Weekend Trips

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Travel, Weekend Trips

InternChina – Trip to Hangzhou

InternChina rolled out for another weekend trip. This time the destination was 杭州 (Hangzhou) and its surrounding mountainous regions that we were going to trek in. We chose Hangzhou because of its exemplary beauty which is widely renowned in China and also other countries.
We arrived Friday late at night; fatigued from our journey we went straight to bed after having a short stroll through the neighbourhood surrounding the hostel. After six more or less refreshing hours of sleep we got up in order to catch the bus taking us to the Hui Hang Trail. 徽杭古道 (said trail) is a gorgeous trail cutting through the hills and valleys a little outside Hangzhou. Luckily the public part of the trail was a 3-hour drive away, so that we could compensate for the sleep we had missed out on. Traders once used to transport tea over this route but now it has become a popular tourist attraction. Albeit we were part of a travel group, we did not want to be rushed by the masses around us and thus resolved to part from the rest to enjoy the stunning beauty of the rolling hills and deep valleys in peace. 20 km later we were hundreds of pictures richer and were glad of having successfully finished the trek, feeling that such a trip is quite extraordinary in that not many (foreigners at least) travel down this route. Furthermore the cherry and plum trees had just started blossoming adding colour to the picturesque landscape. It was a breath-taking day-trip in every sense of the word. Later that evening we arrived back at Hangzhou and ate Hot Pot after begrudgingly finding out that we were too late to be served by 外婆家 (Grandma’s Home) – their loss.

Sunday we slept in, well we slept until 9 AM. Our mission for the day was to find out why Hangzhou is part of a Chinese saying that translates to “In Heaven there is Paradise and on Earth there is Hangzhou and Suzhou (上有天堂, 下有蘇杭)”. We already had a good look at Suzhou’s beauty two months earlier and now we were about to witness the splendour of Hangzhou. Hangzhou differs from other Chinese cities in that greenery is a vital part of the city’s landscape. Thus we set out to discover the hostel’s mostly pedestrianised surroundings in which there were loads of blossoming gardens, parks and plazas. The hostel was in fact located fairly conveniently so that the famous West Lake was just a ten minute walk away. Arriving there we rested for a while absorbing the tranquillity of the landscape depicted on the hindsight of the 1-Yuan note. Afterwards we set upon renting some bikes to discover more of this antique city (I can highly recommend renting bikes to anyone planning to travel to Hangzhou). We cycled around the lake for a bit and ended up at an ancient Buddhist temple that had a magnificent view. To finish off the trip we once again tried our luck with Grandma’s Home and got turned down once more. So we settled with Thai-food – not too bad a compromise in my opinion.

It was a great time of year (mid March) to visit Hangzhou because all the plants were blossoming, the temperature was pleasantly moderate and the city was not overrun by tourists.

InternChina-1 yuan
InternChina-1 yuan
Cultural, Qingdao InternChina Events, Weekend Trips

Chinese New Year Travels: Nanjing, Suzhou and Shanghai

As you are probably aware last week was Chinese New Year, which meant a week off for all of us in China- and as amazing as Qingdao is we decided it was time to explore somewhere else in China. Which is how 5 interns ended up at Qingdao airport at 5.30 in the morning for the first stop in a week long trip to Nanjing, Suzhou and Shanghai. We were planning to spend 3 days in Nanjing (the most recent of China’s Four Great Ancient Capitals in Jiangsu Province), 1 day in Suzhou (home of the world famous Humble Administrator’s Garden) and 3 days in Shanghai (need I say more?) Despite being warned about travelling during the busy Chinese New Year period we were prepared- after all, crowds are an everyday part of Chinese life!

Nanjing

Landing in Nanjing we were immediately greeted with sunshine and warmth, a welcome break from the recent minus temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in Qingdao. We were lucky enough to book a hostel in the middle of the beautifully busy Fuzimiao area, and despite our early start we were eager to see what Nanjing had to offer us. Sunday was spent exploring the Confucius Temple area, the Pedestrian Street, the Wende Bridge and the QinHuai River, along with trying a lot of the local food on offer. That night we were lucky enough to be treated to a New Year’s Eve dinner provided by the hostel staff, which was a great way to try a lot of traditional Nanjing dishes.

Monday morning we set off bright and early (after eating a ridiculous amount of fried dumplings for breakfast) to visit the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and Nanjing’s Purple Mountains. After an interesting ride on what looked like a plus size golf cart to the Mausoleum, we were delayed by an eager group of Chinese tourists who wanted photographs with all of us- however their daughter was less eager, and cried every time her mother brought her near us.

The Mausoleum is an imposing, beautiful building based on top of 392 steps and through two grand entrance ways. Dr. Sun is interred there, and he is considered by many to be the “Father of Modern China”- he was involved in fighting against the Qing government, ending the monarchy after the 1911 revolution and helping to found the Republic of China. The scenic area surrounding the Mausoleum also leads to the Ming Xiaoling Tomb of the founder of the Ming Dynasty.

On Tuesday morning we visited the Nanjing Massacre Museum. This was definitely the most sombre point of our entire trip, as you are greeted with statues commemorating those who died, along with a very graphic account of what happened throughout the museum. However it was an interesting visit and definitely a must see for all of us. To lighten the mood after the museum, we spent the afternoon at XuanWu Lake (Xuánwǔhú 玄武湖) and the City Wall.

InternChina - XuanWu Lake
InternChina – XuanWu Lake

Suzhou

Wednesday morning was another early start for us to arrive in Suzhou by 11 am. We immediately sought out a late breakfast in the form of amazing jian bing (jiānbing 煎餅) and headed towards Shantang Canal to take one of the canal boats towards Tiger Hill. The canal boat was a relaxing break from all the activity of the past few days, and we soon arrived at the insanely busy Tiger Hill and Yunyan Pagoda (known as “The Leaning Tower of China”). We decided against visiting the Pagoda as we only had a few hours until we caught our train to Shanghai, so we visited the Humble Administrator’s Gardens (Zhou Zheng Yuan) instead.

The gardens as they are today were started in around 1510 by the poet Wang Xiancheng, and was changed and updated up until 1949 when the Chinese government bought the gardens and opened them to the public. It was obvious why the gardens have been granted World Heritage Site status, as they are amazingly beautiful and absolutely huge- every turn leads you to a pond, pagoda, tea house, bridge or collection of bonsai trees. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend long here, but it was still worth the visit.

Shanghai

Our train to Shanghai only took 20 minutes on Wednesday evening, however we still arrived quite late (mainly due to me holding everyone up in the train station after being issued a broken metro card). After finding our hostel tucked away into a side street we intended to go to bed early and catch up on sleep after the last few days however the bars of Shanghai proved too tempting for some of the interns.

We also visited Pudong to get an alternate view of the buildings you can see from the Bund, however the cloudy skies helped us decide against going inside the Shanghai World Financial Center, which at 492m tall gives one of the best views of the city on clear days. We then made our way across the river to the Bund after walking the Lujiazui Pedestrian Bridge (a huge circular walkway set above the traffic).

On Friday we visited People’s Park, a beautiful area filled with people playing mah-jong, cards and also the “Shanghai Marriage Market”. This was definitely something to see, as crowds of parents and grandparents lined the entrance to the park advertising their children to potential marriage partners. Despite the crowds surrounding the marriage market, the park wasn’t as busy as we expected it to be, and was definitely a lot quieter than the Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou. We spent a lot of the afternoon here exploring, and the park has a nice change of pace to the business of Shanghai’s streets.

On Saturday morning we visited the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square, which showcases a history of Chinese art (including pottery, jade, calligraphy and a history of the Buddha’s evolution in art). We also visited one of the fake markets near the Science and Technology Museum.

InternChina - People's Square
InternChina – People’s Square

Despite all the warnings we received about travelling during Chinese New Year, and how we would regret visiting these places during such a busy time, we only had positive experiences with all the transport we took- except for a minor 20 minute delay for our flight from Shanghai to Qingdao. Two flights, two trains, a few buses and a lot of metro journeys later, my first trip out of Qingdao was an exciting one! The crowds didn’t affect our experience at all, and we saw some of the most beautiful places in China during one of the most interesting times of the year.

 

If you want to experience a trip like this for yourself, apply now!

Internship Experience, Things To Do in Zhuhai, Travel, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai Blogs, Zhuhai InternChina Events

Mission China: Accomplished

6 months ago I went on a mission to explore a culture that had only recently been on my radar. I was always fascinated with the Middle Kingdom but I honestly would never have seen myself living and working in China for half a year. With no idea of what to expect, or how comfortable I’d feel and how I’d cope with a working environment I’d heard to be entirely different to what I was familiar with, I accepted the challenge in July 2015.
As on every journey, you have your highs and you have your lows. However, as I look back, my time went by in the blink of an eye and it’s truly been a blast. I fell in love with this country and this will be the first of many more experiences in indescribable China.

Moreover, I cannot put into words, how grateful I am to InternChina for taking me on and giving me the opportunity to be part of the family. I’m not going to lie, especially in the busy summer it is a 24/7 position, but the work experience I gained – in the marketing, design and the business development sector – is something I absolutely would not have wanted to miss. Getting out of your comfort zone and acquiring new skills, while focusing on your own strengths and weaknesses is something not every employer can offer!

Now, I’m going to take you with me on my InternChina adventure.

Month #1

InternChina - Waterfall trip in Zhuhai

I’m still convinced the first month didn’t have 4 weeks… it went by so quickly. The weather was hot and humid at that time but that didn’t stop us from hiking to a waterfall, visiting Shenzhen, a weekend trip on Wailing Ding Dao and going to Foshan -> This was the first trip I organised together with my PTA (Personal Travel Adviser) Janice, which ended up in a bubble war between us (20 international students) and 3000 Chinese Citizens armed with water guns.

InternChina - Foshan Trip

InternChina - Wailingding Dao

 

Month #2

Charity Music Festival Come Together in Zhuhai

Month two was also not lacking in events. I had the honour of giving a hand to Zhuhai Office Manager Paul Bailey, AKA Bruce, in the organisation of the 4th annual ‘Come Together Charity Music Festival’ held at the Beishan Theatre in Zhuhai. I was also directly involved on the big day itself and it was a great success – the total money raised in 2015: RMB 300,002.98 (USD 47,170 | GBP 31,000). That wasn’t it for this month: it was my birthday (thanks for the Hellokitty birthday cheese cake Leo!), we explored Guangzhou, hiked up to the Fishergirl’s husband in Zhuhai, went wild water-rafting and tested our taekwondo skills.

Internchina Activities in Zhuhai September 2015

Month #3

Internchina Halloween trip to Foshan

October also proved be a very busy month and I honestly have no idea how all of this fit into a single month, but I worked it out eventually: Zhangjiajie, Calligraphy & Tea Ceremony day, Halloween in Foshan, Hiking to Jintai Temple and relaxing in Zhuhai’s Hot Springs, Macau and Shanghai. Not to forget about my first Haircut and KTV experience in China.

Culture day in Zhuhai Calligraphy and Tea Ceremony

InternChina JINTAI TEMPLE AND HOTSPRINGS ZHUHAI

Month #4

DIY peking opera mask in zhuhai

And there it already was: halftime… Most of the people who had arrived in Zhuhai around the same time as me had finished their 2-3 month internships and the atmosphere in Zhuhai was now different, but a just as fun time had started. It was at this point that Zhuhai started feeling like home and the initial excitement eased into a more settled and cultural-focused phase. The activity list was still just as big though: a DIY Beijing Opera masks event, Yangshuo, the CPAZ Charity day, and a wonderful weekend with Janice and her family (thank you for being such a good friend and partner in crime).

internchina trip to yangshuoHere, I also have to mention that the new IC intern and roomie Nadia arrived. I couldn’t have asked for better company and now that we even have the same laugh, it’s time for me to leave #yaaaaas.

 

Month #5Visiting the InternChina Office in Qingdao

In December I had the chance to visit the InternChina Qingdao office and directly work with the on-site team there for about 2 weeks. It was great getting to know everyone in person and thanks to the cold weather it actually felt like Christmas was approaching. Furthermore, Joe and his little elf Jack outdid themselves with the Christmas turkey! It was a dream!
This was followed by a weekend trip to Beijing, Archery, a night in Hong Kong and a cozy Christmas feast at FBB in Zhuhai.

InternChina Archery Event and Christmas in Zhuhai

Month #6InternChina Zhuhai Weekend Trip to Danxia, Shaoguan

Today on my last day, after sitting for 6 months on my orange chair by the window with the greatest view over Zhuhai, I can’t believe that it’s time to leave and to say good bye to an amazing team… 2016 is off to a great start already. I have learnt how to make dumplings so I can continue my addiction after I return from China, we travelled to Danxia mountain in Shaoguan and it was simply a great time hanging out with all the people I know so well here..

Mission China Accomplished_6 month internship in Zhuhai

Before I get too sentimental, this is the end. The end of a successful mission! Thanks to everyone who crossed my path and has made it an unforgettable experience!

 

If you are also looking for a unique internship opportunity, apply now!

 

Before your stay, Cultural, Internship Experience, Learn about China, Travel, Understanding Chinese culture, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai Blogs, Zhuhai InternChina Events

Goodbye, Zhuhai

Hi all, this is my last blog post with InternChina. My time in Zhuhai has come to an end, for now. It’s been a great experience, and one that’s taught me a lot.
My last few weeks in China have been fun and busy. I went to Danxia Mountain, in Shaoguan, on a weekend trip with InternChina. The mountain is well-known for it’s ‘male rock’ – so called for obvious reasons.

InternChina - Clearly, we all have a mature sense of humour
InternChina – Clearly, we all have a mature sense of humour

The Shaoguan area has some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. Pictures just don’t do it justice, but here’s one anyway:

InternChina - The most amazing view
InternChina – The most amazing view

Before heading back to the UK, I went on a business trip to Shanghai for a few days, which was cool. Shanghai is a massive metropolis. The cold and wet weather more closely resembled my natural habitat than the subtropical climate of Zhuhai.

InternChina - Wet weather in Shanghai
InternChina – Wet weather in Shanghai

I’ll be sad to leave, but I’ve made great memories here. I am grateful to the British Council for awarding me a place on their Generation UK scheme. Coming to China has been a life-changing experience. I would also like to thank my boss, colleagues, and everyone on the InternChina team for their support and hard work. I’ll miss my new friends, but I’ll be sure to stay in touch.

My internship experience has made me realise that China is not a whole world away – it’s more similar than I thought. At the same time, it has also given me a greater appreciation of the differences between our cultures.

My biggest obstacle before coming here was believing that China was too different and too distant, therefore I kept putting it off. However, with these things in mind and seeing this country for myself, I look forward to coming back to China in the future.

InternChina - See you soon China!
InternChina – See you soon China!

For your chance to  fall in love with China and experience an internship of a lifetime apply here!

Zhuhai Steps
InternChina – Zhuhai
Travel, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai Blogs, Zhuhai InternChina Events

Danxia Mountain

What a weekend it has been! Taking part in my first weekend trip with InternChina did not disappoint. With a full itinerary to keep us entertained and great company, this was one memorable trip to Danxia Mountain 丹霞山 <<Dānxiáshān>>.

Setting off on Saturday morning, the 7am meeting time was not easy for any of us, but the 5-hour journey ahead gave us the much need rest before we began our tour of our first destination: Nanhua Buddhist Temple 南华寺 <<Nánhuá Sì>>.

Built in A.D. 502 this temple was over 1,500 years old, founded by an Indian monk named Zhiyao Sanzang. It has particular significance to Buddhism in China as it is home to a number of historical relics preserved from the Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.) such as a rare gold silk cassock embroidered with 1,000 Buddhist figures.

InternChina - Nanhua Temple
InternChina – Nanhua Temple

Once we entered, there was no doubt that this temple held history. Divided up into five sections, the walls of every room were covered in ornate wall murals and gilded Buddha statues. From the 400 year old trees planted in the courtyard, to the fresh springs flowing with water straight from the mountains at the back of the temple. Every part of the temple held some significance to your health, well-being and future.  

InternChina - Buddha statues in Nanhua Temple
InternChina – Buddha statues in Nanhua Temple

Continuing onwards in our journey, we made a brief stop to a historic landmark of Shaoguan city, Fengcai Tower 风采楼 <<Fēngcǎilóu>>, which was built in 1497 during the Ming Dynasty.

InternChina - Fengcai Tower
InternChina – Fengcai Tower

Concluding our day was an event more than any of us anticipated. Feeling a little bit tired after a day of travelling and sight seeing we made our way to our final destination to see a Yao ethnic minority dance performance. The Yao people are one of 55 ethnic minority groups recognised by the People’s Republic of China and have a long history in the south of China extending towards Vietnam.
By the end of the show none of us anticipated that two of our interns would be married to two of the Yao girls; there would be Baijiu shots in celebration; a fire eating show; Kristin our InternChina intern would recieve a piggy back ride from one of the Yao men, while he did squats, WHILE standing on knives. Finishing off this dramatic show the entire audience were brought on stage to take part in a Yao traditional dance that left us with bruised hips and biggest laughs that we’d had that day.

InternChina - The boys preparing for their wedding
InternChina – The boys preparing for their wedding

 

InternChina - Fire eating show
InternChina – Fire eating show

Day 1 of InternChina Zhuhai in Danxia. A success!

 

The next day another early start proved to be struggle for some more than others, but today the was the day we had all been waiting for and Danxia mountain was awaited our arrival.

The first part of our trek led us to exhibit A:

InternChina - Yang Yuan stone
InternChina – Yang Yuan stone

Now I know what you are all thinking and to be honest the rest of the world is thinking this too. HOWEVER, the official name of this formation is Yang Yuan Stone 阳元石 <<yángyuánshí>> or  ‘Male stone’. Just so you know.

InterChina - Obligatory Yang Yuan Mountain photo
InterChina – Obligatory Yang Yuan Mountain photo

Our trek didn’t end here. After a tasty lunch our true journey began with a 2 hour trek to Zhanglao peak. I want you to imagine us as Hobbit extras in Lord of the Rings trying to make our way to Mordor. We climbed vertical cliff faces, while battling crowds of people with buckets of sweat pouring down our faces and our thighs quivering from the strain of the climb.

InternChina - Zhanglao Peak cliff face
InternChina – Zhanglao Peak cliff face

 

InternChina - Vertical climb up the mountain
InternChina – Vertical climb up the mountain

What was this all in pursue of? Why so much effort? Well it was all for one of the best views that I may have seen:

InternChina - Zhanglao Peak
InternChina – Zhanglao Peak

 

 

For your chance to climb Danxia mountain and see China for yourself apply here!

 

 
danxia

Events in Qingdao, Learn about China, Qingdao InternChina Events, Travel, Weekend Trips

Christmas Trip to Harbin

Written by Wiebke Schmütz
As Christmas is not really celebrated in Chinese families, we decided that a Christmas trip is a perfect way to experience some of the holiday spirit.

Originally we had planned to go to Beijing, but there were some stronger powers (too much hydrogen in the air which is a nice Chinese expression for smog). The upcoming Ice and Snow Festival was the main reason why we went to Harbin instead.

So we met on Christmas Eve at the airport and had a delicious Christmas Dinner at the Golden Arches (for those who don’t know: McDonalds). After the 1 1/2 hour flight we arrived in Harbin, where we were really surprised at the fact that they have changing cubicles at the airport on the way from the plane to the baggage claim. Be prepared: Harbin is famous for its bitterly cold winters. The Chinese people’s reaction when we Western people got changed without using that cubicles was priceless!

When we finally arrived at the hostel it was already quite late, so we just checked in and had a look around the housing. It was actually a nice place with many Chinese people talking to us during our stay. I really should have counted how many times we had to play pool – too many!

The next day we enjoyed a relaxed morning and a nice Chinese style brunch: Baozi and Guo Bao Rou – yummy.

 

InternChina-Baozi-and-Guo-Bao-Rou
InternChina- Baozi and Guo Bao Rou

 

After finishing the brunch we took the bus to the city centre. There we could already see some ice or snow sculptures, but the highlight for the children in our hearts was definitely the slide completely made of ice.

InternChina-Ice-slide!
InternChina- Ice slide!

We also had to try the famous Harbin ice cream. It was impressive how many people had the same intention even though it was so cold that Amber’s iPhone wasn’t working anymore. Following the road we arrived at the frozen Songhua River. There was so much going on at the river: a kind of sleighs for 2 or 3 people, motor sleighs, ice skaters, people selling different items, quad bikes pulling tyre tubes, photographers… You also had a beautiful view at the city, the bridge and the other side of the river.

InternChina-Songhua-River
InternChina- Songhua River

We enjoyed it very much, but it was finally time for a warmer place to drink some hot coffee or chocolate. In the evening we had a real Christmas Dinner at a fancy restaurant with “live” music. Trying to find a bar – not a KTV – to celebrate and conclude the evening, we failed or rather it was too cold to go on searching. Then another problem turned up: many taxis were already occupied or refused to stop for a group of four people, however we eventually found a taxi and when we came back to the hostel the evening ended in good atmosphere.

The next day we woke up earlier and had some sweet potatoes from a street vendor before going to the same restaurant as the first day. Then we went to the famous Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom of God or Saint Sophia Cathedral.

InternChina- Saint-Sophia-Cathedral
InternChina- Saint Sophie Cathedral

We refused to pay entrance fee, but one of us managed to enter. The inside has few to do with a church, it houses the Harbin Architectural Art Gallery. We then went on to see the old town. Minus 26 degrees forced us to make a long stop at a café with lots of vintage furniture and decoration. When we found the old town we discovered the next surprise: it was more like a shopping mall trying to look traditional. We liked it nevertheless and even bought some small things. In the end we changed our plan and did not go to see the famous Ice and Snow Festival as it was still under construction, but they already charged 300 RMB entrance fee and it was just way too cold – brr.

InternChina-Amber-freezing-in-Harbin
InternChina- Amber freezing in Harbin

So we just ate dinner and went back to the hostel, and in the evening we managed to go to a cute bar in the same street of the hostel. As we had to get up really early the next day to catch our flight, we didn’t stay so long.

It was a nice trip full of new impressions, but we were happy to be at home in warmer Qingdao on Sunday early afternoon.

InternChina- Harbin Christmas Trip 2016
InternChina- Harbin Christmas Trip 2016

 

If you want to experience trips to cities like Harbin for yourself, apply now

Cultural, How-to Guides, Things To Do in Chengdu, Travel, Weekend Trips

Xi´An Travel Guide

When you are visiting China, going to Xi´An is almost a must! The famous Terracotta Army has often been regarded as the 8th wonder of the world and it is absolutely breathtaking. Even if it takes a twelve hour train ride to get there it is totally worth it and I promise you´ll learn a lot about China on your journey.

IMG_3075
InternChina – Terracotta Army

How to get there

When you are in Chengdu there are several options you can take. You can go by plane, which is of course much faster (but also a lot more expensive) or you can take a train from Chengdu´s main railway station (take Subway 1 towards Shengxian Lake, get off at North Railway Station) which takes about 10-16 hours. Make sure you book your tickets at least two days before you leave since trains are often sold out on the actual day. A good website to book cheap tickets is Ctrip.com. They usually have very cheap offers and if you are a poor recent grad like me and want to save as much money as you possibly can booking a hard seat is as cheap as it gets. If you like a little more comfort and feel you´d like to get some sleep during the train ride you can also book a bed (soft or hard sleeper). How long the journey takes mainly depends on at what time of the day you leave and what railway station in Xi´An you go to. Trains going to Xi´An South Railway station (西安南)are usually the fastest, however, be aware that it is not the main railway station and therefore it is a bit hard to get to since it is further out of the city. You can take a taxi from Xi´An South Railway Station to the city centre which takes about 40 minutes and costs 70-80 RMB. If you choose to arrive at the main railway station (西安) you´ll have plenty of public buses that take you to all parts of the city.
Take your passport with you when you pick up the tickets at the ticket office in Chengdu (it has a building to itself which is to the right of the main building) and make sure you arrive at least half an hour before the train leaves since Chinese train stations can be really busy and it might take a while until you are through the security check.
On the train
Be prepared that if you are a laowei (non-Chinese), people will definitely stare at you which might first feel a bit awkward. But don´t worry, you´ll soon realize that they are merely curious and wonder where you might be from. Being bored on a train is, after all, probably the same in every country and people like to distract themselves in any way they can. After a while they´ll lose interest and turn to playing games on their mobile phones or cooking meals. This is another curiosity I have encountered during my experience on a Chinese train: many Chinese bring their travel size cookery pots with them and prepare meals in them such as soups or instant noodles with different spices and sausages which they cut on a trencher and boil with hot water from a source I did not manage to discover (though this might have be for the lack of trying since I neither had the overwhelming desire nor the equipment necessary to prepare a meal myself).

Drowning the impressively loud snoring of the rather well-fed Chinese gentlemen next to me required setting my iPod to full volume and let´s just say I did not necessarily get a lot of sleep that night, but watching the sun rise over the mountains shortly before we arrived at Xi´An definitely made up for it! There are also lots of people on the train who´ll try to sell you really random stuff, like fish on a fishing-rod that blink in LED lighting and start to dance and sing when you put them on the ground. Or toe clippers, cheap plastic covers for business cards and many more, shall we say, rather uncommon items I myself would not even purchase outside of a train.

IMG_3062
InternChina – Xi´An locals playing Mahjiong

Best time to go
This is always hard to tell and it depends on what kind of weather you are prepared to deal with. I went to Xi´An in winter and before I decided to go on this trip people warned me that it would be very cold and wouldn´t I prefer to go to a place that has warmer weather? But I had always wanted to see the terracotta warriors and so it was either put up with the cold or miss out on the entire experience, which I was definitely not prepared to do! In the end the cold was not that bad at all and three layers of clothes helped me to enjoy sightseeing without shivering.

IMG_3019
InternChina – Winter in Xi´An

Where to stay
Again this highly depends on your budget. If you are prepared to spend a bit more there are several nice hotels in Xi´An which can be booked on the website Ctrip. A nice place to stay that is neither too expensive nor very low budget is the Atour Hotel which is close to many of the city´s top attractions such as the Small Goose Pagoda, the Ancient City Wall or the Bell Tower. From there you can also easily catch buses into every part of town, including the main train station from which you´ll eventually catch a train to the Terracotta Army.
If you prefer to save some money and opt to stay in a more basic accommodation I can highly recommend to you the Han Tang hostel which is located in a residential area of town but can be easily reached from the airport and the main train station. They also offer free pick up at the main railway station if you let them know in advance when you´ll be arriving.
Make sure to check popular travel sites such as hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com for the cheapest offers. Ratings can always be found at tripadvisor,a brilliant travel site always worth checking out.

IMG_3030
InternChina – The Gate to Xi´An

What to do
Obviously one of the main reasons for people to travel to Xi´An is almost always the visit of the Terracotta Army so I´ll devote an entire section to it in this blog. But there is indeed a lot more to Xi´An than just the warriors. As one of China´s four ancient great capitals, the UNESCO historic city has a great deal to offer and many interesting places to visit. Make sure to take enough ime to explore the cultural heritage, visit local craft markets and try the delicious food.

A very nice place to go for a walk is the ancient city wall. For just 29 RMB (don´t forget to bring your student ID to get discount) you can walk on the wall for as long as you like (and it´s a long wall!). If you enjoy cycling you may also wish to rent a bike from one of the countless bike rentals on the city wall. It´s a great way to enjoy a fantastic view of the city and see many different places in a short time. There are also various museums on the city wall which you can access for free when you have your entrance ticket.

Another place well worth exploring is the Muslim quarter where you can buy local souvenirs and try the delicious food for very little money so make sure you go there hungry. Other interesting sights are the Bell Tower (especially at night when the lights are on), the Little Wild Goose Pagoda, the Big Wilde Goose Pagoda and the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi.

IMG_3049
InternChina – Xi´An local market

 

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InternChina – Xi´An Backalley

 

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InternChina – Muslim Quarter

 

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InternChina – Ancient City Wall

The Terracotta Army
As usual the best part comes last: China´s famous terracotta warriors, which are thousands of years old but have only been discovered in 1974 by local farmers who were digging for water when building a well. The army, which was commissioned by China´s first Emperor Qin, comprises more than 6000 life-size terracotta figures of soldiers and horses ready for battle. Not two soldiers look alike; all of them have different facial features and expression, clothing, hairstyle, and gestures. The museum first opened to visitors in 1979, though the term “museum” might be slightly misleading since the warriors are displayed in an underground hall which reminds more of a vault. The first pit is the largest with a number of about 2000 warriors on display. Almost all of the soldiers in Pit Two are destroyed and there are countless piles of broken fragments.Warriors and horses in the third Pit, which is considerably smaller than the first two, are remarkably well-preserved; many of them still have their original face paintings and they look like they might come alive at any moment.

Now, how to get there? This is actually very easy if you know what railway station to go to and do not end up in the wrong place like me (instead of arriving at the museum at 11 a.m. I got there at 2 p.m.- this is about as much as you need to know). Simply catch bus number 5 (306) from the main railway station. It seems to have a stop all to itself with a big yellow sign next to it. If you are not sure if you are in the right place just ask around, almost everybody will be able to help you. Just bear in mind that people won´t necessarily know the English word for terracotta army so to be on the safe side ask for bīngmǎyǒng(兵马俑). Once you have found the bus just sit down, eventually someone will come up and sell you a ticket for 8RMB one way. There is no schedule, the bus just leaves when it is full. The ride takes about 40-60 minutes; you´ll be dropped off at the last stop which is a big car park with many the tour buses so it is really hard to miss. Don´t be confused if the bus stops a few times on the way there, this is usually just to drop some locals off.

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InternChina – Warriors in Pit 3

 

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InternChina – Largest part of the army

 

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InternChina – Terracotta Warriors

The museum is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day but I would highly recommend going there in the early afternoon after most school classes and pensioners have left. You´ll find it´s much less busy and you´ll be able to enjoy walking around without having to queue all the time. Sadly they won´t give you student discount so you´ll have to pay the full entrance fee of 120 RMB but it is a good investment! I found that two hours are plenty of time to get around and have a look at all three pits as well as the history museum and various souvenir shops. Do not, under any circumstances, buy a souvenir at the museum grounds but wait until you get out and pass the approx. one thousand tourist shops that´ll all want to sell you the same thing: mini terracotta statues! As always in China make sure to haggle to get a better price. I hope you are well prepared now for your trip and have a wonderful time!

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InternChina – Trip to Xi´An

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xian travel guide

Cultural, Learn about China, Travel, Weekend Trips

Christmas in Guangzhou

Christmas in China is a unique experience.
On Christmas Eve, I went to a tasty feast arranged by InternChina. The good food and company put me in the festive spirit. To continue with the celebrations, I made a spontaneous decision to go to Guangzhou with a couple of friends on Christmas Morning.

After a rush to throw my things in a bag, I jumped into a taxi to get to the train station. By the time we had arrived, there was a queue out the door, and the train was set to leave in under twenty minutes. My friends and I had already reserved the tickets online, but we still had to collect them at the counter. Fortunately, we all managed to get our tickets and we caught the train on time.

The journey was off to a good start.

InternChina - Here I am with the train conductor. Speed Train from Zhuhai to Guangzhou
InternChina – Here I am with the train conductor.

The journey took just over an hour.

Guangzhou South Railway Station is huge and modern. It’s a fair distance from the city centre, but a 24-hour pass cost only 20rmb.

InternChina - The modern Guangzhou South Railway Station stretches off into the distance
InternChina – Guangzhou South Railway Station stretches off into the distance.

The metro system is clean, bright and modern. They have driverless cars, the carriages are wide and every station has glass screens with automatic doors at the edge of the platform.

When we arrived at the hostel, we found out that the government currently has a policy of not allowing foreigners to stay in hostels, which seemed strange. But this wasn’t a problem and we stayed in a nearby hotel.

Once we dropped off our bags, we could start exploring. The city is loud and animated. After walking around, we got some lunch on Beijing Road.

I tried some of the famous bubble tea.

InternChina Bubble Tea in Guangzhou
InternChina – Bubble tea selfie.

As evening approached, we walked around the park on Yuexiu Mountain, where we saw The Five Rams. They are meant to bring good fortune to the city.

InternChina - The Five Rams stand on Yuexiu Mountain in Guangzhou
InternChina – The Five Rams stand on Yuexiu Mountain

We then made our way to the Flower City Square, near the Pearl River, where we got a good view of the Canton Tower. This structure is an impressive feat of architecture. It stands at 600 meters, making it the third tallest tower in the world.

InternChina - The Canton Tower lit up at night in Guangzhou
InternChina – The Canton Tower lit up at night

After some more walking around and being taken in by the lively atmosphere and the modern cityscape, we got some dinner and returned to the hotel to get some rest.

On Boxing Day, we went to the China Communist Party’s Third Congress Museum. It was all in Chinese, but my friends were very helpful by translating the key points.

We then headed over to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall Museum, which was an academic temple. It is a site of historic and cultural significance, and it contains a number of beautiful pieces of artwork, from pottery to wood carvings and ivory.

InternChina - The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall in Guangzhou full of ornate pieces of artwork
InternChina – The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall full of ornate pieces of artwork

Another attraction that we went to see was the Nanyue King’s Tomb in the Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum. This was interesting and informational. I learnt that the King was buried with fifteen sacrificial people.

The last site that we saw was Shamian Island, which offers a glimpse into China’s colonial past. The island is a tranquil, scenic stretch of land that is shaded by trees and contains old colonial-era buildings. The southern side is encircled by the Pearl River. A canal separates the northern part from the mainland. Shamian Island was given to the UK and France in the nineteenth century.

The building that caught my attention the most was the old Soviet Union Consulate, which is now abandoned and has fallen into a state of disrepair.

InternChina - The Soviet Union Consulate in Guangzhou
InternChina – The plaque on the front gate.
InternChina - The Soviet Union Consulate Building in Guangzhou
InternChina – The Soviet Union Consulate Building

After dinner, we made our way to the railway station and caught a late train back to Zhuhai. It was a different Christmas experience, for sure.

 

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