Xi’an – more than home to the Terracotta Warriors

The World Horticultural Expo is taking place in Xi’an until 22nd October this year. Famous for being home to the Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an is also the city where our Feather Roses are made. You’ll understand why I was so interested when I saw this amazing photo in the China Daily news today.

Rainbow Roses

Rainbow Roses in Xi'an

Another photo that caught my eye in today’s paper is from the Mud Festival in Yunnan Province. This looks like a lot of fun! 
 
Mud Festival in Cangyuan

Mud Festival in Cangyuan, Yunnan Province

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The hotel name card – don’t leave the hotel without it!

When we first travelled to China, we arrived in the evening so we decided to stay at an airport hotel and travel in to the city centre the next day. It was a great idea that nearly turned into a disaster as we couldn’t find our hotel. It was meant to be right beside the Maglev station so there really weren’t too many places to look for it. The problem was that the hotel had changed its name. Nobody that we asked, at either of the two hotels at the Maglev, had heard of the hotel. Finally, we handed over our passports at one of the hotels and they had our booking! What a relief. Thank goodness for c-trip.

Once we made it into the room we found the hotel name we were expecting all over the place. That helped us to learn a very important lesson early in our adventures doing business in China. Just because someone speaks English, don’t assume that they will know the English names of places.

The following morning we made our way to our next hotel via the Maglev and Metro. We had the address and a map, so we were confident that we’d find our way without trouble. Lesson number two learned – maps in China aren’t all that reliable. They don’t put the smaller streets in, which means that you shouldn’t navigate on the basis of the second on the right. The train station was being renovated and our planned exit was closed. It took us a while to work out that the map was leaving out streets. Once we had that established we found our hotel.

While I was booking in Graham made friends with the concierge. (That’s just him – he makes friends everywhere he goes.) The concierge gave him a hotel name card. Wow! It was the best thing ever. That small card, which says in English and Chinese, take me to …. Is like having the “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. We were able to hand it to the taxi driver, wherever we were, and get back to the hotel. As we like to wander around on foot, we can end up just about anywhere. Having the hotel card gave us a sense of security which meant that we were able to go further afield than if we were trying to keep track of where we were.

Of course, you don’t get a hotel card until you’re at the hotel. Our lovely friends at c-trip have that sorted too. Your hotel order has the name and address of your hotel printed in Chinese. We take printouts with us when we travel.

Hotel name and address in Chinese
Mind you, that’s where the next lesson comes in. Not all taxi drivers are able to read the hotel name. We haven’t worked out if that’s a literacy problem or a language problem (Mandarin vs Cantonese). What we have worked out is that having the hotel phone number and a mobile phone with a Chinese sim card with you is a great solution. You can dial the hotel, hand the phone to the driver, and it all gets sorted out.
 
When all else fails, our English speaking business contacts have been fantastic. Not only will they come and meet us when we get to a new city, and take us to our hotel, but they have all offered to rescue us if we get stuck travelling around China. Fortunately, we haven’t needed bailing out, but it certainly gives us peace of mind to know that there are people that we can call who will understand us and help us. 

Travelling to China? 5 must-see cities!

 

1. Shanghai – the largest city in China, Shanghai is top of my list of favourite places in China. From the moment you arrive at Pudong International Airport you can feel the energy of Shanghai. If you can, take a ride on the Maglev, the fastest train in service in the world. Reaching speeds of 430 km/h, it takes approximately 8 minutes to get from the airport to Longyang Road station, where you can transfer to Shanghai Metro. Other things to do in Shanghai include shopping in East Nanjing Road, visiting People’s Square, taking a night cruise on the Bund, having clothes custom made at the Fabric Markets and visiting Old Shanghai.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai

2. Beijing – the capital of China and gateway to the Great Wall, Beijing is another must-see city. There’s lots to see and do near the Forbidden City, which is well worth a visit, as is nearby Tiananmen Square. The Hutongs are slowly disappearing so see them while you have the opportunity. Wangfujing Dajie is just one of the popular shopping streets in Beijing. The nearby night food markets are colourful and vibrant, and give adventurous people the opportunity to try different foods on sticks, like silkworms or starfish.

The Great Wall of China

3. Xian – the home of the Terracotta Warriors, Xian is another place with a fascinating history. I recommend that you catch a bus to the Terracotta Warriors Museum rather than spending money on an organised tour. Be warned, once you get to the museum there are plenty of people who will offer to be your tour guide. You might like to take them up on it or buy a guide book, as there’s very little information in English once you’re inside. The Drum and Bell Tower are within walking distance of each other inside the old City Wall.

4. Guangzhou – the home of the Canton Fair, Guangzhou is located on the Pearl River. Attractions include Shamian Island and the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Every city in China claims to have the best shopping street in China and Guangzhou is no exception. Visit Shangxia Jiu Lu and Beijing Lu for fabulous shopping.

Pearl River Night Cruise

5. Hong Kong – the pearl of the Orient, Hong Kong is home to Victoria Bay, the largest harbour in China, and to an array of theme parks, including Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. The shopping and nightlife are also major attractions.