Travel

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Travel, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai Blogs

Rural Tangkou Community Project – A Kiwi Trip to the Country

by Kim Whitwell
For the first weekend in December, 19 InternChina staff and interns travelled overland to the rural area of Kaiping, China to experience the rural offerings of historic diaolou country.

tangkou trip

Setting off from Zhuhai, we all made our introductions and settled into getting to know each other. It was the first group trip the PMSA Kiwi students were involved in since landing a week earlier, so friendships were formed pretty early on.

Tangkou Community Project

Met by our tour guide Peter, and newly opened hostel owner Rocky in Tangkou, the group arrived just in time for a cooked lunch made with local produce from the area. Bellies full, and smiles on our faces for the blue skies and green scenery Kaiping was providing for us, we jumped on our bikes and followed Peter for the first of our diaolou tours.

hostel stay

Diaolous are fortified watchtowers built by the overseas Chinese in order to protect their rural home towns. To ensure their families were safe during mass emigration in the 20th century, overseas Chinese sent money back from afar to build them.

Displayed to the public, the presence of dialous are a marker of Chinese history and heritage. It reflects the rich culture and influences from both immigration (styles of décor in the diaolous show western influence) and emigration.

dialou

We wove in and out of rice fields all at the many different stages of cropping. Peter provided the knowledge and the various rural communities provided the photo opportunities. We all soaked in the authentic appearance and operations of the locals who went about their daily business with little more than a “ni hao!” in response to ours. We saw drying bok choy, rice husking, traditional instrument playing and oxen all within an hour.

On return to the hostel, we settled into the night on the roof top area watching the last of the sunlight fade. The hostel kitchen provided another extremely delicious meal, which some interns helped prepare. After, Peter captivated us with more of his extensive and passionate knowledge of diaolou country.

More chat, more beers and more laughter followed well into the night with a great time had by all . The immaculate hostel providing the most comfortable place to lay our heads for the night.

Day Two

Day two arose with breakfast (a personal highlight) of both Chinese and Western cuisine (peanut butter on toast)! Then onto the bus we hopped to travel to some unique UNESCO sites in the local areas.

Bamboo forests and a local wedding greeted us at our first stop. Peter continued his extensive commentary on the history and significance of diaolous, mansions and operations in the local villages. Stop number two provided the Instagram opportunities! Lunch back at the hostel concluded our weekend in Kaiping. Bellies full once more, smiles a plenty and memories made, we filed back onto the bus and travelled a fairly sleepy and quiet journey home.

The Area

Kaiping is an authentic display of Chinese rural life that draws you into a time machine back 30 years. The attractions aren’t crowded or over commercialised so the experiences you have are very much genuine. Peter’s knowledge of the area and history behind it was captivating. He helped bring to life a part of the world not well known or considered in the tourism industry. Rocky has created an accommodation space that also feels genuine and homely. Utilising the infrastructure provided by history within the area the place is quirky and unique. If you are looking for a relaxing, yet interesting, time out from city life, this trip is for you.

Internship Experience, Qingdao Blogs, Sport Blogs, Things To Do in Qingdao, Travel, Weekend Trips

Rock Climbing and Bouldering in Qingdao

This is a blog for all you rock climbers out there! If you are heading to Qingdao, then you are in luck! The Shandong province has some of the best boulders in China. The rock in and around Qingdao is a type of granite similar to Yosemite, which means you don’t need to travel far to find good boulders with interesting features. Fushan ‘Qingdao’s back garden’ has many different rocks to climb, from boulders to trad routes.

For those who haven’t get tried bouldering, when in Qingdao you should give it a go! It is a very unique, interesting, and social sport which attracts all sorts of characters! It is also one of those rare sports where men and women have an equal ability! Don’t be afraid if you have never climbed before, unlike the GYM, no one judges! No matter the grade you climb, it is your sweat and determination that is celebrated. Indoor bouldering is a great introduction to the world of climbing as it is the safer way to enjoy this very fun and dynamic sport!

 

Indoor Bouldering and Climbing

Bouldering Centre

There is a great indoor bouldering in the center of Qingdao. The climber who runs the place is very friendly and takes delight in showing you new moves and positions to improve your balance and strength. When you go, check out his wall of fame, he has even met Shauna Coxey!

Address: 菁英攀岩俱乐部 Jīngyīng pānyán jùlèbù

东路 136 叁陆城二楼 Shāndōng Lù 136 hào Yīsān Lùchéng Èr Lóu (2F)

Price: 30 Yuan (student) for the whole day and includes shoe rental.

Climbing Centre

If you fancy higher walls then head to Chengyang, which is north of Qingdao and takes around 45-60mins to get there by public transport. Here you can use a harness and belay.

Address: 岛城阳区黑龙江中路28号天泰运动工场2

Price: 100 Yuan for the day and includes shoes and harness.

Outdoor Climbing

The official (also the best) time to climb outside is from March to November. Bamboo is a rock climbing legend who can speak a little English, he runs the rock climbing official accounts on WeChat. He and a local group of climber’s head to the rocks most weekend. WeChat ID: QingdaoClimbing

Qingdao Laoshan Mountain 青岛崂山

Laoshan Mountain climbing site has been popular among rock climbers in recent years. There are around 150 climbing routes to meet your needs, Monkey Crag is a popular site.

If you visit Laoshan Mountain in winter, you can try an ice climbing. It is really an interesting and unforgettable journey in the Laoshan Mountain Scenic Area in winter.

Location: Liuqinghe, Laoshan District, Qingdao, Shandong Province

Key Words

Rock climbing: Pānyán 攀岩

Muscle fever: Jīròu suāntòng 肌肉酸痛

 

 Useful Websites:

http://www.rockclimbing.com/photos/Sport/CLIMBING_IN_QINGDAO_96564.html

 

Learn about China, Travel, Weekend Trips

The Great Wall: From Badaling to Zhuangdaokou

Hey travel addicts! Let me show you the Great wall as you would have never have imagined it!
You might think you know quite a lot about China, but this massive country has plenty of secrets. If you’ve already been, you’ve probably visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the Bund in Shanghai. I bet you’ve seen the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, the lovely pandas in Chengdu, and the “Avatar Mountains” in Zhangjiajie…

If you have managed to see all these things, it seems like you might be half Chinese now- congratulations! But what if I told you there is way more to China than these popular tourist spots? The Great Wall of China is probably one of the most famous tourist spots in the world, but I’m sure you’ve not seen all yet!

The Great Wall: Tourist Destination

If you’re in Beijing, well of course you should go to the Great Wall, otherwise you’ll never be a brave man – 不到长城非好汉, as the Chinese proverb said.

For a first experience in China, Badaling 八达岭 and Mutianyu 慕田峪 are nice spots of the Wall, and are very well renovated- this therefore means they are the most visited parts of the Great wall, so don’t expect to be the only tourist there!

Quiet Spot

But if like me you’re not really into tourist traps, and crowded places, let me show you another piece of the Great Wall called HuangHuacheng 黄花城. This is the only lakeside piece of the Great Wall, and some parts of it are not renovated, which means there is the perfect balance of tranquility and adventure- you definitely should try it!

Athletic Spot

If you feel ready for a hike, I have another piece of the Great Wall for you! Zhuangdaokou is one of the unrestored sections of the Great wall in Beijing, and you should definitely visit here if you feel like an adventure. Don’t be scared if you see some signs which won’t allow you to climb there, they are most likely like the “no smoking” signs all over China … not really significant.

Unknown Spot

Did you know that the Great Wall isn’t the same everywhere in China? For example, in Inner Mongolia the Great wall is totally different, and it’s of course way harder to imagine how they could defend their country with this kind of wall, made of soil and sand. In every hostel in Hohhot you can book a tour to see those amazing landscapes, and since Inner Mongolia isn’t that far from Beijing, you definitely should go and take a look there!

Do you feel like exploring the Great Wall of China? Then you should apply now!

Travel, Weekend Trips

Places to Visit in China: Suzhou

If you are in the east of China it’s easier and cheaper to travel to Suzhou or 苏州. Best bet is to take the train to the Suzhou Railway station. Above all, it’s at the center of the city, so it’s easier to move around.
So what is Suzhou known for? It’s referred to as Heaven on Earth because of its garden landscapes. Back in time, it was widely known for attracting high society, artists, and scholars. Although it doesn’t have all its historical sites anymore, it’s still worth a two to three-day trip.

Where to go

Gardens

In particular, Suzhou is home to nine gardens that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Such as, the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden, Master of the Nets Garden, Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, Couple’s Retreat Garden, Garden of Cultivation, Great Wave Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, and Retreat & Reflection Garden.

Water Towns

Another nickname for Suzhou is the Venice of China. There are three notable water towns to visit, and one in particular, Zhou Zhuang Water Town, is a must to see. Especially at night!

As the sun sets, the streets lit up
Old Town

Furthermore, there is Old town, located near Pinjiang Road,  is also a great place to visit for a more cultural shopping, cute little tea houses and canals. For the most part, Momi Cafe, an Instagram-like cafe that also sells postcards, is my personal favorite place. You can enjoy a cup of Joe while writing to your friends and family back home.

In short, Momi cafe second floor walls cover in books and post cards
Coffee and postcards – love, love, love

A more modern feel?

Then head over to Harmony Times Square or 圆融时代广场 this is where you will find everything you need for your shopping and some fun! Instead of your regular souvenir place, here you will find western brands, luxury brands, a movie theater, cafes, restaurants and more! Not to mention it’s located next to Jinji lake and a few minutes’ walk from a local amusement park, it’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon.

Notably, the Time Square at night
Suzhou Times Square

Getting Around in Suzhou

For the most part of the city, there are two metro lines that covers most hot spots. However, I recommend taking the bus since they have more routes if you want to discover the city.

In any event, bring a student card for great money-saving deals on some attractions!

 

Before your stay, How-to Guides, Travel

Getting Ready for China: Setting up Your WeChat Account

Ever wondered how to use the famous WeChat? Here’s a handy guide to turn you from no to pro.

A Little Introduction

WeChat is the biggest social media platform in China, with over 963 million monthly users. It is primarily an instant messaging app however there are many more features than just instant messaging. WeChat or Wēi Xìn is the bread and butter of daily life in China and an essential part of your stay. You’ll need it to speak to friends, contact colleagues and even buy your coffee with it!

Image of the WeChat logo on a PC screen

Getting Started with WeChat

It’s actually really easy to set up a WeChat account. The process is very similar to Whatsapp, in that you need to download the WeChat app from the app store (iTunes, Google Play etc.) and create an account using your phone number.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to set up WeChat on your phone:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Once downloaded, open the app and click “sign up”
  3. Type your number into the field and click sign up, be sure to choose the right area code, e.g UK, USA etc.
  4. WeChat will send a verification code to the chosen number: go into messages, find the verification code and enter it into the “Code” field.
  5. Once confirmed, type in your name and finish creating your account.
  6. After this you’re good to go!

 

 Opening your Keyboard

To start a text chat, open your keyboard just like in WhatsApp or SMS. Tap the space beside the speaker icon and your keyboard becomes accessible!

 Adding Friends

Now that your account is ready to go it’s time to start making friends. Adding people on WeChat is quick and easy, so it’s great for networking or if you’re on the go.

You can add friends a few ways. The first is to search for their username or phone number, and the second is to scan their personalised QR code.

Adding Contacts by Username & Phone Number

  1. Click the ” + ” icon at the top right hand of your home screen.
  2. Click the space beside the search icon which says “WeChat ID/ Phone.”
  3. Type the username/ phone number into the space saying “WeChat ID/ Phone.”
  4. When you type in the username, click on the green search button that appears.
  5. Their contact card will appear on your screen. Click “Add”
  6. You’re now connected!

Adding Contacts with a QR Code 

  1. Click the + icon at the top right hand of your home screen.
  2. Select “Add Contacts” then “Scan QR Code”
  3. Ask your friend to show you their “Profile QR code”.
  4. Point your phone camera at the code to scan it.
  5. Their contact card will appear on your screen. Click “Add”
  6. Congrats! You’ve just added your first contact!

­­

Lettings Others Add You 

Others can add you by your username, the phone number associated with your account or by scanning your personalised QR code.

To access your personal QR code, go to the “Me” page in WeChat, click on either your profile picture or the QR code beside your username, and open your QR code!

Making a Group Chat

To make a group chat in WeChat, simply go to the ” + ” symbol in the top right of your screen, and then select the “Group Chat” option. Then, add your contacts!

 

Following Official Accounts

Groups are a big part of how people communicate via WeChat and we regularly use them to post updates about IC activities. To keep up to date with weekly dinners, trips and the latest news be sure to follow the official InternChina subscription accounts and join the group chats.

You can join the subscription accounts the same way you add contacts- simply choose “Official Accounts” in the menu, and then search for the account you want to follow! You can type in “IC” and this will bring up all the InternChina city accounts.

How to Communicate

In WeChat, you can text, send voice messages, make phone calls and make video calls (similar to Skype.)

Sending a Voice Message

To send a voice message, click on the speaker icon beside your keyboard. Then, press the “hold to talk” button, and continue holding this until you are finished speaking. Then simply release and your message is sent! To cancel a message, just drag and release your finger.

Video Calling

You will most likely use a WeChat video call for your interview with your host company, so it’s important you know how to make one!

  1. Open the right conversation- either an existing chat with the contact, or open a new chat by finding the contact in your contacts list.
  2. Open the chat menu by pressing the ” + ” button at the bottom of your conversation screen.
  3. Select the option for a video call.
  4. You’re ready to go!

The same method applies to starting a voice call.

 

Once you have your WeChat set up you are ready to start life in China! Check out our video on how to use WeChat to sign up to IC activities and follow our official account.

 

 

Travel

Traveling in Asia: Don’t Go Without Your Phone!

Just by the title, I am sure you are thinking “why would anyone do that?” Traveling without a phone was not by choice I assure you! This is not a case of, ‘I can’t live without social media’, this story is about how important Google Maps, my clock, and my camera is and the lessons I learned a long the way.
It started early summer, four days before my big trip to Japan. I had lost my phone and didn’t have the budget for a new one anytime soon. So, there I was in Suzhou, planning everything step-by-step of where I need to go, how to get there and any important information I needed.

Day two without a phone: Shanghai

I stayed three days in Shanghai to get my JR pass for Japan. It’s a handy but pricey all access pass to any JR train, bus, and bullet train, with some exception.  Now, I just arrived at the train station in Shanghai and needed to get to my hostel. I decided to take the metro since I am used to traveling around Shanghai. The difficult part was when I got out of the metro stop and realized I forgot to check which exit I needed to get out of. I spent a good 30 minutes walking around before I asked a local for help.

Lesson #1: Write the metro line, stop, and exit down (there can be up to four or more exits)

My JR Pass and Passport without a phone
My JR Pass and Passport

Where’s the map?

Now, I wasn’t completely helpless. I did have my laptop with me. Why would I go traveling with it? The main reason was because I had a job interview the day I arrived in Japan. Funny enough, it was with the former IC Chengdu Branch Manager, currently the China Manager. My arrival post and this  post should be proof enough that I got the job!

So, there I was, at the Haneda airport checking which train I should take, to get to my hostel. I honestly thought I was completely prepared. Got my JR Pass, took my train and went my way. After arriving at my stop, I read my notes and I saw that I need to leave through the North exit. After walking around for 30 minutes, I asked a local for help. I was in the complete opposite area!

Lesson #2: Read the map at the train station to make sure what side is which.

Waiting at the Akihabara Station in Tokyo Japan
Akihabara Station in Tokyo

Can’t be too harsh on myself for this one though, I had been up for +20 hours and the only thing I can think of, was getting a nap in before my interview. This is where I truly realized how much more researching and planning was going to done.

A picture is worth a thousand words

I never imagined how much I needed my not-so good quality camera on my old Samsung S5 mini. The biggest regret would have been not buying a camera beforehand. My flight to Japan was around midnight (not including the delay) so, I was fortunate to see the sunrise on my flight. Being able to see Mount Fuji during the sunrise was surreal. A moment I’ll never forget, I just wish I had a camera.

Lesson #3: Get a camera to record the beautiful moments of your trip!

the view from the Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Eventually I bought a small Sony camera. It was awkward in the beginning. I didn’t get as much pictures because I’m not used to taking pictures with anything but a phone. However, I found myself enjoying the scenery a lot more.

Tik-tok, it’s check-out time!

For the most part, my sense of time was the most effected. I found myself waking up at the crack of dawn because I was afraid to sleep through the check-out time. Ironically, I didn’t need an alarm anymore! However, I still needed to know what time it was. As a result, I bought a simple watch to keep track of the day. In fact, I am not consistently looking at my phone anymore. This is one of the best habit I took from my trip.

Tatami room in Nagoya with futons
My hostel in Nagoya

Overall, these were the three things that really stood out throughout my travels. The next time you plan to travel without a phone, make sure you are fully prepared!

Chengdu Blogs, Cultural, Qingdao Blogs, Travel, Weekend Trips

From Shandong to Sichuan: A Tale of Two Cities

Nĭ hăo! Wo shì Shona and I’m the Design and Marketing intern at the Chengdu office, although my journey started further east, in Qingdao. I was lucky enough to begin my programme with IC working in the Qingdao office, which I was very happy about, as Qingdao is a beautiful city and right on the sea so there’s always a nice breeze to help with the heat.

Getting to Qingdao

What I loved most about Qingdao is that it’s a great introduction to real-life China, and as the IC offices are based in cities most tourists don’t think of, it’s an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the culture. Due to Qingdao’s history, there’s a real European feel to the city; however don’t let that fool you- the mass of markets and restaurants remind you that it still is, very much Chinese.

Settling in to China life was pretty easy for me, and while the first week was a bit of a shock- such as getting used to the commute to work (I’m still amazed how many people can fit on a bus here), the culture shock passed quickly. It’s incredibly easy to get used to the lifestyle and turn into a true Zhōngguó rén.

Life in Qingdao

I really enjoyed the lifestyle in Qingdao; there’s always something interesting happening, and despite how fast paced it seems initially, it also feels as equally laid back.

The work/life balance in Qingdao is just right and my favourite post work treat is winding down at the local BBQ spot with some Shao Kao and Tsingtao in hand- now that’s the life!

While in Qingdao I had the chance to help organise fun events each week, my first one being sailing! What better way to experience a Chinese seaside city than by boat? It was my first time running an official event, so I was a little nervous but the event ran without a hitch and everyone had a blast.

One of the best nights I’ve had in China was camping on the beach, at the foot of Mount Làoshān; the real highlight was floating around in the sea, surrounded by friends and all watching the fireworks light up the night, and moments like that are why I love China.

Beijing

The first big Summer trip was a joint excursion to Beijing with the Chengdu, Qingdao and Dalian IC offices, and being my first trip in mainland China, I was so excited to see the China I’d seen in movies growing up as a kid.

We saw iconic landmarks such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the icing on the cake, the Great Wall. It’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed as Beijing has so much to offer, but the pinnacle of our trip was visiting the Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu.

The Big Move: Swapping Cities

Three weeks into my internship I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Sichuan to help support my colleagues in the Chengdu office. I had always wanted to visit Chengdu and love to travel so when the chance arrived, I jumped at it!

Getting Ready to Board

Travelling to Chengdu was exciting; even the legendary Chinese flight delays, which gave me the opportunity to make friends with the locals using my broken Mandarin, couldn’t dampen my mood as I headed to panda city.

First Days in Chengdu

Arriving in the Sichuan capital, I was lucky to have a few days off before starting work. So what’s the first thing you HAVE to see in Chengdu? Pandas! The panda base, or Xióngmāo jīdì as its known here, is hugely popular with tourist groups so it’s important to get there bright and early.

After waking up at the crack of dawn, I jumped in a cab that took me straight from my apartment to the base for 60 kuai, which was worth it just to beat the queue.

July in Chengdu is the peak of summer and with average temperatures of 30 degrees, and with it being so hot outside the pandas were hidden away in their cool enclosures. This meant I had to fight my way through the tourist mob to catch a glimpse of the famous bear cat, but it was worth it- after all, pandas are an icon throughout the world so I couldn’t pass through Chengdu without stopping by!

What’s Next?

Life in Chengdu was a bit of a shock at first, especially the morning commute to work. Chengdu feels like a combination of the fast paced lifestyle of cities like London with bustling subways and seas of people, along with the easy going nature of the Chinese locals, sat playing Mahjong on the street at night-  a contrast if there ever was one.

Since coming to Chengdu I’ve been involved in all sorts of IC events, from the weekly Thursday dinners eating famous hot pot to the Four Sisters mountain trip in western Sichuan. When staying in Qingdao I used to think it was the city that never sleeps, however since coming to Chengdu, I’ve realised what life really is like in a busy Chinese city.

Here in the hub of China’s “Go West” policy, there’s always something to do, somewhere new to explore, and it’s the perfect mix of culture and business. I’m looking forwards to what the next two months bring here in Sichuan.

 

Before your stay, Learn about China, Travel

Vaccines for China: What You Need to Know

So you’re getting ready for your internship in China, and checking everything off on your to-do list. Aside from all the usual important stuff you need for going abroad- your passport, visa, medicine, clothes… you need to think about what vaccines you might need for China.
This is something you need to consider before starting your adventure in China, and while vaccines aren’t necessary, you definitely need to speak to your doctor to see what they recommend.

A list of travel vaccinations

It is recommended that you speak to your General Practitioner at least 6 to 8 weeks before your scheduled flight to discuss any health risks or vaccinations.

It is not necessary to be vaccinated before your arrival in China, however there are some recommended vaccinations for your stay in China: Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus-Diphtheria and Measles if you do not already have them.

Vaccines for travelling on top of a world map

Ask Yourself

  • What’s the risk of me contracting a vaccine- preventable disease?
  • How long am I going for?
  • What will I be doing?
  • Can I be protected without a vaccine?

What Countries Say

For more information about vaccines, please check the CDC’s website, or read some information here about travelling safely and healthily in China.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you to China soon!

Zhuhai's July trip tp Hezhou