China Travel blog

China Travel blog

Shock (noun)—a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities.

 

If you've never been to China before, get ready for some culture shock! China possesses a culture that can be disconcerting and jarring. In fact, there is a rich blend of tradition and modernity to be found here. It can take time to familiarize yourself with the culture and not feel confounded by its contradictions. In the meantime, do your best not to get ripped off for thousands of dollars on a haircut—I'll share this story with you later.

To ease the transition, I've created a list of things to watch for. Whether you're here temporarily or for the long haul, there are some aspects of Chinese culture that you need to be aware of. Being culturally savvy and perceptive can only help your experience....

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We are taking a temporary hiatus on new article content. Don't worry. It's not you, it's us. We just need a little time to work on ourselves, maybe travel around Southeast Asia and discover ourselves. Take up yoga. Fall in love with our instructor. Just get to know, you know, the real us.

The other part of ourselves we will be working on is a brand new website. We will be changing the focus of China Travel to be more centered on giving you the definitive China travel guide experience, along with updated article content to make sure you are well-prepared for your trip or make your life in China a bit more comfortable.

The new site will feature:

  • All new design and interface that should no longer give you the impression that you are traveling back in time when you look up information about traveling to China.
  • New ways to explore travel in China, whether you want to see what Qinghai has to offer or discover where to rock climb/river raft/scuba dive under the Great Wall.
  • Far improved usability. We obviously would like to keep people entertained as long as possible on the site, and short of imprisoning you in a room with a computer that can only access one site, we decided to just make the new website easier to browse and find the content that you want to see.


So while there won't be nearly as much updated article content, you can look forward to an all-new experience with renewed fervor.

Our new site will be located at www.bamboocompass.com, so bookmark it, write it down, put a sticky on your fridge, carve it into your arm—whatever it takes to remember your new one-stop-portal for everything China.

 

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Chungking Mansions: Enter if you dare...

The notorious Chungking Mansions and neighboring Mirador Mansions in Kowloon's Tsim Sha Tsui, can be intimidating at first sight, especially as a solo female traveler. Full of aggressive touts and frequented mainly by African and South Asian men who gather round the entrances, there's barely a woman to be seen here. But they also offer some of Hong Kong's cheapest accommodation.

As someone who's lived and traveled quite a bit in the Middle East (perhaps one of the most difficult regions to travel as a solo female), I've become somewhat accustomed to various kinds of unwanted attention. While it's almost always harmless, it's a hassle to deal with and on my many previous visits to Hong Kong, I'd avoided both places. But on my most recent visa run a few weeks back, I decided it was finally time to give them a try....

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Nuodeng Village entrance.

Anthony Paglino is the man behind iCurious Travel, a cultural guide that brings together insightful stories and experiences highlighting China's rich language and cultural landscape. He's a firm believer in the transformative power of traveling with a thirst for knowledge and curiosity as your guide. Join him as he journeys through a small village in Yunnan where a chance meeting leads to some unexpected results. He's recently published a digital cultural guide to China for the iPad. It is available for download on iTunes.

Continued from Part 1: When we left Anthony, he had just entered a private courtyard home in the village of 诺邓 (Nuòdèng) at the insistence of a local villager....

He has turned his family home into a living museum. I have seen many homes and courtyards during my time and travels in China. The village where I previously lived had similar establishments, where retired folks would put out a sign in front of their courtyard entrance, and charge a fee to get in. Most of the time these houses were just glorified living rooms, nothing of real importance.

But as this man continued to pull me deeper into the courtyard, I remember looking down at his shoes. A line from Forrest Gump came rushing back to me: "You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes."

More after the jump....

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The Russian Orthodox Mission Church: It took quite some negotiating...

It's served as a warehouse, hosted a stock exchange and housed a nightclub known as The Dome, but Shanghai's Russian Orthodox Mission Cathedral hasn't seen a religious service since 1962. That is until Wednesday, when visiting Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, presided over the Divine Liturgy here.

The mass, held on 15 May, was the cathedral's first religious service in 51 years, but this reportedly didn't come easily. Lengthy negotiations involving the Russian government in the lead up to the Patriarch's visit were required to secure permission to hold this 2.5 hour ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of visitors and worshipers, including women in traditional headscarves.

The blue-domed Russian Orthodox Mission Cathedral, located at 55 Xinle Road (Xīnlè Lù, 新乐路) in Shanghai's French Concession, was modeled on the style of the Kremlin. Built to accommodate 2,500 people, it was completed in 1937 when a sizable community of Russians resided in Shanghai—at one time up to 25,000. While much of the cathedral's stained glass was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the building underwent a restoration in 1988 and an art gallery/museum can sometimes be visited within. For some of today's resident Russians, it provides a link back to their tradition and culture. (More after the jump....)

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Hong Kong is Asia's shopping paradise, a seaside port whose history revolves around international trade, and the economic gateway to Mainland. Naturally, this makes Hong Kong the economic gateway to the rest of the world for Mainlanders. Many foreigners come to China expecting it to house their favorite products at half the price (considering the majority are made here), but sadly, my naïve friend, that's not the way it works.

Every place in the world has their own specialties that are cheaper, like massages in China, tech support in India, or cover bands in the Philippines. Then there are countries that subsidize to attain cheap prices, like Venezuela's USD 0.06 per gallon of gas. This does not mean that Filipino pineapples will remain cheap once they get to your suburban supermarket, nor will anything exported to Alaska for that matter.

So here is a list of products that are cheaper to buy in HK, or sometimes completely unavailable in the Mainland, for you to consider the next time you are making a visa run, or you're just in the area and want to make the most of your trip....

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china visa

Let me get one of those, man.

Much change has been afoot recently with China visas: tourists can now stay in Beijing or Shanghai for 72 hours visa-free and a drastic rewrite of China's immigration policy is due to takes effect in July.

It also seems that two new visas may be introduced, both aimed at foreign professionals sought for high-level employment in Chinese companies....

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Sunset in Nuodeng

Anthony Paglino is the man behind iCurious Travel, a cultural guide that brings together insightful stories and experiences highlighting China's rich language and cultural landscape. He's a firm believer in the transformative power of traveling with a thirst for knowledge and curiosity as your guide. Join him as he journeys through a small village in Yunnan where a chance meeting leads to some unexpected results. He's recently published a digital cultural guide to China for the iPad. It is available for download on iTunes.

Out in the corner of Yunnan province sits a small village that time forgot. Maybe it is better that way. Fortunately, the village of 诺邓 (Nuòdèng) still resembles what life was like before broad avenues and traffic, before the creep of urbanization, before the work force migration and before the mass commercialization of life in China. In this village, traditional values of farming and family are not separated behind a glass wall in a museum, but living and breathing in people's everyday lives. Read on for more....

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