Sometimes on the streets in China you can see people celebrating a funeral.
Some musicians make a lot of noice with their trumpets and drums. The mourners wear white dresses or at least a white band around their heads.
For more please see my travelogue on my Yangshuo page!
Alos important for funerals are in some places in China big and colorful flower arrangements. See pic!Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Arts and Culture
Chinese love to play games. What proves it is that e.g. the train station in Pingyao provides games for passangers ;)
One of the most popular games is Xiangqi - Chinese chess. In cities, towns and villages you will find groups of men sitting at the game board. Some are playing, others just watch. Sometimes they organize something like competitions which gather several groups of players.
The second very popular game is Mahjong. I tried to study the rules but they are quite complicated and it takes much time to understand. Seems to be a very interesting game. We observed that it is mostly played at home and gathers families.
Xiangqi and Mahjong are good for a souvenir or a gift :)
Most toilets in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai are like the west and most are not squats toilets. Just go to a KFC or McDonalds to fine one. But you should always carry your own tissues.
They will have men and women in English and Chinese along with the international stick figures. The Chinese character for women looks like a pregnant women. The Chinese character for men looks like a man with big head with a little thing hanging off of it. :)
The toilets outside the cities are something else, just follow your nose to find one, and maybe wear army boots when you enter.
Restaurants is smaller cities may not have their own toilet, you have to use the public one down the street.
Most of the time you have to pay to enter a public toilet but not at KFC or McDonalds.
Take a picture with the locals
Many local people like to have their photo taken with western foreigners. I don't know why but they do. Some people find this annoying, especially western foreigners living in China. But I just go with the flow as long as I also get a picture and not short for time.
The girl in the first picture wanted to take a picture of me with her male companion. But I said no, I will only take a picture with her. :)
If you hear a loud 'harrrh...' from the behind and a sound of spit hitting the ground - don't be afraid! It is only a local custom. Everyone spits...men...women... In some places it is forbidden - you may see pictograms saying 'no spitting here', generally in a public transport.
It may happen that someone spit on your foot by accident ;)
Social dinner etiquette: Cheers!
My Chinese hosts arranged a wonderful welcome dinner for me. My wine glass was filled, and my interpreter whispered in my ear: "The Director wants to cheer with you". This meant that I was to drink wine with him: stand up, hold my glass, listen to his greetings, say a few greeting words myself and drink standing up (as he did).
Then after five minutes the First Vice Director also wished to "Cheer with me", but in this case it was "bottoms up" and I was expected to empty my glass.
A few minutes later one of the ladies wanted to "Cheer with me", but held a tea cup and I was expected to raise my teacup and not my wine glass: Whoever initiates the "cheer" determines what drink it will be,alcoholic or non-alcoholic.
I soon learned that I was expected to reciprocate and ask to "cheer with" the others, either individually or "cheer the whole group", which makes things easier.
This "cheering" process was both entertaining but also taken seriously as an important part of the social event.Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Work Abroad
- Business Travel
Dealing with the language barrier
Away from corporate offices, hotels, airports, universities and tourist sites, you will find that most Chinese people do not speak a foreign language. As a result, you should learn a few basic phrases of Mandarin. The three phrases that we need most frequently were xie xie (thank you - pronounced "shay shay"), ni hao (hello - pronounced "nee how"), and bu yao (don't want - pronounced "boo yow"). The latter phrase is very useful to know when dealing with the dozens of people who will try to sell you something (fake watches, art, souvenirs, etc.) around the major tourist sites.
When taking taxis, always remember to have the name of your destination written in Chinese characters. Hotels usually have preprinted cards available with their name and address. Our hotel in Xi'an had a great little card that had the top tourist sites in the city with their Mandarin names written beside the English names. Another thing that was very helpful was to carry a map with street names in both Chinese characters and English, in case you or your taxi driver gets lost.
One thing that we found to be very useful was an i-Phone app with which you could take a picture of a Chinese character and then get its pronunciation and meaning.
Finally, be aware that Mandarin, Cantonese and many of the other Chinese languages are tone languages. In Mandarin, there are four tones (high, rising, falling, and down-up) plus neutral (flat), and a word can have radically different meanings depending on the tone used. For example, the words for buy and sell are spelled the same, but have different tones. Same for the words for mother and horse.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
AVOID POLUTION WEAR A FACE MASK
When travelling through China I noticed most people wearing protective face masks. As the polution is extreme this is a really important practice to also do. I already had some protective particle face masks that I got previously when in Vietnam where the traffic polution was also horrific. I constantly used them in Mongolia also because of the constant prolific dust everywhere. This fact of polution is very seldom taken into consideration when looking at essentials to pack.
I was really surprised how bad the polution was in and around Biejing..so much so, I left sooner than I wanted to due to a chest infection. I had heard that the government had moved to improve the air quality for their Olympic Games . I cant imagine what the air quality was like before.These polutants are especially bad for bronchial sufferers of Asthma, Bronchitis or any chronic breathing problem that can be triggered by bad air..
Most supermarkets sell these facemasks , also they can be found in markets and also street traders sell them..
Always carry a few with you..They are great to have , when you need themRelated to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
Definition from Wikipedia: , is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a consequence, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of t'ai chi ch'uan's training forms are especially known for being practiced at what most people categorize as slow movement.
Throughout China, in parks and other open areas, one can see people doing Tai Chi. In my video, I photographed some people outside the Shanghai Museum in the surrounding park.
When travelling in China, you better get used to eating with chopsticks - even noodle soup is served with chopsticks!
I remember the first meal we had in China! I thought to myself: "well, I either practise now or I will starve" - and I practised and enjoyed the most delicious food ever!!!
In westernized hotels and restaurants you will get a knife and fork, but personally I think the food tastes so much better when eating it the traditional way!
Urban Construction Projects
Chinese cities are dramatically increasing in size and economic strength, leading to a boom in massive urban construction projects. These construction projects include infrastructure improvements, such as roads, highways, bridges, airports, and deep-water ports; residential highrises; and privately owned office buildings.
Ever since Deng Xiao Ping opened up China in the 1980s, foreign investment has flowed into the country, causing an economic boom that is attracting businesses and millions of people to the cities in search of work and a better lifestyle. This influx of new residents causes a demand for infrastructure and housing. In 1952, China had nine cities with a population of 1,000,000; today there are at least 37 cities of that size.
Office construction in Chinese cities has been nothing short of phenominal. Most large cities have dozens, if not hundreds, of skyscrapers, with skylines that rival that of New York City, and they have sprung up only within about a 20-year period. The construction of super-tall skyscrapers has shifted from the United States to Asia. China currently has more buildings over 1,000 feet (305 meters) either completed or under construction than any other country in the world.
Predictions made by the government and world development agencies predicted that China's urban construction would double every ten years. In reality, however, it has doubled every five years. In each five-year period, the urban built-up areas increase by about 57,915 square miles (15,000 square kilometers). Between the late 1990s and 2005, the built-up urban areas of Chinese cities increased by 50 percent. This means a loss of agricultural land and natural areas such as woodlands and wetlands.
Agriculture in the Pearl River Delta
The Pearl River Delta is the low-lying region surrounding the estuary where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. The region forms the world's largest urban agglomeration, with about 120,000,000 people living in the four main cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen, and Hong Hong and the clusters of built-up urban areas between those cities.
Agriculture in the Pearl River Delta is an aspect of the economy and a way of life that is rapidly becoming increasingly rare, and may eventually disappear altogether. Up until about 1985, most of the region was made up of farms and rural villages. However, since then about 94 percent of the agricultural land amounting to about 23,166 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) has been lost to urban development.
The reason for this change is the fact that in 1985 the region was made a Special Economic Zone which attracted foreign investment, mainly from Hong Kong. That foreign investment, as well as investments from within China itself, turned the Pearl River Delta into one of the leading manufacturing centers in China, and it now boasts one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world.
The result of this phenomenal economic growth was an enormous influx of people seeking jobs in the Special Economic Zone and the loss of open land to urban growth and development.
Traveling between Shenzhen and Guangzhou on one of the new super highways, it is still possible to see farmers working their fields, often using primitive methods.
Most day trips from Hong Kong to mainland China include a stop at a Chinese kindergarten. On a day when school is not in session, the trip includes a stop at a factory or other cultural attraction. The first stop on my tour of Shenzhen was a kindergarten, where the children sang songs, danced, and played musical instruments. The program lasted about 15 or 20 minutes. I imagine that this is a daily routine for them, as day trips from Hong Kong are booked almost every day.
Kindergarten in China lasts about four years, and is compulsory for children between the ages of two and six years. The kindergarten system is divided into four levels. Nursery school is for children two to three years old, lower kindergarten is for children three to four years old, upper kindergarten is for children four to five years old, and preschool is for children five to six years old.
The Shekou Free Market
Most day trips from Hong Kong to mainland China include a stop at the Shekou Free Market. The market features fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat. While tourists might buy some fruit to eat later during their tour, the vegetables and meat are something that tourists obviously would not purchase. Nevertheless, it is an interesting experience to see locals bargain for their daily portion of meat and vegetables. Many Chinese do not have large refrigerators that are commonly owned in the West, so housewives tend to buy perishable goods every day to ensure freshness.
Most of the produce for sale at the Shekou Free Market is sold buy farmers from the region who are now allowed to sell their own crops and make a profit on them.
During my visit to the Shekou Free Market, I noticed that the vegetables appeared of better quality than what is generally available in American supermarkets. The meat, on the other hand, was displayed in the open air without refrigeration or ice. It was crawling with flies and did not seem very appealing to me.
Despite the fact that Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Zone of China, visitors will still need a Chinese visa to travel to the mainland. Travelers who book a day trip can obtain a group visa through the tour company. Another option is to get a tourist visa before leaving home. I obtained my visa at the Chinese consulate in Chicago.
Although it cost a little more than a group visa, having a visa already stamped in my passport was more convenient. When I went through immigration upon entering China, I was placed at the head of the line because I already had a visa. This saved having to wait in a long line.
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