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I saw a lot of the inside of my hotel room, but at least it had an amazing view!

I really didn’t want to do this post for the sheer fact that I felt like this was a total travel- FAIL. But, this past March I went to Shanghai and didn’t see anything. Seriously. Well, just not as much as I wanted to see. I had some other business that kept me busy most of my 10 day trip, so I only got to sight see for 3 days. I know. How pathetic. I should get my passport revoked. Anyhow, I did talk to a lot of expats who gave me tons of tips on what to do, so I thought I’d share them.

General Tourist and Money Exchange Tips :

Cell Phone: If you want to have a cell phone with you on your trip, bring an UNLOCKED GSM cell phone compatible with the Chinese system.  Then you can take a SIM card and plug it into the phone.  SIM cards are cheap. They are about 50-60 RMB and include a free phone number and 50 RMB in call credit. If you are there for a short time, get the lowest value. Any hotel concierge can help you get one or you can buy one at any newsstand. China UNicom and China Mobile are the 2 major providers.  Mobile has better coverage on the edge of Shanghai but if you are staying in the city, either one is fine.  Unicom is like 0.01 cents US cheaper… so really immaterial difference.

Taxis: Go ahead and take taxi’s anywhere… its really inexpensive and safe.  Try to take cabs that are lighter in color,… WHITE, Light Blue, Light Green. These are the 3 best cab companies for knowledgeable drivers and clean cars.  Try to avoid the RED and DARK BLUE cabs, are known to be dirty (often with cow manure).

Money Exchange: DONT EXCHANGE ANY MONEY HERE. OR AT THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE BOOTHS AT THE AIRPORT.  ALL BANKS  IN CHINA are regulated and must give the same rate. There is a bank in the airport right after you pass customs and the luggage claim area.  As long as it says “bank” you are good.  Travelers Checks get a better rate than cash but they charge commission so you end up less well off.  The BEST WAY is to usean ATM card (Citibank does not charge a fee if you use their ATM’s, and First Republic Bank does not charge ATM fees at ANY ATM of any bank in china).  The other way is to grab a DISCOVER card.  While in the US they are NOT accepted.  Most places will take it in China under the UNION PAY signage with no foreign exchange fee depending on your plan. Call your bank and find out.

Paying with a Credit Card: If someone hands you a keypad when you use a credit card, just press enter.  IN china, everyone uses pin codes even for credit cards, but in the USA we dont do this.

(Tips written by J. Chu, Shanghai expat)

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After watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, I’m sure a lot of people were really surprised that China had it in them to produce something that amazing. For people unfamiliar to China (or Asia), it may be a surprising shock at how amazing China is, no matter what your political views on China is. China’s marvels are in its super developed cities, like Shanghai, and it’s gorgeous landscape, like Guilin. I wouldn’t do China justice if I skimmed through a few sites of China. I prefer to write more specifically on each city. After all, China has been around a long time… there’s a lot to see! But until then, here’s a few pictures and a brief intro to China to get your Monday going.

Shanghai: The Bund

1. The Big City Life: The Bund in Shanghai, separating Puxi and Pudong, is an unbelievable testament to how fast-paced Shanghai is. Constantly growing, Shanghai is definitely a city that never sleeps. The Bund has a face paced nightlife and trendy restaurants. The Observatory’s a great place to catch the sky-high nightscape. After, grab a drink at the bar at the Hyatt, where a lot of Shanghai’s richest and most important business men close their multimilition dollar deals. Of all cities in China, this is the easiest city for non-Mandarin speaking people to get around, especially with Shanghai Metro (map and EnjoySubway.com). It’s not the strongest website, but check out Shanghai’s tourism website for things to do.

Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin

2. Exploring Nature: Guilin, an area I’ve heard described as “magical”, is in Southern China. With the Lijiang River running through the area, is a place where movies are made. Here, you can also go to the Reed Flute Cave where stalactite and stalagmite formations will blow you away. Afterwards, relax at a spa or visit Fubo Hill to see Buddhist inscriptions. The Official Guilin Tourism site provides a lot of information hotels, things to do, and even recommends local food delicacies.

3. The Tropics: Hainan, an island located in Southern China, is considered to be the “Hawai’i” of China. Although it’s towns are not nearly as interesting, or developed as Hawai’i, it’s is a way to get a little bit of the tropics in on your China adventure. Travel China Guide has a few details about the temperature and regions. To visit, fly over on Hainan Airlines from the main land. Visit the South Mountain to see a Giant Buddha and then lounge around on San Ya Beach. Be a little wary of your water activities here. Businesses and the government regulations can be… well… shady.

The Forbidden City, Beijing

4. The Classics: Obviously you can’t go to China without seeinig the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Enjoy the pictures and I’ll go into more details in another post. Check out Beijing’s Official Tourism site.

The Great Wall

(starting from top right) The Great Wall (Beijing), View from Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Xi’an), Hua Ching Hot Springs (Xi’an), The Temple of Heaven (Beijing).

Top right: The Bund (Shanghai), Guilin, Yu Garden (Shanghai), Yue Shu Park (Guangzhou)

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