PEARL OF THE ORIENT – SHANGHAI
I remember skyping with my old friend while she was on exchange in China. From my Sydney campus we talked about how cool it would be to venture the country together during Lunar New Years. Before I knew it, we crashed a hostel in Nanjing, Shanghai and walked around the city munching on egg tarts.
There are pros and cons traveling with company, but it is my preferred way of travel. I had always someone to laugh with, share rooms, meals and a human translator when I did not know how to speak a single Mandarin word. It definitely came in handy when we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and in need of a good bargain. Based from experience, you can easily get by with English in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but in mainland China it is crucial that you learn some mandatory lines if you decide to travel solo.
One thing is to travel and figure yourself out, but along the way you will also meet the most interesting people. Travellers happens to fill you in on good places to stay, eat and do, plus they also make great conversation partners. During my trip in China I was approached by a few of my followers. Normally, I would not have had the courage to meet up (when I am not familiar with the place I am at) but knowing I had a travel partner made it more comforting. We met a couple in Shanghai and Beijing which I am so glad I did. The girls were fun, laid-back and took us to the coolest bar hidden behind a book-shelf. (They also knew the greatest restaurant for Shaved ice-cream and Peking Duck, yum!) One should never underestimate a travellers recommendations, it is up-to-date reliable info that comes in handy when you are in the city for only a couple of days.
Speak Low Hidden Bar. My drink came with a gigantic umbrella and the place itself was so chic. The bar was hidden behind a bookshelf and once inside you could access another bar that only allowed access through pin-pointing the right spot on a map. Fancy!
3D Totoro Coffee Bears at Café Foamka. I went crazy over this place, so cute!
- The Bund
- The French Concession
- YuYuan Garden
- Jing’An Temple
- Cricket Market
- 100 Century Avenue at Park Hyatt
- People’s Square
BEIJING, THE PEKING DUCK CITY
Three days later, we placed our carry-on luggage in the overhead cabin headed for the capital of China and birth of the Peking duck. I remember walking around the airport in Beijing expecting to disappear in a crowd full of Chinese people. My friend had told me that due to the New Years celebrations we were going to face some heavy human traffic jam. I initially thought I had to fight to keep hold of my carry-on luggage. Instead, I found the airport to be deserted. I was surprised – where were all the people? It was not until we arrived at our hostel located next to Beijing Railway Station that I understood. Just before New Years, the Chinese use trains as preferred method of transportation. We were squished and pushed, but it was nowhere near the masses I had been led to expect. My best tips for travel in China as a foreigner would therefore be to go during the Lunar New Years. People are heading home to their loved ones in the outer cities, low pollution leads to beautiful cloud-free days and you almost get the entire Wall of China to yourself! (And not to mention the luxury of airport travel instead of overcrowded trains.)
While in Beijing we met up with a girl from Melbourne who was in Beijing to celebrate Chinese New Year with her family. She took us to this fancy peking duck restaurant which was so good! Throughout our trip we also got the taste different variants of the traditional peking duck. However, none of them were better than the one my boyfriend makes ♥
Beijing Sightseeing Spots:
The hostel that we stayed at had a full-on guided map of the city’s main attractions and how to get there. Transportation is easy to understand and everything was pretty much walking distance from each station.
- The Great Wall of China
- The Forbidden City
- Temple of Heaven
- Hongqiao Pearl Market
- Summer Palace
- Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
- Tian’anMen & Zhenyangmen
The Forbidden City. Most of the main sightseeing was walking distance in this area. However, prepare yourself for a lot of walking as the place is gigantic. I thought I reached the main forbidden city several times only to find out it was never-ending.
Sharing a travel adventure with a good friend can double the fun and memories, halve the expenses and be a shoulder to rely on during challenging times. Of course, spending a lot of time together than you normally would can really test your patience. I can still remember bawling my eyes dry over dim sums and be perfectly normal the day after. I felt much more safer knowing I had a partner with me when walking around several miles at night on the look-out for a good meal to boarding the taxi of a freaky driver. Some venture on their own, but I prefer to travel with a mate.
Here are my tips on how to be a good traveller:
- Allow people in the group to do their own thing. It gets more difficult to make a decision that suit every party along the way, but you have more fun with flexibility.
- Even the best of friends like to be alone in their own space and time.
- If things do not work out, just go venture on your own. Solo travel is the best travel.
- Make sure to be as financially matched as possible. You do want to be the one budgeting on instant take-away and have your group splurge on restaurant visits.
Who do you prefer to travel with?