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Old 07-28-2007, 04:42 PM   #1
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Default Tips for China travelers

hey guys, i spent 4 months in China last year as an English teacher, based in Guilin, and I thought I would share some of my experience with those of you planning to travel there. The way the class schedule was, I taught for three weeks then a week off, etc. for four months

1. I cannot stress this enough, an absolute must-visit in China is YANGSHUO. This is the backpacker's mecca in China. Its nestled on the Li River about an hour outside of Guilin, in the midst of all the misty gumdrop-shaped mountains that are so famous. Even amongst the Chinese, Guilin and the surrounding areas are considered the most beautiful landscapes in China and among the most popular tourist destinations. The main attraction in the town is the Foreigner's Street where there are numerous hostels, bars, and shops. Besides that, if you are outdoorsy then you will have a great time. Rent a vespa and a map and go riding around the mountain roads past rice paddies and tiny villages. Go on a bamboo raft and drift down the Li River. Go hiking up to Moon Hill or into the mudcaves (you will get covered head to foot in mud, so dress accordingly, there is actually a huge pool of mud to wallow in, super fun). Eat banana pancakes and try the local specialties: snake (3 courses: 1-soup; 2-drink made with alcohol, snakes blood and bile; then meat with noodles) and beerfish (local fish cooked in local beer, a truly taste-gasmic meal.) To get to Yangshuo just go to any transport station (bus, train, maybe airport not sure) and find a bus to Yangshuo. It should only cost you about 10-12 yuan one way. Guilin is a nice city too.

2. Xi'an is a fantastic city and I would recommend the Bell Tower IYH (you can book from this website), the hostel is located very centrally for the city sights: the Muslim Quarter, the old city walls, Big/Small Wild Goose Pagodas. Of course, youll be there to see the Terracotta soldiers and they are awesome but thats a day trip tops and Xi'an is fun for at least 3 days.

3. After Xi'an I went to the Shaolin monastery up in the mountains. And getting there was quite a headache but totally worth it. The temples are fantastic and there are some impressive sights. Plus the whole valley is full of kung fu students so you feel like youre walking through some ninja training camp. There are plenty of kung fu demonstrations done that are freaking amazing, like a guy throwing a needle through a pane of glass to pop a balloon! The Pagoda Forest is awesome, its like a massive graveyard where each pagoda is a shrine to some past abbot of the monastery. Theres like a thousand of them, and I was lucky to be wandering in just the right place to see a demonstration of a guy breaking a rather thick piece of wood over another guy's head. His kung fu was strong indeed.

4. There is plenty of stuff on Beijing so I'll skip it.

5. Transportation tips. I never flew within China so I cannot comment on the air travel. But I would recommend riding their fantastic train system in a hard sleeper which is actually a cushioned cot that is more than sufficiently comfortable. China is a big country and the train trips are long (24 hours from Beijing to Guilin) so if you can trade time for the money youll save then its the best to go. When youre in the cities, learn and love the bus system. With so many people, China's public transportation is very capable, but of course you have to deal with crowds. Taxis are usually reliable but a lot more expensive than taking a bus.

Seriously though, I spent 4 months in China and Yangshuo was far and away my favorite place, which was awesome because I lived only an hour away so I could go for weekends or whatever.

Thats enough for now, I wrote a lot. If you guys have any other questions, feel free to ask.

~ZACK
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Old 07-28-2007, 05:28 PM   #2
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I can't believe you lurked for so long man. Shame on you.
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Old 07-28-2007, 09:01 PM   #3
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WOW, thanks for all that info. you've totally added a few places to my list of things to do and see. Are you planning to go back? or maybe you're gonna teach somewhere else next? How about some pics my friend!! I'm sure they're gorgeous.

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Old 07-28-2007, 10:26 PM   #4
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I can't believe you lurked for so long man. Shame on you.
I think he made up for it.

Great post and particularly of interest to me personally since I am headed to China next year

--Joey
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Old 07-29-2007, 03:02 PM   #5
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I can't believe you lurked for so long man. Shame on you.

yeah, well i originally started using this site while i was in china, to book hostels in advance and i would occasionally browse the boards so . . . yeah, now that im an active member of the tpunk boards, im trying to make up for the time lost
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:36 PM   #6
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I would love to teach English somewhere in Asia. I haven't done much research on it yet...I assume I have to do some kind of schooling. How was the teaching experience?
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Old 08-01-2007, 02:06 AM   #7
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1) Hmm, haven't been here yet...Guilin was certainly postcard-scenic though. Although, the most scenic place I've been to in China so far was Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province. You can google it to judge for yourself.

3)
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There are plenty of kung fu demonstrations done that are freaking amazing, like a guy throwing a needle through a pane of glass to pop a balloon!
Damn, I missed that demo! Got video?

4) I'm in Jingtown now! Man, it is one crazy-azz city. And hotter than Hades. I'd stay off the jam-packed roads and take the subway if you can here to cut your transit time.
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Old 08-01-2007, 12:12 PM   #8
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I would love to teach English somewhere in Asia. I haven't done much research on it yet...I assume I have to do some kind of schooling. How was the teaching experience?
There are programs that will let you teach even if you have no experience or certification. Definitely do your research though, there are too many horror stories about teachers getting oover to china and then getting screwed by the program. Mine was a volunteer program through International Language Programs out of Provo, UT almost right down the street from my university. But, I was going to a Mormon school in Utah Valley and the program was started by a former BYU professor. As such, volunteers have to adhere to a pretty strict honor and morality code even while in China so it may not be your cup of tea. I had a really great experience though, as much fun it was to travel through china, the best part about the whole thing were the kids I taught. They were mainly 6 to 8 years old, but I had a few older classes. And our method of teaching was context-rich: doing activities and basically you talk yourself through every little thing. We could play ping-pong as long as I was talking in English about the "ball" and "paddle" and "table." The point was to have the kids basically repeat everything you say, so if youre talking nonstop for each 30 minute rotation about something or someone that the kids can correlate with the words (this means no abstract concepts, initially), then youve done youre job. Its a really effective way to teach language as its basically the same you would do with your child. Just talk to them and theyll catch on what a ball is, or that tape has a "smooth" side and "sticky" side.

Im gonna try to get some pics up soon. Im not a really big picture taker or a good one for that matter, but I did manage about 1000 pics while I was over there.
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Old 08-19-2007, 02:58 PM   #9
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so this thread has been dead for a while, and ive been away from the boards for a bit so im back with some more advice for china.

1/ Always, ALWAYS have in your posession a packet of tissues/toilet paper and some anti-bacterial hand gel. The large percentage of toilets, public or otherwise, are holes in the floor. This generally requires some squatting action and I was not particularly great at keeping my balance without messing all over my pants. Its kind of an awkward situation if you havent ever tried it. If you are lucky there will be a bar that you can hang on to.

2/ Another place I visited while in China was Sanya, down on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Its basically China's version of Hawaii and a vacation spot for lots of Russians so youll see plenty of signs in Russian. Sanya is located on the southern tip of the island. It was kind of a bitch to get to cause we had to take a train from Guilin to Zhanjiang where we took a ferry to the island and then once we got to the island it was a four hour taxi ride in the middle of the night down to Sanya. We were a group of seven so the negotiated price of I think 400 yuan per taxi wasnt too bad. We stayed at Blue Sky IYH in Dadonghai, about 2 blocks from the beach and I would highly recommend it just because of Pete, the manager there, who was quite possibly the coolest chinese man I ever met. Dadonghai beach and the surrounding area is pretty chill and laidback but theres plenty to do at night, plenty of clubs full of chinese and russians to mix it up with. The better beach is Yalong, with lots of pearl jewelry shops there, and if you can make it, go to Monkey Island. Its an island wildlife preserve with literally thousands of monkeys. A cable car ride gets you over there and then you can wander around the island observing the monkeys and seeing all the statues and stuff, way cool. Theres a really big Buddha up on top of the hill that has fun. Dont have any open food or anything cause those monkeys will see it and literally attack you Wizard of Oz style. I took out an orange and all of a sudden I was being rushed by a pack of monkeys so I had to chuck the orange into the woods so they wouldnt kill me for it. Wild stuff.

3/ If you go grocery shopping, find the quick heating noodles (the look like Cup-o-Noodles) only bigger bowls and they come in different colors. I liked the red ones the best. And there are some great crackers, I think theyre called Pacific brand and the green ones were the best. Not very helpful, I know but Im throwing out what I got.

4/ Food markets rock! Anywhere and everywhere you go you will find street vendors selling fruit or whatever. The pineapple is always good. And lots of places youll find either pineaple or assorted fruits on kebabs and encased in a sugar-glass. Thats awesome. And dried fruit: pineapples, mangoes, strawberries (these are sticky and really, really sweet so I couldnt eat a lot of them at once) and dried banana chips became like cocaine for me. I literally walked around china with a 1-lb bag of banana chips at all times and I would finish that off in about two days and have to get more. While youre in these markets, you might see lots of bugs on sticks, some even still alive and wriggling while impaled on the sticks. I dare you to try something like that. I ate a big scorpion, but they had centipedes, popcorn scorpion (small, bite-size ones), even a big hairy spider. But theres always normal meat if youre a pussy. In Beijing, I had an awesome sandwich that was spiced, shredded pork and cilantro stuffed in this bread that was like the bastard offspring of an English muffin and a tortilla. Freaking awesome.

Seriously, I will get pics up here soon. I have one of me eating that scorpion, so you dont think Im lying.
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Old 08-22-2007, 09:26 AM   #10
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nice write-up, mate.

i just came back from china, it was my 2nd trip there.

xi'an was probably one of my fondest memories this time around. the oldcity walls were breathtaking as well as the terracota museum. what struck me about xi'an was its architecture. it is quite possibly the prettiest of all chinese cities i've been to thus far. however, during our stay here, it rained extensively while i was there but it didin't damper the feel and the spirit of this former ancient silk route town.

dengfeng (shaolin temple area) was as enjoyable as was last year's. this year i saw that demo you were describing - the guy who used a tiny needle to break the balloon through a glass - that was impressive!

another place worth visiting is luoyang, and the nearby longmen grottos. we had nice sunshine weather when we got there (i.e....HOT) and it made for some great photo ops. there are over thousands of bhuddist carvings of text and buddha engravings along the caves and rocks all over the riverside.

you've just inspired me to visit hainan island the next time..
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