Anthony Bourdain traveling through Chinese food

Given how much Anthony Bourdain traveled in the world, it comes as no surprise that he made it to China. Though his death is still shocking, I’d just like to take a moment to talk about his brief encounters with China and Chinese food.

“The one thing I know for sure about China is, I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time.” (Bourdain’s words from On Parts Unknown). Of course he’s right: China is huge, both culturally and geographically.  There are 1.3 billion people living in China, and just about as much geographical area  as the United States (depending on how you divide borders). There’s an immense impenetrability often associated with it, and because of this, fear. But Bourdain wasn’t afraid to explore China or to really grapple with its intricacies, much like his ventures in other parts of the globe.

It’s true that Bourdain suffered from depression, which is something very few could possibly glean from his energetic pursuits. Not too long before he committed suicide earlier this month, Bourdain was in Hong Kong, learning jiu-jitsu with tenacity like a pro.  His sparring partners would likely have no idea that before long, the man would be gone. Instead, there was a man throwing himself into the ring and really engaging with a culture face-to-face. Though he did not live as long as it seems fair for him to have lived, it’s clear from his adventures that he was always fully present when he was around.

Bourdain didn’t shy away from spicy Sichuan food, either, and instead found the humor in spices that sear the tears right out of one’s eyes, quoted as saying “If you imagine Ilsa, she-wolf of the SS tormenting you with nipple clamps as the la, the ma, provided by the pleasantly deranging peppercorns, would be like the naughty nurse with the ice cubes,” when talking about Sichuan’s mala spices.  He was a fan of whatever took him furthest away from what he knew, staying forever curious in a way that can sometimes baffle even me, someone who has lived in China for so many years. Familiar places have their strangeness, and strange places can be familiar. But even if a strange place is unfamiliar, it is still worth stopping by.

There is something poignant and pressing that we as travelers and citizens of the world can take from Bourdain’s experiences. It is that nothing is truly impenetrable, not even China and its Great Wall. No place is deserving of knee-jerk fear and aversion; other cultures deserve our very best, on-the-ground-efforts to engage with the world. China is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our daily lives, and so we would do well to make the effort to greet it with curiosity and stamina.

Bourdain’s end came as a shock, and so in tandem with the lessons he has taught us, we must learn leverage with what we are doing and what we feel we ought to do. Reach out when we feel alone. Listen when someone is upset and needs attention. Recognize when professional help is needed — and feel no shame when it is.

And when it comes to China, order some hot pot, brew some tea, and eat some dumplings. Who knows? China might just be what you should order from the menu.

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Travel Tip #3: Bring a Thermos/带上自己的保温杯

(下面有中文版)

It may seem like a no-brainer to bring along a water bottle when traveling, but when traveling in China, you should make that a thermos. You know, the hot water container. It’s not that China doesn’t have cool water (that would be pretty weird, huh?) but that the culture is accustomed to drinking hot water. “You mean tea?” you might say. No, I’m talking about plain hot water. Tea is an entirely different matter altogether.

Why bring this up? Because if you’re from outside of China, you might be expecting to find drinking fountains everywhere. You won’t find them in China, and if you do, I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water. That’s where a thermos comes in handy! See, in lieu of drinking fountains, there are hot water machines. EVERYWHERE. All trains, major transportation hubs, hotels, schools, and other places have them. Some are pretty basic, and some look like rejected robots from the Jetsons. The point is: if you bring a thermos with, you can drink lots of free water (and pop in some tea bags or instant coffee, too!)

What about hot summer days? Or, what if I just don’t want to drink a bunch of hot water? Well, the other alternative is honestly just buying water bottles from convenienve stores (usually 2 rmb, depending on the brand, but personally I can’t taste much of a difference so…no need to get super fancy). If you don’t like the idea of buying water bottles, then you can consider boiling water in your hotel, putting it in the fridge, and then drinking it. Or, best case scenario: if you’re staying in a nice-ish hotel, they often supply free water bottles in each room. You can just take them! But…make sure they’re actually free first.

If you’re going on a longer trip, and especially for train rides, though, I definitely recommend the handy dandy thermos. It doubles as a hand-warmer for cold weather, and it’s just an all-around staple in China.

Some useful Chinese:
保温杯 (bao wen bei) = Thermos (hot water bottle)
白开水 OR 热水 (bai kai shui OR re shui) = Boiled/hot water
矿泉水 (kuang quan shui) = Mineral spring water
我还是要喝冰水 (wo hai shi yao he bing shui) = I still want to drink cold water.

当然旅行者应该自己带一个杯子,但是在中国这个“杯子”应该换成“保温杯”就是为了喝热水。不是因为中国没有冰水(太奇怪了吧)就是因为这个文化习惯喝热水。(“你应该说‘茶’吧!”你说。不,我的意思就是白开水。茶就是完全另一件事情。

为什么要提呢?因为如果你不来自中国,你可能习惯看到公共饮水机,但是中国很少有。(而且说实话我不那么相信它们的卫生)。所以呢,保温杯会给你很大的帮助!中国可能没有饮水机,但是到处都有热水器,包括在火车上,交通核心,学校等等。有些热水器比较简单的,有的有点像《杰森一家人》被拒绝的机器人。主要是你带上保温杯,你随处都可以喝免费的水(也可以泡一杯茶,咖啡等)。

那如果是夏天呢?或者你就不愿意喝热水呢?其实你只能去超市买一瓶矿泉水(基本上两块钱,有些品牌比较贵,但是味道其实都差不多了)。如果你不那么喜欢买很多瓶水,你也可以在宾馆里烧水,然后把烧开的水放在冰箱里,然后放在你的杯子里。或者,如果你在稍微好点的宾馆,有可能你的房间里已经有几瓶水,免费的!就可以把它们拿走……但是你要先确定是否是免费的。

如果你的路线比较长的话,尤其是如果你要坐火车,我还是建议你带上自己的保温杯。它也可以当做你的热水袋,也是中国旅行路上的必需品。

Hannah’s Top 5 Chinese Provinces/中国排名的前五省

(下面有中文版)

When you’ve been to as many provinces as me, it’s hard to list Top 5 or Top 10 Places, since there are just too many to choose from. Do you list cities? Attractions? Local food specialties?

For me, it’s none of the above. I’m going to share with you my Top 5 Favorite Provinces.

5.  Xinjiang
Because Xinjiang is just so different from other places I’ve seen in China, it’s automatically special. The language is different (and not everyone even speaks Mandarin!), and there’s a huge range of natural scenery. You’ve got mountains, a huge desert, ancient rock fortresses, and even lavender fields way up north. What did it for me, though, was Kashgar. I could hear the call to prayer every day from the rooftop of my hostel, and got to spend afternoons strolling through the International Bazaar. Though not easy to get to, definitely a personal favorite.

4.  Sichuan
Sichuan should be on everyone’s Top 5 list. Like Xinjiang, it also has a huge range of scenery. It’s home to many Tibetan nomads, and mountainous, western Sichuan is actually a great place to go if you want to experience Tibetan culture, but can’t get to Tibet Autonomous Region. The capital Chengdu is one of my favorite cities (and this comes from someone who generally doesn’t like big cities). You can see baby pandas here, and as any Chinese person will tell you: eat lots and lots of delicious snacks (if you don’t mind your lips going numb from the spices).

3.  Gansu
This might seem like an odd choice for some. But, with its important place along the Silk Road, and bizarre scenery, it has a special place in my heart. In Gansu, you can find rainbow-colored mountains. You can go mountain trekking. You can see (and hopefully interact with) Tibetan nomadic culture. You can go to the end of the Great Wall and look out into what ancient Chinese believed was the beginning of nowhere. Then, once you venture into Nowhere, you can go to the Dunhuang grottoes and play around in sand dunes like it’s a normal thing.

2.  Yunnan
Many would consider this a top choice, and I can’t blame them. Yunnan is like Pandora’s Box: once you’ve opened its doors, there’s no closing them: You rarely go there just once. Whether it’s the chill, artsy town of Dali, the staggering heights of the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail, rippled rice terrace fields, the stone forest outside of Kunming, or even the tropical Xishuangbanna, you’ll defintely fall in love with something. I guess the only reason this isn’t in my #1 spot is just because transportation can be iffy at times just because of the mountains, and some spots can get quite touristy during peak seasons. But, it’s still the rare kind of place where just about anywhere you go, it’ll be almost postcard beautiful.

1.  Inner Mongolia
Are you sensing a theme? Indeed, I love big swathes of nature, and Inner Mongolia is exactly that. Inner Mongolia still maintains a sense of wildness, while also being fairly accessible for travelers. (I say “fairly” because it’s friggin’ huge, almost spanning half the width of China). Not only that, but it’s not yet being overrun by tourists outside of public holidays. If you go out east by the Russian border, you’ll be met with sprawling grasslands. In the west, the Gobi Desert (and the Badain Jaran Desert, where there are LAKES IN THE DESERT!) I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased, since I did my epic hitchhiking trip and desert jeep-riding here. I’ve also been told that Inner Mongolia’s climate is most similar to my home-state, Minnesota. All the same, of all places I’ve been in China, Inner Mongolia has left me with the deepest impression.

That’s all for now! What about you? What are your favorite places? Let me know in the comments below. And if you have questions/want travel advice, don’t hesitate to ask!

如果你像我去过了好多省,你会发现其实很难去选五、十个最好的地方,因为地方太多了!要选城市吗?景点?特色菜?

对我来说,不能根据所提到的几方面而选。我要给你们分享我最喜欢的五个省。

五、新疆
因为新疆跟我去过的中国的好多地方完全不一样,就是很特别的。语言不一样(而且有些当地人并不会说普通话!),也有各种各样的自然风景。有高山,茫茫的沙漠,远古的石头构建的小村,北方也有大大的薰衣草花田。但是给我最大的印象就是喀什。我每天从我青年旅社的顶楼上能听到清真寺的宣礼,白天可以去国际大巴扎逛逛。虽然有点麻烦到这个地方,我还是挺喜欢它的。

四、四川
四川应该在每个人的五大最喜欢的地方之一。像新疆也有各种各样的自然风景,但是四川也有很多藏族文化,所以如果你去不了西藏自治区但是还想体验藏族文化,四川的西边是个很好的选择。四川的首都成都是我最喜欢的城市之一(要记得我不那么喜欢城市,所以成都就是很特别的)。在这里你可以看到小熊猫,而且像我每一个中国朋友也告诉我,可以多吃点四川小吃(如果你可以接受麻辣的考研)。

三、甘肃
有些人可能觉得这个选择有点奇怪,但是因为甘肃在丝绸之路的重要位置与它奇怪的风景,对我来说还是在我心中。在甘肃,你可以找到彩虹色的山,去爬山,接触藏族文化,甚至去长城的末端看到茫茫的沙漠,我听说古代人以为那里什么都没有,像天涯。你就可以进去这所谓的“天涯”到敦煌看石窟,然后去沙山玩耍。

二、云南
大部分人肯定会觉得这就是最喜欢的省,而且我可以理解。云南像潘多拉的小盒子:你一打开它的门,你很难去关上,换句话说你肯定不会感觉只去一次就够了。不管是文艺的城市大理,还是高高的虎跳峡,或者是荡漾的天梯,或者昆明附近的石林,或者热带雨林西双版纳,你一定会爱上云南。为什么不是第一个呢?因为对我来说这个天堂有两个缺点:一,因为山太多交通没有那么方便,二,旺季的时候游客超级多。但是云南还是挺了不起,因为到处都像明信片上的图片一样美丽。

一、内蒙古
感到一个主题吗?没错,我就是比较偏爱大自然的地方,所以肯定最爱内蒙古。在内蒙古,你还是能感到一种野性,但是基本上交通还可以。(我说“还可以”因为内蒙古毕竟超级大,是中国宽度的一半!)现在,节日以外游客也不是很多。如果你去内蒙的东边,就靠近俄罗斯,到处都是草原。去内蒙的西边,就是戈壁沙漠(也有阿拉善右旗的沙漠,里面有湖!)其实我会承认我爱内蒙是有点有偏见,因为就是在这个省当中我做了我超级好玩的搭顺风车游记也是我坐吉普车进去沙漠的地点。我在去之前就听说内蒙的温度比较像我的家乡,美国的明尼苏达州。但是,从我的经历来看,我还是感觉内蒙古给我的印象最深刻。

就写到这里吧!你觉得呢?你最喜欢哪一个地方?可以给我留个言。还有,如果有类似于中国旅行的问题,可以随时联系我。

Hard Sleepers/卧铺

(下面有中文版)

In another post, I talked about the different kinds of trains, and also touched upon five different types of slow train tickets: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat (sometimes), hard seat, and no seat. I’ll write about hard seat/no seat soon enough, but for now, let’s dive into the wonderful world of hard sleeper tickets!

First off, when is it a good idea to get a hard sleeper?

Well, I personally think hard sleeper tickets are the most cost-effective way to do overnight trains. True, you can save a lot of money by getting a hard seat (and if money is a big issue for you, then you might not have a choice), but the major downside to a hard seat is that you probably won’t sleep. (Unless you have buns of steel). For some, it’s a worthwile trade-off to save that much more rmb. However, as I’ve come to appreciate more and more, sleep is a GREAT thing! Get a hard sleeper if you have a long ways to go, and enjoy your night’s rest. (Tip: bring earplugs and a face mask, in case your bunkmates are there to play poker all night…that, or join them!)

So, okay, you’ve chosen a hard sleeper. Which bunk should you get?

I’ve slept in all three beds (top, middle, bottom), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one.

Bottom bunk: This one is indisputably the best. The ticket is slightly more expensive than the others because of this, but for good reason. As a bottom bunk, you don’t constantly have to climb in and out of bed, AND your bed doubles as a seat with its own side table for when you want to enjoy the scenery. The only disadvantage: others may crowd your bed to use it as a seat, too. But most respect you if you want to lay down. You just have to speak up!

Middle bunk: This is my personal LEAST favorite, if only because it’s the most awkward for me to climb into. Others may have no problem whatsoever getting in, but not me. I have to weirdly swing over from the side ladder and unceremoniously plop into my bed while shimmying in the rest of the way. Some (*coughmostcough*) are more flexible than me and don’t mind. Alas, this one feels awkward to me. Though, two major perks: you can look out the window from your bed (because it’s not too high) and you can still reach the side table by the bottom bunk to leave your water bottle at night.

Top bunk: This one’s the cheapest, and most people don’t like it. I like it more than the middle bunk, if only because it’s easier for me to climb into. I just have to go all the way up the ladder and then fall onto the bed. True, there are some major disadvantages: you have no side table access, you can’t see out of the window, and if you’re tall like me, you also can’t sit up without hitting your head. Major perk: you can easily access your luggage from the top rack, which for a fatty like me who likes to snack, this is a great thing.

Once you get a hard sleeper ticket, the rest is pretty straightforward. The conductors take your ticket and give you a plastic card in exchange so that they can keep track of when you need to get off. There are side tables by the windows across the aisle and enough walking space if you need to stretch your legs.

Sure, planes are faster ways of travel, but sometimes, it’s nice to take the longer route, and this is a good way to do it.

我在另一篇文章提到了火车的类型,也提到了慢车的五种票:软卧,卧铺,所谓的软座,硬座,无座。我稍后会谈到硬座与无座,但是现在要讲的是卧铺!

首先,什么时候应该买卧铺票?

我个人感觉卧铺票是火车最经济的过夜火车票。当然,你可以买硬座票更省钱(如果你的钱很紧张,你可能只有这个选择),但是硬座最大的缺点就是除非你的屁股像钢筋一样硬,绕不然你整夜都不可能睡着吧!有些人可以接受为了省钱而熬夜,但是我慢慢感到其实睡觉是一件非常重要的事情!如果你的路比较远,那就买卧铺,睡个好觉吧。(我建议你也带着耳塞、眼罩,因为有可能其他乘客要过夜玩扑克牌……这样,或者你就加入他们的游戏!)

好了,你选了卧铺。要买那一个床呢?

卧铺的下中上铺我都睡过了,各有利弊。

下铺。这个无疑是最好的。下铺也是最贵的卧铺票,但是贵有贵的道理。有下铺,你就不用断断续续爬上床,加上你的床也可以当做你的座位,包括你自己的小桌子在窗户旁边。这样很方便看风景。只有一个缺点:有可能其他乘客也想坐在你的床上,所以你要睡觉的时候就要胆子大点让他们走。

中铺。其实这个铺是我最不喜欢的,因为我感觉是最难爬上去的。其他人可能感觉没问题,但是我就不行。我要特别尴尬地从小楼梯爬到床边,然后转身,最后将自己一点一点挪进去。有些(大部分吧……)人比我更灵活,所以觉得也没什么。可惜,对我来说就很尴尬。但是,这个床有两个优点:一,你还是可以从床上看窗外,二,你还是可以摸得到下铺的小桌子,刚好把杯子放在那儿。

上铺。这个床就是最便宜的,但是大部分人不那么喜欢。我个人觉得上铺比中铺好,因为对我来说比较好爬的。你主要爬到最高的位置,然后落在床上。那当然有一些比较大的缺点:你没有旁边的小桌子,你从床上不能看到窗外,而且如果你跟我一样个子很高,你坐不起来。但是最大的优点是你从上铺很容易拿到你的行李,所以跟我一样好吃的游客,这个方法最方便偷吃东西。

你拿到卧铺票之后,其他都很直接的。列车长会及时换票并提醒下车,这样他们也清楚你在哪一个站下车。过道旁边也有很多小桌子,很方便看窗外的风景,你也可以在过道上走走,锻炼身体。

当然,飞机是更快的旅行方式,但是有的时候漫游很好,而且卧铺票是最好的选择。

Qinghai Lake/青海湖

(下面有中文版)

One of the most well-known places to explore in Qinghai would undoubtedly be Qinghai Lake. It’s also one of the most congested places, depending on what time of year you go. If you go in July-August, when college students are on summer vacation, the road along the lake will be very crowded with cyclists, all vying for the same “off the beaten track” adventure…in a giant crowd of people doing the same thing. Any other time of year will be less crowded.

Should you avoid biking it altogether because of this? No! It’s a circuit that will take you around the famed salt lake in 3-4 days (depending on your speed) and will show you scenery ranging from snow-capped mountains, to herds of farm animals grazing, to nomadic Tibetans in the fields. You’ll see temples, prayer flags, and of course, the lake!

I will admit that Qinghai Lake has definitely been touched by the hand of Chinese tourism, meaning that many of the prettiest spots have been given poetic names and have entrance fees. Local Tibetans in this area are also well-tuned to the tourist part of this lake, charging people to take pictures of their sprawling fields of rapeseed flowers. There will be random spots where you can ride horses, yaks, and in the small portion with sand dunes, even sled down sand. If this sounds like too much for you, Qinghai has other areas to enjoy, but if you’re like me, you can enjoy this scenery while avoiding the slap of tourist attractions for the most part.

If you want to bike around Qinghai Lake, most start at a small town called 西海镇 (xi hai zhen) and take 3-4 days. There are also buses that go along one half of the lake, to 黑马河 (hei ma he) which is generally seen as “the sunrise spot.”

Or, you could take a gamble like me, and hitchhike. I made my way around the entire lake in 2 days purely by hitchhiking, and even lucked my way into a kind Tibetan family on my way back who took me for a spin in a roadside temple. All things considered, Qinghai Lake might not be the natural getaway you’d hope for, but it’s certainly beautiful nonetheless.

青海省最有名的景点肯定是青海湖,但是它也是青海最拥挤的地方。如果你是7、8月份去青海湖,这就是大学生放假的时候,所以到处都是骑自行车的年轻人。他们都在追求最奇览的经验……而且都在大群当中寻找同一个“没有人经历过”的感觉。其他时间会好一些。

这么多人说明你要放弃把青海湖绕一圈吗?并不是!这一条路会化3、4 天时间把这个有名的盐湖绕一圈(但是也要看你的速度)。你会经过雪山,大群野物,还有藏族农民。你也会看到经幡,寺庙,等等。

我会承认青海湖受到了中国旅游业的影响,说明青海湖最美丽的景点有很美丽的名字,所以有门票。当地人也发现了可以赚钱,所以如果你想拍油菜花的图片,会收钱。有些地方你可以骑马,也可以摸牛拍照。在青海湖的沙漠区,你也可以坐雪橇下沙山。如果你觉得太过分的话,你可以去青海其他地方玩,但是如果你跟我一样,你可以不那么在意这种旅游业的东西,从自己内心去看青海湖。

如果你想骑自行车,大部分游客是从西海镇开始,花大概三、四天时间。青海湖也有汽车到黑马河(被称作“看日出”的地方)。

你也可以跟我一样碰运气地搭顺风车。我花了两天时间把青海湖绕了一圈,全部是从搭车过来的。我第二天运气特别好,就碰到了一个藏族的一家人,带我去路边的寺庙。总体来说,青海湖可能不是你想想的“无人风景区”,但是它还是很漂亮,还是值得赞美的。

Travel Tip #2: Toilet Paper/卫生纸

(下面有中文版)

Now, some of you may already know this, but many of you don’t: most Chinese bathrooms DO NOT have toilet paper in them. Yes, Chinese people still use toilet paper (obviously), it’s just that everyone is expected to bring their own. I’ve speculated about this, and have a couple theories: 1) China is trying to reduce toilet paper waste, 2) With such a large population, it’s easier to make people bring their own rather than constantly have workers stock it, and 3) China hates me (just kidding).

Anyway, the point is that you need to bring your own! You have a couple of options. The most common is buying small packets at really any convenience store in the area (for usually 1 RMB per packet). Some travelers opt for buying them in bulk from a grocery store and using them throughout the trip, which really only works if you’re going to be stationed in the same place for an extended amount of time…otherwise, you’re stuck carting it around. Others pack a small roll of toilet paper before even coming to China (which I recommend if you’re coming from overseas and don’t want one of your first Chinese adventures being “let’s buy toilet paper before I pee my pants”).

But what if you don’t want to constantly buy toilet paper? Well, you have options, good ones being: McDonalds and KFC. Yes, Chinese cities have many of these chain stores, and these friendly reminders of consumerism can be your saving grace. Their bathrooms are almost always reliably stocked with toilet paper (and you don’t have to buy anything to use their bathrooms). Don’t like this choice? Another option is to always ask for extra napkins when you buy/order food. Better yet, pad your pockets with it if you’re staying in a hotel. (Hostels may or may not have their own toilet paper, depending on the price range/quality). You can get pretty creative with where you get your toilet paper, but the biggest takeaway here is that YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT ON YOU!

Maybe even bring extra. You might make a friend.

Useful phrases:
卫生纸 (wei sheng zhi)= toilet paper
餐厅纸 (can ting zhi)= napkin
多给我点餐厅纸吧 (duo gei wo dian can ting zhi ba)= Give me some extra napkins
洗手间在哪里 (xi shou jian zai na li)= Where is the bathroom?

有些人已经知道了,但是有些还不知道:中国的大部分洗手间没有卫生纸。那当然中国人是用卫生纸的,只不过每一个人是应该自己带的。(我考虑了这个问题,有三个可能性;第一,中国就是想要减少纸的浪费;第二,因为人口很大,每个人自己带卫生纸比每一个店断断续续地换卫生纸更方便;第三,中国恨我(开个玩笑)。

关键是你要自己带的!有几个选择。你可以去任何一个商店买一包纸(就一块钱而已)。有些游客去市场买很多包,然后慢慢地用完(如果你一直在同一个地方旅行,这是个好选择,但是如果你要去很多地方,后来会变得有点麻烦因为还是要带上那么多……)。有些人来中国之前买几包(如果你是从国外来的,我建议你还是来之前带一点,要不然的话你在中国的第一个回忆就是“我去找卫生纸的漂游记”)。

那么如果你懒得常常去买卫生纸呢?还是有办法:这就叫麦当劳和肯德基(对呀这种消费主义的符号会救了你的命!)他们的卫生间经常有卫生纸,而且你不用买东西才能上他们的厕所。不想要这样吗?那你每次出去吃饭多拿一些餐厅纸。如果你住在宾馆里,你可以把很多卫生纸塞进你的口袋。(青年旅社未必有卫生纸,如果质量差点的话那肯定没有)。你就要用你的想象力去找办法吧。主要是:一定要带上!

最好是你多带一些。结果呢:你可能会交一个新的朋友。

The Tiger-Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡

(下面有中文版!)

Yunnan has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty, but one trail takes the cake. This is the Tiger-Leaping Gorge trail, a 2-day hike in mountainous Yunnan.

Actually, it is possible to hike the approximately 15-km hike in one day, it’s just no fun. I met a hostel owner who did exactly this, saying that you basically have to run it. Most hikers do it over a 2-day period, staying in the Halfway Guesthouse overnight (with “the best washrooms in the world” because of the open walls offering stunning views of the mountain valleys.)

To get to the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail, most travelers come from Lijiang, an ultra-touristy village that I could barely stomach for a couple of days. Most hostels will offer information about the trail and even transportation, but if you want to do it on your own, go to the small town Qiaotou. From there, it’s up to the moutains!

The hiking itself ranges from comfortable walking along dirt trails (which is rare in China, most mountain hikes being a series of stairs), to the treacherous and grueling “28 bends,” which is a series of 28 switchbacks up steep terrain. Horse vendors take advantage of this, offering horseback rides (for a fee) to those unable to do it. Out of stubborn pride, I climbed all of the 28 bends without a horse, though there is no shame (well, maybe a little) if you opt for that route.

In terms of food, growing tourism has ensured that there are restaurants along the way. That being said, pack water! Prices on top of the mountain will be higher.

As for the views…well, let’s let them speak for themselves…

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云南到处都是美丽的自然风光,但是有一条无可攀比的路。那就是虎跳峡,一条需要在山里行走两天的路。

其实,一天之内可以走完这条15公里左右的路,但是一天之行并不好玩。我见过了一位青年旅社老板说他一天走完了,但是应该说跑完了因为他速度必须很快。大部分的游客需要走两天,住在“在中途客栈”(因为有“世界上最好的厕所”因为厕所的一侧没有墙壁,刚好可以看到超级漂亮的山!)

到虎跳峡,大部分游客从丽江出发——丽江就是一座过分游客化的小镇,我呆了几天实在受不了了。大部分客栈有关虎跳峡的消息和交通,但是如果你要自己到的话,就坐巴士到桥头就行了。从那儿,到处都是山!

爬山的话,有的时候不难(因为不像中国大部分爬楼梯的山路!),有的时候超级吃力的,比如一段有二十八个Z形路往上爬。租马的工人在那里等着,如果你付点钱,你可以骑马爬那一段。我自己比较固执,所以自己爬了。如果你要骑马,我不会小看你……OK会小看你一点点,但是你可以忽略我的想法。

吃饭的话,因为虎跳峡的旅游业比较丰富,路边会有一些饭店。但是你还是要带很多水!山里的价格会比较贵。

那,美丽自然风光呢?应该让图片自己来展示。

Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal/京杭大运河

(下面有中文版!)

Hangzhou may be best known for West Lake, but one of its lesser-known attractions for non-Chinese travelers is the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Most Chinese travelers of course know about it, since it’s long been a part of Chinese history. In total it’s almost 1,200 miles long connecting Hangzhou and Beijing, and is the oldest functioning canal in the world.

You can’t ride it all the way to Beijing, though you’ll be able to watch barges begin their journeys to the capital. Instead, take a boat from the Wulin Port (武林码头) and get off at an old neighborhood. The boats count as public transit, costing less than 10RMB for a ride on the canal.

Once off the boat, you can enjoy small canal-side walking paths, or take a trip to see the Knives, Scissors and Sword Museum, the Fan Museum, and the Umbrella Museum. (I personally enjoyed the Sword Museum, which had a robotic arm demonstrating sword techniques at the time I visited. For all museums: prepare yourself for hordes of wax figurines!). The cluster of small old-time buildings has a good selection of restaurants, coffee shops, and art stores to peruse. In the spring, the canal is especially beautiful, with green willows lining the water.

Probably most travelers would put West Lake, Longjing Tea Village, or Lingying Temple higher on their To-Do lists (and for good reason!), but the Grand Canal is still one of my favorite spots in Hangzhou.

杭州最著名的景点就是西湖,但是从外国游客看来不那么著名的景点就是京杭大运河。大部分中国游客当然已经认识京杭大运河,因为在中国有永久历史。一共1200多英里长,也把杭州与北京连了起来。它是世界最长可用的大运河。

你现在不可以从杭州坐到北京,但是在运河上你可以看到去往北京走的船。但是你可以在武林码头坐船到拱墅区。这种船算是一种便利的交通,坐到那儿不到10块钱。

下船时,你可以在运河边的小路走走,也可以去观看刀剪剑博物馆,扇博物馆,和伞博物馆。(我个人更喜欢刀剪剑博物馆,因为里面有一个耍剑的自动的手臂。所有的博物馆,要做好心理准备有太多的蜡状物!)仿古的楼有饭店,咖啡馆,艺术作品店等地方逛逛。春天运河边更好看,因为有绿绿的聊树。

应该大部分的游客会把西湖,龙井村,或者灵隐寺排在前面(而且很有道理的!)但是京杭大运河也是我最喜欢的杭州景点之一。

West Lake/西湖

(下面有中文版!)

The first place you’ll be told to visit in Hangzhou is West Lake. That should come as no surprise, given that West Lake has been a part of Chinese poetry and folklore for hundreds of years. But, when it comes down to it, West Lake is just a giant lake. How best to enjoy it? Look at it? Take a selfie? Those are good starting places. Of course, there are other, probably more satisfying ways to explore this famed lake in Hangzhou.

  1. Quick Trip West Lake
    If you just want to see West Lake and walk along it for no more than an hour, then that’s easy. There’s a subway stop on line one “龙翔桥” (longxiangqiao) that has a convenient exit for exploring the lake. This path will likely lead you to 湖滨路 (Hubin road) which is a walking street along the lake. This portion will be crowded. Not just crowded with walkers, but with tourist carts as well. (If you’re lucky, you’ll see the squirrel that delights all Chinese tourists).
  2. West Lake by bike
    Most travelers prefer this method of exploring West Lake. It will take much of the day, though, so be prepared. You can get a transit card for a 200 RMB refundable deposit for a red bike, or if you have Wechat, you can get one of the bikes scanned by QR code. The bikes are 1 RMB after an hour, and the prices jack way up the longer you keep them, so be sure to switch bikes when you can. If this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can also rent bicycles from vendors along the lake for a day. I suggest making your way to the southern side of the lake, where there’s more greenery and less traffic. Also be prepared for hills. A bit tough on the way up, glorious on the way down.
  3. West Lake by foot
    This will take almost all day. Don’t be fooled: West Lake is bigger than you think. That being said, it’s easier to veer on side paths and get lost in the woods when you don’t have to lock up a bike and fetch it later. Once you get closer to the tea fields, there will be plenty of side paths winding through Dragonwell tea bushes.
  4. West Lake by boat
    Indeed, West Lake being a body of water, there are boats! The boat vendors are hard to miss, since they stand on the shore yelling “BOAT! BOAT! BOAT!” as you walk by. You can rent a paddle-boat (by which I mean, the vendor paddles the boat) and see the Three Pillars Mirroring the Moon (aka the image on the back of the 1 RMB note), and visit Yingzhou Isle. Bargain liberally.
  5. West Lake panorama
    You can also enjoy West Lake from above. While there are several panoramic spots, my favorite would have to be from atop Baoshi Hill (宝石山), which is off of Beishan Road (北山路) and where you’ll also find Baochu Pagoda (保俶塔). The trick is to get on top of the rocks. That’s where you’ll see what I consider the best panoramic view. (Plus, it’s FREE so you can’t beat that.) Other places include Bei Feng Hill (北高峰), Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) among others.
  6. Causeways/inlets
    If you don’t want to do a circumference of the lake, you can also consider walking through a part of it. There are two causeways connecting different shores: Bai Causeway (白堤) and Su Causeway (苏堤). I personally prefer Su Causeway, because it’s greenery is a bit denser, and the Broken Bridge on the Bai Causeway is usually swamped with people. (Especially during public holidays!) Actually, the best causeway would have to be Yanggong Causeway (杨公堤), but there’s less of a lake view on that one. Another area is Solitary Hill (孤山) which is an inlet off of Beishan Road. There’s a seal museum (the stamp kind, not the animal), plus a series of interesting sculptures throughout the area. You can still see the lake, just from a different angle.

In the end, it’s up to you how you decide to visit West Lake. Just know that if you don’t visit it at all, you will be faced with a wash of shame from fellow China travelers! (Just kidding. But still, give it a visit!)

杭州第一个该看的地方就是西湖。这并不是怪事,因为西湖在中国诗歌神话中由来已久。但是归根到底西湖就是一个湖。该怎么赞赏呢?看看?自拍?这种方式可以为起发点。当然,也有其他方式可以更好地赞赏这个很有名的湖。

一、快速看西湖
如果你想不到一个小时看看西湖,走一走,那很简单。地铁一号线在龙翔桥下车就可以很方便地走到西湖边。这条路也会通过湖滨路,一条人行道。这条路人很多。也不仅是行人,也有游览车。(如果你的运气比较好,你可以看到令大部分中国游客开心的松鼠!)
二、骑自行车游西湖
大部分游客更喜欢用这个方式看西湖。骑自行车会花半天时间,所以你要提前准备。你可以拿一个交通卡,保证金200块钱,就是红色的自行车。用微信也可以扫一扫共享单车。第一个小时,一块钱,以后会很快提价。方便的话,要经常换车。如果感觉不方便,那湖边有很多租车的人,你可以租一天的自行车。我建议你去西湖的南边因为那边的绿色风景比较多,车子也比较少。要准备骑上山。上去很难,下去很好玩。
三、走路游西湖
这会花一天时间。不要小看西湖有多么大。因为如此,你也比较方便随便走上小路因为不用停车。离茶园比较近,有很多小路可以走。这种小路会在龙井茶树当中,很漂亮。
四、划船游西湖
因为西湖当然是湖,你可以划船慢慢欣赏它。租船的工作人员很难以忽略,你走过去的时候他们不断地喊“划船!划船!划船!”你可以租一个小船(也不是你划船的,是工作人员来划)然后可以看到三潭印月(换句话说一块纸币后面的背景图)、小瀛洲。但是最重要的一点,别忘了讨价还价。
五、看西湖全景
你也可以从高处看下面的西湖。当然有很多看全景的地方,但是我比较偏爱在宝石山上看西湖(在北山路上,有保俶塔)。主要是你要爬上石头看全景。对我来说,这就是杭州最好的全景,也是免费的!其他全景的地方:北高峰、雷峰塔等。
六、走提道、小路
如果你不想绕西湖一圈,你也可以去西湖的一部分走一走。湖上有两个提道,就是白堤和苏堤。我比较喜欢苏堤因为自然比较丰富,人也比白堤的断桥少一点。实际上,杭州最好的提道是杨公堤,但是从杨公堤你不怎么看得到西湖。另一个地方是孤山,就是北山路附近的一个地区。那里有一个印章博物馆,周围也有很独特的雕塑。你还是可以看到西湖,就是从另一个角度而看的。

总之,你自己要决定怎么看看西湖。但是,如果你来杭州不看西湖,你真是白来杭州了。(开个玩笑,但是你还是要尽量看看吧!)

Fengdu Ghost Town/丰都鬼城

(下面有中文版)

I probably wasn’t supposed to enjoy this as much as I did, and most Chinese tourists riding the Yangtze River told me that it was “fantasy history” and therefore useless, but enjoy it I most certainly did. Imagine, if you will, a combination of one of those state fair haunted houses from the 90’s, Willy Wonka’s factory, and the underworld. This is Fengdu Ghost Town in a nutshell.

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Enter, if you dare!

The main area has lifesize depictions of Hell, complete with the giant entrance gate, the Home-Viewing Pavilion (where newly-deceased could have one last look at their mortal life), the Bridge of Helplessness, sometimes “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” (no, not the Simon and Garfunkel song — a bridge spanning a river of blood with demons writhing within), halls of judges, gnarled statues of demons gnashing their teeth, and more. I personally enjoyed the rows of ghost-statues, which included the “Lust Ghost,” the “Drunkard Ghost,” demons eating hands, with eyes all over them, and plenty of other things to give you nightmares. You can follow a tour guide as he/she walks you through Hell and the three tests for making it through: passing that bridge, going through King of Hell Lord Yama’s torture chamber, and then (perplexingly) a stone on which to stand for three minutes — though this will be all in Chinese.

Most visitors stick with this, but I kept exploring, discovering a side corridor by the Hall of Judges, in which some inspired artists had made statues depicting the various torture methods in surprising detail.

Further afield, is an addition made in the 90’s, which is where the haunted house impression comes from. Whereas the main area took you through what felt more like a historic reenactment, this one turns Hell into an amusement park, complete with a small roller coaster, Day-Glo paint along the walls, rickety dolls falling apart, and a reincarnation funhouse.

As I said, most Chinese tourists I met scoffed at this place, but if I’m being honest, it was probably one of my highlights from my trip to Chongqing. Where else can you find something so bizarre?

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很多人可能觉得丰都鬼城不值得被喜爱,但是我还是挺喜欢这个地方的。你想想一下:一种九十年代的鬼屋、威利·旺卡工厂和地狱的结合,这就是真正的丰都鬼城。

主要的观赏点有与原物一样大小的地狱雕像、大厅,大门口,望乡台,奈何桥,恐怖的地狱法官,咬牙切齿的魔鬼等。我个人最喜欢魔鬼的雕像,比如“欲色鬼,”“酒鬼,”吃手的鬼,有无数眼睛的鬼,还有很多让你做噩梦的魔鬼。你可以跟着导游走,而且他会带你去看进入地狱的三个审判官:经过奈何桥,挨过阎王的刑堂,然后三分钟站在在石头上(我也不太明白这一点)。

大部分的游客感觉游完这部分就够了,而我却会继续探索丰都。我发现了一个小小在大厅旁边的走廊,里面有令我惊讶、很细致的雕像,都展示各种痛苦。让我不禁遐想……到底是什么样的艺术家才会有这样创作呀?

再往里走,有一个新建的地方让我想到九十年代的鬼屋。在这里有现代的过山车,幻彩萤光漆,破旧的雕像,给我的感觉是这个地方就像是那些魔鬼在轮回的游乐园。

我就是想说:大部分我见到的中国游客都在吐槽丰都鬼城,但说实话,它是我在重庆最喜欢的地方之一。哪里还会有那么独特而奇异的景点呀?