Archive for the ‘Travel – China’ Category

Day Trip : Tianjin

If you would like to try the bullet train in Beijing and don’t want to go far, Tianjin is a good option for a day trip.  Tianjin (天津) is a municipality in China which is roughly 86 miles southeast of Beijing.  It’s one of the major ports in northern China with the Bohai Gulf to the east and Hebei province to the north and south.

DSC_0085Bullet Train to Tianjin

From Beijing, head towards the Beijing South Station to purchase your tickets to Tianjin.  Travel time is roughly 30 minutes and several trains leave every hour except late at night.  Ticket costs from RMB 55 (second class), RMB 66 (first class) for C trains.  You will need a valid ID for each passenger when you purchase a ticket.  First train leaves at 710am and the last train departs at 11pm.  Your destination would be Tianjin Main Station (天津站).

To return to Beijing South Station, the first train leaves at 650am and the last train leaves at 1045pm.

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Pingyao, Part 2: Getting There and Around

DSC_0361 Going to Pingyao from Beijing is quite easy.  You can opt for train, plane, car or bus.  We initially plan to take the train but opted not due to hygiene issue.  So how did we go there?  We opted for bus.

By Bus

Since there were 20 of us in the group, we opted to rent a bus to take us there and back to Beijing.  Due to the Chinese New Year holidays, bus rental was at a premium.  We rented a 39 seater bus for RMB 11,000 exclusive of the driver’s meals and accommodation.

The drive took roughly 8 hours with several pit stops for lunch and bathroom.  Luckily for us, it wasn’t icy and road conditions were good.  It was actually smooth driving to Pingyao.  The view, nothing worthwhile.

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Pingyao, Part 1: The Plan

DSC_0375As Chinese New Year came early this year, I opted out of going back home to relax and unwind.  Instead, with some friends of mine, we went to the place where “Raise The Red Lantern” was filmed, the ancient county of Pingyao in Shanxi province.

Initially, we were thinking of doing a combination of Datong and Pingyao.  However, with kids in the group, we opted for Pingyao only due to its cultural significance and being a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Here’s the plan:

  • Day 1:  Beijing to Pingyao by bus.  Visit Qiao Family Courtyard.  Check-in at Yide Hotel.
  • Day 2:  Go around the ancient town.  Return to Beijing by bus.

Simple right?  The bus ride was boring and it cannot enter Pingyao itself.  We had to transfer to an electric cart to go around the city.  The downside, it’s too cold to enjoy the scenery.

I’ll tell you more on my next few posts!


Tour Harbin, Part 2: Transportation & Accommodation

When other cities in China lose their tourists during the winter months, Harbin is quite the opposite. The allure of Harbin during winter drives tourists to visit in droves. Foreign and local tourists flock this city during winter albeit the freezing weather to enjoy the Ice and Snow Festival which opens every year on January 5.

If you plan to head up north when the Ice and Snow Festival is on, here are some things that you should be aware of:

  • Train tickets to and from Harbin are sold out within the first 10 minutes when it becomes available. Particularly train tickets for the Friday night sleeper train with return on Sunday night.
  • You will more or less pay the full air ticket price during weekends.
  • Airport buses to the city are available at RMB 20 per person.
  • It is advisable to hire a car in advance than wing it by taking public buses or taxis if you plan to go around the city. Buses to the main tourist spots are infrequent and are always full. Taxis are limited and will most likely pick up passengers along the route.

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Touring Harbin, Part 1 – The Plan

harbin24 In 2011, my dream of going to Harbin became a reality. I have been planning to go to this place for four years already but it never came to fruition. The best time to visit is during the Ice and Snow Festival which opens every year on the 5th of January.

The original plan was to go with a group of people from the US Embassy. We will be taking the train to Harbin and take the plane back. However, as January is considered their peak season and the Chinese New Year is just around the corner, tickets to Harbin sell in a blink of an eye. With no tickets in sight, the group dwindled down to 3 people (Shaady, Donny and I). Shaady and Donny flew on Friday night, while I flew on Saturday morning. I was lucky to be able to get a train ticket back to Beijing courtesy of my colleague’s parents who are based in Harbin.

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Touring Shandong, Part 7: Qingdao – Day 2

On the last day of our holiday, we took it easy as the weather is cold and we just want to relax.   We spent the morning away in our hotel watching movies on the satellite TV.  For lunch, we went to the hotel’s Flavours restaurant for their lunch buffet.  The selection was quite plenty and they even have live, walking crabs as offerings.  The ice cream is New Zealand Natural and they have my mint choco flavor.  My only complaint is they keep giving my grill order to the other customers.  I had to go to the grill counter four times before I was able to get my order.

Tsingtao Beer Museum

After a sumptuous meal at Flavours and checking-out from the hotel, we went to the Tsingtao Beer Museum at 56 Deng Zhou Road, Shibei District.  Deng Zhou Road is Qingdao’s “Beer Street” where the International Beer Festival is held.  This festival starts in late August and will run for 14 days.  It is similar to the Oktoberfest in Munich.  Entrance fee to the museum is RMB 50 for adults.

Tsingtao Brewery is the oldest brewery in China built by Germans and opened in August 1903.  The tour walks through two buildings: the administration building where the history of the brewery is presented and the production building where the beer production process is explained.   In the middle of the production building tour, you will get a free glass of Qingdao beer straight from the production line to taste.  At the end of the tour, you can purchase some Qingdao souvenirs such as special edition beer cans, beer mugs, chocolate filled with beer and shirts.  I bought some chocolate filled beer as souvenirs and they’re shaped like miniature beer bottles placed on beer trays.  It costs RMB 30 each.

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Touring Shandong, Part 6: Qingdao – Day 1

IMG_3433Qingdao is a major city in Eastern Shandong province.  It’s not the provincial capital but it’s more progressive than Jinan.  Upon arrival at Qingdao Train Station around 11am, we hopped on a cab and head straight to Intercontinental Qingdao.  After we dropped our bags, we asked the concierge for a recommendation of a good place to eat seafoods.  He suggested a street with restaurants serving fresh seafoods.   When we alighted on the street, we headed to the place with a lot of people.  Unfortunately, lots of people doesn’t mean good food and service.  They served us our food after an hour and it wasn’t that great.  We vowed to ourselves to eat good food before we leave even if it’s expensive.

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Touring Shandong, Part 5: Intercontinental Qingdao

intercon4From Jinan, we took a two hour train ride to the coastal city of Qingdao.  I was looking forward to this part of the trip as I miss walking in the beach, looking at the sea and eating seafood. 


Intercontinental Qingdao is located in the new area of Qingdao.  It’s beside the marina where they hosted the 2008 Olympic Games’ ocean sports.  From the train station, it’s roughly RMB 30 if you get on their RMB 12 flag down cab or RMB 20 if you get on their RMB 9 flag down cab.  From the airport, it’s roughly 40 minutes or RMB 100 including the toll gate. 

In the vicinity of the hotel, there are several malls such as Olympic Plaza, Hisense Plaza, Marina Plaza.  It’s also walking distance to the May 4th Square.

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Touring Shandong, Part 4: Tai Shan

taishan3We had takeout from KFC for breakfast that morning as we don’t want to leave the comforts of our room till necessary. At 10:30am, the cab driver who took pity on us when we first arrived picked us up to take us for a day tour to Mt. Tai. We were given the option to take the slow or fast route. Slow route means more traffic lights and will use the side road. Fast route means take the expressway and pay extra for the toll fees. We opted for the fast route as we only need to pay an extra RMB 15 for the toll fee (one way) or RMB 30 (roundtrip).

Mt. Tai ()

Mount Tai is one of the “Five Sacred Mountains” in China and has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years. From Jinan, it takes roughly 1-1/2 hour travelling by car or mini-bus or 45 minutes by fast train to Tai’an train station.

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Touring Shandong, Part 3: Jinan

IMG_3432After a good sleep and an hour of lazing in the hotel doing nothing, I was raring to get out of comfort to explore the city. Since we don’t want to go around in circles, we went to the tourist spot due north of the hotel.

Daming Lake

Daming Lake is the largest natural lake in Jinan fed by the artesian karst springs which allowed the lake to have constant water year-round. This lake is split into two parts, the old and new area. Small tour boats are available in the new area for RMB 10 halfway. You can also walk around the lake if you feel like mingling with the crowd. We decided to take the boat and got dropped off near the Tower of Transcendence (Chao Ran Lou). After some photos outside the tower, we headed inside to escape the cold and see a bird’s eye view of the entire lake. Entrance jinan1ticket to the tower is RMB 40.

The Tower of Transcendence is actually a museum inside. It has 8 levels which hosts an interactive exhibition of the city parks, some excellent wood carvings, a cartoon model of old Jinan (this is the one I like the best!), some marble statues and of course the terrace where you can view the whole lake. From the top of the tower, the lake seems small and is comparable to Beihai lake in Beijing. It was a bit of a letdown as there’s nothing special to it. We decided not to spend the day walking around the place and touring each building and garden as it’s the winter season and the weather was not perfect photo weather.

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