I had a great time visiting China (Beijing, Xian, Yangshuo, Guilin, Guangzhou train ride to Hong Kong).
For those of you high-maintenance people, be prepared to 'rough it.' Nothing was difficult, just different. My friend was startled while in the restroom she kept being interrupted by one of the employees at the Great Wall yelling at her to get out of the toilet stall, and even trying to knock the door open. We later came to realize that my friend was in the wrong toilet stall--she was in the 'urine only' stall, when she needed to be in the other one. Like I said, Montezuma's Revenge. I also recall my friends and me being ejected out of a cab on the way back to the dormitory. The cab driver had agreed to drive us back to the dorm, however towards the end, he said for us to get out of the car and hitch a ride with another taxi driver. We got out and would not pay--that started a heated exchange between one friend who can speak Mandarin, and the rest of us who can't--but were able to tell him how we felt by the tone of our frustration and physical motions. He said that if we didn't pay up, that he'd take us to the police station and that the police would confiscate our passports. I don't know why he said what he did, but after an hour of arguing, he finally caved in and drove us to the dormitory.
Another memory, unrelated to any bodily function, was a conversation I had with a taxi driver on the way from central Beijing back to the dormitory. Although I don't know any Mandarin, other than simple greetings, we were able to have a conversation. Through motions and the similarity of very few words between Mandarin and Korean, we exchanged information about our families and perspective on China and the U.S. I asked him what he thought about the return of Hong Kong (as it was days away)--and he had a favorable opinion. He asked me if I preferred the U.S. or China and was geniunely interested in the U.S. You never know what you may encounter...
Some people come to Taoranting...
Some people come to Taoranting Park to learn to dance to the music of a cassette player.
Along with cuisine and landscaping, the art of acrobatics place the Chinese culture in a niche of its own. I watched this group go through its complex balancing routines for two hours without a single mishap. It's amazing that not one of these 54 spinning plates would fall. The odds are just against it!
Easily missed next to its illustrious neighbors, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, this huge private residential district is home to the elite leadership of the Communist Party. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping all lived here. If you climb the hill just north of the Forbidden City, you can get a view into Zhongnanhai from above...
The photo here shows the entrance, flanked by two guards.
Shard Box Store
One of those truly different souvenir shops, the Shard Box Store creates jewellery out of the shattered remains of porcelain broken during the Cultural Revolution.
By definition, each of these pieces are unique, hand-made souvenirs turning something nice - no matter how tiny - out of an episode of much suffering and upheaval.
They also create a lot of other nice jewellery, using traditional stones and symbols of Chinese culture, but it is the 'shard' jewellery and giftware that is so unique.
There are two Shard Box Stores, one on Xiao Yun Lu (despite its address as 2 Jiangtai Lu; phone 010 5135 7638) at the Lido, and the second on Ritan Bei Lu (phone 010 8561 3712), just north and east of the park. See above Upwards of RMB100 for small silver pieces; upwards of RMB800 for gold.
Easy and fast
I found it incredible easy to travel by subway in Beijing.
The stations are written in English as well, even the anouncements are also in English and it's very cheap (actually like almost everything else in China) with only 3 RMB one travel, which is around 0.3 euros.
There are 2 lines with 2 crossing points, and there are stations in the city centre, close to some major tourist attractions (like Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square).