Travel

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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.

 

Chengdu Blogs, Travel

Chengdu Arrival – Five More Months in China

More of China!

As soon as I finished studying in Suzhou, Jiangsu, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave China, there was so much more that I wanted to learn and experience. Luckily, I found InternChina and the opportunity to use my new knowledge of business in China and basic Mandarin, and so, I began planning my Chengdu arrival.

My Chinese teacher and I in Suzhou
My Chinese teacher and I – 我的 汉语老师 和 我

Back to the Start

When I arrived in China in February 2017, I experienced some culture shock, although that easily went away once I started socializing more with other international students and locals. That’s what I enjoy the most about living, studying, and now working in China- being connected to the international community. Learning about a new city on your own is fun but having tips and advice from people living in the area is always an advantage. Therefore I am excited to be part of the community that InternChina developed in Chengdu over years.

What is Suzhou like?

Suzhou is smaller compared to Chengdu, but it does have the same relaxing vibe. It’s widely known for being the Venice of China as it contains beautiful water towns that still look good for their age, along with two beautiful lakes, Jinji and Dushu.

Sunset at Jinji Lake in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
My second day in China – Jinji Lake, Suzhou

I lived in the urban area called SIP, which was easy because it’s filled with universities and felt like a student city. The city centre boasts a big international atmosphere, and everywhere you go there were foreign students from all parts of the world!

My Travels

Apart from studying, I took the opportunity to travel as much and as far as I could. My first little city trip was visiting the great Buddha in Lingshan, Wuxi, and later I saw the beautiful and serene West Lake in Hangzhou. Lastly, some fun and exciting nights in Shanghai!

 

 

While traveling in China was fun, getting to travel to other Asian countries was great! First, I got to see a breath-taking view at the Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, and then I did some island hopping and hiked mount Hallasan in Jeju, South Korea. Finally,I saw the sun rise over Mount Fuji on my flight to Tokyo.

 

Chengdu Arrival

Now that I am in Chengdu and working, I don’t plan to stop travelling, and alongside InternChina, I’m going to get to know the Sichuan province very well.

Going from school to work can sometimes be difficult, but fortunately for me, the office environment has been very comfortable and fun. I’m happy to work with easy going colleagues who are professional and have strong work ethic. I am excited to introduce InternChina to other schools in the Netherlands and the Caribbean.

Tacey in the Chengdu, Sichuan, China office with a stuffed panda on her head
Updating the Chengdu team profile on the WeChat account

Interested in an internship opportunity in Chengdu? Check out the positions that Chengdu has to offer!

Cultural, Dalian Blogs, Things To Do in Dalian, Travel, Weekend Trips

Weekend Escapes from Dalian City

Dalian is a fantastic place for you not only for internship, but it is also a great place to enjoy yourself and explore other destinations nearby. You have been in Dalian for a while now and are already familiar with places around you and want to go somewhere you have never been before? If you want to experience something different then why not have a look outside the city’s borders and go for a weekend or day-trip in the surrounding area?

Dalian location on the map
Dalian location on the map, showing other surrounding cities and countries

 

Map of Dalian
Map of Dalian

There are many choices for you to have fun in or near Dalian instead of staying in the city centre. Since Dalian has an excellent geographic location, which is close to many national parks, resorts and many other attractions and scenic areas. You can easily discover new places and have fun outside of the city centre of Dalian during the weekend. Here are some recommendations for sightseeing and outdoor attractions, which are close Dalian.

1. Lushun (旅顺)

Map of Lushun
Map of Lushun

Actually, Lushun is a district and it belongs to Dalian city. However, since it is not really close to the downtown (about 30 kilometres), it’s becoming one of the best choices for local people to enjoy themselves during the vacation. Lushun has a very special history background as well, it was a colony of Japan and Russia several decades ago. Therefore, there are lots of museums, old battleships (close to the West Harbor) in Lushun. There are also lots of resorts and scenic areas for you to visit as well.

2. Golden Pebble Beach (金石滩 Jinshitan)

Map of the Golden Pebble Beach
Map of the Golden Pebble Beach

This is another area that attracts many visitors, especially during summertime. The Golden Pebble Beach is well-developed and it has an amusement park, a golf club, and of course beaches. There are also lots of nice hotels there as well. You can enjoy the nature and beautiful seaside scenery here. You can conveniently reach it via monorail from downtown Dalian – the monorail station is located right behind Dalian train station, the ride to Jinshitan takes around 1 hour.

3. Changshan Islands

Changshan Islands on a sunny day before sunset
Changshan Islands

Want to enjoy the life on islands? Fishing enthusiast? Then you should consider a trip here. You can go out fishing with native people on a boat in the morning, and enjoy seafood in the afternoon. This is also one of the best places to experience life like a native. Highly recommend visiting islands during the summer since the sea water is warm enough to swim. You can easily go there by ship from Dalian Port and it usually takes about two to three hours to get there.

 

4. Dandong

Map of Dandong, border of China and North Korea
Map of Dandong, border of China and North Korea

Dandong is a small city located on the border of China. It is about 300 kilometres away from Dalian. Even though it is a little bit farther away, thanks to the newly built high-speed train link it only takes two hours to get there. There are many places for you to visit there, like Yalu river, which separates the two countries, the famous Broken Bridge, Phoenix Mountain for a hike, or even a section of the Great Wall from which you can oversee North Korean territories. If you want, there are also lots of agencies which can take you to North Korea and have a unique experience, either enjoy North Korean traditional food, or discover what life is like under Kim Jong-Un’s control.

5. Seoul, South Korea

Map of city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea
Map of city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea

You might be surprised if it is possible to go abroad in this short period of time, because you never realise that it only takes 55 minutes by plane to Seoul from Dalian. You can enjoy Korean barbecue, beer, or if you like K-pop, superstars, this should be your first destination because famous companies like SM Entertainment, JYP and so on are located in Seoul as well. A visit to the imperial palace, ancient temples and famous Gangnam district also should be included in a trip there. Here is a cool site which gives you some tips on where to stay in Seoul: https://triphappy.com/seoul/where-to-stay/84746.

(Attention: if you plan a trip outside of China, make sure about that your visa for the People’s Republic of China is a double entry or multiple entry visa, otherwise you won’t be able to re-enter the country!)

Credit to: 曲天昊 (Danny Qu)

Pretty attractive? Want to start your internship in Dalian? Apply now!

 

Cultural, Dalian Blogs, Things To Do in Dalian, Travel

A Day in Jinshitan – Things to Do

I have been living in Dalian for about 4 years, but most of the time, I stayed at a small northern part of Dalian, called Jinshitan. I know the area very well and know all the places to go to have some fun. As I know Jinshitan so well, I can take advantage of its beautiful scenery, great restaurants and other locations, where everyone can have a good time.

Dalian's Golden Pebble Beach Jinshitan
Golden Pebble Beach Jinshitan

When I think of this place, I think of the beach and the endless shoreline along it. It is a truly beautiful and a relaxing place to be around. When I have free time, I just go to the beach with my friends to play volleyball or frisbee. After enjoying the sunny day with my friends, it is good to just relax and lay on the sand at the beach, feel the breeze from the tides and get a tan. The beach in Jinshitan is big and lets everyone to enjoy the summer while playing games, sports or relaxing outside, which is one of the main reasons I love this place.

Things to do:

Another way to spend time in this area, by just walking around Jinshitan. Jinshitan is not a big place, but offers a lot of things that, downtown Dalian does not have. However, there is no doubt about that, walking along the beach is my favourite thing to do in Jinshitan. There are many other great attractions and activities for visitors and locals in Jinshitan, such as a hunting club, which is located near the end of the shoreline, where you can shoot clay pigeons or do paint ball with friends. The prices of these activities are affordable and it is definitely a place where I would go with my friends. There is a huge amusement park in Jinshitan, called Discoveryland and it is always filled with people during the summer. It is a very popular attraction both for locals and the visitors of Dalian.

There is also the Jinwan golf course and a soccer field in Jinshitan as well as many other activities and attractions, which can be enjoyed both by locals and tourists. There is also a hiking trail along the coast, which takes around two hours to walk. It is great for people who enjoy being outdoors and there is a beautiful sight along the way. Due to the low population of Jinshitan it is easy to get around and find the way to all attractions and restaurants. Anyone, who is looking for a place to have a have a getaway near Dalian, should visit Jinshitan as it is definitely the right place.

Dalian Hunting Club and Jinwan Private Golf Course
Hunting Club and Jinwan Golf Course

Some other popular activities and attractions in Jinshitan include the hot spring resort, which is wonderful, but the prices are also higher than other resorts in the area. However, it is located at an amazing area with good and clean environment and the hot spring resort is also very clean and worth a visit. There are some restaurants and street food markets nearby, which is very convenient, if the visitors of the hot spring resort would like to go for a tasty dinner after their relaxing time at the resort.

Clubbing / Dinning:

There is a newly opened club in Jinshitan, Soho916. It is a popular spot for young people from the local colleges and universities. The club has large parties on Thursdays and Fridays. There is great music provided by two DJs, one is from America and another from Peru. The club is located at the very northern part of Jinshitan, so people who would like to go to this club will need to take taxi or some other type of transportation.

Jinshitan is worth visiting just to try some of the food it offers. As I mentioned before Jinshitan is a small area, with not too many people and most of the local people live in the area near the Jinshitan hospital. However, the number of tourists increase during the main holiday season, making Jinshitan a popular holiday destination for domestic tourists as well as for some international visitors. In this area, there are many great and tasty food, my favourites, include some western restaurants and barbecue places. Toni Kocht is a very good German restaurant with very reasonable prices. The street at the jīn shí tān yī yuàn 金石滩医院 area, which has many barbecue places, is amazing and worth the visit. The food in Jinshitan is definitely worth trying.

To discover some of these attractions and many more, Apply Now!

Credit to 陈有健 (Jack Chen)

Travel

My Chengdu Experience

Even though I’ve only been in Chengdu for two weeks, I feel I’ve gotten a good grasp on what this city is about thanks to the endless activities and Chengdu knowledge offered to us by the InternChina team.
Good food and a good life with a splash of Baijiu – the local alcohol.

I was fortunate enough to come with 12 other interns from my University – the University of Sussex – who are all on the same program as me. Although it was nice to have people with you when coming to a new country, it is not essential for having a great time out here as there are over 50 other very friendly interns in Chengdu who make it very easy to settle in to life in such a foreign city. Especially since the InternChina team organise many events to get people together – you’re only alone if you want to be!

Heat and Rain in The Summertime

1st of July is the start of summer time in Chengdu but also roughly when the rainy season kicks off! So if you’re thinking of coming to Chengdu around this time expect average temperatures of 25-30 degrees celsius all the time and a heavy shower here and there, so always have an umbrella at hand as when it rains, it literally pours!

The Food

Noodles, noodles and more noodles! After the first couple days I felt I was getting a bit sick of the cuisine, but after that I started to crave the Sichuan peppercorn tingle (“Ma” as the locals call it) which I can only compare to millions of tiny insects rushing around your mouth – doesn’t sound appealing but trust me, it’s a weird sensation you won’t forget! The more you explore, the more you find and the more you enjoy, and I did! I was over the moon when I found a home comfort with a Chinese twang and the only acceptable form of a sandwich in Chengdu, the non deep friend guokui sandwich. It’s warm toasty thin bread with the cold oily filling sold me at first bite, just watch your clothes as that oil can get everywhere!

Hand holding Chinese sandwich Guokui from above
Pork Guokui Sandwich

If the Chinese cuisine doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are some home comforts available such as Subway, McDonalds and KFC. I can’t lie, I did crack a few times as something in the KFC window caught my eye, the Chizza, a pizza with a friend chicken base! I thought this was the greatest thing, a marriage of my two favourite foods, but unfortunately it was too good to be true, I was greatly disappointed as it lacked all the goodness of both foods so I had to divorce myself from the situation. This is the main reason I keep away from Western alternatives, a big bowl of delicious noodles sets you back a mere 8-12 RMB (around 1-1.4 GBP), a KFC can be 3-4 times the prices and most of the time not as good.

JiuZhaiGou

The first trip we went on as a group was to JiuZhaiGou, and what a trip it was! Starting off with a 15-hour coach journey to the UNESCO inscribed World Heritage site, which was painful but as with most things, is over at some point and everyone agreed it was very worth it when we arrived. Although the 20km hike the next morning sounded daunting, there would have been no better way to properly experience the breath-taking views and transparent lakes, I would do it all over again!

Panorama of lake in chinese village JiuZhaiGou
JiuZhaiGou

To learn more about JiuZhaiGou, click the link here.

So far I have been having a great time, and this program is, in my opinion, the best way to see this city. You get the complete package the social experience, the working life experience and you get to see in the cracks of the city and get a taste of what life really is about!

If you feel you’re up to it, join us and click here to apply!

Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Events in Qingdao, Food, Qingdao Blogs, Things To Do in Qingdao, Travel

About to graduate and confused?

May 4 Qingdao
May Fourth Square

Nothing is more daunting than the fact you are about to graduate and you have no concrete plans for the future. The questions that arise are; do I carry on with education and do a masters or do I take the plunge into real life by becoming a full time adult and start work as a graduate?? Well, that was my predicament until I came across InternChina. I applied for the marketing & business development position in the Qingdao branch and was offered the 3 months internship (yay!). Interning in China has given me the opportunity to gain great experience whilst figuring out my future plans!

Qingdao Coffee Street

On my arrival, I was picked up from the airport by one of my soon to be colleagues. She was incredibly welcoming and helped me settle in the shared apartment. What I like the most about the apartments in Qingdao is that they are graciously spacious yet have a very cosy vibe to them. My roommates are my fellow colleagues at the IC Qingdao branch, so it was great to be able to meet them outside of the ‘work’ environment. (I did find it rather humorous that each one of us were from a different European country, one Brit, one French and one German… it almost sounds like one of those bar jokes).

Qingdao Cafe
You think the coffee is cute? Wait until you come to Qingdao and check out the cafe’s decor, it looked like something out of Harry potter!

As I had never been to Qingdao before, my roommates took me out and introduced me to fellow individuals who are part of the InternChina programme but are interning at different companies. As we are all connected through InternChina it was very easy to get along and feel comfortable with one another. Plans for the weekend were discussed and I was thrown into the mix and was able to explore Qingdao with them all!

Qingdao Malatang
Ever tried Hotpot? Well this is sort of like that but the non soup version, aka DryPot or as it’s known in China, Malatang!

There are really cool cafes, bars and restaurants in China, so regardless of the city you’re in, you will always be able to find somewhere that is to your liking. The food is cheap and cheerful -some meals will cost you max 3 pounds (I can’t find the pound sign on my macbook sigh). Moreover, you can actually find food that is halal and great for vegetarians!

Essence Trend cafe in Qingdao
Cool cafe called Essence Trend in Qingdao, owned by one of our work colleagues!

Honestly, I have only been here a few days and already I have some ideas on what I wish to do once I get back to the U.K. It also helps to be around people from all over the world as it is a great way to broaden your horizon and learn more. So if you’re currently unsure and undecided, I would wholeheartedly recommend an internship (especially one in China).

To start your own internship adventure in China, apply now!

Dalian Blogs, Nature, Travel, Weekend Trips

Camping in the Baogutu Desert, Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region in North China- to the north it borders with Mongolia and the north east tip borders with Russia. The region is a home to the most scorching dry deserts in China, but also (ironically) to the most beautiful lush grassland sceneries.  Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, is popular among tourists for grassland tours. Another popular place is Xiangshawan, or “singing sands gorge” which is located in the Gobi Desert. It was a region I did not hear a lot about before I came to China, but I came across a local advertisement about a trip to Baogutu Desert in Inner Mongolia.
When I heard that a travel company named Local Ren organises a trip to Baogutu desert (宝古图沙漠), which is the biggest desert in Northeast China, I signed up immediately with my fellow colleague from InternChina. The Local Ren travel agency is actually a student start-up. Although they were not always professional, they seemed very easy-going and were making jokes all the time! In the end, 80 people signed up, who were for the most part international students from all over the world.

On our first date, we left Dalian, Liaoning province and travelled to Fuxin, a town located on the border between Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia. The more we approached the town, the more the scenery changed to endless rice fields. Also, the temperature kept on rising, reaching 32 degrees! Quite a difference from what I was used to in the UK. After six hours of travelling, our local Chinese guide told us that we had reached Fuxin, a rather small town of just 2 million! What I noticed while I was passing through was that there were lots of Mongolian BBQ restaurants, whose signs were written both in Mandarin Chinese and Mongolian. Apparently, both languages co-exist in the region, however Inner Mongolia uses the traditional Mongolian script for their alphabet, whereas the Republic of Mongolia uses the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet, which they adopted due to Soviet influence.

When we arrived in Fuxin, the receptionist had to take a photo of our passport front page and visa. This is a standard procedure in China, that’s why a foreigner must carry their passport all the time when visiting new places. After that, we found a Mongolian hot pot with lamb meat. As the locals were not used to see foreigners, they were buying us more things to try and the servers were very kind and sweet.

On the next day we left for Baogutu desert. On the way, I saw that there were many tree plantations. The guide told me that the government is trying to claim back the land from the spreading desert. There were many trees planted and workers watering them. It would be interesting to see in a decade if their plan is successful.

The road to the desert was narrow and the condition of the road was bad. When we arrived at the tourist centre everything seemed under construction. There were several skeletons of hotels, but there were public bathrooms with plumbing and 3G! The organisers gave us our tents and other students showed us how to build one. In one hour, 50 tents were laid out proudly over a vacant field. After we secured them, we were divided into teams. The travel agency gave us ankle protectors and masks and we set off into the desert.

Setting up camp in the desert isn’t always easy!

In the beginning of our hiking, I was not impressed. There were newly planted trees everywhere and I thought it did not look like a real desert. The camel guides saw us and approached us- each of them showing off their animals. They had dressed them in traditional Mongolian colours and were following us along the way like shadows.

A very happy camel

The deeper we went into the desert, the more the heat was becoming unbearable. After 30 minutes, a landscape of endless sand dunes spread in front of our eyes. The white sands stretched out over the horizon unevenly and lazily.  There were spots where the wind was unsettling the dunes, but did not impede our breathing.

As we were the only tourists there we had plenty of camels to choose from. It cost only 30 RMB for a camel ride. Also, we could sand board if we wanted to, but most of us were taking photos with the camels which were idly laying in the sand and were not scared by being touched.

In three hours’ time, we head back to our camping site. Due to the strong wind, we couldn’t have had a bonfire, so we had only a BBQ. The meat was halal and there were plenty of vegetables. The BBQ was like an organised chaos- although no one assigned jobs, everyone just picked what they are good at and stuck with the task. But as the night advanced, the wind grew stronger. Eventually, the organisers asked us to return to our tents as the wind was blowing them away and they were literally people chasing them after. As a result, we returned to our tents, but found a unique way to continue to have fun. A group of Thai people played the guitar and sang from their tent. We connected a microphone to a big portable speaker so everyone could enjoy the music. At the same time, people were sharing what food and drink they had left, despite the hordes of sand that the wind was blowing against us. It was a night to remember!

In the morning, most of us woke up to see the sunrise after the sandstorm. We all helped each other to pack up the tents and travelled 12 hours by bus back to Dalian. Overall, this experience was worth every penny and every minute. If you are looking for an adventure – Inner Mongolia is the place for it!

To have the chance to embark on a similar adventure with InternChina, apply now!

 

Chengdu Blogs, Travel

Cycling in China – My Trip to Xichang

Bike trips in China through some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes are popular adventures for both Chinese and foreigners. These aren’t just casual bike rides either, I’m talking about trips that last weeks or months. Cycling routes in China range from the (relatively) relaxing 450 km trip around the tropical island Hainan, to the intense, spiritual 2200 km climb from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. A huge China bike trip is on my bucket list, but over Spring Festival holiday, I settled for a day ride around a city in southern Sichuan called Xichang.

Xichang, the ‘Spring City’

Chengdu can be a little cold in the winter, so over Spring Festival holiday, I wanted to go somewhere warmer. I ended up taking a 12 hour train to Xichang, where the temperature during February consistently gets up to about 20-25 C. The fresh air, sunny skies, and warm weather are invigorating, making it a popular tourist attraction among Chinese, but still not too many foreigners go there. The city sits by the massive Qionghai lake in a valley 1500 m above sea level. Instead of doing a bus tour around the area, my two friends and I opted to bike around the lake.

We rented bikes in the city for 20 RMB each for the day. First, we began in a crowded, touristy part of town, where we had fun weaving in and out of traffic. Soon, though, we made it to the less developed side of the lake where we could relax, soaking in sunshine as we biked.

Biking Around Qionghai Lake in Sichuan, China
The scenery around Qionghai Lake offers a nice change from the big city in Chengdu.

The route around the lake is very bike-friendly, with pedestrian and bike-only paths for almost half of the lake. The scenery is incredible the entire way as you ride between the edge of the water and foot of the mountains. Xichang calls itself a ‘Spring City’, due to its unique climate that gives it a pseudo-tropical feel year-round. We stopped often to take in the astounding views and weather, spending seven hours to complete the 40 km loop around the lake.

Why I Take a Bike, Not a Car

Biking has always been one of my favorite forms of exercise as well as my preferred transportation. It is a convenient way to get around while being able to enjoy your surroundings. The crisp feeling of the wind as you speed down a hill, the natural smell of flowers as you zip through a garden, and that burning feeling in your quads as you power up a mountain slope; it is a complete experience of sensation, something sitting in a car simply can’t compare to.

American cycling on a bike trip in China in Sichuan
In the spirit of Chinese New Year, I sport a red outfit to match my red bike.

One drawback, perhaps, is that it is so easy to stop and take pictures of the beautiful scenery along the way! Bike trips aren’t meant to be rushed, so give yourself more time than you would need to actually cycle the whole way. With the blue water, clear skies, and rolling mountains all around Xichang, I found myself snapping photos at every turn, even taking detours down hidden paths just to see what surprises may await.

Making Friends with the Yi Minority

One such detour made me a new friend. After biking up dirt path into a field, I came across a local farmer. He motioned me over to take a picture of his sheep grazing in the field. We struck up a conversation, and I found out he was Yi minority, the ethic group whom this special jurisdiction of Sichuan was named for (Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture). He pointed to his house at the top of the hill and talked about his family. Also, he was quite curious about me, asking questions about where I was from, why I interned in China, and even if I had married yet. Suddenly, he quickly ran off to shoo away his sheep from some crops they’d begun to chew on. Spur-of-the-moment experiences such as this come naturally with the freedom of a cycling trip.

china yi minority farmer in liangshan grazing sheep
A local Yi minority farmer chats with me while out with his sheep.

With beautiful scenery and countless surprises, China is a great place for bike trips of any duration. Biking offers active stimulation of exercise, immersive feeling in the scenery, and freedom to discover the hidden experiences a tour bus would speed past, helping you get the most out of your China adventure.