Shanghai 12/2009, Changsha 2004, Shenzhen 2004, Meizhou 2004, Hangzhou 1999, Guangzhou 1999, Beijing 1998
It could be very hot and hazy here in summer with a visibility less 300 meters. If it´s too hot put a frozen water bottle (everywhere available) between your neck and the T-shirt.
It´s good to have a Chinese map with all bus lines available at street vendors because bus and metro are very cheap. Taxis with meter are available in different price categories. The price is 10.50 RMB for the first 10 km , the next km will cost between 1 and 2 RMB depending on the car.
A parcel to Europe is not cheap (300 RMB for 2.5 kg inc. packaging) but secure and quick. It´s only possible at the main post office.
(2003) The *****Renaissance Beijing Hotel has just opened so the rooms have little smell of new paint left but are nice and comfortable. Nonsmoking rooms are available and some rooms even have a small meeting room. Good breakfast buffet is included, the 15 meter swimming pool and the well equipped modern gym is free of charge. The restaurant offers good continental food which is a little pricey.
It`s located at 36 Xiao Yun Lu, Chaoyang District, tel.: 010 64689913 and it`s only 20 minutes from Beijing international airport and a few minutes from the Embassy District Map. More details at www.renaissancehotels.com .
(1998) A cheap place to stay is the Jinghua Hotel in the south near a smelly river. You can get a dorm for 35 RMB. They are brand new in the basement where it´s cooler as at the backyard. Internet is available and they can arrange trips to the Great Wall. A good restaurant and a supermarket is round the corner.
(1998) For Mongolia the transit visa (good for 48 hours from the date of crossing the border) will cost you 30 USD takes three days or 50 USD on the same day. The embassy is open daily from 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 PM except Sat. and Sun. You need a train or flight ticket and two photos.
For Russia a transit visa (good for 10 days from the date of departure from Beijing!!!) cost 50 USD. The embassy is open from 9 to 12 am every day except Sat. and Sun. In an emergency they can arrange the visa in one hour for the same price if you are VERY polite. Normally you have to count 3 to 7 days. You have to bring a train or flight ticket and three photos with you. Be at the embassy as early as possible because you have to wait long and they close definitely before 12 am. Do not overstay your visa in Russia (see Moscow) also if you miss your flight or train. Get a new visa if this happened.
(1998) If you want to travel to Simatai Great Wall which is less crowded than other areas take a minibus early morning (7 am) from Dongzhimen bus station to Miyun for 6 RMB where you have to change the bus to the Wall itself (10 RMB by good bargain).Make sure that they will take you back to Miyun for the same price. The last bus to Beijing is leaving Miyun at 6 PM The entrance fee for the Wall is 20 RMB, the cable car is 30 RMB one way but you can also walk. Take a lot of water with you.
The entrance fee for the Forbidden City is 30 RMB for foreigners without any information material. Do not visit at weekend because it is too crowded. Behind the north gate is a nice amusement park (3 RMB) with a good viewpoint on the hilltop.
The National Historical Museum is worth a visit. At the upper floor they show some spooky human objects.
For the Summer Palace you better calculate two days if you want to discover the whole area. There is a lot to see from different centuries and architectures.
Shanghai has more than 4000 construction sites according to newspaper Shanghai Daily at 07 December 2009 and as locals confirms not only for the preparation for the EXPO 2010. At warm weather the air can be full of dust and dirt from this construction sites and the soil transporting trucks. Streets are suddenly blocked, pedestrian ways and cycling paths are removed without any sign of an alternative routing.
All around the year Shanghai is packed with people regardless where you are like most touristy places in China. That does not mean that Shanghai is prepared for them especially when they are foreigners. The subway, most streets and some touristy attractions now have translation in English but this is rare. Taxi driver seldom can speak and non I meet where able to read English. So orientation is a great adventure (even the signs pointing out the subway entrance are not illuminated) same as to enter a restaurant.
Menus have mostly pictures (which sometimes are looking that different to the meal you get that you are not sure that you got what you ordered) and a brief English description if you are lucky but sometimes the staff do not want to serve you because they fear that your order cause problems. Don't worry, Shanghai has western restaurants all around the city (PizzaHut, KFC, Mac-Donalds...) but additional services like wireless LAN @ starbacks or information of the location will not be accessible for you as long as you don't know Chinese.
Warning: Fake tea exhibition / ceremony:
Mostly at Peoples Park (Renmin) two or three Chinese dressed like tourists are getting in contact to you by asking the common questions like "Where are you from", "What languages are speaking", "On holiday or business"... They are speaking English well so mostly they claim they are students studying English in a city far away and they are visiting a friend.
After a while of talking they will kindly ask you to go for a cup of tea or they know a place where a tea exhibition is opened just for a short time (told by the friend they where staying). This tea invitation will turn out rather expensive. The basic fee is around 30 RMB and each little cup of tea you taste is 45 up to 120 RMB. At the end you will be pleased by the "students" to buy overpriced tea (as they do to keep up appearances) and to pay their bill too. One of this places is the "ShangHai ZhuQing TeaHouse" located at the mall "Hectometer Champs Elysees".
Nevertheless the ceremony itself is nice and the students are translating nicely what the tea-lady is telling about the tea you are going to taste. But be aware that only your charge for tasting six different kind of tea (the usual amount) will be around 350 RMB. And be aware that this fake is arranged so perfectly that I had to search for additional information on internet to be sure that this was really a fake.
If you like especially green tea ask at the reception of your hotel where to go for a real tea ceremony which takes place in a nice, old fashion tea house instead a tiny room somewhere in a department store.
Pudong International Airport:
New rules at the airport may cost lots of time: After checking in the luggage's you may be informed to go to the luggage inspection room to further investigation of you luggage's. Do NOT follow the commands of the staff to wait outside the inspection room or others. Just grab your luggage, open it for a inspection of the staff, close it, go back to the queue in front of the counter you checked in for your boarding pass. This can take up to additional 90 minutes for check in. So be at the airport three hours before at least if you have bulky luggage's.
The Four Points by Sheraton in Daning, 1928 Gong He Xin Road, Tel.: +86 21 2602 2222, Map, www.fourpoints.com/daning are well prepared for foreigners. The location is a little out of the center but subway to Peoples Park (Renmin) is 3 minutes walk (Line No. 1, Yanchang Road) and 13 minutes ride away and is part of the Life.Hub@Daning where a lot of restaurants (also western), shops and a large supermarket are grouped together at a pedestrian area.
The rooms are small but comfortable, internet is accessible for free in the lobby or for 120 RMB per day at your room (no wireless). The breakfast buffet is good but not overwhelming, the music sucks if you stay here for longer than one week because it does not vary. Unluckily like at other hotels of this category sometimes they are packed with Chinese tourist groups which are everywhere at the breakfast buffet early morning. To avoid the crowed go for it after eight o'clock.
Very pleasant is the well equipped gym and the 15 meter indoor pool including Jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath (all for free if you stay). Also a spa is present offering different therapies and (non-sex) body massage starting at 500 RMB per hour. www.touchspa.com.cn.
A nice pleasant park Map with lakes to ride a pedal boat and some small hills overlooking the sceene is famous for wedding shootings and at weekend the locals are even pitching up their tents to prepare a picnic. Entrance fee is two RMB.
The Life.Hub@Daning www.daningdaning.com is a pedestrian area surrounded by lots of shops and restaurants. Also a small open-air stage is present where fashion shows are performed for instance. Everything you need are around that area Map:
RT-Mart: A huge supermarket for your daily needs also selling electronic items, bicycles starting at 500 RMB forsimple, 1000 RMB for normal and e-bikes at 2000 RMB.
Watsons: Everything for the bath room.
Showhair: Hair dresser for me and women starting at 50 RMB up to 190 for a hair cut but none could explain the differences.
Sport 100: High quality sports and outdoor goods for high prices.
Cinema showing also English movies.
A large collection of fashion shops.
Two ATM (one at Hotel Four Points and another in front of the Bank of China).
And many restaurants offering mostly Chinese food. Some of them having direct access from the first floor are looking like fast food restaurants at the first sight but most of them have a more comfortable area at the second floor. Service time ends mostly between 9 and 10 PM. Here is small selection of restaurants offering an English menu:
Block 5 Map:Chamate: www.chamate.cn. Typical Chinese restaurant with bull frog and intestines meals as example. Recommendable if you like Chinese food.
Ajisen Ramen: Common for it's healthy Japanese food the menu offers a large veriety of soups but also some nice snacks and rice meals. Recommendable.
Starbucks: As everywhere. Crowded at afternoon. Free internet access if you have a Chinese mobile phone number and able read the instructions on the login webpage in Chinese or can grab one of the rare instruction of the flyer at the self service desk: Connect to CMCC-Starbucks wireless network. Enter your mobile phone number and verification code in the registration boxes in the top left corner and click "Apply". Confirm the next message. You receive an account number and password by SMS which you have to enter into the boxes of the next webpage. If you close this webpage the connection will be interrupted.
Block 6 Map:
blue frog: www.bluefrog.com.cn. Expensive touristy restaurant with annoying, English speaking stuff. Mexican, finger and burger food. Happy hour and many different beer. Find foreigners here.
Häagen-Dazs: Ice cream, cake and coffee as usual.
Cafe de Coral: Cheap Chinese and Asian style dishes with daily menu which are shown at the entrance. Choose your menu, go upstairs, collect your bill at the cashier and take a seat. The sizzling dishes are served on a real hot iron plate. Simple but recommendable.
Don-Don: Japanese style BBQ with grill integrated into the tables. Enjoy a nice BBQ with friends together. Recommendable.
Block 8 Map:
Papa John's: www.papajohnchina.com. Same as Pizza Hut but with much to much cheese on the pizza, the salad is arranged very uncharitable and the taste of the garlic dressing which comes with the pizza is something you never will forget :-0
KFC: As everywhere but the menu differ compare to the European.
Pizza Hut: The pizzas are far away from the Italian master. The salad will be served always with 1000 island sauce.
Pankoo Korean Restaurant: Korean restaurant offers mainly shared hot pot and bbq at the table. It's only enjoyable if you came here with your friends.
Block 9 Map:
Burger King: As everywhere but the menue differs compare to the European.
Saizeriya: www.saizeriya.com.cn. Calls itself an Italian restaurant and offers very cheap meals. Pizza, pasta and meat meals are the majority on the menu. The meals are tasty, the quality poor and some are very spicy (marked with a chilly at the menu) but the price is unbeatable.
Le Tian: Bird's nest soup, beef from hot stone, crab curry with Roti and many more Asian style dishes. Recommendable.
Dolar Shop: www.dolarshop.com. Very delicious hot pot restaurant offering different style of soup for your private hot pot (no shared hot pot). Order the food you like to cook like fish, crab, meat and veggie and mix your own style of dip from a large variety of ingredients and dips with English description nicely arranged at a buffet. Only enjoyable if you share the your table. Count one hour at least for the meal and make a reservation because it's very popular. Came on time because they may cancel your reservation if you are just five minutes behind. Highly recommendable.
Paris Baguette: Small bakery with self service and coffee bar. They offer wholemeal toast bread and roll.
Dairy Queen: Fresh fruit cocktails. Some are healthy some are sweet. Very popular.
South Memory: Typical Chinese food from different provinces. Some dishes are served in a wok with a stove together. Recommendable if you like Chinese style.
BreadTalk: www.breadtalk.com.cn. Bakery with self service and small coffee bar. They have very delicious sweets at the refrigerated display case. Highly recommendable if you like sweet deserts.
Discovery: "The legend of Dumplings": Specialized for Dumpling. Try the "Health-preserving Dumpling Assortment", a variety of five different dumpling each of another colour or the "Diamond special" with truffle. It offers also typical Chinese food. Good quality for reasonable prices. Recommendable.
Block 11 Map:
Hantai Restaurant: Thai style menu with lot's of sea food and some Indian style curries. Friendly staff, high quality but not that cheap. Highly recommendable.
Babela's Kitchen: Offers mainly pizza, pasta and appetizer but also some exotic meals like cappuccino potato soup or ice cream salad. The menu is well designed but some meals are more spicy than it is mentioned. Good quality. Recommendable.
Block 12 Map:
The Coffee Shop: Windowless buffet restaurant at Hotel Four Points where breakfast is served in the morning. Western and Chinese food which is kept warm at the buffet for long time. Expensive and not recommendable.
Siempre Tapas: A Spanish tapa bar at Hotel Four Points offering lunch and dinner.
Tsai's Kitchen: Windowless Chinese restaurant at Hotel Four Points. Expensive and not recommendable. Only if you like to impress your Chinese business partners.
PankooPankoo BBQ: www.pankoo.com.cn. Grill your meal at your table. Simple interior. It's only enjoyable if you came here with your friends.
Download three of the recommended city walking tours from the best Lonely Planet Shanghai City Guide (ISBN: 9781741792836) for your GPS:
- City Walk French Consession (long parts without anything of interest)
- City Walk Old City (highly recommended to experience a little Chinese live)
- City Walk Jing An (more a shopping walk)
- Most of the mentioned places are integrated as Point of Interest
Without a GPS it's quite tricky to follow the city walks of the Lonely Planet Shanghai City Guide even when the maps are quite good. Download the GPX-Files here: Shanghai.zip.
Huangpu River Tour: Don't believe anything that the ticket sales assistant are telling you: The boat might be different, the travel time may be shorter and the departure time later. Most boats starting every full hour or half hour from the ferry terminal up to 9 PM. The cruise takes 45 minutes and cost 100 RMB. Because the ferry terminal is far out of the center and without any link to the subway some ticket sales assistant moved their barracks more close to the center and run a shuttle bus transfer and return service included in the ticket price. One of them is just a few minutes walk upriver from the star observatory away. The night cruise is really recommendable.
Bund Sightseeing Tunnel: 40 RMB one-way, 50 return. The tunnel is illuminated with colourful lights and laser. The ride takes approximately two to three minutes. Nice possibility to cross the river.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium: Some parts of the aquarium are very impressive with its tunnels with glass top where the big fishes are swimming above and very close to you. Also the separation of different regions is matching very well. But the environment for the fishes is very poor, from plastic or even not present to ease the maintenance of the fish tanks. It is 150 RMB entrance and they offer audio guides if you do not came too late in the afternoon. Last entrance at 5 PM, closing at 6 PM. With the entrance ticket together you receive a voucher for a free pearl which will be taken from a shell in front of you at the shop at the end of the tour. The stuff will try to sell you some much overpriced gold chains, earrings etc. where your free pearl will be attached to.
Oriental Pearl: The town's landmark from Shanghai and a must for city spotters. Nicely illuminated at night. Prices ranges from 35 RMB for the Shanghai history exhibition (a rebuild of Shanghai streets from different epochs) up to 150 RMB for three different platforms (90, 263 and 350 meter including the exhibition). Unfortunately the windows of all platforms are poorly maintained and too dirty to take nice shots. Only the Space cabin (highest level) is partly surrounded by a balcony where nice shots over a fence are possible.
After the visit of the different platforms you can enter an excibition with scenes about the ancient live in Shanghai at the ground floor.
JinMao Observatory: It is not worth to spend the 88 RMB to reach the 88th platform of Shanghais first skyscraper JinMao. Also here the windows are poorly maintained. Recommendable only if you like to look down the tallest hotel atrium of the world of hotel Grand Hyatt.
Shanghai World Finance Center: www.swfc-observatory.com. To visit the highest platform in China (474 meter) cost 150 RMB and includes a lousy explanation of the building, a fantastic elevator ride (9.5 m/s) with an illumination that impresses the floors passing by while moving upwards and a sales promotion after taking a double floor elevator back to ground level. The view from top level is only to two sides and is too far from the city for a detailed view. It also has some windows at the floor but they are too scratched to have a nice view downwards.
Artistic show @ Yun Feng Theatre: Entertaining artistic show with more than 10 completely different performances. Tickets are available from 150 to 280 RMB. The 1.1/2 h show starts every day at 7:30 PM. Come early for the front seats. The theatre is located behind (north of) the subway station Jing An Temple of line No. 2. Take the exit towards the temple and turn right before the temple. Walk to the Bejing Road, cross the street and turn right. After approximately 300 meters take the gateway between two blocks to your left to the parking of the theatre. Highly recommendable.
Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre: www.shanghaipropagandaart.com. Located at 868 Hua Shan Road it is in the basement of a 10 floor building (Bld. B) inside a residential area the guard at the gate will lead you the right direction. It is rather impressive to see how people where influenced by the government at that time. A little depressing is that most posters show propaganda against an enemy or sharing weapons with a chummily country. It's 20 RMB entrance fee. At the other room some of the shown posters are on sale together with other propaganda items.
Jinjing City Tour Center: www.chinacityex.com The office of the largest travel agency in Shanghai was closed without any sign of replacement, information or excuse most likely to prepare for the EXPO 2010. Take care if you deal with them. They may work as unreliable as at my visit.
Hangzhou Click to enlarge.
(1999) Not too much to discover here but less crowded than other big cities. A nice park with a big lake, some ancient temple in a modern city.
The Wanghu Hotel, Tel.: 0571-7071025, charge 980 RMB for a single standard room with all facilities but most of the year you will get up to 40% discount. Breakfast is 60 RMB extra. It´s located near the West Lake. A taxi to the center is 10 RMB. The transfer to the airport is free. Map
The path around the West Lake is very enjoyable. A few restaurants are located directly at the lake side with nice view and good food.
The Temple of the Soul´s Retreat is worth a visit. It´s open 8 am to 5 PM.
From Yuhuang Hill you have a good view above the city.
(2004) The new Baiyun International Airport is on duty now. A beautiful building made for the next few generation of aviation. Nor small neither chaotic like the old one with all signs display in English too. Only it´s with 35 km much more far. A taxi to downtown is 100 to 120 RMB and it takes 30 to 40 minutes on good and less crowded road.
(2004) The 5* Garden Hotel in the city center offer nice and clean different rooms with all facilities you expect from a 5* hotel. Friendly, helpful and English speaking stuff, a nice western breakfast buffet, a small pool area and a gym equipped with gear which is not state of time but towels and drinking water are offered. The TV offers BBC, CNN and Discovery canal A single standard room is 450 RMB including breakfast. Several restaurants including nice Italian offering a wide choice of meals for 5* prices. No problem because around the corner is a McDonalds, a PizzaHut and some SevenEleven. They also have an hourly airport shuttle service for 40 RMB between 5.30 AM and 10.30 PM.
It is located at 368 Huanshi Dong Lu, 510064 Guangzhou, Tel.: +86 20 8333 8989. Recommendable. Map. GPS: N23 08.306 E113 16.850. More information at www.thegardenhotel.com.cn
(2003) The 5* Clifford Hotel is located south of the city center around 30 minutes by taxi. It is at the entrance of Clifford Estate, a living area for the more wealthy people. It has nice and clean rooms with separate sleeping and meeting room both with it`s own TV-set, bathroom and air condition. Continental or American style breakfast is included and at weekend they offer buffet. The room rate start at 754 RMB and it is at Clifford Estates, Shiguang Road, Panyu, Tel.: 03471 0088.
Nearby is a food court with more than 20 different restaurant serving Chinese cuisine and most have English menu with some illustrating pictures. European food is served in the Clifford Resort Center next to the hotel where you also can find a business center with Internet (open till 8 PM only), a quite good gym with a delicate air condition (open till 9 PM) which makes sweating more easy and a very nice water world for children but swimming (approximately 20 meters) and diving is possible too. A shopping center with a supermarket and bank is close by too. An ATM can be found in the lobby which might by useful because the hotel itself does not change any money.
For health care the modern, clean and well equipped private Clifford Hospital is within 5 minutes reach from the Clifford Hotel.
(2004) The 5* Hunan Bestride Hotel in the city center has good rooms with brilliant view over the city from it´s higher floors (up to level 30) Map. But as higher you go as lower is the water flow from tap and shower and it takes ages for the elevator to bridge the gap. For a 5* hotel the service could be much better: Only very few of the stuff can talk English, nor newspaper neither TV canal in English except a movie canal where sometimes films in English will be shown, laundry failed, the gym has good gear but as it is seldom used by guests they use it as a storage room. Also no water and towels are offered at the gym and no music or TV is present there. The so called western breakfast is not more a Chinese buffet with an additional choice of cereals.
Room rates starting with 400 RMB for a single It is on 386 Lao Dong Xi Road, 410007 Changsha, Tel.: +86 731 511 8888. GPS: N28 10.794 E112 58.372. Not recommendable.
(2003) The 5* HuaTian Hotel is in the city center at 380 East Jie Fang Road, Tel.: +86 731 4442888. To the railway station its around 300 meter and 50 minutes to the airport Map. It offers nice decorated rooms with all expected equipment except a bath tub. The service is excellent and most staff can speak English.
A nice breakfast buffet is included in the room charge of 420 RMB too. The swimming pool of 10x10 meters is quite rundown, the gym is under decoration and closed since long time but the restaurant has nice food at different stalls where they display their offers with English description.
(2004) Shenzhen is the gate to Hong Kong and looks more modern than it´s neighbor on the other side of the fence. For border crossing you need only your passport if you are European citizen but if you like to came back to Mainland-China you need a multi-entry visa. So don´t think about a shopping tour in Hong Kong if you have only a single entry visa and want to came back to Shenzhen. In this case you have to apply for a new visa in Hong Kong which takes half a day.
Because of it´s modern architecture the distance between points of interests are much more fare and you will miss the hustle and bustle like in Hong Kong.
(2004) Even with it´s 4 million residents the city is so calm and quiet that you feel shifted into a village. Small shops line the roads mainly used by cyclists or scooters. Only few cars can be seen but where they appear will be a traffic jam. English is an unknown word here so better bring by your own translator.
From Guangzhou it´s a horrible 6 hour ride (depending on you driver). The first hour is on a smooth highway which leads into a small and terrible road when it´s getting into the mountain. Overtaking is always a lottery because the next curve always obstruct the visibility and at some kilometers even no pavement is present. A highway up to Meizhou is just under construction but need some more year(s) to be finished.
(2004) The Jin Yan Fortune Grand Hotel is the only 5* hotel in Meizhou at the time of writing. It´s a little of the city center at Lidu West Road, Meizhou, GuangDong Province, Tel.: +86 753 2166666 offering large but badly soundproofed rooms with a separate reception room at the entrance both with large TV. The sleeping room has also a PC with Internet access. Because the guests are mainly Chinese the friendly stuff has non or only very basic English skills.
Two restaurants are located in the hotel offering western style food on the first and typical Chinese cuisine on the second floor. At both you get breakfast too which is not included in the room charge but with 20 RMB for a small but reasonable continental breakfast not too expensive.
On the first floor is also a 25 meter outdoor swimming pool with less preserved water and less clean too so but even after one hour of swimming no signs of sickness where present. Only a huge sunburn on my back.
The price for a single standard room start at 350 RMB. Map. GPS: N24 17.085 E116 06.685.