial rents and constraints of those better established art communities. It’s home to many sculptors in particular who are drawn to the local scrap metal yards for a bounty of cheap materials. It’s perhaps a bit rough and ready for everyone’s vacation but if you’re feeling adventurous you may discover some real gems here.

Fanhall Center (Tongzhou District)

This is all about independent films so please don’t go looking for painters, sculptors, etc. because you won’t find them. It’s a small vibrant cinema which shows the best of Chinese contemporary film (or at least those that passed muster with the censor) and a range of international films at times too. It’s worth noting that each cinema in China can only show 10 foreign language films a year so English screenings are a bit of a rarity.

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Posted by: CS
From Beijing to Tianjin – A Big Day Out

If your China tour is passing through Beijing and you want to explore some of the rest of China on your vacation; you could do much worse than taking a trip to another one of China’s big cities, Tianjin. The good news is that you won’t have far to travel – it takes about 30 minutes on China’s excellent rail network to visit Tianjin from Beijing.

What to See in Tianjin

Tianjin’s a huge city but there are only a few major attractions. This makes a day trip about the perfect way to explore the city. You can see one of China’s biggest cities and still be back in Beijing for bed time without missing much.

Hai He Cultural Square (Heibei District)

This is perhaps the typical “city center” that most of us would expect to find in a long-standing town. There are some nice little cultural exhibitions taking place each day; these usually give an unusual insight into China and are worth taking a break from your tour to watch. You can also pick up the obligatory “I’ve been to Tianjin and all I bought you was this lousy t-shirt” vacation souvenirs here. Tianjin’s one of China’s best university towns – so there are more souvenirs than you might expect from a city with so few attractions.

The Tianjin Eye (Hebei District)

If you want to see one of China’s biggest cities from above why not take a trip on the Tianjin Eye? As with its' namesakes around the world – this is a very big Ferris wheel arrangement. It’s not the cheapest thing to do on your travels (tickets are around 70 RMB or $12) but it’s very nice and of a very high standard for China. Try to go on a day with clear skies or you may not see very much though.

The Shoe Culture Museum (Nankai District)

If you want to find out about the ancient Chinese art of foot-binding during your China vacation; then you will have to visit the Shoe Culture Museum in Tianjin. This cruel way of keeping a woman’s feet small (and thus more “beautiful”) was abandoned in China during the early parts of the 19th century and isn’t much discussed in the country any more. You can also get an interesting look at how footwear in China has evolved over the ages too.

Italian Concession (Hebei District)

If you can’t fit the Bund (the colonial concessions in Shanghai) into your China travels then you might want to visit the Italian Concession. It’s full of beautiful Italian influenced colonial architecture and it attracts far fewer tourists than the Bund does. You can grab a bite to eat, go shopping or even visit a KTV (Karaoke Television – the most popular form of informal entertainment in China and most of the Far East for that matter) here.

Xiakai Church (Heping District)

This beautiful French colonial church was built back at the turn of the 20th century and it’s very much worth visiting. If you want to take mass there – go on Sunday morning when the service is conducted in English.

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Posted by: CS
From Beijing to Tianjin – A Big Day Out

If your China tour is passing through Beijing and you want to explore some of the rest of China on your vacation; you could do much worse than taking a trip to another one of China’s big cities, Tianjin. The good news is that you won’t have far to travel – it takes about 30 minutes on China’s excellent rail network to visit Tianjin from Beijing.

What to See in Tianjin

Tianjin’s a huge city but there are only a few major attractions. This makes a day trip about the perfect way to explore the city. You can see one of China’s biggest cities and still be back in Beijing for bed time without missing much.

Hai He Cultural Square (Heibei District)

This is perhaps the typical “city center” that most of us would expect to find in a long-standing town. There are some nice little cultural exhibitions taking place each day; these usually give an unusual insight into China and are worth taking a break from your tour to watch. You can also pick up the obligatory “I’ve been to Tianjin and all I bought you was this lousy t-shirt” vacation souvenirs here. Tianjin’s one of China’s best university towns – so there are more souvenirs than you might expect from a city with so few attractions.

The Tianjin Eye (Hebei District)

If you want to see one of China’s biggest cities from above why not take a trip on the Tianjin Eye? As with its' namesakes around the world – this is a very big Ferris wheel arrangement. It’s not the cheapest thing to do on your travels (tickets are around 70 RMB or $12) but it’s very nice and of a very high standard for China. Try to go on a day with clear skies or you may not see very much though.

The Shoe Culture Museum (Nankai District)

If you want to find out about the ancient Chinese art of foot-binding during your China vacation; then you will have to visit the Shoe Culture Museum in Tianjin. This cruel way of keeping a woman’s feet small (and thus more “beautiful”) was abandoned in China during the early parts of the 19th century and isn’t much discussed in the country any more. You can also get an interesting look at how footwear in China has evolved over the ages too.

Italian Concession (Hebei District)

If you can’t fit the Bund (the colonial concessions in Shanghai) into your China travels then you might want to visit the Italian Concession. It’s full of beautiful Italian influenced colonial architecture and it attracts far fewer tourists than the Bund does. You can grab a bite to eat, go shopping or even visit a KTV (Karaoke Television – the most popular form of informal entertainment in China and most of the Far East for that matter) here.

Xiakai Church (Heping District)

This beautiful French colonial church was built back at the turn of the 20th century and it’s very much worth visiting. If you want to take mass there – go on Sunday morning when the service is conducted in English.

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Posted by: CS
From Beijing to Tianjin – A Big Day Out

If your China tour is passing through Beijing and you want to explore some of the rest of China on your vacation; you could do much worse than taking a trip to another one of China’s big cities, Tianjin. The good news is that you won’t have far to travel – it takes about 30 minutes on China’s excellent rail network to visit Tianjin from Beijing.

What to See in Tianjin

Tianjin’s a huge city but there are only a few major attractions. This makes a day trip about the perfect way to explore the city. You can see one of China’s biggest cities and still be back in Beijing for bed time without missing much.

Hai He Cultural Square (Heibei District)

This is perhaps the typical “city center” that most of us would expect to find in a long-standing town. There are some nice little cultural exhibitions taking place each day; these usually give an unusual insight into China and are worth taking a break from your tour to watch. You can also pick up the obligatory “I’ve been to Tianjin and all I bought you was this lousy t-shirt” vacation souvenirs here. Tianjin’s one of China’s best university towns – so there are more souvenirs than you might expect from a city with so few attractions.

The Tianjin Eye (Hebei District)

If you want to see one of China’s biggest cities from above why not take a trip on the Tianjin Eye? As with its’ namesakes around the world – this is a very big Ferris wheel arrangement. It’s not the cheapest thing to do on your travels (tickets are around 70 RMB or $12) but it’s very nice and of a very high standard for China. Try to go on a day with clear skies or you may not see very much though.

The Shoe Culture Museum (Nankai District)

If you want to find out about the ancient Chinese art of foot-binding during your China vacation; then you will have to visit the Shoe Culture Museum in Tianjin. This cruel way of keeping a woman’s feet small (and thus more “beautiful”) was abandoned in China during the early parts of the 19th century and isn’t much discussed in the country any more. You can also get an interesting look at how footwear in China has evolved over the ages too.

Italian Concession (Hebei District)

If you can’t fit the Bund (the colonial concessions in Shanghai) into your China travels then you might want to visit the Italian Concession. It’s full of beautiful Italian influenced colonial architecture and it attracts far fewer tourists than the Bund does. You can grab a bite to eat, go shopping or even visit a KTV (Karaoke Television – the most popular form of informal entertainment in China and most of the Far East for that matter) here.

Xiakai Church (Heping District)

This beautiful French colonial church was built back at the turn of the 20th century and it’s very much worth visiting. If you want to take mass there – go on Sunday morning when the service is conducted in English.

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Posted by: CS
What to Do in Chongqing in Fall

Chongqing awaits each and every person on a Yangtze River Cruise. It’s one of those places that you have never heard of before your China trip but will never forget when you return from your China vacation. It’s possibly the future capital of China and there are plenty of reasons to enjoy your tour of the city but here are some good reasons to enjoy Chongqing in the fall if you travel to China then:

Watch the Leaves Fall

Chongqing is technically sub-tropical and it’s not always easy to see the effects of fall on the trees. However, there’s an Expo Garden in town and if you want to see China’s seasonal change in full effect take a trip there. Not only are there some lovely themed gardens to explore but you can also check out the lakes and mountains that make Chongqing such a great China vacation destination.

If you’d prefer to escape the crowds then you can book a tour of the Fairy Mountain out in Wulong County a bit farther from Chongqing. This is beautiful natural China with very few if any international visitors.

Check out the Osmanthus Blooms

Chongqing is home to the largest Osmanthus Festival in China and probably the whole world. These incredible little flowers have the sweetest scent that you’ve ever come across. When they’re in bloom in the fall they turn fields yellow with their presence. There are plenty of places to see the Osmanthus blooms; we’d recommend that if you have time you travel just out of the city to Tonglian where the largest group of blooms is to be found. But you might also head to the Nanshan Botanical Gardens within the city limits if you’re short on time.

Eat Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

You’ll already have tried some of China’s seasonal fruit and vegetables as part of the meals served to you during your Yangtze River Cruise but there’s a whole lot to choose from and the best way to enjoy them is to head to a local market and buy fresh produce and experiment. This is China’s citrus crop season and the pomelos and Mandarin oranges in Chongqing at this time of the year are to die for. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could always take a trip out in the countryside to pick your own – most farms will allow this for a small fee.

Go Shopping

It’s always a good time for shopping in China but you will normally find that Fall collections are on sale throughout Chongqing (if you fancy stocking up) and that Winter collections often have discounts to get the ball rolling too (these are generally last year’s collections but who cares? They are really great value.)

It’s also a great time to enjoy the underground malls and ladies markets as the weather is conducive to leisurely strolls in the open. Prices will usually start a bit lower in Fall and vendors are still happy to haggle over any item.

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Posted by: CS
Going Shopping in Chengdu, Sichuan

If you're taking a Yangtze River Cruise then it's likely that your China tour will be visiting the wonderful city of Chengdu. It's the only place on your China vacation where you can see a panda in the wild and it's one of the best China travel destinations. If you'd like to squeeze some shopping into your visit to Chengdu then there are several great options awaiting you:

Song Xian Qiao (Du Fu Thatched Cottage)

The Song Xian Qiao is one of those charming outdoor markets that you hope to see on a trip to China. It's here that you can stroll down the backstreets of China and find classic China souvenirs. From antiques (be careful – you need to know what you're buying, if you're thinking of making a major investment – there are often fakes to be found and you don't want to come back from your vacation with a counterfeit) to classic Mao-era products and with a range of eclectic oddities such as China currency through the ages, etc. thrown into the mix too.

The Loft

If you're thinking about doing some hiking on your trip or you're finding it cold on your travels then you might want to visit the area near the Loft which specializes in outdoor wear. Be warned that you may struggle to find anything of use if you are too much larger than the average Chinese person and it may be impossible to find footwear of any kind over a US size 11 for a man or a US size 9 for a woman.

Cultural Street

If you can't fit Tibet into your tour itinerary it doesn't mean you can't take home something from the autonomous region of China either. Cultural Street specializes in Tibetan goods and the products here are absolutely genuine. Sichuan province (where Chengdu is located) borders on Tibet and they trade heavily with each other. This is a pretty good cause to support as Tibetans do struggle to keep up with the rest of China in terms of income and productivity.

Chun Xi Road

If you've had a hard day's travel but you still want to go out shopping in China; then you might just want to head straight to Chun Xi Road. This is a charming and very Chinese area which offers a huge diversity of shopping experiences. There are major brand names such as Armani and Versace to local outlets for a thousand Chinese brands that you haven't heard of before.

Clothing, accessories, and many pirate DVD and CD vendors (please note you can get in trouble with customs back home if you try to smuggle these into the US). There are also dozens of local restaurants in the area and Sichuan may be the best place to eat out in all of China. Try some of the street stalls (look for ones that are popular with locals) for cheap and tasty snacks or grab a seat at any restaurant and sample the menu.

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Posted by: CS
Awesome Shopping Experiences in Macau

A short trip from the South Coast of Mainland China you will find the special administrative region of Macau. Macau’s a popular China vacation destination for its UNESCO world heritage sites and of course many people travel to Macau from China for its’ luxury casinos. What you might not realize when you book your China tour is that Macau has “duty free” status in most of its stores and that means you can pick up some serious shopping bargains there too.

Senado Square

This area is very popular with Mainland Chinese who make the trip to buy quality fashion brands at very reasonable prices. There’s much less fake product than you will encounter on travel elsewhere in China and that gives shoppers confidence that their purchases will last longer than their China vacation. The really big names like Chanel and Gucci are conspicuously absent but if you’re looking for nice clothes and accessories this a great place to go during your China tour.

Rua da Palha

If it’s not clothing that you want to take back from China but something a little different then the Rua de Palha may be the right option for you. There are some stunning glassware stores in the area as well as some local artists’ stores. This is all about elegant creations with very much China motifs. Look out particularly for water lilies which are the flower of Macau and a very popular choice to take home as souvenirs.

Red Market

A China vacation should always include somewhere to stop for great food and this market lets you try all the local fruits and vegetables cheaply. Look out for the early 20th century Portuguese buildings which give the market its name. Then once you have eaten your fill – head out towards the floral gardens at Guia Hill Not only are there some nice flowers to be seen but you can also pick up some good quality electronics at very reasonable prices here.

Rua de Sao Paulo

This is one of the most popular places to shop in Macau. This probably has to do with its being right next to the China vacation hot spot of the Ruins of St. Paul’s. It’s a good area to pick up quality antiques from the mainland and from Macau. Paintings, pottery, furniture, etc. can all be found here. If you search a little you can also get reproduction furniture in Rosewood from some of China’s most famous furniture makers.

New Yaohan

New Yaohan’s probably more worth the trip if you’re going to catch the ferry to Hong Kong but it offers one of the largest electronic offerings in the whole of Macau. Be careful though; bargains are unlikely to be fake but they may be repaired second hand offerings. You should always have an idea of a duty-free price of any expensive electronic items you buy in China and walk away if the price seems too good to be true – it almost always will be.

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Posted by: CS
Serious Shopping in Shanghai

If you’re going to be taking in Shanghai on your tour of China; it might be the best place to do a little shopping. If you haven’t heard there are more malls being built in Shanghai than anywhere else in the world. However, if your China travel is going to take place before they’ve built the new malls – don’t worry you can still do plenty of shopping on your China vacation. With that in mind we’ve put together a quick guide of the best malls in Shanghai to visit on your China trip today:

Super Brand Mall (Pudong)

This is one of China’s oldest shopping malls but don’t let that put you off making the trip. This is one of the most popular malls in China and there’s plenty there to be found to help you part with your vacation budget. Super Brand Mall is spaced over a ridiculous 13 floors so be prepared to travel to find the perfect China souvenir within its walls. It’s estimated that more than a million people visit the mall every single day – so you will be in good company.

Grand Gateway (Xujiahui)

If you want an authentic China shopping experience on your tour there are few places as “local” as the Grand Gateway. You’ll need to take a trip on the subway on Line 9 to get there but it should be worth it. The mall is definitely prettier in the evening when it’s lit up and looks less functional and more fun. There are literally hundreds of stores within the mall and you’re going to need a lot of patience to see them all. You’ll find the best bargains here but be patient – English language skills are a little thin on the ground – you can use your mobile phone to haggle, just type in what you would expect to pay and let the vendor do the same.

Mei Long Zhen Isetan (West Nanjing Road Area)

Not entirely a mall but not far off either. This place is controlled by the Japanese brand Isetan who are simply huge in Asia and this is one of their flagship locations. You can travel here to find high quality goods in China at sensible prices. The service is also appreciably better than in many of the malls you may encounter on your China tour. The limiting factor is that everything carries the Isetan brand and if that matters to you – you might want to go elsewhere.

Times Square (Huahai Road Area)

This is a luxury mall with the expected lashings of international brands. It’s worth noting that you don’t haggle unless you’re buying large volumes of goods and that prices may be higher than they are in the United States even though many of the goods here are manufactured in China. China’s emerging elite class has plenty of money and is quite happy to pay any price for prestige products that bring a lot of “face”. You go to Times Square for the range and selection not to save money.

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Posted by: CS
Great Works of Chinese Fiction

It's said that if you want to know China then you have to do more than vacation there. You need to read about China and experience the lives of Chinese people as part of your travel experience. You can take a virtual tour of China and the contents of people's lives by taking a trip through the best of China's fiction. Like these wonderful works:

Soul Mountain (Gao Xingjian)

It's not just foreigners who like to travel in China; this account of a fictional trip down the Yangtze is as far away from a Yangtze River Cruise as you can get. It's really a tale of loneliness in China and how people can't really express this in any meaningful way. It is considered to be one of the most powerful pieces of literature from China ever to have been written and it brought the author the Nobel Prize in the year 2,000. You won't be able to buy this book on your vacation – Gao's work is not available for sale on the mainland.

The Plum in the Golden Vase

What better way to get to know a nation than to take a trip inside its bedrooms at night? This novel was once outlawed in China for being pornographic but in the 400 years since its publication it has become rather less controversial. It depicts the interactions between nobles and their concubines and while it was exceedingly racy for its time; this is a great insight into the ancient China. You can travel back in time and appreciate a completely different nation to the one before you today and yet, if you look closely you can still see hints of that ancient past everywhere you look and everywhere you go. China is bound in tradition as well as modernity.

The Real Story of Ah Q (Lu Xun)

The Cultural Revolution in China for most of us is the one that led to the rise of the current communist system but there have been other less significant revolutions before that too. This story tells the tale of a cultural revolution back at the turn of the century; it's a mildly humorous tale of incompetence, treachery and the pompous self-regard in which some men hold themselves even when all the evidence to the contrary is staring them in the face. It may be the most enjoyable piece of modern literature to emerge from China.

Big Breasts and Wide Hips (Mo Yan)

This one may sound like pornography but it most definitely is not. It's a wild and eclectic tale of the China of the last 100 years. It's told through the eyes of a single Chinese man who withstands all the challenges that China throws at him and then sees the nation emerge into a new stronger and capitalist state in the 90s. It's a thrilling story which touches on the harsh realities of China as well as the culture and mindset of the nation. Very much worth a read on your vacation.

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Posted by: CS
Grabbing a Burger in Shanghai

We know that while you’re on your China vacation you’ll want to take a tour of China’s culinary scene too. In fact it’s a major incentive to travel to China; the chance to try Chinese food. However, we also know that sometimes on your China trip – you’ll want a taste of home too. Here’s a quick guide to the best burger places in Shanghai so if you want to eat American-style, you can:

Homies (Changle Lu)

Homies is a touch in the basic side but the burgers are pretty good. You won’t want to spend the whole of your China tour eating here but it may be the perfect pit stop when moving from one China vacation hotspot to another. The burger is served relatively plainly and you’ll need to add cheese, bacon, etc. to get the perfect choice for you.

West Chophouse (Jingan Shangri-La Hotel)

From one extreme to another; it’s worth making a trip half-way across China just to get at the Wagyu beef burger sold in the West Chophouse. As you might expect this isn’t a budget travel dining option and this burger will set you back over $20 but it’s worth it. This is high quality imported beef dancing with incredible cheese and luxury bacon. It may be the best burger in China for our money.

Dakota (Donghu Lu)

This is a nice little backwater burger joint and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals and expats alike if you decide to visit Dakota. It’s a good quality burger with rather excellent caramelized onions (something that many other burger places in Shanghai seem to struggle with) and they serve the meat medium-rare which is very, very unusual in China. Don’t expect a fancy dining room but this is a decent burger that won’t leave you hungry or disappointed.

Piro (Changshu Lu)

This burger is popular with Time Out magazine and we can see why; it’s an American-style sports bar setting that prides itself on authenticity. The burger’s a slightly strange affair in that it’s served in split buns but the Australian beef is top quality and the burger always comes with all the trimmings.

There’s supposed to be a special happy hour offer on Monday too when the burger comes with a free pint of Belgian lager (which can’t be bad and saves you a decent amount of money on a pint).

The Cove (Xikang Lu)

This is a great place to go on your China vacation; we’d recommend taking some time out of your tour and relaxing with China’s most laid back burger venue. Stylish and sleek interiors don’t stop them from delivering something special. The burger gets a touch of teriyaki and a hint of pepper to add a local identity to an American classic. The burger, in our experience, is one of the most tender and tasty in town. They also appreciate the need for good cheese and that means no mucking around with side orders and the like.

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Posted by: CS
Lovely Terrace Bars in Shanghai

Travel in China can be a little hectic and it’s nice to take some time on a China vacation to relax with a drink and watch the world go by. Knowing where to go during your China tour can make all the difference and we’ve got some great little terrace bars to recommend for your China trip:

Azzurra (Fenyang Lu)

This is a very busy part of Shanghai and yet if you make a trip to this little side street terrace; you’ll suddenly feel like you’re in another part of China altogether. This building was once “The Dragon Club” but today it’s all about great pizza and fantastic wine. Italian food is slowly taking off in China (despite their similarities noodles and pasta are not the same thing) and this is a great place to sample some of the best Italian food during your China vacation.

Fenyang Garden Hotel (Fenyang Lu)

Only a short walk from Azzurra but a world apart. If you want to see the more reserved side of China during your tour; this is a great place to travel to. This is China’s upmarket terrace culture and despite the incredibly hectic locale – there is peace and solitude within. It comes at a price but one worth paying for this lovely, nearly private terrace that no-one else seems to have discovered yet.

Bubbles (Fenyang Lu)

This place is fantastic. It’s a Spanish oasis in this part of town and we absolutely love it. You won’t find anywhere easier to just sit and chill in Shanghai and that’s no bad thing. You can get a very reasonable bottle of wine for a fair price and then kick back and let the world go by. After a day’s tour of China’s biggest city; you’ll be ready for the feel of the cool air rushing over you and the atmosphere of relaxing locals and expats unwinding after a day in the city that never sleeps.

Lotus Eatery (Dingxi Lu)

This second floor terrace gives you a great view of the busy Shanghai streets below. It’s famous for its excellent Yunnan cuisine and rather miraculously despite the location; it’s not in the remotest bit pricey. If you want to grab a nice lunch and a few reasonably priced Chinese beers then you might want to put Lotus Eatery on top of your agenda for a day.

How Lounge (Huating Lu)

This is the techno-savvy travellers dream. If you want somewhere to plug in your laptop and watch the world go by during your China vacation; there are few better places to do just that than the How Lounge. During the day you can grab a coffee and a bite to eat. At night, you might want to put away the laptop and chat with the young bright folks that this place attracts. There’s not much of a wine list but the prices are fair and this is one of the most serene spots in Shanghai. Check it out if you get the chance.

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Posted by: CS
Fun Things to Do In Hong Kong

Travel to Hong Kong as part of your China vacation and you'll feel like you're in a different world. Hong Kong's a very popular China tour destination because it offers a unique insight into this former British colony which is now very much a part of mainland China. If you do decide to make the trip to Hong Kong from China – here are some fun things to do when you get there:

The Star Ferry

A tour of Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry is one of the cheapest trips you can make in China. It's also one of the best views in China as Hong Kong's incredible sky-scraping skyline is all available from here.

Happy Valley Races (Wednesday)

A China vacation shouldn't be about gambling but this incredible Hong Kong institution embodies the life and vibrancy of the Hong Kong horse racing scene. It's an unmissable night out; just keep your stakes small and your China travel experience will be enhanced by your visit.

Ride an Escalator

This might sound rubbish at first glance but the mid-levels system is the world's largest outdoor escalator system. It also has quite a few bars running alongside it to help encourage you to make the trip.

Festival Walk

China's shopping may be cheap but Hong Kong's is the best in the world. If you want to shop until you drop this wonderful mall which offers great views over its surroundings is just about the perfect place to do it.

The Ladies Market

Ignore the name, gentleman are perfectly welcome to take a tour of the market too, this is where China's fake and counterfeit skills come alive in Hong Kong. There's plenty of legitimate products to choose from too but be amazed at the sales skills and sheer performance of this incredible market.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Hong Kong is one of the most crowded places on earth and that means real estate is amongst the most expensive on earth. Most Hong Kong folk (Honkies as they call themselves) simply don't have room for a pet cat or a pet dog but they do keep pet birds. Head to Yuen Po Street anytime between 7 in the morning and 8 at night and watch the Honkies take their birds for a stroll.

Chungking Mansions

If you'd like a break from Chinese food; then you might want to try the most authentic Indian food in China. Chungking Mansions is the world's most ethnically diverse block and while you want to avoid changing money or buying a fake mobile phone here – you really should hit the curry houses; they're spectacular and incredibly good value.

Drink in the Ozone Bar

This is supposed to be the highest-elevated bar in the world. It's not cheap but the drinks are simply sublime. You can get whatever you want made exactly the way you want it. Once you've ordered you can soak up the view of the city from the 118th floor of the ICC building.

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Posted by: CS
Things to Do as a Family in Chongqing

A Yangtze River Cruise is part of many people’s dream China vacation. As your boat tour wends its way through the heart of China eventually it will reach the city of Chongqing. Chongqing’s one of the biggest cities you will see on a China trip and yet most of the people who travel there won’t have heard of it until they reach China. It’s a wonderful place to visit and there are many family friendly activities to do there:

Tour the Jialing River

If you’ve not had your fill of water life on your Yangtze River Cruise then why not take a day trip on to one of China’s lesser known rivers – the Jialing? There’s not as much drama as there is on the Yangtze but that makes it easier to spend time relaxing as a family and enjoying scenes of rural China and the contrast with the sprawling dynamic megacity of Chongqing. That’s the joy of this kind of travel; it frees you up to be together and laugh as a family. That can often be hard to do within the hectic pace of life back home.

Walk through Jin Gang Bei

Chongqing’s an industrial behemoth; it’s the center of the world’s biggest factory and that means that some of the city isn’t so pretty to look at. Jin Gang Bei, on the other hand, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s home to the best preserved ancient architecture in Chongqing; it’s one of those unique China experiences that the best vacations are made of. You can wonder the cobbled lanes and explore perfectly safely.

Eat Together

One thing you may have learned on your Yangtze River Cruise is that Sichuan (the province in which Chongqing resides) is the culinary heartland of China. When your tour arrives in the city it’s time to go and explore that cooking together as a family. All of China’s restaurants are family friendly – children are welcome everywhere (though be aware that this may result in delighted locals touching your children’s hair, faces or even prodding them – this isn’t rude or disrespectful but rather a culturally normal display of fascination and care). From spicy spare ribs to the local hot pot – there’s something on the menu for everyone.

Go Hiking in the Mountains

The Jinyun Mountains just outside of Chongqing are a natural treasure. They’re a state protected wildlife preserve and there are 9 different peaks to climb. (You probably won’t have time to climb them all on a single visit). You’ll find charming temples dotting the landscape everywhere and the Giant Buddha figure that smiles down impressively on his devoted subjects. Then there’s the plant and animal life to discover.

Visit Lao She’s Home

Lao She is one China’s most famous novelists. If you’re looking for a quick fix of family fun – this is a lovely residence to explore. The children can play in the grounds while the adults catch up with the life story of this important cultural figure.

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Posted by: CS
Family Friendly Fun in Chengdu

Chengdu's a popular vacation destination in China. It's often included as part of a Yangtze River Cruise on a larger China tour. It can often appear that travel in China, at first glance at least, is not that family friendly. Whereas there are lots of places you might visit during your China trip that welcome families – here are some you might want to consider in Chengdu:

Polar Ocean World

If your kids enjoyed the Yangtze River Cruise; they will absolutely love Polar Ocean World. It may be the best marine themed park in China. Unlike many of China's zoos and aquariums this one is very much up to Western vacation standards so don't worry about making a trip here – it's a lot of fun. There are sea lions, giant turtles, and many other attractions. We particularly like the artificial beach they built for the penguins.

Huanglonxi

The ancient town of Huanlongxi is about 40 minutes travel in a taxi. This is one of the nicer ancient towns in China and not too touristy. It's the perfect place to go for a stroll as a family. We'd recommend heading down to the river if it's getting a bit hot and then taking a very slow boat trip in the breeze. You'll find plenty of alley ways and courtyards to explore in the town, there are a lot of traditional craftspeople making and selling their wares and the markets are stuffed to the brim with bargains. It's a good place to pick up souvenirs from your China tour.

Happy Valley

Happy Valley is China's most famous theme park. Compared to Disney or the offerings in Orlando, Florida – this is all quite tame. That makes it the kind of place that a family can enjoy a day out together; there are no ridiculous roller coasters or scares to face. It's just good clean fun. It's also one of the places where the food is recognizably Western inspired and if your kids are getting tired of Chinese chow this might be a great place for them to get back in touch with their culinary roots for an afternoon.

Chengdu's Panda Research Center

Let's be fair about this; the main attraction for families in Chengdu is China's most famous animal and best loved symbol around the globe – the giant panda. You cannot visit Chengdu and not spend some time at the Panda Research Center. It would be like visiting New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty.

The Panda Research Center is fantastic too. Not only do they have an intensive panda care and breeding program which means you can meet some pandas very close up (though please don't get too close – they are bears and we don't want anyone to get bitten). You can also get to grips with many of Sichuan's other native wildlife (including the very shy but equally cute red panda). Your family will never forget a day out at the Chengdu Panda Research Center.

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Posted by: CS
Family Friendly Destinations in Hong Kong

If your children have been accompanying you on a tour of Mainland China then you may want to give them a bit of treat when you take a side trip into Hong Kong. This special administrative region of China is much more "Western" in its appeal to visitors than some of the rest of China and that means there are theme parks and other attractions you won't find elsewhere on a China vacation. This is China's most child friendly travel destination. Keep your eyes peeled for:

Discovery Land (Lantau)

This is billed as an "indoor family entertainment center" which seems to cover a multitude of options. You can take a trip on a slide, grab a water pistol and soak everyone in range or check out any of the other rides, courses, etc. This is Hong Kong and you can be certain that this is a safe destination for you and your family's vacation in China too.

Ocean Park (Ocean Park Road)

Ocean Park is Hong Kong's biggest theme park and many people travel from Mainland China and farther afield to experience it. There's no doubt that it's the highlight of a China tour for many adults and children. There's a great new reason to take a trip to Ocean Park this year – they've just opened their "Shark Mystique" experience. That's an open aquarium where you can get right up and close to a lot of sharks. It's China's most thrilling underwater experience!

Ryze (Trampoline Park)

Trampolining is one of the best exercise routines you can try. It's very much a full body workout with plenty of cardio thrown in. Better still it's a lot of fun and there a very few places you can travel to in China with over 8,000 square feet of trampolines available. Ryze Trampoline Park is perhaps the only one of its kind. There's more to do besides Trampolining too – such as learn to parkour...

Elephant Parade (August and September Only)

Throughout the months of August and September; Hong Kong comes alive with elephants. These are moving exhibitions that are designed to raise public awareness of elephant conservation. However, they are also extremely attractive and a whole lot of fun for kids (and adults too). They are scattered all over the island and you should be able to find a venue that fits in with the rest of your China tour itinerary.

Zuma Restaurant (The Landmark, Central)

Once you've been to look at the family side of Hong Kong – you'll want a family meal. Zuma's a great choice because it offers both free food and loads of toys and coloring books to kids under 10 – at the same time; there's no compromise on the adult's food and you can get the kind of meal you want even if your children want to indulge their inner-junk-food demons for the afternoon. We like the sushi which is great value and incredibly well-prepared. The Landmark also offers some pleasant views of the neighborhood.

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Posted by: CS
Up Coming Festivals in Hong Kong

Many people choose a side trip to Hong Kong when they take a vacation in Mainland China. This is a great way of getting more out of your China tour package and can enhance a China travel experience considerably. Hong Kong’s a special administrative region of China today and as you can see during a visit to the former British colony – it retains its own unique identity. There are some interesting festivals celebrated in Hong Kong throughout the year and if you’re luck you might be able to catch one of these:

Wong Tai Sin

Wong Tai Sin, is held in September each year, on the 23rd day of the 9th lunar month. It is held in the very popular Wong Tai Sin Temple complex which is probably going to be on your Hong Kong tour itinerary as it’s one of the most popular temples in this part of China. The festival offers worshippers a chance to invest in spiritual guidance for good luck throughout the year.

Che Kung Festival

This one takes place in February at the Che Kung Temple. Che Kung was a former military leader in imperial China and was respected for both his martial skills and incredible good luck. This vacation day celebrates that luck and aims to instil some of it in worshippers. That’s why gamblers travel from all over China to take part – they think it will help before they move on to a trip to Macau (China’s other special administrative region).

Kwun Yum Treasury Festival

In March, the ancient Goddess of Kwun Yum’s temples come alive with a celebration of a deity who precedes Buddhism, Taoism, etc. by centuries but has nonetheless become enmeshed with their practice in China. It might be nice to take a little time out of your trip to take part in this festival – all donations raised by the temples are used to help impoverished children throughout China.

Tam Kung Festival

This one is held in May and is a tribute to the gods of the sea. You’ll need to take a tour of Shau Kei Wan and stop at the Tam Kung temple to get the most out of this. There’s much jollity with spectacular performances from local Wu Shu (Kung Fu) practitioners and some incredible lion dancing. Prayers are offered to keep the seas under control for the coming year and to protect the safety of local fishermen.

Tai Wong Yeh Festival

June is the time for the Tai Wong Yeh Festival. It’s an odd festival because no-one can agree on just what Tai Wong Yeh stood for and thus most visitors are in attendance for different reasons. It’s probably a festival that would have fallen out of favour at some point down the years apart from one thing – it’s held the day before the dragon boat races begin in Hong Kong. That major celebratory point of the Hong Kong year appears to have lent its life blood to the Tai Wong Yeh festival.

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Posted by: CS
Bargain Breakfast Locations in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a great side trip on your China vacation. This former English colony is now a formal part of Mainland China but still feels very much separate to it. Take a tour of China’s special administrative zone and you’ll soon find out why. One key differential is that Hong Kong is a lot more expensive than China in the main. However, if you travel carefully there are still plenty of bargains to be had in Hong Kong – like these great breakfast locations:

Urban Bakery (Langham Place, Mong Kok)

There are plenty of different branches of Urban Bakery if you can’t find the Mong Kok location. This is where you come to get away from the somewhat unusual breakfasts of Mainland China for something a touch more familiar on your vacation. Think great pastries and decent coffee and you’ll be ready to take a trip to the Urban Bakery. They have the best croissants in China.

Hokkaido Dairy Farm (Citylink Plaza, Sha Tin)

A tour of the enormous shopping complex at Sha Tin; yields this surprisingly good breakfast option. There are several Mainland China favorites on the menu but we’d recommend sticking with the somewhat more familiar option of a Scrambled Egg Sandwich. Very cheap, very filling and the location means that when you’re ready to travel on to somewhere else in Hong Kong – the MTR is immediately on hand too.

Toast Box (Tong Yin Street, Tseung Kwan O)

This is another chain though not quite as prevalent as Urban Bakery. Toast Box reflects the breakfast culture of another “China but not quite China” location – Singapore. If you want something sickly sweet to start the day on then the Kaya Toast is about perfect. Coconut, sugar, eggs, and more coconut offers an unusual taste sensation.

Superior Steamed Rice Roll Pro Shop (Portland Street, Prince Edward)

The name is an English translation of the original Chinese and thus sounds a little more boastful than it’s meant. If you’ve missed Mainland Chinese breakfasts on your side trip of Hong Kong then you can make up for it here. This is where the Chinese steamed bun (rice roll) is taken to a whole new level. We particularly like the BBQ pork variant but there are dozens to choose from.

Sing Heung Yuen (Mei Lun Street, Central)

If you were hoping to get something that says “authentic Hong Kong” for breakfast during your China vacation – then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Sing Heung Yuen. This is where you can grab a “crispy lemon bun” which is what the locals will be chowing down on around the city before the morning commute.

Yo Bago (Pan Hoi Street, Quarry Bay)

OK, this isn’t the most authentic of breakfasts (unless you’re Canadian) but the bagels at Yo Bago are extremely good. The best breakfast of them all includes bacon, eggs, cheese, ham, etc. and you can have all of these ingredients in one very tasty bagel. Perfect preparation for a hard day’s tour of the sights of Hong Kong.

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Posted by: CS
Beidaihe, Grab a Day at the Beach in Beijing!

China's not famous for its beaches and they don't tend to be the reason that most people vacation in the country. However, if you'd like a little break from the frenetic pace of a China tour and you fancy a little trip outside of Beijing, China's capital city. You could do worse than travel to Beidaihe which is a popular local tourist paradise in China.

How to Get There

Take a trip on China's excellent public rail network. It's only about an hour on the train and the ticket won't set you back much more than $10. Travel in style in first class or do what the expats in the know in China do and grab a chair in the very comfortable buffet compartments and just buy a drink to get the same facilities. When you get there; travel by taxi to the Tiger Rock Park which is the best place to get access to the beach.

When To Go

You should be aware that Beidaihe's no fun during the winter; it's too far North to be warm enough. It's best to go late-spring, all the way through summer or in the early-autumn.

What to Do

Rent a bike and conduct a little tour of the area China-style. You can pick up a bike for $1-$2 a day when you arrive at Tiger Rock Park. It's a good way of keeping up your fitness during your China vacation too. Don't forget to lock up the bike if you do decide to explore anywhere inaccessible; bike thieves are not uncommon sadly.

Travel West and down the Xihatian Lu which is a lovely tree-shaded street. If you've brought some binoculars with you on your China tour; this is a great place to use them as it's right on the migration flight paths for dozens of exotic birds.

Then make a trip to the Liangeng Mountain Park. It's not much of a climb but it offers spectacular views over the sea and the local area. It's one of the best coastal scenic spots in China; so take some time to savor it.

Then when you're ready; head down to the sandy beach which is often packed with visiting Russians (Russia lies to the North of China and Russians make up a large part of the tourist trade in Northern China). Enjoy the surf lapping at your feet and enjoy the spectacle of other tourists.

Then wrap up with a meal at one of the many beachfront restaurants; as you might expect all the seafood is incredibly fresh usually from that morning's catch and very good value for money. Do watch out for bones as fish is rarely (if ever) served deboned in China.

If you have any children with you; you might want to consider a trip to the Golden Bay Sand Sculpture World too. it's a fairly typical water park but with the joys of dozens of intricate Chinese sand sculptures dotted around the place too.

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Posted by: CS
Dashilar Hutong – Beijing

If you've booked a China tour that's passing through Beijing; you're going to be very excited about taking a trip round the Hutongs. They're the ancient pathways of pre-industrial China and sadly, they're very much under threat by the modernization of China. There are still several interesting hutongs you can see on your China vacation and one you might want to travel to is Dashilar Hutong; here's why:

The Spoonful of Sugar Cafe

Cafés are a bit of a rarity in China. At least cafes like the ones you get back home are. The Spoonful of Sugar is an awesome place to take a break from your China tour because it's got a great Chinese twist to the café concept but retains all the comforts you'd expect. You won't break your budget on a trip to this café as in general nothing costs much more than a few RMB. Do take a trip up to the roof to enjoy the rooftop herb garden (all of which are used to make the goodies served below). The coffee is also pretty darned good and that's very, very rare in much of China.

Rongdexuan

If you want an awesome souvenir from your China vacation; look no further than this wonderful Chinese specialty store. It's an eclectic mix of Chinese kitsch through the ages. It's like time travel without having to leave the present. We wouldn't want to own everything here but some of the stuff is so fantastic we couldn't imagine leaving without buying something.

The Ubi Gallery

China has a thriving modern art scene which is often lost in the huge volumes of “copy shops” particularly in more commercial art areas. Ubi Gallery, is a wonderful collection of the best of China's current offerings. It's not cheap so if you're concerned about your budget you might not want to spend too much time out of your China tour here. However, it is always interesting and as this Hutong is still “up and coming” – most of the time you can have the gallery to yourself. Please don't take photographs inside.

Twelve Moons

If you want to get creative in China; you might want to do some drawing or writing. There's nothing quite like an artisan book to get the creative juices flowing and that's what Twelve Moons specializes in. We like it because they've got a whole bunch of designs that you'd be proud to carry under your arm in public; which is often not the case in many Chinese stationery stores where the emphasis can be on “nauseatingly cutesy” instead.

Suzuki Kitchen

If you want a break from Chinese food; then this little Japanese place (which is part of a larger chain) is quite excellent and the food is very good value for money. There are a lot of rabbit shaped decorations there and we've never been able to work out why – but that really doesn't matter. Grab a Japanese curry and a steaming plate of rice and chill out for a bit.

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