June 2008


Chengde (承德) – Summer Imperial Resort & Eight Outer Temples

Chengde is the site of the summer imperial resort where Emperor Qianlong takes time off to hunt in the old days. It’s approximately 4-1/2 hours north of Beijing by train from Beijing Station (北京站). It is located in Hebei province. The Summer Imperial Resort and the Eight Outer Temples are the main attractions of this place. They are also World Heritage Sites. From what I read, the average annual temperature is 8 degrees Celsius.

My travel buddy and I went there last December 30, 2007. We took the train which departed at 630am and arrived Chengde at 1048 am. When we arrived at the station, we were welcomed by strong chilly winds and colder temperatures. We headed straight to the ticket counter to purchase our return ticket for the next day. The line was so long and slightly chaotic. There were only 3 windows open and the hall is in dire need of cleaning.

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Having lived here for almost 5 years. You get used to all the quirks and cultural differences that the Chinese have. However, there are still things which you cannot stand and here are the top ten things I hate about China.

1. Smoking – I’m a non-smoker and I can’t stand people smoke around me. In China, people don’t care if you hate smoking or not. I hope I don’t get diseases related to second-hand smoking.

2. Spitting – You walk around the city and every few meters or so, you’ll see saliva. It’s even gross to see it freeze on the floor when it’s winter. It’s not just spitting that’s so gross but the sound they make before they spit. Eww.. gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. BTW.. there’s a fine of RMB 50 IF they catch you spitting. That’s a major IF.

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“Life is Hard” .. A phrase which is in the lips of most people nowadays as prices of everything is increasing and our incomes doesn’t increase as much. Then, how can we cope and weather through this difficult times? I’m no expert but here are some of the tips I’ve read from different websites.

1. Turn your hobby into income – If you’re good at cooking or baking, you can probably sell your goodies to your friends/colleagues/relatives. If you have a passion to teach, tutor people! If you are visually creative, try to create something that’s useful and unique. Sell your stuff in Ebay or Multiply.

2. Recycle – Bottles, newspapers, boxes.. they’re trash which you can sell. You may not earn much but each cent counts. In China, they don’t like bottles unless it’s beer bottles. The old lady in the street usually carries a bag and search for empty plastic bottles in the trash bin. As for me, I collect the free magazines which comes out every month and sell it when I have a lot along with my empty plastic bottles.

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Henan mapSorry for the delay but work is a bit toxic. As promise, here’s a 3-day itinerary should you wish to visit Henan Province from Beijing. Feel free to use this as reference on your trips and if you have any other suggestions, please leave some comments for others to see.

Brief background: Henan province is in Central China. 河南 literally translated to English as “South of the River”, was the core area of ancient China for the first half of Chinese history. It is also the most populous province in China by residency. Henan province has temperate climate for China standards. IMO, best time to visit would be late Spring or early Autumn.

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China has an extensive network of railroads which make travelling easy and cheap. It is the preferred mode of transport by students, migrant workers and backpackers. It can be your worse nightmare or a very relaxing and pleasant experience. Trains usually depart and arrive on time unless there’s an accident or repair works going on.

There are different types of train which differ by speed traversing throughout China. They are the “D”, “Z”, “T”, “K” and the normal number train. “D” and “Z” trains are faster trains and can be purchased 10 days in advance. You can also purchase roundtrip tickets for these trains but the advance purchase restriction still apply. The “T”, “K” and number only trains are slower with frequent stops and can be purchased 4 days in advance normally one way only. It is also common for train stations to sell tickets to individuals who don’t mind to stand throughout the journey. These normally happen during weekends or special holidays.

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It was the Dragon Boat Festival last weekend and our destination was Henan province (河南省) in Central China. Marco, Richard and I took the train to the provincial capital, Zheng Zhou (郑州). Zheng Zhou is a major train hub in China. Trains to HKG has a stopover in this place. There isn’t much to see here but it’s a great place to catch the next train to your destination.

From Beijing to Zheng Zhou, there are several types of train which you can enjoy. You can check train schedules and prices at http://www.huochepiao.com. The website is in Chinese so language skills is a must. You also need to have a computer which can write Chinese characters.

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