China is a fascinating country with centuries of rich history and culture. But, it can be a big culture shock on your first trip! A country of contrasts, where modernity and innovation coexist with millenary tradition, economic growth with Communism, skyscrapers with Taoist temples.
A place to rethink the way learned in the West, like to be born again to learn a new code, where to learn to relativize.
It is difficult to briefly explain the experience of living in China, an always enriching experience in every sense, personal and professional. And although it can not be summarized, we can give you can give small brushstrokes and recommendations to take a little more advantage of the visit.
There are thousands of guides, very interesting, to know the history of this country and the most typical sites. Here we will recommend another type of sites. Those that were our day to day and that at the same time there were passed to us by people that had been living in China for 10 years, as well as some that we discovered new. In all of them we enjoyed discovering, what was going to be our new house for a few years. This small guide of the 3 main cities of China is made by the experiences of a group of good friends who have already become family.
I hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Capital of the Asian giant. Where is the famous Forbidden City and, on the outskirts, the Summer Palace and the impressive Chinese Wall.
My recommended section of the Chinese wall: Mutianyu, 慕田峪 , although it is tourist (though less than Badalin, which is better to be avoid) helps to see a less crowded part of the wall, something very important in a country where more than 1.3 billion people move.
You can get there by private taxi (they are cheap and can accompany you during the day). Do not hesitate to contact us if you want contacts) or with Buses from Dongzhimen bus terminal 东直门 . The best thing is that they take you up on a chairlift and then you get off on a car the sea of fun, and dangerous, which makes it even more fun.
Interesting places in Beijing: the forbidden city. Although reconstructed, it is a luxury to visit it and lose yourself in its labyrinthine streets, which transport you to the past of ancient China. There is a wonderful view of the roofs from Jingshan Park.
The Temple of Heaven and Lama Temple are also recommended. Already in the outskirts but not as far as the wall, Summer Palace and Fragrant Hills. In my opinion seen the main 2 temples and palace, it is better to get lost and explore the streets, the markets and discover the day to day of the people.
To make purchases I do not know what to say to you, in general the quality is doubtful, in addition in all these sites of falsifications the negotiation is imperative, the most famous is the silkmarket 秀水街. To buy a little gift and/or souvenir nanluoguoxian 南锣鼓巷 you also have bars to drink something. It’s best to go late in the afternoon.
Restaurants In Beijing
In & Out, typical food of the Yunnan area, Address: 1 Sanlitun Beixiaojie, 三里屯北小街1号
The Thai chain Very Siam is highly recommended. There are 4 in Beijing.
The Japanese Fukunoya, San yuan qiao, 3rd zhiyedasha Tower A, first floor, 朝阳区三元桥第三置业大厦A座一层
To taste the famous lacquered duck or Beijing Duck. It is worth trying it once well prepared as in the traditional Biejing Dadong, where cooks spend years learning this specialty. The way to serve it is special, everything is taken advantage of, it is accompanied with the soup in which it is prepared and the duck arrives to be cut in 100 pieces. Duck de Chine also stands out.
Dali Courtyard, a Yunnan restaurant that we liked, in 67 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Gulou Dong Dajie, 鼓楼东大街小经厂胡同67号
To try the traditional Hot Pot. A kind of “Fondue” in which all kinds of vegetables and meat are immersed in boiling water and a variety of sauces (and it restores your body in the cold winter): Haidilao. 朝阳区白家庄路甲2号 (八十中学西侧)
Vegetarian: Pure Lotus 10 Nongzhan Nanli, 农展南里10号JVC大厦
Bars in Biejing
Mao Mao Chong: 12 Banchang Hutong, Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie, 交道口南大街，板厂胡同12号
Qbar: at the 6th floor at the hotel in 6/F, Eastern Hotel 三里屯南路和工体南路交接口
Drum and Bell: 41 Zhonglouwan Hutong, 钟楼湾胡同41号
El Nido: 59 Fangjia Hutong, 东城区方家胡同59号
Cooking class at The Hutong
Walking from Jing An to Pudong
From the heart of the city, in the Jing An Temple, there is a long but beautiful route that allows you to see several interesting parts of the city. Walking from the temple along Nanjing West Road, the street of all luxury brands, through People Square, to the Bund on the banks of the Huangpu River (east direction) that separates the oldest part of the city from the modern Pudong, crowned by the Pearl.
In its late 19th century buildings, the Bund recalls the European presence following the International Foreign Concessions after the Opium War. From there, you can see the lighting of Pudong in the early afternoon around 6pm over a drink on the terrace of the View Bar of the Hyatt on the Bund or on the terrace of the Hotel Indigo.
If you want you can cross in ferry or subway or taxi to the area of Pudong. It is the financial area. Where 30 years ago there were large areas of countryside, now rise large shopping malls, offices and luxury hotels, symbol of the incredible economic development experienced in recent decades.
There are great views at the Pearl Tower or Park Hyatt’s bar to see the views or the new taller building, a beautiful building that evokes the traditional architecture of the first American skyscrapers.
If you want to dine at the Bund you have some very good restaurants but something more expensive. Mercato, M on the Bund, Lost Heaven.
A walk in the French Concession
The french is the area where almost all expatriates live. It is like a small neighbourhood, with small streets surrounded by trees, evoking European neighbourhoods of more human dimensions.
It is a pleasant and quiet walk through a more residential area but you can also see mix of new houses with some still old style.
Visit the fabrics market if you want to make a shirt or suit boys (in 4/5 days can have it. I brought from 70 euros, shirts from 12 euros) and copy dresses girls (better to bring one of your own and copy it with another fabric and can be used to make changes, lengthen something, etc …). If you are interested, let me know, and I will pass you my contact.
Ancient Chinese style, more westernised area of restaurants and cafes.
Yu Garden, Budha Temple and Jade Temple typical of tourists. As temples the one I like the most is Jingan because it is totally mixed with the new constructions.
Foot massage, body massage and manicure are classic, for example in Drangonfly (there are many in the city), Subconcious Day Spa or Green Massage. Massages in China are generally with clothes, they are very well priced by the European standard and worth a try.
Restaurants in Shanghai
Din Tai Fung : with a wide variety of dumplings, there is one at the Portman on Nanjing West Road, at the IAPM mall and another at Xintiandi. Approx 20 euros p/p
Lost Heaven en la French Concession – Chinese restaurant that is very good, well decorated and clean. A must! Approx 30 euros p/p
Sichuan Citizen – Rich and cheap Chinese restaurant. A more authentic experience, even if it is somewhat westernised. Approx 15 euros p/p
Mercato – Italian restaurant very cool and with good views. Approx 50 euros p/p 70 p/p with wine
When you miss eating something Spanish, you can always have tapas at Tomatito Restaurant along Nanjing West Road.
Cuivre in the French Concession.
Brunch in Shanghai
KAB en xintiandi – Eggs benedict, nachos and very good bloody mary.
Westin Hotel – brunch with show on Sunday (+ expensive)
Bars of Shanghai
View Bar en Hyatt on the Bund. Bar with the best views of Shanghai.
Bar Rouge is one more party bar with a terrace and a great view of the bund. Very frequented by business visitors and tourists.
Unico – Very nice club under Mercato (in the bund)
M1NT – fashion disco in shanghai
Puli Hotel – To have a drink in the afternoon in the centre, in its lobby bar and terrace.
KARTEL – Bar for a drink on a quieter terrace at the French Concession, with more laid back ambience.
A more traditional city. The one you expect to see when you travel to China.
Apart from the famous Xian Warriors, whom it is a MUST to go and see, take a walk along the Muslim Street, especially interesting at night, watching how they make noodle pasta in the street and enjoying the curious sweets and spices of this Muslim neighbourhood in China. Go hungry!
I recommend a phenomenal restaurant to take a variety of Dumplings and usually tell a story with each one. The restaurant is De Fa Chang 德发长 of Shaanxi region food.
Basics before travel to China
- Learn some basic Chinese or have addresses written on it. The Chinese are very grateful when someone makes an effort to be understood in Chinese, but above all for both the taxi and to negotiate in stores is essential. The use of English is still limited to certain contexts and is not as common on the street in everyday life. There are also applications that help you translate, very useful.
- Learn to defend yourself with chopsticks. Not all restaurants, or at least those you shouldn’t miss, have a knife and a fork.
- Install a VPN before you arrive if you want to check your regular newspapers and social networks. There is a strong control over the internet and if not you can consult neither Google maps, nor the translator of google, nor Facebook, Instagram, as well as many newspapers from other countries.
- Always carry cash. It’s the most common way to pay if you don’t have wechat and don’t want to find a local place where they don’t accept cards.
- Always take kleenex with you. Napkins or toilet paper in more modest places or public utilities are a scarce commodity.
It’s an incredible culture, an enormous country of breathtaking contrasts, an intense experience.
Here we leave you a few brushstrokes alone. Visit it, discover it & enjoy it!