Overview

  • China is a vast country of which we only touched the surface.  Our time here gave us a taste of the Southeast, Southwest and Northeast of China.  We visited rural village and big cities (where pollution has already become a major health factor).  There is so much else here to explore.
  • We think we visited China at a unique time.  The economy is booming and many people are acquiring wealth for the first time.  After the horrible poverty and living conditions most Chinese have endured over the past century, it seems that things are finally turning the corner.  The Chinese seem proud of their country.  Signs for the Beijing Olympics in Summer 2008 are everywhere.
  • China is, however, still a Communist country.  Many of the freedoms and protections the West enjoys are non-existent here, but this is not readily apparent to a short-term vsitor.  It doesn’t feel Communist here (except when you see statues of Mao Zedong in many public squares).  In contrast, capitalism seems to smack you in the face everywhere you turn.  It seems most Chinese are too busy making money to worry or complain about the negative effects of Communism.
  • It’s hard to know what will happen in China over the next few decades.  The Chinese are aware of their rich history where they once thrived as a superpower.  We’re sure most wouldn’t mind claiming that position once again. 

Blog Entries We Wrote

  • To see all the blog entries we wrote about this country, please click HERE

Pictures We Took

  • To see some of the pictures we took in this country, please click HERE.

Cities/Areas We Visited

  • Guangzhou (Oct. 16-17; Oct. 19-21) 
  • Yangxi (Oct. 17-19)
  • Guilin (Oct. 21-23)
  • Yangshuo (Oct. 23-26)
  • Ping’An (Oct. 26-28)
  • Beijing (Oct. 28-Nov. 4)
  • Xi’an (Nov. 5-7)
  • Lijiang (Nov. 7-10)
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge (Nov. 10-12)
  • Chengdu (Nov. 12-14)
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Places We Stayed

Guangzhou

  • Aiqun Hotel (Oct. 16; Oct. 19-21)
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Yangxi

  • Hua Li Yuan Hotel (Oct. 17-19)
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Guilin

  • Lijang Waterfall Hotel (Oct. 21-23)

Yangshuo

  • Li River Resort (Oct. 23-26)
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Ping’An

  • Unnamed Guesthouse (Oct. 26-28)
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Beijing

  • Days Inn Forbidden City (Oct. 28-30; Oct. 31-Nov. 4)
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  • Tian Xiang Courtyard Hotel (Oct. 31-Nov. 1)
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Xi’an

  • City Hotel Xi’an (Nov. 5-7)
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Lijiang

  • International Youth Hostel (Nov. 7-10)

Tiger Leaping Gorge

  • Naxi Family Guesthouse (Nov. 10-11)
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  • Halfway House (Nov. 11-12)
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Chengdu

  • Sofitel Wanda Chengdu (Nov. 12-14) – Check out that shower!  This picture was taken in the bedroom.
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Places We Ate

Guangzhou

  • Shanghai and Suzhou Restaurant – This place boasts a great location–the middle of a very very British-feeling Shamian Island neighborhood–and good soup dumplings, pork spare ribs and prawns with tomato sauce.
  • 1920 Restaurant – Ready for Western food, we were delighted to find this German-themed restaurant (not nearly as cheesy as it sounds; we swear!) on the banks of the Pearl River.  
  • Guangzhou Restaurant – Our new friend, Wensi, took us here for dim sum and excellent smoked fish.
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  • Lucy’s – This restaurant on Shamian Island has decent garlic bread and pizza, but (not surprisingly, given its location) really bad apple pie.
  • Pasadena Restaurant – We shared a dim sum brunch here with Wensi, her husband, Andy, and her daughter, Sunny.  We’re proud to say that we both tried the pigeon, and Derek was brave enough to attempt the chicken feet (tastes, err, like chicken…).  
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Yangxi

  • Orphanage kitchen – In an effort not to be rude, we choked down rice porridge with garnishes of unknown origin, fish with heads attached, bok choy and rice.
  • Unnamed restaurant #1 – As guests of Ms. Huang (the director of the Yangxi orphanage), we enjoyed excellent crispy duck skin pancakes, roasted duck, wantons, mussel stew, salty fried fish, chicken and more in a private dining room.
  • Unnamed restaurant #2 – As guests of Ms. Heo (a member of the orphanage staff), we sampled eggplant, squid, a whole chicken and delightful Yangxi pizza in another private dining room.  (We learned that such rooms are customary for entertaining guests.) 

Guilin

  • Taste Made – We ordered enough food for 10 people at a total cost of $20.  Among the many dishes were omelette dumplings, braised pork, bok choy, water chestnut balls, sugar-encrusted pork (tasted just like peanut butter cookies), beef stew with rice boat cake and something called “small ants crawling up a big log.”
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  • Shi Ji Mifen – This hole-in-the-wall place came highly recommended by both the Lonely Planet and the New York Times alike.  Its bowls of rice noodles (mifen) with assorted toppings didn’t disappoint and, at about 33 cents apiece, we felt no guilt in having more than one serving.  
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  • Restaurant on Pedestrian Walkway Whose Name Was Composed of Indecipherable Chinese Characters – All we can say about this place is that we’re glad it didn’t make us sick.  

Yangshuo

  • Li River Retreat – In a great location (just steps from our room and overlooking Yangshuo’s beautiful karsts), we ate several meals here, including a good Western breakfast (great hashbrowns!) and fantastic fried eggplant.
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  • Moon Hill Cafe – The food was decent but the location with a view of Moon Hill is worth a visit alone.  If you go, sample the country-style omelette dumplings.
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  • Global Cafe – We noshed on dumplings and a decent quesadilla while people-watching on Foreigner Street.
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  • Jimmy’s Cafe - We sampled beer fish, a local Yangshuo specialty, while under the close observation of Chinese tourists, who were amazed that we were able to use chopsticks.
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  • Karst Pizza – This tiny place has a great environment (it’s full of climbers who have come to Yangshuo to ascend the karsts) and decent pizza.
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Ping’An

  • Countryside Cafe – Yep, we ate every meal here.  It’s one of the few places in town with an English-speaking staff; they were helpful in procuring a guide for our hike.
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Beijing

  • Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant – We enjoyed excellent duck in this restaurant’s formal setting.  The waitress was kind enough to demonstrate the proper way to assemble a duck pancake.
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  • Wangfujing Snack Street – We sampled all kinds of Chinese street food (and didn’t get sick at all!).
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  • Niu Ge Dumpling Restaurant - We stopped here for a quick snack of dumplings.  The dumplings were great but, most of all, we loved watching the hardworking staff assemble them.  
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  • Noodle Loft – We watched teams of noodle chefs in action at this trendy place.  While the noodles were decent, the best dishes were a fennel and bean salad and a plate of corn and shrimp.
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  • Fish Nation – This small hutong restaurant serves fish and chips that aren’t as good as you’d find in London, but not bad at all for Beijing.
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  • Nashville Bar and Restaurant – We stumbled upon this place in a homesick mood.  A man strummed his guitar and sang familiar songs while we ate chicken wings and potato skins and thought about our friends and family.
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  • Li Qun – This is the hole-in-the-wall answer to Dadong.  Vegetarians beware: there are dead ducks everywhere.  Meat-lovers get excited: the roast duck was excellent.  
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  • Alameda – This exceptional, upscale restaurant has a Brazillian chef and the best Western food we’ve had since Paris.
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  • Sima Cafe (in Simatai)- A five-minute walk from the Great Wall, this was a great place for a post-hike snack of dumplings and tofu.  
  • Mirch Masala Indian Restaurant – Voted the best Indian restaurant in Beijing in 2007, this restaurant’s samosas alone are worth the trip.  Make sure you tell them if you like your food spicy; ours could’ve used a kick.
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  • Donghuamen Night Market – We wandered through the market, which seemed to be geared mostly to tourists, and sampled some more Beijing street food, including candied crabapples and dumplings.
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Xi’an

  • Lao Sun Jia – This place is famous for its huge bowls of yangrou paomo, a soup dish that involves crumbling a flat loaf of bread into a bowl and adding noodles, mutton and broth.  (Hint: if you go here, you should know that you’re expected to crumble your own bread before they bring you the soup!)
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  • Horrible Tourist Restaurant on the Road to the Terra Cotta Warriors – This served up the incredibly bland food that we’ve come to expect from all restaurants associated with package tours.
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  • De Fa Chang – For some reason, this restaurant is famed for its dumpling banquets (several courses of dumplings).  It was, however, one of our worst eating experiences on our trip so far.  We’ll spare you the details, but we can’t believe we didn’t get physically ill.  Shanna is now considering a lifetime ban on dumplings. 
  • Bell Tower Youth Hostel – We sought refuge in this cafe (located in a very cool hostel near the Bell Tower) after our awful experience at De Fa Chang.  The pizza was there for us when we needed it most.
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  • Beijing Duck Restaurant – The Beijing Duck we had here rivaled the best we had in Beijing.
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Lijiang

  • Prague Cafe – Shanna truly believes this is the best cafe on the face of the planet.  If you’re in Lijiang and craving a salad, this is the place for you.
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  • Petit Lijiang Bookcafe – A Belgian/Chinese-owned restaurant with a cozy atmosphere, this place has great pizza and tasty Sichaun food.
  • Food Stall in Lijiang Street Market – We joined our Aussie friends, Phil and Viv, for a lunch of baba (thick wheat flat-bread) dipped into noodle soup with a side of spicy potatoes.
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  • Blue Papaya – This restaurant has surprisingly good Italian food (including lasagna and pasta with cream sauce), but we’d advise you to steer away from the local wine.  We had a great dinner here with Phil and Viv.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

  • Naxi Family Guesthouse - If you get hungry two hours into the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike, this is probaby your only option.  Luckily, it has basic, yet tasty, Chinese and Naxi food.
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  • Teahorse Guesthouse -  Joining a bunch of other hikers for lunch, we sat on stools made from logs around a table made from a tree trunk and ordered from what was surely the longest wooden menu in the world.
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  • Halfway House – We enjoyed sweet and sour chicken and apple pie while swapping travel stories with a dozen other trekkers.  A cold-weather bonus: unlike the other cafes, this one has an enclosed eating area (with a great view of the gorge’s snow-capped peaks).

Chengdu

  • Peter’s Tex-Mex – Shanna cried tears of joy when we walked through the door and saw refried beans, guacamole and freshly fried tortilla chips in this ex-pat refuge.  Our biggest fear was getting too full to completely enjoy the food we had been craving for months.  Peter himself has a very interesting rags to riches background; read the article near the door for more details.
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  • Yancheng Yan Bang Sichuan Restaurant – One overly spicy and mostly disgusting dish after another kept coming out of the kitchen at this local restaurant where we were probably the first Westerners to visit.  For the sake of the Western world, hopefully we will be the last.
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Things We Did

Guangzhou

  • Explored Shamian Island
  • Walked on the promenade along the Pearl River
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Yangxi

  • Held babies, folded diapers, went on an orphanage shopping spree, sang karaoke with the orphanage staff
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Guilin

  • Wandered around Seven Star Park
  • Stumbled on the Giant Panda Hotel housing 2 adorable giant pandas
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  • Explored Seven Star Cave
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  • Climbed Solitary Beauty Peak
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  • Rented bikes and explored the city
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Yangshuo

  • Rode bikes around the gorgeous countryside with our guide JoAnne
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  • Climbed Moon Hill
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  • Rode Bamboo Raft down Yulong River

 

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  • Saw Impressions Liu Sanjie Light Show directed by the Chinese moviemaker in charge of the Olympic’s opening ceremonies
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  • Day trip to Shitoucheng including a motorcycle ride and a hike to an ancient village

 

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Ping’An

  • Hiked through the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces to Dazhai with our pint-sized guide, Leun 
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  • Marvelled at Yao women’s incredibly long hair
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Beijing

  • Toured Forbidden City
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  • Watched the flag-lowering ceremony in Tiananmen Square

 

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  • Explored the hutong via trishaw
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  • Practiced our bargaining skills at Silk Street Market and Eyeglass Alley
  • Visited Tea Street and its hundreds of tea shops
  • Shopped on Wangfujing Daije, a pedestrian shopping street
  • Saw an opera and acrobatics show at the Lao She Teahouse
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  • Hiked the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai
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Xi’an

  • Watched the bell players in Bell Tower
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  • Watched the drum players in the Drum Tower
  • Explored the Muslim Quarter and its Great Mosque
  • Visited the Big Goose Pagoda
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  • Toured Banpo Neolithic Village, a 6,000 year old archaeological site
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  • Marvelled at the Terra Cotta Warriors
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Lijiang

  • Explored the nearby towns of Baisha and Shuhe with Aussie friends, Phil and Viv.
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  • Wandered the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old city
  • Strolled around Black Dragon Pool Park
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  • Learned about Dongba hieroglyphics at the Dongba Research Institute
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Tiger Leaping Gorge

  • Three-day hike along the gorgeous upper trail
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Chengdu

  • Braved the smog for long enough to explore Tianfu Square and its giant Mao statue

Country Facts

  • Capital – Beijing 
  • Currency – Yuan/Remnibi
  • Exchange Rate – 7.45 Yuan to $1

Special Thanks

  • We would like to thank the following individuals who gave us a wedding gift that we used in this country: Valerie Webb, Erica Gwynn, Paul & Laura Singh, Lisa Doom & Stacey Parks, Vickie & Harvey Hohauser, Enoch & Janice Hartman, Jo and Al Greenfield and Doug Cobb.   We really appreciate it!