China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tiananmen Square in Beijing

When you first arrive in Beijing and want to have an easy day to get over the time change, a good place to visit is Tiananmen Square.   It is an easy walk or short taxi ride from most central area hotels.  It is the Largest Square in the world and there are four sights around there to visit.  This photo I took from the tower at the entrance to the Forbidden City across the street from the Square.  To the left is the Museum on the Revolution.  Straight ahead is Mao's Tomb where you can see his preserved body in a glass container.  To the right is one of my favorite places to visit is the Great Hall of the People which is never included on any tour.   The government meets here in the large auditorium holding 10,000 people.   There are also State receptions and dinners held here and may be closed during those times.  There are also many large reception rooms each decorated according to each Province in China.  You can see

these rooms through glass windows.  The wide halls and stairways are usually covered with heavy dark red carpeting and marble.  Just a nice walk to these sights can be interesting seeing  local people on the streets and you will get the feeling of being in a World Capital for sure.     Click on the photo for a full screen view.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pollution in China?

That is one question that I get asked now and then especially this year with the problem they had in Beijing.  Beijing has grown very quickly and added 10,000 cars per MONTH to the roads last year.  This has been an inverted air problem for a time this spring much like we get here in Seattle as well as other major cities in the world until the winds clear it out.  Most of China especially in the countryside the weather is clear and fresh including Shanghai which is on the sea.  Fall months when the farmers burn their straw from harvesting wheat and rice, there is some smoke pollution but lasts only for a few weeks.  The China Daily Newspaper which is in English and Free in most Chinese hotels lists the air quality in all major cities each day as well as the weather conditions and temperatures.   For more information on weather in China and the best times to travel and tour, email me at    Photos below are:  Top:  Shenyang industrial city, Middle:  Beijing   Bottom:  Shanghai

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What to Expect Eating in a Restaurant

Many people go on tours to China where the meals are ordered for them or in group tours they often have buffet meals to choose what you like.   It is an adventure to go to a restaurant on your own and order on your own.  The menu is usually in English and Chinese. Some have photos with the dishes.  Most restaurants will try to have an English speaking waiter or waitress but if they do not; then you can read and point.   Water costs extra.  Coffee is usually only available for breakfast.  Tea which normally came free with a meal is often charged for now.  Tipping is not necessary as it is included in the cost of your meal.  If you do tip, the money must be given to the owner of the restaurant.   Be careful about ordering some expensive things like lobster or special sea foods.  The price is often by weight rather than the dish and of course they would want to serve you the largest portion.  Many good restaurants require a reservation but your hotel or guide can help you with that.  Some restaurants will have a waiting line or room which may be up to one hour or more.  To avoid the crowds eat early as Chinese tend to have dinner about 8:00..  Chinese restaurants for the most part are very noisy so expect that.  Some smoking is done but becoming less and less each year.  Stay as long as you like as you will have to ASK for the check since it is considered impolite to bring a check without the customer asking for it.   For more details on restaurants contact me at
I have had 50+ trips to China eating in hundreds of restaurants....and I haven't missed many meals!  :-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cash is King in China

I just read an article in the Seattle Times newspaper that mentions Cash is King in China.  What does that mean?   It means people use cash most of the time to buy everything even though the largest bill is 100 yuan which is worth about $16.   It mentions that a man went to buy a BMW 5 Series that cost $130,000.  He brought in a large white bag and a big heavy backpack full of money to pay CASH.   Sound Bizarre?  Yes, but I try to explain some things in China are much different than we are use to but I often think it falls on deaf ears as people can not realize this.  I have seen it for years.  China has 5  times the amount of cash in circulation than the U.S. has for example.  Just a couple years ago a man was checking out of the hotel next to me and brought up a large black brief case, opened it up to pay his bill and it was full of 100 yuan bills neatly stacked and wrapped.  I see the same in Jewelry stores. This is the norm rather than the exception in China.   Few places other than department stores and government stores accept credit cards especially in remote areas or private stores.   As I said,  CASH IS KING in China.  Yes, there are cash machines like ours and banks for exchange and even exchanges in your hotels is common; but spending it becomes another situation.  There are several reasons for this but too many to write here.  If you would like a copy of the article, email me at     I keep it in my computer to send to my clients who ask about money and credit or debit cards.  Added example:   One of my Chinese friends was just visiting here in Seattle and I showed her the article.  She agreed and said that she and her husband paid CASH for their apartment. It took three people with large bags to take to the owner for the payment.  She said that is common to avoid the one time Tax.  She couldn't believe we pay taxes on our homes EVERY year!   :-)