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Shanghai, China

Shanghai (上海 Shànghǎi), with a population of more than 18 million (and over 5.8 million migrants), is one of the most populous and most developed cities in the People's Republic of China.

Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East during the 1930s, and remained the most developed city in Communist China. In the 1990s Shanghai again became an attractive spot for tourists worldwide.
[edit] Districts

Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 huángpǔ jiāng), with the older town on the west bank known as Puxi (浦西 pǔ xī) and the brash new development on the east side being Pudong (浦东 pǔdōng).

Areas within Puxi:

* The Bund (外滩 wàitān) - the colonial riverside of old (and reborn) Shanghai, including the Yuyuan Gardens (豫园 yùyuán)
* French Concession - the leafy district once knows as the Paris of the East, including the refurbished shikumen houses of Xintiandi
* Shanghai/Xujiahui - Southwest part of Shanghai
* Gubei/Hong-Qiao - Close to the old international airport, a Carrefour, and with a large expat population
* Nanjing Road - China's most famous shopping street, leading to People's Park (人民公园 rénmín gōngyuán) and Jing'an (静安 jìng ān)
* Hongkou (虹口 hóngkǒu) - home of Fudan and Tongji university, plus a park and museum for famed writer Lu Xun.
* Yangpu (杨浦 yángpǔ) - contains the excellent and spacious gongqing forest park (共青森林公园 gòngqīng sēnlín gōngyuán)

and across the river:

* Pudong - the skyscraper-laden new financial and commercial district on the east bank of the river

Outlying districts:

* 嘉定 - Jiādìng
* 青浦 - QīngPǔ
* 金山 - JīnShān
* 南汇 - NánHuì
* 松江 - SōngJiāng
* 宝山 - BǎoShān

[edit] Understand

Shanghai is a fascinating mix of East and West. It has historic shikumen houses that blended the styles of Chinese houses with European design flair, and it has one of the richest collections of art deco buildings in the world. Because there were so many Concessions (designated districts) to Western powers during the turn of the 20th century, at times the city has the feel of Paris or Montreal, while Tudor style buildings give a German flair, and the 1930s buildings put you in New York or Chicago.

In the beginning of the 1990s, the Shanghai government launched a series of new strategies to attract foreign investments. The biggest move was to open up Pudong, once a rural area of Shanghai. The strategies succeeded, and now Pudong has become the financial district of Shanghai, with numerous skyscrapers.

Today Shanghai's goal is to develop into a world-class financial and economic center of China, and even Asia. In achieving this goal Shanghai faces competition from Hong Kong, which has the advantage of a stronger legal system and greater banking and service expertise. Shanghai has stronger links to the Chinese interior and to the central government in addition to a stronger manufacturing and technology base. Since the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC, Shanghai has increased its role in finance, banking, and as a major destination for corporate headquarters, fueling demand for a highly educated and westernized workforce.

Due to rapid industrial and economic development, as well as lax governmental environment policies, Shanghai has recently been ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the world. Individuals with asthma or respiratory issues should be prepared when visiting the city.
[edit] Get in

Shanghai is one of China's main travel hubs and getting in from pretty much anywhere is easy.
[edit] By plane

Shanghai has two main airports [1], with Pudong the main international gateway and Hongqiao serving most domestic flights. Be sure to check which one your flight is leaving from, and allow at least one hour, preferably 1.5 hours, to transfer if needed!

Domestic airplane tickets should be booked at least two days in advance at one of the many travel agencies. Fares are generally cheap, but vary depending on the season. When backpacking, it may often be better to book a flight along a big traffic line (Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Chongqing, Shanghai-Shenzhen, ...) and travel the rest by bus or train.

* Beijing - varying between 400,- to 1200,- Yuan per economy class ticket, depending on the season, where the peak is in the summer.

[edit] Pudong International Airport
Transrapid trains at Longyang Station
Transrapid trains at Longyang Station

Pudong (浦东机场, PVG, [2]) is Shanghai's new international airport, located 40 km to the east of the city. Arrivals on the first floor, departures on the third, and has all the features you'd expect - but head up to the 3rd if the sole ATM in the arrivals hall is out of order.

The most convenient but also the most expensive way to get to central Shanghai is by taxi, but figure on ¥145 and up to an hour to get to the center of the city. You should always check with your taxi driver prior to entering a taxi. Check that they know where you would like to go and the estimated cost to get there. Often taxi drivers can not speak English. Some Taxi drivers also use finders to wander the airport and bring you to their cab (who often have a driver waiting - this means you ride with two drivers if you agree to this). Use caution and double check the charges as some will try to charge up to 10 times the normal fare

Airport buses are considerably cheaper (¥15-22), but take up to an hour and a half and stop running at 9 PM. There are a number of routes, but two particularly convenient ones connect to the Airport City Terminal on Nanjing West Road (#2, ¥19) and Shanghai train station (#5, ¥18).

More a tourist attraction and prestige project than practical means of transport, the Transrapid maglev train is now open to the public and shuttles from Pudong to Longyang in 8 minutes flat at a blazing speed of 430 km/hour. However, it's then another half hour by subway to get to Puxi, and it's a bit of a hike both in the airport (2nd floor) and to transfer to the subway. That said, the maglev to Longyang and a taxi from there is the fastest way to get to the city, and the ride is definitely an experience in a rollercoasterish way. Services currently operate from 7 AM to 9 PM daily and cost ¥50 one way (¥40 if you have a same-day ticket) or ¥80 same-day return. You can also opt to pay double for "VIP Class", which gets you a soft drink and bragging rights.
[edit] Hongqiao Airport

Shanghai's older airport Hongqiao (虹桥机场 SHA) now services only domestic flights. 18 km away from the center, a taxi can manage the trip in 20 minutes on a good day but allow an extra 30 minutes for the taxi queue. Public buses (numbers 925 and 505) run to Renmin Square regularly and cost only ¥4, but take around an hour. An extension of Metro Line 2 to Hongqiao Airport is under construction.
[edit] By train

Shanghai has several train stations.

* Shanghai Railway Station (上海站). Shanghai's largest and oldest, located in Zhabei district, on the intersection of Metro Lines 1, 3 and 4. Practically all trains used to terminate here,including trains to Hong Kong. But southern services are being shifted out to the new South Station.

* Shanghai South Railway Station (上海南站). A new, greatly expanded terminal opened in July 2006 and and is set to take over all services towards the south. On Metro lines 1 and 3.

* Shanghai West Railway Station (上海西站). The smallest of the three, with limited services to Yantai, Zaozhuang, Hengyang, Ganzhou, Chengdu. Not reachable by metro.

Train tickets are also most conveniently booked in advance at one of the many travel service agencies. If urgent, they could also be directly booked at the train stations and the Shanghai Railway Station even has an English counter.

* Beijing (北京)- there are a number of brand new night sleep trains running daily from Shanghai to Beijing, starting at 7pm in 10 minute intervals to 8pm and arriving at 7-8am in Beijing. Fare is around 500,- Yuan for a softsleeper, but they are very clean and the four-person cabins very comfortable. In the same new train, normal hardseaters area available for around 250,- Yuan. For these trains, food is only served in the direction from Shanghai to Beijing, but on the same connection from Beijing to Shanghai, no food is served yet, so prepare yourself with some instant noodles or snacks. For a regular normal sleeper in a standard train, which takes 18 hours from Shanghai to Beijing, expect to pay 200-300,- Yuan with no food either.

[edit] By car

In recent years many highways have been built, linking Shanghai to other cities in the region, including Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, etc. It only takes 2 hours to reach Shanghai from Hangzhou.
[edit] By bus

There are several long-distance bus stations in Shanghai, but most buses only go to small towns nearby the city. And you should try to get the tickets as early as possible.
[edit] Get around

If you intend to stay in Shanghai for a longer time the Shanghai Jiaotong Card (上海公共交通卡) can come in handy. You can load the card with money and use it in buses, the metro and even taxis. You can get these cards at any metro/subway station, as well as some convenience stores like Alldays and KeDi.
[edit] By metro
Shanghai metro map
Shanghai metro map

The fast-growing Shanghai Metro network now has 5 lines with another 4 under construction. The trains are fast, cheap and fairly user-friendly with most signs also in English, but the trains can get very packed at rush hour. Fares range from ¥2 to ¥8 depending on distance and you’ll need plenty of ¥1 or ¥0.5 coins or cash for the ticket vending machines, although most stations also have staff selling tickets. You can now transfer between lines freely with a single ticket. The metro can also use Shanghai's public transportation card (noncontact).
[edit] By taxi

Taxi is generally a good choice for transportation in the city. It is affordable (only 11 yuan for the first 3km) and saves you a lot of time, but try to get your destination in Chinese characters as communication can be an issue. Drivers, while generally honest, are sometimes genuinely clueless and sometimes out to take you for a ride. Insist on using the meter and, if your fare seems out of line, demand a printed receipt before paying.

If you come across a row of parked taxis and have a choice of which one to get in to, you may wish to check the number of stars the driver has. These are displayed below the driver's photograph on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. The amount of stars indicates the length of time the driver has been in the taxi business and the level of positive feedback received from customers, and range from zero stars to five. Drivers with one star or more should know all major locations in Shanghai, and those with three stars should be able to recognise even lesser-known addresses. Remember that it takes time to build up these stars, and so don't panic if you find yourself with a driver who doesn't have any - just have them assure you that they know where they are going and you should be fine.

Taxi colors in Shanghai are strictly controlled and indicate the company the taxi belongs to. Turquoise taxis operated by Dazhong (大众), the largest group, are often judged the best of the bunch. Watch out for dark red taxis, since this is the 'default' color of small taxi companies and includes more than its fair share of bad apples; bright red taxis, on the other hand, are unionized and quite OK.
[edit] By sightseeing bus

There are several different companies offering sightseeing buses with various routes and packages covering the main sights such as the Shanghai Zoo, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and Baoyang Road Harbor. Most of the sightseeing buses leave from the Shanghai stadium's east bus
[edit] On foot

Shanghai is a good city for walking, especially in the older parts of the city across the Huangpu from Pudong. Of course, given the large population, you should expect heavy concentrations of pedestrians and vehicles, but that is part of the excitement. Crossing large roads, in particular, can get hairy and it's advisable to follow the locals.
[edit] See

Where in Shanghai to go depends largely on your time period of interest. See Shanghai for the first-timer for a sample itinerary.

* For Imperial China, check out the Yuyuan Gardens with interesting buildings but a bit too much tourist oriented.

* For 1930s Shanghai, head for the stately old buildings of the Bund. Or pay a visit to The French Concession (close Huai Hai Park).

* For 21st-century Shanghai, cross the river to gawp at the skyscrapers of Pudong.

* To find some peace, you should visit the Longhua Temple. It takes a while to get there but it's not as busy as the Jade Buddha Temple and the experience is fulfilling. You can also have a nice vegetarian Buddhist meal in both Temples.

* Visit the Moganshan Road area for an insider's look into the hot contemporary Chinese art scene. Private tours available daily, contact ARTTOURSCHINA.

[edit] Do

Shanghai is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles. Please help sort them out if you are familiar with this city.

* Walk Along the Fu Xing Rd (复兴路) to see the old buildings and enjoy the neatness of the road

* Take an elevator to the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (东方明珠, the tallest TV tower in Asia with the height of 468 metres, and on a good day the sprawling views are spectacular!)

* Enter Shanghai Xintiandi (新天地) Located at Lane 181, Taicang Road. A small pedestrianised area of the city featuring rebuilt traditional shikumen [stone gate] houses. Housing a cinema complex,mall, numerous bars, cafés and art galleries marketed towards foreign visitors and the more affluent locals. Close to where the communist party headquarters were located.

* Enter Shanghai International Convention Center Shanghai International Convention Center was opened for business in August 1999. The '99 Fortune Global Forum was held here. It is located in the southwest of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong. It covers an area of 45,000 square meters with a landscaped square of 30,000 square meters. It consists of several modernized halls including a 42,000-sq.m. Multi-functional hall, a 25,000-sq.m. Exhibition hall, an 11,000-sq.m. Underground exhibition hall and 20 meeting rooms of different sizes. There are 259 guest rooms, including presidential suites, executive suites, standard rooms, Chinese and Western restaurants, a coffee room, a nightclub, a show room, a gym, a swimming pool, a bowling room, a billiard room, a sauna bath and a shopping arcade.http://www.china-tour.cn/cityguides/Shanghai_Attractions2.htm

* See the giant panda and many more exotic animals at the Shanghai Zoo. Located nearby Hongqiao airport, this is a spacious and modern zoo that's for the most part a far cry from the concrete animal prison in Beijing. Open daily from 6:30 to 17:00 (16:30 in winter), tickets are 30Y, or 40Y including an elephant show. One kid not taller than 1.2m gets in for free together with one paying adult. Take bus 925 from Renmin Square (3Y) for about 45 minutes. Please follow the signs (even if the locals do not) and do not feed or tease the animals.

[edit] Learn

Shanghai urban development is all about the 'five year plan'. Visit the Urban Planning Museum in People's Square for a fascinating look into Shanghai's colourful past, and learn about development strategies for the future. There is a heavy focus on eco-friendly satellite cities with spacious public centres and loads of greenery. The trip is worth it just for the scale model of Shanghai in ten years, located on the fourth floor, and the virtual tour of up-and-coming large scale public projects, including the World Expo 2010 site.
[edit] Work

There is lots of work for expatriates in Shanghai today. Construction is proceeding at an incredible pace and the economy is booming.
[edit] Buy

Shop until you drop on China's premier shopping street Nanjing Road, or head for the Yuyuan Bazaar for Chinese crafts and jewelry not far from the Bund. Nanjing Road is a long street. The more famous part lies in the east near the Bund (Nanjing Road East), with a 1-km long pedestrian boulevard (Metro line 2 at Henan Road station) lined with busy shops. The wide boulevard is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted at domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Local people often look down on Nanjing Road and shop at Huaihai Road (another busy shopping boulevard with more upscale stores) instead. For the very high end, go to the west end of Nanjing Road West near Jing'an Temple. Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping center featuring Giorgio Armani's flagship store in China.

The infamous Xiangyang Market was finally shut down for good in June 2006. There are a few other shopping malls which have sprouted up where you can also purchase knock-off products. The horrendously crowded Qi Pu Lu clothing market is a mass of stalls jammed into a warehouse sized building which would take the casual stroller most of a day to look through. Another option is the Pearl Plaza located on Yan An Xi Lu and Hong Mei Lu as well as the unassuming shopping center located on the corner of Nan Jing Xi Lu and Chong Qing Lu. Haggling can be fun for those who are accustomed to it, but those sensitive to the pressure might want to steer clear. Not only can it be stressful to haggle, but just walking in to the buildings can bring a horde of people upon you trying to sell you bags, watches, DVDs and all assortment of goods.

But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques along Chang Le Lu and other streets in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewelry etc and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. Visitors from overseas should expect the usual problem of finding larger sizes however...

Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore (Shanghai Book Traders) in 390 Fuzhou Road offers a lot of books in English and other major languages, especially for learning Chinese. Fuzhou Road is also a good street to wander around and find Chinese calligraphy related shops.

Those interested in DVDs of movies and television shows have a wide variety of options. Aside from the people selling DVDs out of boxes on street corners you can also find a good selection of movies at many local DVD shops in most neighborhoods. Perhaps the best way to score a deal with a shop is to be a regular. If you provide them repeat business they are usually quite happy to give you discounts for your loyal patronage. Typically DVDs can cost anywhere from 5 RMB for standard disks to 10-12 RMB for DVD-9 format disks.

However, if you are short on time in Shanghai and don't have the means to form a relationship with a shop, many people recommend the Ka De Club. An expat favorite for years, they have two shops: one in 483, Zhen Ning Road and the other one in 505, Da Gu Road (a small street between Wei Hai Road and Yan An Road). While the selection at the Ka De Club isn't bad the downside of this store's popularity is that with so many foreigners giving them business, you tend to get somewhat higher prices than at local shops and haggling and repeat customer bargains are pretty much non-existent.

Antiques, jade and communist China memorabilia can be found in Dong Tai Road Street Market, where you must bargain if you want to get a fair deal.
[edit] Eat

Shanghainese cuisine is one of the lesser-known types of Chinese food, generally characterized as sweet and oily. The name "Shanghai" means "above the sea", so unsurprisingly seafood predominates, the usual style of preparation being steaming. Some Shanghainese dishes to look out for:

* xiao long baozi (小籠包子, lit. buns from the little steaming cage, or little dragon buns), probably the most famous Shanghai dish: small steamed dumplings full of tasty (and boiling hot!) broth and a dab of meat. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in rice vinegar (醋 cu) to season the meat inside.
* dazha xie (hairy crabs), best eaten in the winter months (Oct-Dec) and paired with Shaoxing wine to balance out your yin and yang
* xiefen shizitou (crab powder lion heads), actually pork meatballs containing crab meat
* zui ji (drunken chicken), chicken steamed then marinated in rice wine, usually served cold
* "You Tiao" , one kind of breakfast that is very popular in Shanghai

For cheap Chinese eats, head for the alley known as Wujiang Road. For fancier food in nicer surroundings, try the upmarket restaurants of Xintiandi.

Vegetarians should not miss Vegetarian Life Style (258, Fengxian Road and 77, Songshan Road) where you can experience nice, affordable and organic vegetarian food resembling real meat or fish dishes in a fancy atmosphere. Link
[edit] Drink

Tap water is not drinkable, but generally OK if boiled, though you may not like the taste. Tap water is also said to contain a high amount of heavy metals. Bottled water (and beer) are widely available.

The prices of drinks in cafes and bars in Shanghai vary depending on the location and target customers. They can be cheap or be real budget-busters, with a basic coffee or beer costing anything from ¥10 to ¥40 and up if ordered in the "wrong" place.

When buying bottled water you will come along a whole range of mineral water. Of course you could go for the "Evian", "Volvic", but you could also get yourself a bottle of the local Nongfu Spring brand (Nong Fu Kuang Quan Shui) mineral water. That one is produced in China and is the best value for your money. A 0,2 l bottle will cost you about 1 to 2 RMB (~0,10 Euro). If you intend to stay for a longer period, you may want to buy yourself one of those plastic water dispensers. Those you can mount with those 8-10 l water tanks, which can be ordered via phone. Clean those units with a bottle of white vinegar. That way you can keep your machine free of any germs.

Try the local brew known as REEB or beer spelled backwards. A six pack will set you back about $1.50.

Shanghai is filled with amazing nightlife, complete with affordable bars and nightclubs that are jam-packed with beautiful people. A must-try dance club for international visitors is Pegasus (Thursday nights are hip hop nights). Other great bars & clubs include the famous Park 97 and Windows.
[edit] Sleep

Accommodation in Shanghai is generally on the expensive side, by both Chinese and Western standards. A few backpacker style options have cropped up though, mostly in the older parts of town near The Bund.
[edit] Budget

Shanghai is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles. Please help sort them out if you are familiar with this city.

* Captain Hostel, 37 Fuzhou Rd, tel. +86-21-63235053 [3] Located just off the Bund. Expect to pay 70RMB/night for a dorm. 400RMB/night for a twin/double. Very clean. A boat style theme in each room of the hostel.

* A cheapest but classy option would also be the Astor House Hotel (formerly known as Pujiang Fandian), placed right next to The Bund in a building full of history (established in 1846, it was the first Parliament of China). The hotel has a wide range of prices, including a Youth Hostel in its 5th floor [4].

* The Shanghai Music Conservatory offers twin dorm rooms for about 100 Yuan per night, which works out to be 50 per person, cheaper than hostel beds. It's located right off of Huaihai Rd. on Fenyang Rd., well-placed for shopping on Huaihai Rd. The dorm rooms are located in the international students' building. Things are pretty quiet but you can expect to meet some foregin exchange students in China. 20 Fenyang Lu, Tel: (0086) 21-64372577

[edit] Mid-range

Shanghai is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles. Please help sort them out if you are familiar with this city.

Medium-price hotels do exist within walking distance the Bund. The Xinkaifu Dajiudian on North Sichuan Road is an excellent three star hotel for under US$50, including breakfast.
[edit] Splurge

There are plenty of options in the upper price brackets, which for Shanghai tends to mean at least US$100. Many, including the super-luxury Grand Hyatt in the spectacular 88-floor Jin Mao Tower, are located in Pudong, which is convenient for business but perhaps not so good for tourism. For a taste of 1930s Shanghai, try the stately Peace Hotel or the Gothamesque Park Hotel. Other 1930s hotels include the Rui Jin Guesthouse on Ruijin Road and Donghu hotel on Huaihai Road.
[edit] Contact
[edit] Stay safe

Shanghai is a fairly safe city, and violent crimes are very rare even in the poorest neighborhoods. However, the ever-increasing divide between the haves and have-nots has created its fair share of problems and petty crimes like pickpocketing are on the rise, and sexual harassment is common on crowded subway trains and buses.

Various tourist-oriented scams, long practiced in Beijing, are unfortunately spreading to Shanghai as well. Be cautious if you meet a group of overly friendly students or attractive women who insist on dragging you along to an art gallery, tea shop or karaoke parlor - you're unlikely to be physically harmed, but the bill may well be more than you bargained for.

Foreign males often attract unsolicited attention from female sex workers at many nightspots.
[edit] Cope

For visitors unused to travel in China the language barrier is likely to be the biggest obstacle, as English ability tends to be very limited in all but the largest tourist draws. Mandarin-learners need to be aware that Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, is the language of the streets and very different from Mandarin, although all Shanghainese speak fluent Mandarin and use of Shanghainese in public has been discouraged by the government. Rudimentary Chinese and/or pattern matching ability for character recognition will help, as will getting your destination written in Chinese characters particularly when travelling by taxi.
[edit] Get out

* Hangzhou, 200 km away and reachable in 2-3 hours by train, is China's number one domestic tourist attraction featuring the famous Xihu Lake.

* Jiading, an historic town about an hour NW of Shanghai by bus from Nanjing Xi Lu and Cheng Du Lu. The sites are Shanghai's F1 track, a Confucian garden, and pagoda.

* Qibao, an small ancient town, about 15km from Shanghai city, just in between the city and Minhang district. It resembles the more famous water town, Zhouzhuang.

* Songjiang, a county in Shanghai province, some 30km southwest of Shanghai city. It is less crowded than Shanghai and is a good one day trip target.

* Suzhou, a historic town about an hour away from Shanghai by train. The city has long been lauded by emperors, ancient poets, and scholars alike for its beauty and vitality. Due to its many canals and bridges, Suzhou has also sometimes been referred as "Venice of the East".

* Xitang, an historic town SW of Shanghai. A few scenes from Mission Impossible 3 were filmed here. An old picturesque canal town with old bridges and houses lining the canal lit up at night with red lanterns. You can even stay a night in one of the old houses and sleep in an old bed too.

* Zhujiajiao, a historic town an hour by car west of Shanghai. Another of those picturesque canal towns dating from the Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries).

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou (杭州 Hángzhōu; [1]) is in Zhejiang Province, China.
View over West Lake
View over West Lake
[edit] Understand

Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake (西湖 Xī Hú) have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276, during which time the city's population is estimated to have been as high as one million, making it the largest city in the world. Even Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world".

With the gradual silting up of its harbor much of the city's trade and industry passed to nearby Shanghai, but the city still has a bustling population of 1.7 million and ranks as one of China's most popular tourist attractions.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

Despite the name, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) generally services domestic Chinese flights. There are frequent services to Beijing and Hong Kong, but using Shanghai's domestic Hongqiao or international Pudong airports and connecting by bus or train is also a viable option. International flights are possible. International cities that have service to Hangzhou include Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Seoul, and Singapore.

The airport is approximately 45 minutes - one hour away from the city by taxi. A taxi to or from the airport is around Y80-90; on the wayback, you should ask if the driver is willing to take you that far before just jumping in the car with all your bags. A cheaper route would be to buy tickets for the shuttle service (15 RMB) to/from the Xiaoshan Bus ticket office on Tiyuchang Road next to the KFC just west of Wulin Square. The Shangri-La Hotel also has a shuttle service to/from the airport for Y50, inquire within.

Alternatively, if flying into Pudong Airport in Shanghai, there are direct buses to Hangzhou. They leave from the 2nd floor parking lot across from Gate 15 of Pudong Airport, departing every 1.5 hours from 10:30am until 5:00pm. It costs Y100 (Summer 2005 price). These buses arrive at the Hangzhou Yellow Dragon Sports Center (soccer stadium).
[edit] By train

A train from Shanghai is the easiest way to get to Hangzhou. Frequent trains run from Shanghai Zhan (Main) Railway station and from the new Shanghai South Station, both on Metro line 1. Check the train schedule for the duration of the trip as some trains are considerably faster than others. In general, the train will take between 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes, but "local" trains can take over 3 hours. Also, it is better to arrive in Hangzhou at the main Hangzhou station, rather than the East Hangzhou Railway station as the main station is right in town.

In addition to Shanghai, Hangzhou Train Station serves trains from Guangzhou, Beijing, Chengdu, and everywhere in between. For destinations further away, such as Kunming and Urumqi, you would first want to go to Shanghai or some halfway-point train station. There is an East Train Station as well, but it is not a very nice part of town. Recently there is a new train started which takes 2 hours from Hangzhou to Shanghai and its quite convenient. - Utkarsh
[edit] By bus

Hangzhou has 4 bus stations (N, E, W, and S). Usually, your destination corresponds to the bus station, eg if you are going to Shanghai, try the north or east bus station. If you are going to Huangshan, buses leave from the West Bus Station, etc.

For travel to or from Shanghai, the bus has become at times more convenient than the train, as it can be more comfortable if only hard seater train tickets exist, and the buses depart more frequently than trains. From Shanghai, buses depart from the north bus station (Hengfen Lu), the PuDong bus station (Bailianjing, PuDong Nan Lu), and from Xujiahui Bus Station, ticket cost Y58 (Dec. 2005 price). These buses arrive at the north bus station of Hanzhou.
[edit] By boat

There are overnight boats to Wuxi and Suzhou along the Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal. Tickets can be purchased at the wharf ticket window one block north of Wulin Square (208 Huancheng North Road). The mid-range and upper level tickets are worth the splurge (tickets are between 70 and 130 renminbi). Bear in mind that the overnight voyage is mostly in darkness, so don't expect much scenery.
[edit] Get around
[edit] By bus

Hangzhou has an extensive bus network, but you must be able to read Chinese to ride the crowded buses with ease. However, any bus that has a "Y" before the bus number (Y2, Y5, etc) are always "youke" - tourist buses, and are guaranteed to take you to a tourist site for ¥3 - ¥5. Therefore, if you want to just ride Y buses around all day, you will save money and still see the sites without having to tell the taxi drivers where you want to go in Chinese.

Otherwise, a bus with just a number will cost you ¥1, and a bus with a "K" before the number (air conditioned) is ¥2. Night buses are usually ¥2.5. Don't take those prices as regular, since buses in Hangzhou are operated by different companies, which means different prices. But even if you don't understand Chinese, don't worry about this, since the fare is written at the bus line station, so you can prepare your coins in advance. (Better have the exact fare, because they don't give change money). You can also give them the 1 RMB-bill instead of some coins, even when the system says "just coins". Payage is directly with the driver, buses in Hangzhou don't have a salesperson inside as they have in Shanghai.
[edit] By taxi

Like most major world cities, Hangzhou has a large number of taxis which allow for quick and convenient travel within the city proper. Most of the city's taxis are green in color and easily identifiable by the word "Taxi" printed in both English and Chinese on the vehicles. Taxis for hire are marked by the green (or sometimes yellow-orange) light-up signs above the dashboard on each car.

Hangzhou taxi drivers always use the meter as required by law. All routes under four kilometers are charged a flat rate of 11 RMB (addition of a 1 RMB gas increase mandated by the government as of August 1, 2006). There is no time-cost in Hangzhou for the taxis; it's just for the distance. It is advisable to take a receipt each time use you a taxi, should you wish to contact the taxi company or driver at later time to dispute a fee, recover a lost article, etc.

Few, if any, of they city's taxi drivers speak English or other foreign languages. It is therefore important that you be able to point out your destination on map, present the driver with the name of the destination (in written Chinese), or properly pronounce the name of the destination in spoken Mandarin Chinese. If you have a Chinese acquaintance whom you can reach by cell phone, you can allow him or her to speak to your driver through the phone to convey the desired information.

Hangzhou taxis are not allowed to carry more than four passengers, although you may be able to convince or bribe a driver to allow you to "hide" an extra passenger in the backseat. This can be worth if the trouble or expense if it saves your group from needing to take two taxis.

Taxis, like all public transportation, are difficult to come by during the tourist weeks (Chinese New Year, May Golden Week, and October National Week); also, taxis between 7:30 and 8:45am and 5:30-7:00pm are difficult to flag, as they are always full or in the middle of a shift change. A good rule of thumb is that if you need a taxi, there won't be any, but if you don't need one, they will be driving extremely slow in the right lane disrupting traffic and honking and flashing their brights at you. Being familiar with areas that taxis frequent or places where taxi passengers are likely to be dropped off at will aid you in finding a ride.
[edit] By subway

Line 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2008, and line 2 shortly thereafter; a total of 8 lines covering over 200km have been planned. The opening dates of the lines are "last", it means they can open earlier in case they pass the security checks quicker. For example, Nanjing's new subway system was opened ahead-of-time, after safety checks were passed, and the same happened in Shanghai. Don't be surprised to take the subway as early as 2007.
[edit] By "water bus"

This ferry down the Grand Canal takes 30 minutes but only makes 4 trips per day, the first at 7:30am and the last at 6:00pm. It starts at Wulin Gate/West Lake Culture Plaza and ends at Gongchen Bridge, with one stop at Xingyifang Grand Canal Culture Plaza. Cost is 3 RMB. While rarely worth taking the trip, Hangzhou now has plans to connect a series of canals and streams throughout the city with the Grand Canal, West Lake, Yuhang River, and Qiantang River, making for increased water transport and a Venetian feel. When this will be completed (if it even happens) is anyone's guess.
[edit] By "water bus"

For just getting to the islands on West Lake, you get to choose between tourist trap Dragon or "Gaily-painted" pleasure boats (¥45 and ¥35). There are also medium-sized power boats (¥25), or for ¥160 you can hire a driver to paddle you around for about an hour. The boats are available in Hubin #X (1, 3, 6) parks and other obviously marked areas all over the lake.
[edit] Maps

Buy maps near the Train Station or Bus Station from street vendors or stalls when you arrive. Price is often marked on the maps themselves, if you are wondering how much to pay (under 10 RMB -- well worth it and hard to find maps elsewhere in town!). Street-bought maps are usually written in simplified Chinese with no pinyin. You can find pinyin maps at foreign language bookstores.
[edit] See
[edit] West Lake (西湖 Xī Hú)

Hangzhou's most famous scenic sight. Technically, there are "10 Scenes of the West Lake" and "10 New Scenes," but they are overrated, and often seasonal (Snowfall Over Broken Bridge, etc). Rather than make a checklist and walking back and forth looking for them, simply spend a clear day wandering the circumference of the lake and the causeways, take a ferry to the islands, and you will probably cover most of the sites anyway. The "West Lake" itself can be divided into countless smaller sites, from Mr. Guo's villa to "Orioles Singing in the Willows".

The "West Lake Scenic Area" itself is very large. This section only covers areas in the immediate vicinity of the lake. Other spots are covered in later sections.

* Lesser Yingzhou Isle (Three Pools Mirroring the Moon) "Built" in the early 1600s, this is the largest island on the lake. When there is a full moon, candles inside the pagodas are lit, and in the candle light it appears as though you see the moonlight (if you are romantic enough to see it). Hence the name.

* Mid-Lake Pavilion From 1552, it is the oldest island. There is a Chinese inscription on the Qing Dynasty-era stone arch in which the Qing Emperor wrote "Chong Er", or "Enless Love".

* Lord Ruan's Mound This is a mound they made from piling up dirt after dredging the lake 200 years ago. However, it is not just a dirt mound. At night (summer), entertainment activities are going on in the garden on the island.

* Hubin #X Park Hubin Parks 1, 3, 6 and probably the numbers in between are the parks between Hubin Road and the West Lake. Relatively newly-designed as the West Lake Tunnel that goes underneath was being built in early 2004, these parks are good to sit for a bit, buy ice cream or a newspaper, and most importantly hire a boat from the cluster of boat docks at each park.

* Su Causeway Almost 3km long, this causeway dates from the year 1189 and has a bunch of willows and peach trees. It is long north-south causeway that starts by the Shangri-La on Beishan Road and goes all the way down to Nanshan Road.

* Bai Causeway Starting at the eastern end of Beishan Road, this cause way leads to Solitary Hill and cuts off the distances between, say, Hubin Road and the Shangri La.

* Solidary Hill And Zhongshan Park Where Loud Wai Lou restaurant is located, this is the only natural island on the lake. At least 3 emperor's constructed palaces here. Besides an expensive restaurant, the popular area is the home of the Xiling Seal-Engravers' Society, and the seals, calligraphy, engraving-masters, and relics that go along with it.

* Yang Causeway This one is more than 3km long and one road west of the Su Causeway. It starts at the intersection of Beishan and Shuguang Road (which becomes Yang Causeway once you are south of this intersection); the causeway runs north-south. Yang Causeway includes Quyuan Garden (aka Qu Garden aka Qu Courtyard), which is the most popular spot to see tons of lotus blossoms (late spring > summer). The water area to the west of the top of Yang Causeway is Maojiabu Scenic area, with orchids blended into the water scenery. Another tourist spot on Yang Causeway is Mr. Guo's Villa, is was built in 1907 and is considered one of the most "classical" gardens in Hangzhou. At the southern end of the causeway, just before Nanshan Road, is a fish-viewing pond.

* King Qian's Memorial (Qian Wang Ci) 5 kings of the Wuyue Kingdom are buried here in this memorial on the south end of the lake off Nanshan Road.

* Wushan Square (吴山广场 Wu Shan Guang Chang) Wushan Square and Wushan Hill is a major town center in Hangzhou. The view from the top is excellent on a clear day, and there are also trails around the hills from behind the pagoda. The pagoda itself has been modernized with an elevator and nice open-air teahouse at the top, but the original bell is still intact and in use. This area also features easy access to Hefang Jie shopping street at the base of the hill, full of small pedestrian streets and shopping stalls. It is also extremely close to the West Lake itself.

* Jade Emperor Hill (玉皇山公园 Yuhuang Shan Gong Yuan) One of the least-visited sites in Hangzou despite its somewhat central location, this hill does not feature any prominent pagodas or temples, but can still provide a quiet escape and a nice walk. It is located directly south of Leifeng Pagoda. If you are playing along with the "10 Scenes of the West Lake" scavenger hunt still, the one that applies to the top of this hill is "clouds flying over Jade Emperor Hill".

[edit] Temples and pagodas

* Six Harmonies Pagoda (六和塔 Liùhé Tǎ). Down by the Qiantang River, about a 15 minute cab ride from the lake in light traffic, but it is a pretty road to drive down through all the tunnels and tea fields. Besides the pagoda itself, which is arguable the most prominent of all the temples and pagodas in Hangzhou, there is an adjacent park with hundreds of realistic replicas of the world's most famous pagodas, complete with mini-sized trees in front of the pagoda models.

* Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺 Língyǐn Sì) Meaning "heart of the soul's retreat", this temple west of the West Lake is an active Buddhist temple at the bottom of a hill. Nearby you can take a chairlift to the top of the hill where there is another temple (walking up is also an easy set of stairs below the chairlift). This is one of the 3 oldest and most famous temples in China. There are hundreds of Buddhist stone statues carved into the cliffs in the "Peak Flying from Afar" section next door.

* Leifeng Pagoda Located on the shores of the southeast side of the lake and originally built in the year 977, all that remains of the original pagoda is the crumbling foundation, viewable from outside the glass case that it is housed in (Pagoda Remains Memorial Museum at the bottom floor of the pagoda). With escalators, elevators, and a totally new pagoda places on top of the foundation, there is not much to see within the pagoda itself; it was most recently rebuilt in 2000. However, the view of the city skyline is one of the best from here, and some of the smaller seating areas around the perimeter of the pagoda have a nice breeze and view of the structure. One of the 10 Scenes of the West Lake is "Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow", but this is best viewed from a distance (across the lake) just after sunset. Keep in mind that the entry fee for the Leifeng Pagoda is very expensive (40 RMB/person, Dec 2005) and it's not original, just rebuilt, so if your budget is not that huge, consider to not enter the Pagoda. You can still take pictures in front of it.

* Baochu Pagoda (保俶塔 Bǎochù Tǎ) and the surrounding temples on this hill on the north side of the lake. You cannot climb the pagoda, but the view and surrounding Baoshi Hill are awesome.

* Jingci Temple Off Nanshan Road, built in 954, this has a huge 10-ton bell inside. Located on Nanping Road, they ring the bell 108 times here to ring in Chinese New Year. It is also rung every evening for much fewer times.

[edit] Gardens, forests, nature

* Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea Fields (龙井茶园 Long Jing Cha Yuan) and other tea fields further west. These are best visited during the harvest period, usually from the first week of March till after May Holiday, when everyone is out in the field picking tea and the tea that you can purchase is of the best quality (tea crops from later in the year have had their leaves damaged by the rain).

* Guo's Villa (Guo Zhuang) is the best existing traditional private garden in Hangzhou. It is one of the garden masterpieces of Jiangnan (the lower region of the Yangtze River) thanks to its incomparable surroundings and the smartly managed garden space. The garden develops as you enter further into it with regular switches between tight, closed spaces and sudden, open ones. The key feature, or spirit, is water. Cleaverly juxtaposing shade and light, curved and straight, yin and yang, the garden of Guo Zhuang is a wonderful embodiment of the Chinese wisdom of Tao and the Way of Nature. The teahouse, Liang Yi Xuan (Belevedere of Both Good) sits in a prime viewing sopt within the garden between two superb water "yards", one large and the other small. While there are plenty of "old villas" in China to visit-- and many are similar-- this one is also on the shore of the West Lake. The 10 yuan entry fee keeps many people away, and you can have some tea (40 yuan) on the lakeside pavilions of the villa while avoiding the tourists.

* Hangzhou Botanical Gardens (植物园 Zhi Wu Yuan) and flower nursery as well nearby. If you can't make it to Suzhou, these gardens aren't bad, especially in the spring and during the brief period when the leaves change in the fall. There is also a peacock farm, some nice ponds, and basically a wide range of plants and ecosystems to walk through. The redwood tree that Nixon donated during his visit has since died (in 2001).

* Xixi National Wetlands Park Opened in May 2005, this wetlands park is located in the extreme west part of the city past the west bus station. One of the easiest ways to get there would be to take a bus from Huanglong Soccer Stadium. While it may be somewhat out of the way and the road signs have the English translation as an uninviting "Xixi Swamp", this area is not to be missed, as currently the tourists are not too many, and it is a great way to see birds and other wildlife. The birds are especially beautiful and varied.

* Dreaming of the Tiger Spring (虎跑梦泉 Hǔpǎomèngquán) is a spring as well as a scenic and historic destination. The area includes wooded pathways, streams, bamboo groves, tea houses, historic structures, as well as the spring itself and other sights. Admission is ¥15. Tea brewed with the high-quality Tiger Spring water may be purchased for about ¥20 a glass.

* Hangzhou Zoo (杭州动物园 Hángzhōu Dòngwùyuán) It has pandas and everything and is conveniently located just south of the lake, but it is not recommended to visit most zoos in China, as the animals are exploited and treated poorly (generally speaking). At least stay away from the dog exhibit. This zoo is definitely one of the worst ones in China. Besides a few animals which have good cages (mostly water-animals) it has terrible conditions for the Panda, most Bears and other larger animals like the Elephants. Still, they made improvements compared to a few years ago, and it seems it's mostly the missing support of larger investments that seems to hinder further development in a better zoo. The entrance fee includes a circus-style animal show with tigers, lions, bears and elephants that is particularly entertaining for children (if a little depressing for adults).

Lesser panda in Hangzhou Zoo
Lesser panda in Hangzhou Zoo

On the northern side of Baochu hill near the soccer stadium is Huanglong Cave (For "Scenes of The West Lake", this cave covers "Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green").
[edit] Do

* Early morning bikeride Start on the north side of the lake, and head west towards Zhejiang University, then down Lingyin Road past the Botanical Gardens and into Longjing Village. Keep heading West and south through the tea villages, bamboo forest, and scenic valleys to the river and cut over towards Six Harmonies Pagoda. Go back to the south end of the lake via the road right next to Six Harmonies, past the zoo, through the tunnels.

* Walk around the lake You can also hire small non-motor powered boats (¥80/hour for personal boat with driver, or use the ferry services) to take you around the lake and to the two islands, which feature some interesting sites.

* Visit the temples and pagodas The most popular ones are Baochu pagoda, which is the tower-like one on a hill on the north side of the lake. This hill is a great hike, with excellent views of the lake and city, several smaller temples of a variety of religions, and Huanglong Cave on the northern slope of the hill. 6 Harmonies Pagoda, located on the river, is the largest and most imposing. A fun hike after the pagoda leads from the shores of the river, behind the pagoda, and into the Longjing tea fields near the tea museum. Lingyin Temple, on the west side of the lake, is also a large complex with a surprisingly devout crowd of worshipers. This area also has many excellent hikes, as well as a cable car to the top of Beifeng Hill (with another temple at the top). Finally, Leifeng Pagoda has recently been rebuilt and has escalators and elevators, while all that remains of the foundation is on display on the main level. Despite its lack of ancient Chinese beauty, the benches and gazebo-like structures surrounding the area make for a nice place to sit in the breeze, and it also has an excellent view looking in the opposite direction as the Baochu area.

* Spend an afternoon at a tea house

* Shopping -- see the "Buy" section for more info.

* The West Lake Golf Club near Six Harmonies Pagoda and Songcheng was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

* Boating along the Hangzhou-Beijing Canal is becoming more popular.

[edit] Learn

* Zhejiang University, Yuquan Campus, [2]. This university is the product of combining four formerly individual universities: Zhejiang University, Hangzhou University, Zhejiang Agricultural University and Zhejiang Medical University. The university offers 110 undergraduate, 264 masters and 181 doctoral degree areas. Tuition is extremely affordable from a Western perspective. Courses in Chinese language and culture are ¥18,000 (~$2,250 USD) a year, ¥9,000 a term, or ¥800 (~$100 USD) a week and are taught mostly in Chinese (with occasional English).
* English Corner, an informal gathering of Chinese interested in learning English and English-speaking foreigners every Sunday morning. It is located in the park on the northeastern shore of West Lake by the Korean War Memorial (a statue of a soldier with a long, flowing overcoat).

[edit] Buy

* Silk Market on Tiyuchang Road. You can also get silk at other places in the city, but most of it will just be the fabric.

* Night market off Yan'an Road near Pinghai Road (right near Wushan) every night. Here you can find Mao memorabilia, jewelry, paper fans, pipes, luggage, handicrafts and other items that most Chinese cities have. Pirated DVDs and counterfeit handbags are for sale as well. You can also find a lot of those silk-screen printed paintings/embroidery things that the silk market also has. Bargain hard unless you really want something.

* Electronics Market in northern Hangzhou is an indoor, multistory electronics shopping center offering all manner of electronics including desktop computers, laptops, computer software, cellphones, mp3 players, and hundreds of peripherals and storage media. Pirated DVDs and computer games are offered as well, and if you are obviously a foreigner, vendors will shout "DVD! DVD!" at you to urge you to browse their selection.

* Tea Dragon Well/Longjing tea is famous throughout China and worth getting if you like green tea. If you are staying with a Chinese host somewhere else in China after Hangzhou, bringing them a small box (or two) of higher-end Longjing Tea would make a great gift; however, bear in mind that these usually cost around ¥300/box (more at tourist stands). The Longjing village and tea fields area of Hangzhou (southwest of West Lake) is where Longjing tea is grown. Besides being worth a visit for the scenic sights alone, tea can be purchased here as well - fresh from the harvesters' bags if so desired. Many places across the city also sell tea, such as informal vendors and small shops easily identifiable by the boxes displayed inside or store names such as "西湖龙井茶" (West Lake Dragon Well Tea), as well as grocery stores and supermarket chains. Because of the fame of Longjing tea, fake and low-grade varieties exist. If you have no experience buying tea, purchase from a reputable-looking establishment or ask the advise of a knowledgeable native.

* Clothes Hangzhou has literally hundreds of clothes and shoes stores. The largest concentration of these are on Yan'an Rd and especially Wulin Rd, making a straight line of clothes shops stacked on top of each other between Wushan and Wulin Squares. Another popular clothing spot is "Song Mu Chang" (松木场) just north of the lake on Shuguang Road. All of these places require bargaining and often have a lot of fake ripoff clothes. For the real thing, try the department stores (ie Hangzhou Tower across between Yan'an and Nanshan Roads). You can certainly find cheaper clothes stores scattered throughout the city as you get farther from the lake if you really like to buy clothes.

* Landscape paintings There are several places to buy Chinese landscape paintings in the city, especially near Wushan Square and around the south/east side of the lake.

* Groceries can usually be found without having to go far - hundreds of small grocery stores, convenience stores, and fruit and meat markets are scattered across Hangzhou. Use your own best judgment when deciding if the food sold at such places is sanitary enough for consumption.

* Carrefour have a supermarket in the downtown area east of West Lake. In addition its large selection of groceries, it carries a wider variety of Western foods such as cheeses and bread than most other locations in the city.

* Trust-Mart (好又多) is a superstore chain Westerners may recognize as being similar to Wal-Mart. Located in the shopping center near the Yellow Dragon Sports Stadium north of West Lake and the Baochu Pagoda area, the store has a large grocery section that boasts fresh meats, seafood, and produce as well as the normal selection of packaged food.

* Bicycles of low to medium quality are available from small bike shops scattered across Hangzhou. The indoor Electric Bike Market near the corner of Wener and Xueyuan Lu offers a huge assortment of electric bikes/scooters and batteries, and Trust-Mart (see above) also has a reasonable selection of bicycles and a small selection of electric bikes/scooters.

[edit] Eat

Hangzhou is one of the premier places to eat in China, and its food consists more of pork and seafood rather than the beef and lamb of the north and west. If you do not like Hangzhou food, you can find plenty of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Xinjiang restaurants throughout the city. Typical Hangzhou specialties include dongpo rou, an extremely fatty chunk of pork in a syrupy sauce, and cuyu, which is fish with a vinegar sauce.
[edit] Budget

For budget restaurants, even near the lake, just head into an alley and get some food from a small restaurant or street-side stand. You should judge for yourself how sanitary the food is, but Hangzhou is generally fairly civilized in this respect relative to other Chinese cities. These restaurants are all quite similar.

If you like dumplings and have just come down the north side of Baochu hill (past the cave and in view of the soccer stadium), one option is to continue across Shuguang Road and up Hangda Road (0.5 blocks east and 1 block north) to Tianmushan Road. At the corner of Tianmushan and Hangda Roads are 2 decent dumpling restaurants with English menus available (one is upstairs from the other). They have many of varieties of dumplings, including all-vegetable.
[edit] Mid-range

Hangzhou has many KFCs, several McDonalds, and an increasing number of Pizza Huts throughout town, especially near the lake.

Other restaurants that are good and aren't as tourist-trappy can as Lou Wai Lou are located near the West Lake, usually to the East past Hubin Road in the Yan'an Road area.

For Xinjiang, try the restaurant inside Tiandu Hotel on Zhongshan Bei Road near Wulin Square. The Xinjiang restaurant on the 5th floor of Sanrui Tower (三瑞大厦) is better and more authentic, but more out of the way as well.

* Chuan Wei Guan. For Hot Pot, this city-wide chain (5 restaurants throughout town) is best, and this hotpot place also has several good Sichuan dishes.

* Grandma's Kitchen (外婆家) has at least 5 locations in Hangzhou, including one on Yugu Road near the soccer stadium and Zhejiang University. It has efficient service, a comprehensive picture menu, and is popular among just about everyone.

* Paradise Cafe, Hubin Road. "American" food including the best burgers in town (besides the Hyatt, arguably) are at Paradise Cafe. It has nice outdoor/patio seating on the 3rd floor with a large tree overhanging and a great view of the lake and the tourists below. With bacon and cheese, a burger will run around Y50. You can find most other Western food in the hotels.

* Zhang Sheng Ji (张生记), 33 East Qingchun Road. Out of the way but is also huge and now has branches all over China.

[edit] Splurge
[edit] Chinese

* Lou Wai Lou (楼外楼), right on the lake on an island off Beishan Road. The most famous restaurant in Hangzhou. Lou Wai Lou also has a second establishment called "Shan Wai Shan" right on the Botanical Gardens.
* Oriental Favorites Restaurant, Beishan Road (just past the Broken Bridge). A good replacement for Lou Wai Lou and has an equally good view with slightly cheaper prices (but it's still expensive).
* Hyatt Hotel, Hubin Road. Opened January 2005, the buffet here has everything you could ever want for about Y148 lunch and Y198 dinner with no drinks.

[edit] Japanese

There are lots of Japanese restaurants, many of which offer the "all you can eat and drink" deal for between 120 and 200 renminbi, which is a good deal when you consider the Sake and plum wine are included, and is a good way to start off a weekend night.

* Fu Gang, Tiyuchang Road (near Wulin Square). Hangzhou's most famous Japanese restaurant, although it does not offer an all-you-can-eat deal. It does have a sushi train and set meals though.

* Mu Zhi Lan, Nanshan Rd (next to the Bernini coffee shop). One of the best, especially location-wise. The all-you-can-eat deal is around Y180, but the seating and views are excellent, as is the food.

[edit] South-East Asian

* Banana Leaf, Xueshi Rd (next to the Hyatt on the east side of the lake). South-East Asian. Reservations are recommended on weekends. Although there is a pleasant atmosphere, many customers find that the food is untraditional and difficult to stomach. A nicer alternative is Curry Bistro near the Wenyi Lu Wumei shopping center.

* Liu Lian Piao Piao, Gaoyin Rd (just off Hefang Jie by Wushan Square). A newer Thai Restaurant. The food is more authentic than Banana Leaf, and if you are unable to find it, there are plenty of interesting restaurants on this street and it is worth taking a walk down.

[edit] Western

* Caribbean BBQ, Yan'an Road (near Wushan Square). It is not very authentic, but is a buffet-style restaurant that will probably at least leave you with a full stomach.

* La Tour, Hubin Rd. The oysters and some other buffet dishes are good, but the odd restaurant layout and lack of "take off" have made the dishes arrive cold, not taste very authentic, and are rather overpriced.

* Peppino, Shangri-La Hotel. Expensive but does have an authentic brick oven, great bread, and huge calzones.

* La Belle, situated across the street at the Lake, it offers real authentic, high-class Italian food. Especially recommended for lunch, where you can spend less then 50 RMB for getting excellent food. Dinner is usually a little bit more expensive, but you get a real great experience, usually with live music as well. I don't have a clue how this restaurant survives, since it's almost always empty, but instead of meaning "bad food" which is usually the reason to have an empty restaurant, it's more the place in the second floor (having stairways) that could hinder people to find it. Great to spend your evening in a lovely place, especially for couples.

[edit] Indian

* Haveli, 77 Nanshan Rd . Excellent Indian food, though not cheap. Indoor and outdoor dining.
* Indian Kitchen, 63 Nanshan Road, All you can eat/all you can drink buffet on Saturday & Sunday nights. ¥78, excellent service & excellent food.

[edit] Drink

The drink of choice in Hangzhou is tea, as the local Longjing (龙井, also Lung Ching, literally "Dragon Well") is the most famous green tea in China. Longjing is divided into seven grades, the two top being Superior (旗枪 qiqiang) and Special (雀舌 queshe), and the rest numbered from 1 down to 5. Prices for the very best stuff go into the stratosphere — in 2005, a mere 100g plucked from Qing Dynasty emperor Qian Long's personal trees sold for over US$17,000 — but a few cups in a local teahouse shouldn't cost you more than a few dozen yuan.

Traditionally, tea from Longjing is best served with spring water from Hupao (虎跑, "Tiger Run"), which is located next to the West Lake. You might have to purchase the tea from the tea shop in Hupao, instead of bringing your own. It's about 20 yuan per cup, but you get a thermal full of hot water with the purchase.

* Linglong Town, located on Nanshan Road to the west of most of the bars. Has large smoothies that are excellent for hot days. The restaurant also has many types of tea and good-tasting Taiwanese fare.

For bars, Nanshan Road all night every night should keep any visitor occupied. There are also a few bars (Reggae, Travellers, You Too, and Maya) on Shuguang Road due east of Zhejiang University. The "Cool Bar" on West Lake Ave by Wushan Square has Budweiser for as low as Y5/bottle (the Wushan Square area also has several other bars, including the popular expat hangout Shamrock Irish Pub). The Huanglong soccer stadium is full of bars around the perimeter of the building, as well as a "Huanglong Bar City" set behind the stadium.
[edit] Sleep
[edit] Budget

* Hangzhou International Youth Hostel, Nanshan Road (right on the south end of the lake and just off "bar street"). Run by Hosteling International and has a friendly staff. Y40 w/membership, Y50 without membership, per night, 6 people to a room (you can get doubles as well for about Y200, including a lakeview double for Y250). All rooms and toilet/shower are extremely clean. Despite being literally a few paces from the clubs of Nanshan Road, this hostel is set back far enough to be relatively noise free and features a comfortable courtyard/patio with a pond. The lobby also has a boring bar and an all-right breakfast.

* Green Tea Youth Hostel, Lingyin Road (near Lingyin Temple). Not affiliated with Hosteling International, this hostel is much quieter and set back in the hills, but the staff is not as helpful. Also, beware that the bar next door, "31 Bar", often has live music during the summer which can make this hostel even louder than the Nanshan Road one.

* Hangzhou Garden Youth Hostel opened in 2006 on ZhaoGong Causeway near the Hangzhou Botanic Gardens on the western shore of West Lake. It is part of Hostelling International and consists of a a beautifully restored historic courtyard building. Dorm rooms have very clean, upmarket ensuite bathrooms with 24 hr hot water. The hostel is very convenient for walking and sightseeing around West Lake but its biggest drawback is the distance to restaurants and nightlife. It is a 15 minute walk to the bar/tea house/restaurant strip on Shuguang Road.

[edit] Mid-range

You can find mid-range hotels all over the city, most of which will take foreigners. Try to bargain for a room. Ask how much they want for one night's stay, then say "what if I stay for 3 nights?" or something to that extent and it will become cheaper.

* SouthLine Hotel (Nanxian Dajiudian), tel. +86-571-8777-3939, e-mail southline@vip.163.com. A small but clean, well-located and reasonably well-appointed mid-range hotel one-half block off the lake and right next to the Zhejiang Art Academy on Nanshan Rd. Prices range from US$40 per night to over $100. The friendly staff speaks some (although limited) English.

* Jinhui Hotel (金汇大酒店), 7 Moganshan Road. A large hotel far enough away from the main sites to be a bit cheaper, but close enough to be a quick bike ride/taxi ride or even a 20-30 minute walk to the city side of the lake (all on the same street, just walk due south past the provincial government). One benefit of this hotel is that an English-speaking CYTS office is on the 3rd floor.

[edit] Splurge

* Shangri-La while the Hyatt may have better service, especially for business travelers, the Shangri-La has an ideal location, forested grounds, and is essentially a self-contained luxury village; a great place for a holiday.
* Radisson right on Wulin Square.
* Ramada (Haihua Binguan), Qingchun Road (near the West Lake). Located between Wulin Road and the West Lake, although lake-view rooms are somewhat limited and not very intimate.
* Hyatt, Hubin Road (right on the eastern shore of the lake). New and awe-inspiring.
* Wang Hu/Lakeside Hotel, Hubin Road, cnr Qingchun Rd, has a great location and fabulous international buffet breakfast.
* Huachen-Tang Palace (25. Pinghai Road) is a new four star hotel only 5 minutes walk to the West Lake and with a fabulous international buffet breakfast. Excellent money value. Link

[edit] Get out

* Shanghai — less than two hours away by train
* Suzhou
* Wuxi

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Hangzhou, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Xiamen, China

Xiamen (厦门) is a coastal city in Fujian Province, China.

While not a "must see" destination, it has a number of attractions, an interesting history and is tourist friendly.
[edit] Understand

Until 1840, Western "barbarians" were allowed to trade only in Guangzhou, and only under strict controls. After China lost the First Opium War, Britain took Hong Kong and China was forced to open five "Treaty Ports": Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.

In Xiamen, the island Gulang Yu became a foreign enclave with consulates and luxurious homes. Today it is a quiet area (no cars or motorcycles) and five minutes by ferry from downtown, and still quite scenic.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fujian was a focus of missionary activity. There are still many historic churches in the region.

In the 1970s, Xiamen was made a Special Economic Zone to encourage development. This has worked. Xiamen has more Taiwan investment than any other mainland city, partly because the Minnan dialect spoken around Xiamen is nearly identical to Taiwanese. There is also a major influx of other foreign investment.

It is not Shanghai or Hong Kong, but compared to many other cities in China, Xiamen is definitely a very vibrant, affluent and modern place.
[edit] Get in

Xiamen has an international airport, code XMN, conveniently close to downtown, 30-40 RMB and 20 minutes by taxi.

* If you are flying to Xiamen from North America, consider Korean Air. They offer great discounts, and the Seoul Airport is the most user-friendly on the planet (free internet, nice free lounges with couches to stretch out on.
* If you are coming from elsewhere, look for cheap flights direct to Xiamen from Singapore or Bangkok. see Discount airlines in Asia for more information.

There are also expected train and bus services of any major city. The train however, is not a good option for trips along the coast — for example to Fuzhou, Shantou or Hong Kong — because it takes a circuitous route through the mountains. For those destinations, use the bus.

Some bus times and costs:

* Quanzhou: 35 RMB, 1.5 hours
* Fuzhou: 70-90 RMB, 4 hours
* Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen or Zhuhai: around 300, overnight.
o There is a bus direct to Xiamen from Hong Kong airport.
o For trips to/from Hong Kong, try to choose a bus that goes all the way. With some tickets, you have to change busses at the Hong Kong - Shenzhen border.

You may come across references to a ferry service with Hong Kong. It no longer operates (as of November 2004).
[edit] Get around

Taxis are cheap and start at 8 yuan for the first 3 kilometers. The local bus system is very good, but the bus routes are listed in Mandarin and do not have English on them. Take the ferry to Gulangyu.
[edit] See

You could enjoy Xiamen's unique sceneries not only in the day but also in the night. Take a breather and walk beside the Yuandang lake in the evening and you could see how Xiamen transforms into a different setting - mushrooming lighted artistic sculptures, scent of the sea, and romantic lovers by the lake. Enjoy your stroll and notice that some residential and commercial buildings even have a "battle of the lights at night" (which is actually a battle of the business) - "simple" laser and light shows which attract attention - this is some form of an "advertisement" mostly by newly opened commercial buildings and some residentials to say that their business has opened or that business is ongoing as usual. When it's time for commercial businesses and residentials to close or "sleep" in the night, the simple lights attraction can't be seen anymore - this is one of those on-going efforts of the people on energy conservation. Be sure to see these places of interest, and see what are the differences viewing them during the day and night:

* Zhongshan road - see the yearly "facelifts" and notice that older buildings are becoming extinct and being replaced by modern ones
* The night markets - see how smaller businesses trade in the night.
* Public parks - are clean and set with greeneries.
* Yuandang lake - is mystical by day and magical by night, see how the egrets flock in the day and fly for home in the night.
* Bai Lu Zhou Park - a large and beautiful park. Go around 8:30 p.m. and enjoy the vendors, music, and dancing.

Xiamen is a most popular tourist city in Mainland China.
[edit] Buy

Check out the Xiamen Shopping A to Z section. Outside of China: http://amoymagic.com/shop.htm Within China: http://amoymagic.mts.cn/shop.htm
[edit] Eat

* There is a whole strip of cafes and bars along the lake next to the Marco Polo Hotel, more-or-less all with patios and/or balconies that give a view of the lake.
o Geo Geo Cafe, furthest from the hotel in that strip, serve good Italian and American food and coffee.
* On the side street off the lake by the hotel are several more places:
o Tutto Bene, a very good Italian place
o Javaroma, good coffee, run by an Aussie
* Local Chinese Restaurants
o Little Chili's offers excellent Chinese food at an affordable price. The menus are in Enlgish.

[edit] Drink
[edit] Sleep

Gulang Yu is the place to stay if you desire a peaceful and attractive environment. There are several home hotels on this island. Naya Home Hotel [1] is recommended if you are looking for complete relaxation and homey treatment.
[edit] Budget
[edit] Mid-range

* Gem Hotel, [2]. Beautiful Japanese-style rooms overlooking much of downtown Xiamen. Includes (Chinese) buffet breakfast and free (wired) Internet access. Most of the staff speak English well and are extremely helpful. From ¥140/night.

[edit] Splurge

* Lujiang Hotel is a grand old place, very central on Beach road, 100 metres North of the ferry station. The restaurant has excellent dim sum.
* Sheraton Xiamen Hotel is the latest international chain hotel to grace Xiamen's shores. It's very plush, and the Waves Pan Asian buffet is excellent.
* Sofitel Plaza Xiamen is super modern. The rooms use a lot of glass, if you're into that kind of thing.
* Marco Polo Hotel is the nicest hotel in Xiamen with a wonderful international buffet and great atmosphere.
* Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort is probably the most beautiful resort in Xiamen. Besides the regular accommodations, the resort also contains an exotic hot springs park. They have all sorts of flavors (like milk, rose, tea, etc.) mixed into their natural hot springs water. They also have a fantastic spa. It is worth a trip.

[edit] Contact

The area code for Xiamen is 0592. When calling from overseas, dial +86 592 XXXX-XXXX

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Xiamen, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Hong Kong (historical), Hong Kong

Hong Kong (香港 Heūnggóng in Cantonese, Xiānggǎng in Mandarin) [1] is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being Cantonese with a long-time British influence and increasingly more China connections. Perhaps the hallmark of this city is the frenzied vibrancy and the world class cuisine.

On the surface, it's an urban landscape without the charm of what one would consider "China." It offers the same upscale shopping malls and boutiques found in other world cities. But the small curious nooks, as well as the beautiful greenery and hiking trails, make it unique. The city is also known for its incredible efficiency as a result of its convenient transport, quick customer service and fast pace.
[edit] Understand
Map of Hong Kong
Map of Hong Kong
[edit] History

In January 1841, as a result of the defeat of the Qing Dynasty of China in the First Opium War, Hong Kong became a British colony, under the Convention of Chuen Pi. After the defeat of China in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula was ceded to Britain in 1860. In 1898, the New Territories — a rural area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon district — were leased to Britain for 99 years.

In 1984, the Chinese and British Governments signed the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, giving Hong Kong back to China effective 1 July 1997. Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the Peoples Republic of China. Under the slogan "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong remains a capitalist economy without various restrictions that apply in mainland China such as news censorship and foreign exchange controls.

In accordance with the Joint Declaration, a Basic Law was enacted to serve in effect as a constitution for the Hong Kong SAR. In theory, Hong Kong enjoys "a high degree of autonomy" in most matters except foreign and defense affairs. In practice, it is more complex than that. Beijing exerts much influence and there are groups pushing for a more democratic regime.
[edit] Climate

Hong Kong can be a little chilly in the winter (10 degrees Celsius) and hot and humid in the summer. The best times of year to visit are thus late spring (March-April), when the average temperature is around 25°C and autumn between (September-November). Typhoons usually occur between June and September, can be dangerous and sometimes bring a halt to local business activities for a day or less. The weather in winter is unstable, ranging from under 10 to 20°C.
[edit] Festivals

* Chinese (Lunar) New Year

Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year. However, unlike Christmas in Europe where you can hardly find shops open on this big day, you can still get food and daily products easily during Lunar New Year.

* Spring Lantern Festival

If you go to Victoria Park of Hong Kong Island, you will have a great excursion of this tradition Chinese festival. A great deal of beautiful lanterns can be found.

* Ching Ming Festival

This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day. As a tradition, members of the Chinese family go to the grave of their ancestors, sweep away the leaves and remove weeds around the grave area, with a view to showing respect to the deceased. Paper offerings are also burned including fake money.

* Cheung Chau Bun Festival

This is centered on the tiny island of Cheung Chau. In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing Bun Towers to snatch buns. After the accidental collapse of a bun tower in 1978 due to overload of people, the competition was abandoned. It was resumed in 2005 with new safety measures.

* Tuen Ng Festival

This is a festival in memory of a national hero.

* Mid Autumn Festival

This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eight lunar month. Moon cakes are eaten, which contain lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks. The festival is also known as the lantern festival and various parts of Hong Kong will be festooned with decorative lanterns which set the night scene ablaze with colour.

* Chung Yeung Festival

* Winter Festival

[edit] Books

Non-guidebooks about Hong Kong or by Hong Kong writers.

In English:

Myself a Mandarin: memoirs of a colonial magistrate, by Austin Coates.

Tai Pan and Noble House by James Clavell, two potboilers in his "Asian Saga" fiction series, set in Hong Kong.

The World of Suzy Wong by Richard Mason, the story of a prostitute.

Winter Stars: a collection of poems born between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian, by Beatrice Lao.
[edit] When to visit

The climate is ideal in October and November. The humidity is typically high in the spring and even worse in the summer, when high temperatures (usual max 33-34) are often recorded. Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. During the Chinese New Year, whilst there are some extra celebrating events such as a lion dances, fireworks, and parades, many shops and restaurants are closed for three days to a week. However, for the Chinese, it is a good time for family reunions and paying visits to relatives. Christmas is also a nice time to visit as shops and shopping centres are nicely decorated and the festive mood is everywhere in the city.
[edit] Districts

Hong Kong is divided into a number of distinctly different districts.

* Hong Kong Island was the site of the original British settlement. The Northern part of the Island is densely populated. Because of the scarcity of land supply, you'll find most of Hong Kong's skyscrapers and the famous skyline along the northern coastline. The main business and nightlife districts, in addition to the government offices, can be found here. The southern part of the Island has more leisure facilities, with beautiful beaches and luxury residential complexes.

* Kowloon is the peninsula jutting down towards Hong Kong Island. It is the most populous area in Hong Kong, at one time the most densely populated place in the world.

* The New Territories, named by the British officials when leased from the Chinese government in 1898, are Hong Kong's residential hinterland.

* The Outlying Islands are the 234 other islands in the territory ranging from Lantau (twice the size of Hong Kong Island) to rocks poking out of the sea. Situated on Lantau is Discovery Bay a resort type residential area and home to approximately 40000 inhabitants, many of them expats or middle class locals.

[edit] Get in

Hong Kong retains control of its own immigration. The good side of this is that, unlike mainland China, most Western visitors do not need to obtain visas in advance, but the bad side is that a separate visa is required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong. Detailed visa requirements are available from the Immigration Department. Anyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport and requiring an onward visa for Mainland China, during your stay in Hong Kong, will find a kiosk in the downstairs foyer that issues them. A photo will be required and the staff will be happy to accomodate you.
[edit] By plane

Internationally, there is a major way to get into Hong Kong — through the modern Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA or HKG) which is also known as Chek Lap Kok, the name of the small island it was built over. The airport opened in July 1998, and is modern and efficient, for it has been named the Best Airport worldwide by Skytrax for five years.

There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight. Sydney has 6 daily flights, London 11(1 to Gatwick), Frankfurt 2, Paris 3, Amsterdam 2, Los Angeles 4, San Francisco 3, Vancouver 3, New York 3, Chicago 2 and Toronto 2.

Flights between Hong Kong and other major Asian cities are extremely frequent: between 10 and 40 flights per day connect Hong Kong with Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing. Other routes may be cheaper, however. For destinations within China, it is often cheaper to fly from Shenzhen than from Hong Kong. For elsewhere in Asia, consider Macau. The discount airlines land there because it has lower fees than Hong Kong.

A new airline starting up in October 2006, Oasis Hong Kong Airlines [2], offer one-way tickets to London and soon other destinations in Europe and the US for as low as $1000 (HK Dollar), excluding taxes and fees.

Hong Kong International Airport is the third busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic in Asia and the second busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic in the world.

Outside the security area, travelers will find an efficient post office in the airport which provides boxes, wrapping material, scissors and tape. Travelers can reach Central, Hong Kong from the airport in less time than taking a local bus to the village on Chek Lap Kok.

There is a public lounge inside the airport with prices as follows (in HK Dollars):

* Shower Only $80
* 2 Hours Lounge Use $250
* 5 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $300
* 10 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $350
* Overnight Package with Shower + Nap (8 hrs) + Breakfast $450
* Whole Day Package with Lounge Use + Nap (8 hrs) $600

The exchange rate is usually around $1 US = $7.80 HK
[edit] Airport Express

Apart from taxi, the fastest local passenger transport to the airport is the Airport Express train that zips you in and out from the Kowloon and the Central district. The journey takes only 23 minutes, and there are plenty of baggage handling officers to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train. There is no need to tip them. Each way costs $60-$100, or a round trip for $110-$180, depending on the distance travelled. After arrival, free shuttle buses connecting to major hotels in Kowloon and Central are provided, or you can continue onward by MTR or taxi.

* The Airport Express Tourist Octopus 3-Day Hong Kong Transport Pass gives you an Octopus card (see Get Around) good for 3 days of unlimited MTR travel, plus one ride on the Airport Express (for $220) or two (for $300). In effect, you're paying $70 for 3 days on the MTR, which is a fair bit of travel but might be worth it if you're planning to visit the Lantau Island or the New Territories. You can return the card after use to get back $50 deposit, or keep it for your next trip — any leftover value will remain valid for 3 years. [You can also add money to the card, which you can use for payment at many vending machines, some stores, and when taking the Star Ferry.]

Scam Alert!: If you are traveling with two people, there is a single journey joint ticket, the cost is $160 (2 people) for a one way and $180 (2 people) for a round trip. If you buy from the counter the ticket agent may try to charge you double the price and pocket the rest. If you are unsure, buy from the machine.

If three or more people are traveling together, the Airport Express is more expensive than traveling by taxi. If you will need to take a taxi to your hotel after arriving the Airport Express Station, consider a direct taxi trip instead.
[edit] Airbus

The various Airbuses are cheaper, slower but more direct bus services to the city. For example, the A21 (HK$33) bus will take you down Nathan Road, the main artery of Kowloon, stopping outside many hotels and hostels. Lines A10, A11 and A12 go to Hong Kong Island ($48, $40 and $45 respectively). Alternatively, take bus S1 to Tung Chung ($3.50) and connect to the ordinary MTR for a cheap ride to the city (Kowloon $17, Hong Kong $23). The free Airport Express shuttle buses connect Kowloon and Hong Kong airport express stations to various hotels in each area.

For a full listing of buses available at HKIA refer to the airport website.

If you are on a budget, take an "E" route bus rather than the "A" routes bus, they take about 20 minutes longer (50-60 min instead of 35-40 min) and are about half price (e.g. $21 for the E11 from Central). These 'External' buses are aimed more at airport workers, so they make several detours around Tung Chung. They will give you a nice tour around the airport island. However, E22 (Kowloon KCR Station to Airport) takes about an hour to the airport comparing to A22 (as E22 tour around not only airport island but Kowloon peninsula).
[edit] Taxi

A taxi from the airport to the city will cost you around $300 depending on your exact destination. If you have 3 or more people travelling together, it is generally cheaper to travel by taxi than by Airport Express. Use the taxi with red body for destinations to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Green taxi is restricted to New Territories and Blue Taxi for Lantau Island

There is a large chart at the exit to the taxi stand, also available online, on the approximate fares to most destinations. The law is strict on taxi drivers charging according to the meter. The meter fare does not include the luggage fee, toll fee, waiting fee, pet fee.

Taxis from the Airport to downtown Kowloon do not suffer from much traffic congestion. If you are going to Hong Kong Island, tell the taxi driver to use "Western Harbour Crossing" to avoid congestion, but it will attract a surcharge.

From the airport there are private cars and vans operating illegally as taxis. Do not take these as they are not licensed and in case of accidents, your insurance will not cover you.
[edit] By outbound ferry

Hong Kong is only a 1 hour hydrofoil ride away from Macau, and there is good connectivity to mainland China as well. The main terminals are:

* Macau Ferry Terminal, 202 Connaught Road (Sheung Wan MTR exit D), Central
o TurboJet, 24 hours a day to Macau plus 6-8 times a day to the Shenzhen airport.

* China Ferry Terminal, 33 Canton Road (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1), Kowloon
o Chu Kong Shipping, to points throughout Guangdong and Guangzhou
o New World First Ferry, every 30 min to Macau

[edit] By land

Crossing the border to Mainland China puts you in Shenzhen, a well-developed boomtown. (Note that there are special visa regulations if you plan to visit Shenzhen.)

There are 4 checkpoints on the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary, namely Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok.

Lo Wu control point can only be accessed directly by KCR East Rail trains and is hence the most accessible. However, it is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays. So if you want to avoid for the long queues, please use the other control points on holidays. Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.

Lok Ma Chau control point can be accessed from Kowloon by taking the KCR West Rail. Leave at Long Ping Station and take the bus route 277 at the bus interchange. At Lok Ma Chau, you must switch to a yellow shuttle bus which takes you across the boundary. A faster approach is to alight at Kam Sheung Road Station and interchange with a cross boundary coach which takes you to the Chinese side of checkpoint without interchanging with the shuttle bus.

Alternatively, there are also some Cross Boundary coaches operating from the business districts in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the Chinese side of the checkpoint. If you take these coaches, there is no need to change for the yellow shuttle bus and hence it is a good choice for boundary crossing to avoid the queues.

There are 6 lines of short trip cross boundary coaches serves the port,

1. Jordan, Kowloon departs from Scout Centre, Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (5 mins walk from Jordan MTR)
2. Mongkok, Kowloon departs from Portland Street, near Metropark Hotel Mongkok (exit from Prince Edward Hotel)
3. Wanchai, HK Island departs from Wanchai Ferry Bus Terminus
4. Kwun Tong, Kowloon departs from Lam Tin MTR, stops at Kwun Tong APM Shopping Plaza and Kwun Tong Rd, Kowloon Bay MTR
5. Tsuen Wan departs from Discovery Park Bus Terminus (10 mins walk from Tsuen Wan MTR)
6. Kam Sheng Road departs from Kam Sheung Road West Rail Stn

Except the route to Kam Sheng Road, 24 hour services are provided with half hourly or hourly departure in midnight and around 10-20 mins per bus during the day and evening.

Lok Ma Chau is a around-the-clock border crossing ; visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side (subject to nationality, at current applications from USA passport holders are not accepted).

Man Kam To control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange under the shopping centre of West Kowloon Centre, Sham Shui Po (near Sham Shui Po MTR)in Kowloon, which costs $35, the bus calls at Landmark North also, which is just adjacent to Sheung Shui KCR Station, with section fare of $22. It is seldom crowded with travellers even during holiday periods. You can also enjoy the free shuttle service outside the Chinese checkpoint, which takes you to the central area of Shenzhen. However, no Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side, which means you need to arrange for your visa in advanced before arrival.

It is the best route to go to the downtown in Shenzhen especially during holidays.


Sha Tau Kok control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Luen Wo Hui in Fanling and Kowloon Tong. It connects the eastern boundary of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it is a bit remote from the central part on Shenzhen. As a consequence, only very few passengers choose to cross the boundary using this checkpoint. No Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.

Coaches departs from Kowloon Tong MTR from 7:00 to 18:30 every 15 minuts which costs $20, which is also the cheapest direct coach to Shenzhen.

[edit] By bicycle


Probably of interest to cycle tourists' coming to Hong Kong is the cross border arrangements from the Mainland China as this is how many cyclists enter Hong Kong having come overland across China and beyond.

There are at present four main road-crossing points from Shenzhen, the large and rapidly expanding city to the north and two ferry terminals in Hong Kong where ferries can be taken to quite a few Chinese cities in the Pearl River Delta including Macao.

Of course there is also the excellent Hong Kong International Airport which services many flights from other Asian cities, Europe and beyond. Cyclists must note though that it virtually impossible to cycle to and away from the airport and that other travelers have had difficulty transporting their bike on otherwise excellent public transport.

1. Lok Ma Chau

Travelers entering Hong Kong first go through China immigration and then catch a bus to Hong Kong immigration checkpoint. Foot passengers have a choice of using the "yellow bus " to the Hong Kong Side or cross border buses which go eventually to different areas of Hong Kong. Bikes are currently not allowed on the yellow buses and have to be wheeled through China immigration to the bus terminus to buy a ticket the chosen destination. It's helpful to know where you want to go. Sometimes you need to pay for the bike(about $HK30).You then load the bike onto the bus yourself and have to unload again about 5 minutes later to go through HK immigration and then put it back on the bus. All passengers have to do this with their luggage. Usually this whole process is frenetic (even for locals) due to the number of people traveling over the border.

2. Lo Wu

A train runs from the border crossing at Lo Wu into the centre of Hong Kong and cycles are allowed on the train (known as the KCR) with the payment of between $20 and $40 depending upon the time of day and with the front wheel removed. As for all border crossings travelers have to pass through the Chinese side and then the Hong Kong side before boarding the train

3. Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok

These two border crossings are usually used by heavy lorries and cars although it is possible to transit with cycles. Sha Tau Kok is used if the onward route is to the east of Guangdong.

However with the current arrangements it is recommended that cyclists use the road crossing at Lo Wu as this affords the easiest transit arrangements ton the urban areas of Hong Kong where most visitors will be accommodated.

4. Ferry Terminals on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon

Cyclists can usually travel easily with their bikes and luggage on one of the many ferries which ply up and down the Pearl River Delta. This is an excellent way to leave Hong Kong and to avoid the heavily industrialized area to the north of Hong Kong between Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
[edit] By train

Kowloon Canton Railway runs regular Through Train service between Guangdong Province, Beijing and Shanghai. The through train terminus is Hung Hom Station on the Kowloon side, while the current terminus of the domestic service is East Tsim Sha Tsui station.

The destinations of the Intercity Passenger Service are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.

The online directory of [3] of Kowloon Canton Railway provides information on the timetable and fare information of the Intercity Passenger Service.

Train service between Hong Kong and Mainland China stops before midnight as the border, at Lo Wu, is closed at midnight.
[edit] Get around
Star Ferry and the Island skyline
Star Ferry and the Island skyline

Hong Kong's public transport system is highly developed, to the point where often the hardest part is choosing your means of transport. Centamap, produced by a local real estate agency, is one of the best tools in looking up location.
[edit] Octopus card

The Octopus payment card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese, with reference to a saying in Cantonese Sai Tung Bat Dat, which means convenient transport) is the heart of the public transport system. Octopus is a technology proposed in 1992, developed in 1995 and usable since September 1997. It is a contactless smart card. Even inside a wallet or bag, you can tap on card readers and the correct amount will be deducted from money stored. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except red minibuses and taxis), it is also accepted for payments in virtually all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald's and Cafe de Coral, vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry.

When traveling by MTR, KCR, and some bus routes, payment by Octopus card always enjoys discount or rebate. It will always cost less to use Octopus card. As it has a fully refundable deposit on the card and on unused credit, it is highly advisable to get an Octopus card when in Hong Kong.

Basic adult Octopus cards cost $150, $100 face value plus $50 refundable deposit, but a $7 service charge now applies if returned in less than 3 months. Octopus cards can only carry $1000 HK at any time.

There is always a small machine near the ticket issue machines that allows you to check your Octopus cards' balance. There are 3 convenient ways to refill a card:

* Use the Add Value machines, which are always located next to the ticket machines. The machines accept cash, credit card, and (for certain machines) Electronic Funds Transfer.
* Going to customer service at any MTR or KCR station.
* Going to merchants that accept Octopus (ex. Mcdonalds, Cafe de Coral)

In addition to the Airport Express Octopus (see above), you can also buy a 24-hour pass for $50 at any MTR station; however, this is valid only on MTR lines.

Octopus card allows you to be in debit once, e.g. you may pay for a ride of $5 with a card of value $2 only, but you have to add value afterwards if you want to continue using it. You can add value to the card in MTR stations, KCR stations and also at all stores which accept Octopus card payment. An Octopus card can have a maximum negative value of $35.
[edit] By subway/underground railway
Map of the MTR System
Map of the MTR System

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) underground network is the fastest way to get around the city, but what you gain in speed you lose in views and (at least for short distances) price. There are five lines, with the most important ones for visitors being the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which tunnels from Central to Kowloon and down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of the Island. The new Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport when coupled with the S1 shuttle bus stationed at Tung Chung MTR station. The line also provides a link to Hong Kong Disney Land via a change at Sunny Bay station.

Every MTR station has one Hang Seng Bank branch (except for the massive Hong Kong/Central station, which has two). Because they're a common feature, unambiguous and easy to find, they're a good place to tell people to meet you.

Note that in Hong Kong, a subway is an underground walkway, not an underground railway, as in most English speaking countries outside of North America. While most of the trains travel underground, there are also stations whose trains travel above raised platforms.
[edit] By train
KCR system map
KCR system map

The Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) connects Kowloon to Canton (Guangdong) in mainland China, but is also an important commuter line. The main KCR East Rail terminates in East Tsim Sha Tsui, where you can interchange with the MTR and the Star Ferry.

The KCR West Rail links up Nam Cheong, which is on the reclaimed land next to Sham Shui Po, and Tuen Mun. It links Kowloon with the Western New Territories. Direct boundary crossing is now not available by KCR West Rail, but you can alight at Long Ping Station and take bus route 277 to the boundary. Alternatively, you can also alight at Kam Sheung Road Station and take the cross boundary coach with a promotional fare if you pay by Octopus card.

The Ma On Shan Railway, a branch of East Rail, starts at Tai Wai Station and terminates at Wu Kai Sha Station. Passengers can make use of the Ma On Shan Railway to travel to Ma On Shan, and to the more rural part of the Sai Kung Country Park.

Tourists can buy a day pass and enjoy unlimited rides on the KCR system including East Rail, West Rail and Ma On Shan Rail (excluding Racecourse and Lo Wu stations).

A station called West Kowloon Station is due to open in 2007 or 2008.
[edit] By tram
Hong Kong from the top of the Peak Tram
Hong Kong from the top of the Peak Tram

Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams trundling on the north coast of Hong Kong Island are a Hong Kong icon. Trams are slower but the route along the length of Hong Kong Island's centre is useful and with a flat fare of only $2, they're the cheapest sightseeing tour around.

In a league of its own is the Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened back in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7-km track up from Central to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($20 one-way, $30 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance).
[edit] By bus

There are three flavours of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. While generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), signage in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are pretty much your only option for traveling around the south side of the island and Lantau.

The large double-decker buses cover practically all of the territory, stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. The first seats of the upper deck offer great views. The franchised bus operators in Hong Kong include Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB), Citybus, New World First Bus and New Lantao Bus. Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites.

Van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers (seats only) and come in two varieties, namely red minibuses and green minibuses (also called maxicabs); the color refers to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Red minibuses can pick up and drop off passengers anywhere the law allows, while green minibuses follow a fixed route from point to point as fast as the traffic will allow (and then some). The Hong Kong Island green minibus #1 down from the Peak to Central is particularly exhilarating.

Kowloon Canton Railway also maintains its fleet of feeder buses. KCR passengers can enjoy a free feeder service if the payment is made by Octopus. The route K16 is especially useful for tourists who need to go to Tsim Sha Tsui from the New Territories and mainland China by rail.

Note that if paying in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient.

Route numbering is independent in six regions: bus in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories, bus in Lantau Island, green minibus in Hong Kong Island, green minibus in Kowloon, green minibus in New Territories and several exceptional auxiliary buses route. (Red minibus does not have a route number.) This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department of Hong Kong Government has been working on the unifying of the route numbers, it is still a little bit messy at the moment. If you are confused a bit by the numbering of routes, here is a suggestion: just remember the route number of buses in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories only whenever it is necessary. In other special circumstances, ask the driver or the station staffs for the Lantau buses and green minibuses and they can answer you.

Generally you need not to mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you will asking for the route which runs in the district you are in, e.g. if you ask for bus route #2, locals will assume you will asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both bus and minibus can have same route number in the same area which are actually different routes. (e.g. there are both bus route #6 and minibus route #6 in Tsim Sha Tsui, which are actually different routes.)

If you are curious enough, you may discover a pattern on the allocation of buses in Hong Kong/Kowloon/NT:

* Prefix 1: routes use Cross Harbour Tunnel
* Prefix 2 refers to some air-conditioned bus routes
* Prefix 3 refers to several peak-hour only cross-harbour routes, Hong Kong Island recreational or special bus services
* Prefix 6 uses Eastern Harbour Crossing
* Prefix 7 refers to some Island Eastern Corridor routes, New World First Bus West Kowloon or Tseung Kwan O routes
* Prefix 8 refers to specialized Shatin Racecourse lines
* Prefix 9 uses Western Harbour Crossing

* Prefix A: Airport Airbus routes
* Prefix E: North Lantau external bus routes
* Prefix K: KCR Feeder Bus routes
* Prefix M: Some bus routes that are terminated at Airport Express station
* Prefix N: Overnight bus routes
* Prefix P: North Lantau peak-hour only routes
* Prefix R: North Lantau recreational bus routes (for Hong Kong Disneyland)
* Prefix S: Airport shuttle bus routes
* Prefix T: Recreational bus routes (T stands for tourists)
* Prefix X: Express routes for special services

* Suffix A, B, C, D, E, F: Conventional routes
* Suffix K: Mainly connecting to KCR East Rail stations
* Suffix M: Mainly connecting to MTR stations
* Suffix P: Mostly peak-hour only routes
* Suffix R: Recreational bus routes
* Suffix S: Peak-hour only routes or special services
* Suffix X: Buses using highways or express services

[edit] By ferry

A vast fleet of ferries plies between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular line travels between Kowloon and Central nearly continuously, and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Kowloon). Upper deck seats cost $2.20 while lower deck $1.70, both payable with Octopus or cash (change given).

Ferries to Lamma, Lantau and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
[edit] By taxi

Taxicabs are plentiful, clean and efficient. They were just recently (2003) rated as the cheapest of all big cities in the world. Not good news for the drivers, but good for the tourist. Rounding up is the norm and passengers often leave a small tip. Fares start at HK $15, and you can ride for 2 km before additional $1.40 per 200m increments start ticking. A ride all the way across the island will cost no more than $80. No tipping is expected, but the fare may be rounded up to the nearest dollar.

Drivers are required to provide change for HK $100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have a $500 or $1000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.

Life is made slightly more difficult by the fact that there are three different flavors of taxi. These can be distinguished by colour: red taxis typically serve the Island and Kowloon, and some parts of the New Territories (for example Shatin), but they are permitted to travel all over Hong Kong except to Lantau Island; green taxis serve the New Territories (only), but with a slightly cheaper fare than red taxis; blue taxis serve Lantau (only). (You are unlikely to ever encounter a blue Taxi, as there are only about 50 of them in existence.) All three types of taxis can take you to the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi.

In addition, red taxis are based in either the Island or Kowloon, if they do take you, they will charge you twice the bridge/tunnel toll so they can get back! But you can use this to your advantage by picking a homebound taxi from a cross-harbour taxi rank in places like the Star Ferry pier or Hung Hom station. In these cross-harbour taxi stands only single toll charge will be applied to the taxi fare.

There are no extra late-night charges. Baggage will cost you $5 a pop (but in practice almost never charged) and all tolls are payable. The wearing of seat belts is required by law.

All taxi's are radio equipped and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee, payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi though as they are plentiful.

It is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as most drivers do not speak sufficient English. For example, if you wish take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for a compliment slip (with its address on it) prior to going out.
[edit] By car

Renting a car is almost unheard of in Hong Kong. With heavy traffic, extremely complex road network and rare parking spaces, renting a car is very unappealing. However, if you must, expect to pay over $600/day even for a small car. Please also note that unlike in mainland China, traffic in Hong Kong moves on the left.
[edit] By cable car

There is a cable car to Ocean Park on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, and Ngong Ping Skyrail on Lantau.
[edit] Talk

Cantonese is the language spoken by 95% of the people in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong is a former British colony, the degree of English proficiency is limited among non-professionals in those districts where more locals visit than tourists. However, others including most taxi drivers, street vendors, salespeople etc. are fluent enough for sufficient communication, especially at tourist destinations such as hotels and certain restaurants. English is fluently spoken among the business community. The English language education is started from kindergarten, anyone who had completed high-school after 1970's can be expected to understand at least written English pretty well. Using text-book-esque phrases and simple sentences also helps.

Most locals are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to a certain degree. Mandarin proficiency is increasing, especially after the reunification with the mainland.

All official signs are bilingual, in both Chinese (Traditional) and English. Most shops and restaurants also have English signage, though don't expect this from the more local or obscure establishments. Under the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China.
[edit] Buy

The Hong Kong dollar is the official currency. The official exchange rate is fixed at 7.80 HKD to 1 USD, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. Issued by three banks (HSBC [a.k.a. Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation], Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China) and with different versions in which the style varies a lot, these multi-coloured, and increasing in size, banknotes come in denominations of:

* $10, green or purple (The purple note is issued by the government)
* $20, dark blue or light blue (old or new)
* $50, purple or green (old or new)
* $100, red
* $500, brown
* $1000, gold

Some shops do not accept $1000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.

The coins come in units of

* $10, in bronze/silver, circular
* $5, in silver, circular, thicker
* $2, in silver, wavey-circular
* $1, in silver, circular, thinner
* 50c, in bronze, circular, larger
* 20c, in bronze, wavey-circular
* 10c, in bronze, circular, smaller

varying in a descending size (except $10 coin)

One from other places may be surprised of the variety of different versions of banknotes issued by different note-issuing banks. You may want to have a quick look of it here (not including the new banknotes). Since September 1997, the use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for transit payments for subways and buses, it now is used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at convenience shops, fast food stores, pharmacies, vending machines, etc. It has changed the speed and ease of small transactions in Hong Kong, and does away with many of the small coin transactions.
[edit] Shop

Hong Kong is still known as an excellent destination for shopping. Prices are comparably cheaper than the US, Europe or Japan, especially with no sales tax on anything, though it's still expensive by Asian standards. The variety is a lot better than in most Asian countries. Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, jewellery, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine.

As a generalisation, the Island has the fancy name-brand air-con shopping malls (particularly near Causeway Bay), while Kowloon is the place to go for cheap open markets. Kowloon also has Nathan Road with many shops selling electronics, cameras and gadgets, mainly to tourists. Some of the business practices there are quite deceptive and tourists are commonly overcharged. Compare prices before you buy. It would be safer to buy from large chain stores like Broadway or Fortress.

Hong Kong people themselves often shop for some things in Shenzhen just over the border into China.

* Shopping Centers

Hong Kong is full of shopping centers. Here are some of them:

1. Harbour City - Huge Shopping Center in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry
2. Pacific Place - also a big shopping centre. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
3. Festival Walk - A big shopping center with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there. Take the MTR or KCR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
4. Cityplaza - A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
5. Landmark - All the luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. Central, Pedder Street
6. APM - All new 24Hr Shopping Center in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
7. IFC Mall - Located next to the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers. Has many luxury brand shops, a cinema with very comfortable seating and superb views across the harbour from the rooftop.
8. Times Square - a Multi Story Shopping Mall with food courts at the lower levels, and Gourmet Dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit at "Times Square".
9. Citygate Outlet - Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station, the Citygate is a rare outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland.
10. Golden Computer Arcade - located in Sham Shui Po, this shopping center is specialized in selling computer and TV gaming related products. Take the MTR to the Sham Shui Po station. Other computer malls with better environment would be Star City in Tsim Sha Tsui just right on top of the McDonald's as you get out of Star Ferry; Windsor House Computer City in Causeway Bay; Wan Chai Computer mall right outside Wan Chai MTR Station; and Mong Kok Computer Center on Nelson Street 2 minutes from Mong Kok MTR Station Exit E2.

* Streetmarkets

Hong Kong has a lot of street markets. Some of them just selling regular groceries, others clothes, bags or even electronics.

1. Ladies Market - Find fake brand label goods here, or illegal imports. Other goods include clothes, toys etc. Make sure to bargain here!
2. Flower Market - Prince Edward
3. Goldfish Market- a whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accesoires Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok
4. Bird Market - MTR Station Prince Edward, exit "Mong Kok Police Station". Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
5. Jade Market
6. Temple Street - Situated in the middle of the yellow district, this is a place that sells anything from the Little Red Book to adult toys. Hong Kong is a really safe city, but this is probably one of the only places you might want to be more careful with your handbags.
7. Seafood Street - Sai Kung
8. Apliu Street - MTR Station Shum Shui Po, this is the place where you can find cheap computer goods, peripherals and accessories. However this would be the worst place to buy your mobile phones, they tend to be even more dodgy than small stores in Mongkok.
9. Stanley Market - One of the more touristy places, this market sells everything from luxury luggages to cheap brand name clothes (usually overruns from the factories). Accessible with number 40 minibus from Causeway Bay. Also, No. 6 and 6A bus from Central.

* Tourist traps

Just as in any city, there are certain areas with tourist traps. They are often nameless stores that sell electronics such as digital cameras, cellphones, and computers. However, the selling price is often overpriced. These shops can easily be identified with usage of attention-grabbing neon signs of electronics brand names, numerous employees in a very small store space, and often several of these stores in a row. There are many of these stores on Nathan Road, Kowloon and in Causeway Bay as well. If you are shopping for inexpensive electronics, head for a Broadway or Fortress chain store, sometimes there may be discounts here (up to 5%) if you pay by cash.
[edit] See

The skyline of Hong Kong is one of the best in the world. See the stunning Hong Kong Island skyline from Kowloon.
[edit] Guided Walk

Hong Kong Tourism Board offers many free walking tours, including Nature Kaleidoscope Walk and Architecture Walk.
[edit] Victoria Peak

Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on the Victoria Peak with the giant, Wok shaped Peak Tower. Within the building are shops, restaurants, museums, and viewing points. The Peak Tram runs from Central to the bottom of the Peak Tower.
[edit] Horse Racing

The racing season runs from September to June, during which time meetings take place twice weekly, the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Wan Chai. Of these, Happy Valley is the more convenient and more impressive location, although live races only take place here on Wednesday night. For only $10 entrance fee, a night in Happy Valley can be filled with entertainment. Get a local Chinese gambler to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer! Be sure to pick up the Racing Post section in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday to guide you. A 'beer garden' with racing commentary in English available at Happy Valley near the finish line, and many expatriates congregate here during the races.
[edit] Local life

The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to experience the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident.

Go visit a public housing estate and a private one in a row, you witness the difference of rich and poor; go visit a fresh food market and a larger supermarket called "superstore", you witness struggle between small retailers and corporations; go visit one of the small shopping malls in Mongkok, you witness teenagers spend their pocket money on overpriced sneakers and "BAPE" products.

Just wander and observe - and don't worry - most areas in town are quite secure.

It is rather sad that most tourists only hang around the several tourist districts. However, it is very worthwhile to go to some more Hong Kongish places like Ladies Street, Temple Street, Seafood Street, Apliu Street and so on, which a list of so may be retrieved through the website DiscoverHongKong.com, the official site of the Hong Kong Tourist Board.
[edit] Traditional heritage

There are many traditional heritage locations throughout the territory.

* Ping Shan Heritage Trail in Tin Shui Wai, New Territories
* Kowloon Walled City Park in Kowloon City, Kowloon
* Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Shatin, New Territories
* Tsang Tai Uk in the New Territories
* Che Kung Temple in the Sha Tin, New Territories
* Man Mo Temple and Fu Shin Street Traditional Bazaar in the New Territories
* Temple of Ten Thousand Buddha's Located 5 minute walk from Shatin KCR station. This is one of the best temples to visit in Hong Kong. There are over 12,000 buddha and you can usually see monkeys. There is also a pagoda that you can climb. If you are hungry before you climb the large number of stairs there is also a very delicious hot pot resturant on the way. Although, at the top of the hill there are also amazing vegetarian spring rolls.

Hong Kong/Lantau.

* Stilt houses in Tai O (aka Hong Kong Venice) -- to have a taste of traditional fishing village.
* Po Lin Monastery and the Tien Tan Buddha Statue on Ngong Ping,

[edit] Museums

There are a variety of museums in Hong Kong with different themes, but to be honest, the people on the streets seem to offer more insights than the exhibits in most of these government-run museums. One exception is the Hong Kong Museum of History.
[edit] Nature

Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers, and it's worthwhile to go to the countryside (over 70% of Hong Kong), including the country parks and marine parks.

* Lantau Island is twice as big as Hong Kong and is well worth checking out if you want to get away from the bright lights and pollution of the city for a spell. Here you will find open countryside, traditional fishing villages, secluded beaches, monasteries and more. You can hike, camp, fish and mountain bike, amongst other activities.

* Sai Kung, a peninsula, is also a worthwhile place to visit, for its hilly geographic features and different kind of landforms. If you like challenging routes, try going to the Sharp Peak (Nam She Tsim in Cantonese). Sharp peak is famous for its steep slope with a height more than 400m. The view from the top is fantastic. For a more relax route, try to walk along Section 2 of Maclehose Trail.

* Hong Kong Wetland Park is a relaxing park set amidst an ecological mitigation area. One can stroll along a network of boardwalks built over the marshy area and watch birds from a tower. The park also features a large visitors center/museum. The museum has many interactive exhibits ideal for children, as well as some live animal habitats. To visit, take KCR West Rail to Tin Shui Wai Station, then the #705 light rail to Wetland Park. The park is stroller and wheelchair friendly.

* Short hiking trails (2 hours) can be found on Hong Kong Island and the New Territories.

The entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
The entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
[edit] Theme parks

* Hong Kong Disneyland opened on September 12, 2005. It is on Lantau Island. Though smaller in size than other Disney parks elsewhere, it does offer some great attractions ("Festival of the Lion King" stage show, "Golden Mickey's" stage show, "Mickey's PhilhaMagic 3D" show) and very short queues most of the year (except the week of Chinese New Year).

* Ocean Park is on the southern side of Hong Kong island. With roller coasters and large aquarium altogether, it's still packed on weekends with families and tourists after opening to public for 30 years.

The cablecar is an icon and an essential link between the two parts of the park. The views of the South China Sea from the car is always terrific.
[edit] Seeing different sides of Hong Kong by Public Transport

Travelling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only it is cheap to ride on a bus or a tram, it also allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
[edit] Bus

* KMB Route 70 starts from the downtown in Jordan, Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin new town. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the sceneric Chinese University of Hong Kong. The bus further goes to Tai Po and you can see the traditional Market. After Tai Po, the bus again passes through the countryside and eventually reaches its terminus at Sheung Shui (below Landmark North), which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 105 minutes and costs $8.20 for the whole journey with a traditional non air-conditioned bus.

A tram on Hong Kong Island
A tram on Hong Kong Island

* NWFB Route 15 starts from Central (Exchange Square) to The Peak. It is an alternative way for getting to The Peak by bus rather than by Peak Tram. Your journey to Hong Kong will not be complete unless you have visited the Victoria Peak. You can see the beautiful view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Habour and Kowloon Peninsula along the Stubbs road during the journey. When you arrive, there are two shopping malls: The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria, which provide restaurants, a supermarket, and souvenir shops for your convenience. In addition, Madame Tussauds Hong Kongis temporarily closed for renovation, and it may be re-opened in May 2006. Direction: you can take MTR and get off at Hong Kong station. You can approach Hong Kong station by the underpass from Central station. After that, follow the exit B1 to Exchange Square and you will see the bus terminus. You can also get off at Admiralty station. Then, follow the C1 exit toward Queensway Plaza. The bus stop is located at the motorway beside Admiralty Garden. After you get in the bus, just stay on until it arrives to The Peak bus terminus. The bus fare is $9.2 and it takes about 30 minutes for the journey.

[edit] Tram

* Take a tram journey on Hong Kong Island.

The tram system refers to Hongkong Tramways, a slow yet special transportation running on Hong Kong Island. It, operating since 1904, is a relic of the British administration. A trip on a tram is a perfect way to have a leisurely tour around Hong Kong Island's major streets and to have a glimpse to the locals life. Fares are relatively cheap, 2 HK dollars per trip for adult and 1 HK dollar for Senior citizens (age 65 or older)and children

It is recommended to ride from as far as Kennedy Town in the west, to as far as Shau Kei Wan in the east, in order to get a strong contrast of "East meets West" and "Old meets New".
[edit] Avenue of the Stars and A Symphony of Lights

Hong Kong's version of Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of the Stars [4] celebrates the icons of Hong Kong cinemas past century. The seaside promenade is also offers fantastic views day and night of the Hong Kong harbour and skyline. The Avenue can be reached from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry.

The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and laser show syncronized to music and staged every night at 8:00pm. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognized by the Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On the other nights, it is in Cantonese.
[edit] Do
[edit] Hiking

Hiking is the best kept secret in Hong Kong, a great way to appreciate Hong Kong's beautiful sceneries range from mountains to beaches to breathtaking cityscape. Starting points of most hiking trails are accessible by bus or taxi. Highly recommended.

There are four major trails in Hong Kong:

* Lantau Trail on Lantau.
* Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island.
* Maclehose Trail through the New Territories. Oxfam organizes an annual charity hike of this 100Km trail every November. Winning teams finish in around 11-12 hours but average people take 30-36 hours to finish the whole trail, which starts from the eastern end of the New Territories (Sai Kung) to the western end (Tuen Mun).
* Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing on the New Territories.

[edit] Eat
This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $50
Mid-range $50-$400
Splurge Over $400

Perhaps the number one highlight of Hong Kong is the cuisine. Not only is it a showcase of traditional and modern Cantonese cuisine, the various regional cuisines from around China, such as Teochew and Sichuan are all well represented. There are also excellent Asian and Western restaurants as well.

Residents tend to eat out a lot more than in other countries. Perhaps because of this eating out can be fairly cheap, as long as you stick to local restaurants, and avoid the often overpriced western counterparts.

Above all, Hong Kong is known for its dim sum (點心), delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine served from a neverending procession of carts and eaten with tea. Dim sum is usually eaten for breakfast or lunch and is often the focus of family get-togethers on Sundays.

A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese. Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuanyang (鴛鴦), and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave.
The "Seafood street" in the district of Sai Kung, New Territories, Hong Kong. Numerous restaurants specialized in seafood serve locals and tourists alike.
The "Seafood street" in the district of Sai Kung, New Territories, Hong Kong. Numerous restaurants specialized in seafood serve locals and tourists alike.
For those who wish to eat Hong Kong's famous seafood, there are different locations in Hong Kong's coastal areas where freshly caught seafood is cooked and served. Places like Sai Kung, Po Doi O, Lei Yu Mun, Lau Fau Shan are good places to find restaurants specialized in seafood. These restaurants have different tanks to keep the seafood alive and will present live seafood specimens to their patrons for them to choose before cooking.

As with Chinese cuisine elsewhere, food in Hong Kong is generally eaten with chopsticks. The usual etiquette when using chopsticks apply, such as not sticking your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon though they would usually provide one if you request.
[edit] Budget

Cooked food centres (Dai Pai Dong 大牌檔) provide economic solutions to diners, and they are popular with local citizens. There are many cooked food centres in various districts. The cooked food centre in Sha Kok Estate, Sha Tin is easily accessible by KCR. It is adjacent to Sha Tin Wai Railway Station. It is highly recommended to tourists, as this is where you will find true Hong Kong cuisine and experience a local's way of life.

Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and snails. Maids who cook for their employers usually go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.

Regular supermarkets:

* Wellcome
* Park N Shop
* CRC Shop

Western gourmet supermarkets:

* CitySuper
* Great

24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found anywhere.
[edit] Splurge

Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace.
[edit] Barbecue

Barbecue (normally spelt BBQ) is a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits. Locals enjoy a style where everybody roasts their own food, usually with barbeque forks. It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy trying a variety of food at BBQ, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the southern part of HK Island. Every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a store, buy meat, drinks and BBQ equipment. The best spots are Shek’O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay.
[edit] Drink
Lan Kwai Fong at night
Lan Kwai Fong at night

Drinking has not been something the locals were big on in the past but it is becoming much more popular with the younger generation. Thanks to the large numbers of western expats there are plenty of places for them to go and drink, especially on the Island side. The traditional hotspot for both eating and drinking with westerners is Lan Kwai Fong in Central. Wan Chai is also fun, if slightly sleazier with numerous girly bars along Lockhart Road, while Causeway Bay and Eastern Soho out beyond Quarry Bay offer a less touristy experience.

Popular lagers include Tsing Tao (pronounced 'ching doe') or San Miguel.

Imported San Miguel is better than the locally produced variety. More expensive bars will likely serve this, but at others you may have to specifically ask for "Philippine San Miguel" (and pay more). At the lower end only locally stuff will be available. Imported bottles can be easily distinguished as they have brown glass with white frosted lettering. Locally filled bottles use a label.

One of the best ways to drink in Hong Kong is to have a walk around all the bars first and have a look which ones are doing special offers and what time they run Happy Hour. Most bars have a Happy Hours, which makes for a more cost effective way to drink. Also keep in mind the races on a Wednesday night at Happy Valley race course, you only pay $10 for entry and pay around $100 for a jug of beer. Also Wednesday nights is ladies night, during which many bars in Wan Chai give free drinks to the ladies.

The legal drinking age is 18. Public drunkenness is not so rare as one would think amongst locals and very accepted amongst foreigners.

* Ned Kelly's Last Stand A really good bar to go for pre-partying. Located on Ashley road parallel to the famous Nathan road on Kowloon side, it's an Australian themed jazz bar with great food and good live music almost every night starting at 21-22, which is about when the happy hour ends. The place is laid out with long tables where total strangers can sit together, it's quite big with the frequent visitors of Hong Kong such as traveling businessmen and the art-community.

* Sticky Fingers The awesomest place around? Who knows, but its a nice place to get some women and listen to a great house-band play live rock music on stage. The drinks are pretty good too.

* Knutsford Terrace is a popular drinking and dining spot in Kowloon but there are many other places in and around Tsim Sha Tsui. Some of them can get pretty expensive though - up to USD10 for a drink in some places!

* Joe Bananas A wonderful place located on Lockhart road, where the drinks are friendly and the women are cheap (or was it the other way around?).

A word of caution for non-southeast Asian women: Western bars and restaurants on Lockhart Road, Wan Chai are where prostitutes from Southeast Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia) work, sometimes as "waitresses" till the bar/restaurant closes. Other women often aren't as warmly welcomed as Western men.

A word of caution for Western men: Almost all Thai, Filipino and Indonesian women in Western bars and restaurants on Lockhart Road Wan Chai eg Pussy Cat, Mes Amis are prostitutes. They sometimes have a second job as 'waitresses'. Scams involving drugged drinks, inflated bills, and once more personal info is exchanged, blackmailing the men, a sick mother back home in the Philippines needing an urgent, expensive, life-saving surgery, etc. are very common. Don't fall in love with them, only to be ruined economically and personally by them.

To really go to town, spend a few hundred $ drinking in the Felix bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon-side. Possibly the best view in the world, especially from the gents'!
[edit] Sleep

Accommodation in Hong Kong tends to be on the small side. Accommodation ranging from cheap backpacker hostels to the ritziest luxury hotels can be found in the city. As a rule of thumb, expensive luxury accommodation are on Hong Kong Island while cheaper digs can be found in Kowloon and the New Territories . However, five-star hotels in Hong Kong are generally cheaper than in other major cities such as New York City, Sydney, Paris or London.

Besides luxury five star hotels, there are also a variety of more affordable hotels, guest houses, backpacker hostels, and holiday camps. The government maintains an online list of licensed hotels and guesthouse. The online directory can be found here. Price can be checked up for reference from one of the local travel agencies.

A few Youth Hostels [5] are available in Hong Kong for booking, but most of them are located outside the city. The YMCA 'The Salisbury' is not a real YMCA, but rather a 3-4 Star hotel with nice rooms, private bathrooms and so on. Its location right at the southern end of Kowloon (and next door to the Peninsula) makes this an ideal place to stay for budget-minded travellers. For the truly budget-minded, there are numerous cheap hostels that can be found inside Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansions buildings, near the intersection of Nathan Road and Mody Road in Kowloon. Chungking Mansions have the bad "reputation" of sleeping places for many illegal foreign workers and non-documented immigrants. Unless you cannot find another place to stay, stay in another budget hotels or hostels along Nathan Road.

Also note that consumer protection is practically non-existant when dealing with the cheap hostels located at Nathan Road, if you must stay there never pay more than one night beforehand and if possible, use a credit card. Always demand to check the room beforehand, otherwise you can be charged for equipment that somebody else broke. If you are cheated, contact the tourist information center near the Star Ferry pier at Kowloon side.
[edit] Learn

The major tertiary/post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong are:

* University of Hong Kong, [6].

* Chinese University of Hong Kong, [7].

* City University of Hong Kong, [8].

* Hong Kong Polytechnic University, [9].

* Hong Kong Baptist University, [10].

* Hong Kong Institute of Education, [11].

* Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, [12].

* Lingnan University, [13].

* Open University of Hong Kong, [14].

There is a large movement for the Cantonese speaking folks to learn Mandarin as more visitors arrive from mainland China.
[edit] Work

You need an employment visa in Hong Kong to take up paid employment. This usually involves any potential employer making an application to the Immigration Department on your behalf, crucially you should have skills that are probably not available from the local job market. In June 2006 the Immigration Department revived a rule that allows the spouse of anyone currently working legally in Hong Kong to get a "dependent visa". This allows the spouse to take up any employment they wish, without having to seek approval from the Immigration Department.
[edit] Stay safe
[edit] Crime

As large international cities go, Hong Kong is one of the safest, in terms of crime and personal safety. However it does have its share of petty crime, but it can be avoided with some street smarts.

Do not do business with people pushing their cards to you on the streets (so called street hawkers, mainly legal and illegal immigrants near Nathan Road, Kowloon). They advertise tailor services and consumer electronics and the prices are 20-100% higher than in reliable chain stores and department stores. Usually you are asked to pay half beforehand, and when you come to claim your product, they say it's sold out and offer another model for much higher price. It can be very hard to get your money back from them as they might even hold your credit card as a 'hostage' and refuse to give it back unless you agree to take the more expensive item. Don't buy electronic items from brands you'd never heard of because they might be overpriced low quality chinese products without any warranty anywhere else. Best advice is to avoid street hawkers completely (don't even reply to them or you will attract only more!), and if already in trouble, contact the nearest police officer immediately.

Watch your purse and wallet at all times. When in restaurants, do not sling your pack or purse behind your chair. Clutch any bags or purses in front of you when on the buses and railways.

In Hong Kong, the emergency number for Police, Fire and Ambulance is 999. Be aware that Police Officers may may ask to see anyone's ID in public areas. This usually happens during checks for illegal immigrants, but visitors, especially those who are not caucasian, are sometimes checked. If you experience this, you should cooperate with the police. If feel you have been subject to police misconduct, call the ICAC [15] at 2526 3366 for assistance.
[edit] Hiking

Hong Kong has some great hikes, but be safe and always hike in a group, particularly in Lantau Island and the New Territories. Although you are never more than a few miles from urban areas, natural obstacles such as steep ravines and washouts, combined with incomplete cell phone service in forested areas cause a few people to become lost each year, occasionally resulting in tragic death or injury.
[edit] Weather

Typhoons normally occur during the months of May to November, and are particularly prevalent during September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800km of Hong Kong, typhoon warning signal 1 is issued. Signal 3 is issued as the storm approaches. When the storm is expected to hit, signal 8 is issued. At this point, most of business activities shuts down, including shops, restaurants and the transport system. However, some entertainment facilities such as cinemas may still open for business. Signal 9 and 10 may be issued depending on the intensity of the storm.

Taxis may still available when signal 8 or above is issued, but then they are under no obligation to service passengers as insurance cover is no longer effective under such circumstances. It is quite possible to negotiate a fare with the driver, typically up to twice the meter fare.

Rainstorms also have their own warning system. In increasing order of severity, the levels are amber, red and black.

Hong Kong Observatory
[edit] Road

Signage on the roads in Hong Kong is typically different from most other cities. Zebra lines indicate crossing areas for pedestrians and traffic comes from the right. To stay safe, visit the Transport Department's Road Users' Code for complete details.

Crossing roads by foot should also be exercised with great care. Local traffic in Hong Kong generally moves fast once the signal turns green. To help both the visually impaired and even people who are not, an audible aid is played at every intersection. Rapid bells indicate "Walk"; Intermittent bells (10 sets of 3 bells) indicate "Do Not Start to Cross"; and Slow bells indicate "Do Not Walk".
[edit] Stay healthy

One unexpected cause of sickness in Hong Kong is the extreme temperature change between 35°C (95°F) humid summer weather outdoors and 18°C (65°F) air-conditioned buildings and shopping malls. Some people experience cold symptoms after moving between the two extremes so often; it is not unusual to wear a sweater or covering to stay warm indoors (though the Hong Kong Government currently encourages the temperature in air-conditioned buildings be kept at 25.5 °C for energy saving, etc.)

Whilst tap water is technically safe to drink (taste aside), the government highly recommends boiling it before consumption as contamination may occur in the piping system. Most locals boil or filter their water, or buy inexpensive bottled water.

Because of recent concerns about SARS and the threat of Avian Flu, there are hygiene stations around town featuring antiseptic hand gel and alcohol sprays. You're wise to use them in crowded areas such as shopping malls, lifts and public areas, just to be safe. Basically, it's a safe place to visit.
[edit] Pollution
[edit] Respect

Westerners say Hong Kong can be a pretty rude city with the large crowds, pushing, shoving, and crowdedness — similar to New York City or London. However, it can be best described as hurried and efficient (terse, perhaps), but not mean spirited. Even on a night out, the atmosphere is rarely menacing and most people in shops and restaurants are helpful and friendly. Most folks know a modicum of English, since it was a British colony, so you don't have to worry about offending anyone by speaking English. Some Hong Kong people use the term gwai lo (commonly translated as "foreign ghost" in English; it literally means "ghost guy") to refer to Caucasian foreigners. However, locally, this term is simply used as a term to refer to Caucasians and usually no longer carries the derogatory meaning it once intended.
[edit] Manners and Etiquette

Manners are very important to local people, however, their ideas of manners can be different to Western ideas, this is especially obvious when it comes to table manners. More than half of the people you see on streets are visitors, and it is difficult to tell the difference amongst Mainland Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, Taiwanese Chinese, Northern Asians and Southern Asians. All these may carry no meaning at all to non-locals, but they do, and it is especially apparent in terms of manners. The culture itself and the level of public education is very different across the region (viz Americans and Mexicans, Germans and Italians, they are not the same and they don't act the same). English is a second language to the locals, and they are usually a lot more reserved (i.e. especially polite) when using it.
[edit] Courtesy

Due to increased tourism and competition from both Mainland China and other places, courtesy in Hong Kong has increased dramatically. Now, when you approach a department or chain clothing stores, staff greet you when you enter the store and thank you when you leave the store, even if you haven't bought anything. Just a quick glance at a particular item will instantly provoke an employee to ask if you need assistance. Usually, they will stay at your side getting the right sizes, etc until you are ready to make the purchase. Most visitors will be impressed by this service.
[edit] Contact

Hong Kong has communications facilities as modern as any in the world.
[edit] Post

Postal services are efficient and of high quality. You will find post offices in major city areas and outside of opening hours, coin- and Octopus card-operated stamps vending machines. You can buy stamps (sets of ten stamps of $1.4, $2.4, $3) from many convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or Circle K (OK).
[edit] Internet Access

Cyber cafes are widespread in the city, but they are generally geared towards gamers. For simple Internet access, you may want to go to terminals in cafes like Pacific Coffee which can be used for free by customers. Free terminals can also be found in some public areas, such as shopping malls, departures hall in the airport, MTR Wanchai station and Central Station, and the public libraries. The central public library in Causeway Bay, opposite Victoria Park, has hundreds of free terminals and free broadband access if you bring a notebook PC.
[edit] Telephone

The prefix for international calls 001. Hong Kong's country-code is 852 (different from China and Macau). Local phone numbers (mobile and landlines) are typically 8 digits; no area codes are used. For the operator, dial 1000. For police, fire service or ambulance dial 999.

Mobile phone subscriber penetration is very high (115% in 2004). If you have a GSM handset (GSM 900, 1800) or WCDMA (UMTS) handset , purchase a prepaid SIM card to use in your phone. They can be bought for cash at most convenience stores. 2G (cheaper) and newer 3G cards are available, but both are relatively cheap. If your CDMA handset has a SIM slot, you can pick up the less popular CDMA SIM cards, note that the CDMA network coverage is not as great as that of GSM and WCDMA (UMTS). A card with value of around $50 should be sufficient unless you are making international calls. Most cards provide standard services such as SMS and voice mail. For the adventurous types, discounted prepaid SIM Cards can be purchased in Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po, and "Sin Daat" arcade in Mongkok (Argyle St - close to Lady street). Cheap GSM and 3G phones can be purchased here as well. Mobile phone numbers also have eight digits and begin with 6 or 9. Be aware that you pay to both make and receive calls and this includes the unfortunate situation of having to pay to listen to increasingly common spam (advertising) calls. Coverage is generally excellent and is available on almost all operators even when underground, including the whole MTR system, on board the trains and cross-harbor tunnels.

Payphones are available and $1 is for a local call for 5 minutes usually. If you don't have a mobile and need to make a short local call, most restaurants, supermarkets and shops will oblige if you ask nicely. Public payphones are becoming more and more difficult to find on streets nowadays, the take is to go into any MTR/train stations, they always have payphones there. The airport have a courtesy phone just before you step out of the glassed area after the customs - you cannot go back there once you left.
[edit] Get out

* Macau, the former Portuguese colony and present gambling haven is just an hour away by TurboJet ferry. Ticket prices start at $141 for the one-hour ride to Macau. The ferry building is near the Sheung Wan MTR station on Hong Kong Island. Less frequent ferries are also available from New World First Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.

* Zhuhai, across the border from Macau, is 70 minutes away by ferry.

* Shenzhen, mainland China boomtown just across the border can be reached by KCR East Rail in about 40 minutes. The train is convenient if you are keen on shopping as it terminates in the Lo Wu commercial center. Another alternative, especially if you are starting from the island is the ferry to Shekou which takes around 50 minutes and costs around $100.

* Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province can be reached by train within 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of train. If you are on a budget, many cross border buses are available throughout Hong Kong. The trip will take more than 3 hours, including going through customs at the border and changing buses. Here is a link where you can check bus schedule and fares. http://www.ctshk.com/english/bus/zhonglv.htm

[edit] Itineraries

* The Wikitravel itinerary A week near Hong Kong has suggestions for travel from Hong Kong to nearby destinations.

* Another itinerary Overland Kunming to Hong Kong covers one route to or from Hong Kong.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Hong Kong (historical), Hong Kong
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou (广州 Guǎngzhōu or just simply GZ) is the capital of Guangdong Province in Southern China and has a population of over 10 million (The official registered population is 7.3 million, with over 3 million unregistered residents). It is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau. In the era of tea clippers, Guangzhou was known in the West as "Canton". The food and the language of the area are still known as "Cantonese", and the airport code is CAN.

While Guangzhou is not usually high on the list of Asian tourist destinations, it is amazing how much the city actually has to offer.
Locals on the run outside the Grandview Plaza in Tianhe District. In the background is the 80-story CITIC Plaza.
Locals on the run outside the Grandview Plaza in Tianhe District. In the background is the 80-story CITIC Plaza.
Nightlife at Shangxiajiu in Liwan District.
Nightlife at Shangxiajiu in Liwan District.
[edit] Districts
Guangzhou Maps
Layout of Guangzhou
Layout of Guangzhou
Western central Guangzhou in detail (Liwan)
Western central Guangzhou in detail (Liwan)

Eastern central Guangzhou in detail (Yuexiu and Tianhe)
Eastern central Guangzhou in detail (Yuexiu and Tianhe)

The official list consists of the following 10 districts:

* Liwan (荔湾 Lìwān) - This is the old Guangzhou, and is combined with the old Fangcun (芳村 Fāngcūn) area in the southwest. Tourist highlights include the colonial Shamian Island, Xiguan Old Houses, and Shangxiajiu Shopping districts.
* Yuexiu (越秀 Yuèxiù) - This is the political and cultural center, including the old Dongshan (东山, Dōngshān) area. Highlights include Yuexiu Park, Beijing Lu Shopping District, and Huanghuagang Martyrs Memorial Park.
* Haizhu (海珠 Hǎizhū) - Located south of the Pearl River, the district is becoming more business focus, especially in the areas of Real Estate and trading. Locals refer to this part of Guangzhou as Henan, meaning south of the river. Highlights include the Canton Fair Pazhou Exhibition Center, Sun Yat-Sen University, and Pearl River Harbor Walk along the river.
* Tianhe (天河 Tiānhé) - This is the new city center. It is an area with many new developments, including skyscrapers like the Citic Plaza. Highlights include Dongzhan Square and many shopping centers.
* Baiyun (白云 Báiyún) - The district has a big rural touch, but is slowly taken over by new developments, including the new airport. Highlights include the Baiyun Mountain.
* Huangpu (黄埔 Huángpǔ) - Not well known for foreign tourists, the district is the secondary center of eastern part of the city. Highlights include the former Huangpu Military Academy.
* Panyu (番禺 Pānyú) - This is the new area focusing on technology and economic development. Highlights include the Lianhua Mountain, two wild animal theme parks and the new University City.
* Huadu (花都 Huādū) - This is a developing industrial area. Highlights include the Huadu Square.
* Nansha (南沙 Nánshā) - This is an industrial area at the southern tip of the city. It offers little to tourists.
* Luogang (萝岗 Luógǎng) - This is the designated center of the eastern part of the city, famous for its plum forest. It is not a popular tourist destination, but it has some historical sites.

In addition to the 10 districts, two nearby cities have been drafted into Guangzhou's jurisdiction:

* Zengcheng (增城 Zēngchéng) - This city is famous for its lychee fruit, which are picked in the months of June and July.
* Conghua (从化 Cónghuà) - This city is known for its hot springs and Tian (Heavenly) Lake Recreation area.

The main tourist areas and metropolitan areas are in the northern part of the city, including Liwan, Yuexiu and Tianhe. (see Maps)
[edit] Understand
Location of Guangzhou in China

At first sight, Guangzhou appears less a city that's developing than one that's about to explode. Every corner seems packed with high-rise buildings, overpasses, and people running a marathon. It can be overwhelming, and the initial instinct of many travelers is to get out as soon as possible. However, those that overcome this urge and stay longer will discover a gentler and more personable side to the city.

As a major entry point for overseas culture for many centuries, foreigners are not the anomaly here that they are in other Chinese cities. Consequently, travelers are afforded more personal space and freedom. In addition, tucked away in the back streets, the old Guangzhou of traditional neighborhoods still moves at an age-old pace, with families and friends often sitting outdoors enjoying tea and banter.

Guangzhou also boasts the largest urban park in China, an island of refurbished colonial buildings and some world class galleries and exhibition spaces. In addition, possibly due to the distance from the country's political centers, the citizens of Guangzhou have developed a laid-back and play-hard approach to life.

Today, Guangzhou is recognized as one of China's most prosperous, liberal, and cosmopolitan cities. However, despite being an international trading hub, there is a lack of English signs, and outside the business districts and tourist spots, very few locals converse well in English.
[edit] History

Formerly known as Canton in the West, the city of Guangzhou has a history dating back around 2,500 years.

Although the actual origins of the city are lost in the mists of time, the most popular legend tells of five celestial beings riding into the area that is now Guangzhou on five rams and carrying sheaves of rice. The celestials bestowed blessings on the land and offered the sheaves to the people of the city as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. After the celestials left, the rams turned into stone, and Guangzhou quickly developed into an affluent and influential city. Due to this legend, Guangzhou has gained several popular nicknames: Yangcheng (City of Rams), Suicheng (Sheaves of Rice City) and Wuyangcheng (City of Five Rams). In addition, due to the abundance of flowers along the city's main thoroughfares, Guangzhou is often referred to as Huacheng (City of Flowers).

According to historical records, the city was built in 214BC and was known as Panyu (番禺). The name Guangzhou actually referred to the prefecture in which Panyu was located. However, as the city grew, the name Guangzhou was adopted for the city itself.

As a major sea port, Guangzhou's history is full of color. In 786 the city was sacked by the Persians, while in 1711 the British East India Company established a trading post there. In 1842 the Treaty of Nanjing was signed, which designated the city as one of the five ports that allowed business transactions with foreign nations.

Guangzhou was also part of the so called "Maritime Silk Road" that linked southern China with India, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. As a result of the links with the Middle East, a mosque was established in the city in 627, and a small Muslim community continues to this day. Furthermore, because the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism was born in Guangzhou, taught the famous Platform Sutra there, and established a monastery to the north of the city, Guangzhou has maintained a strong connection with this school of Buddhism.
[edit] When to visit

Climate wise, the best time to visit Guangzhou is in October and November. Alternatively, April and May are also good months. Guangzhou has a sub-tropical climate with humidity levels at their highest in the summer, so unless you enjoy Turkish steam baths, this is a season to avoid! Typhoon season is from June to September. Please note that the Canton Fairs take place annually in October and April, so finding accommodation at these times can be difficult (See the warning section under Sleep).
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

The New Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (广州白云国际机场, IATA: CAN, ICAO: ZGGG, [1]) is a major hub in Southern China, second only to Hong Kong. The airport is the base of China Southern Airlines [2] and has not only an extensive range of domestic flights, but some international connections, including Air France to Paris, China Southern / Delta to Los Angeles, Thai Airways to Bangkok, Singapore Airlines to Singapore and Finnair to Helsinki. Other direct international destinations include Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Frankfurt and Osaka.

The airport is 28 km north from downtown Guangzhou, and should not be confused with the former Baiyun Airport which was closed in 2004. A metro line to the airport is under construction but won't be ready until around 2009. In the meantime, taxi is the fastest option. See the airport fare table [3] for approximate fare cost. A taxi ride to downtown should cost no more than ¥120, inclusive of a ¥15 toll fee. As of the end of 2005, there is a ¥1 fuel surcharge that is not shown on the fare meter.

Alternatively, 9 Airport Express bus lines are available to take you to major destinations in Guangzhou. Line 1 (¥16) departs every 15 minutes from 7 AM until the last flight and takes 45 minutes to reach the train station and Central Hotel. The ticket prices range from ¥10 to ¥36. Lines 1 to 6 are traveling within the metropolitan area, while lines 7-9 go to outer districts. There are also direct Airport Express buses to some cities in the vicinity, including Zhuhai (¥90). Routes to Dongguan and Zhongshan will be in operation soon.

Do not accept solicitations for rides to the city. Those are illegally operated and use unmarked vehicles. They may cost more than taxis since many travelers do not know the cost of airport transportations.
[edit] By train
Guangzhou-Kowloon (Hong Kong) through train timetable Train no. Hung Hom
(departure) GZ East
T824* 07:30 09:27
T826 08:25 10:15
T828* 09:25 11:22
T812* 11:00 12:57
T802 12:15 14:06
T814* 13:25 15:20
T362* 14:20 16:18
T816* 15:26 17:24
T818* 16:38 18:35
T804 17:15 19:06
T820 18:06 19:48
T822* 19:15 21:12
Valid from 11 Mar to 17 Apr 2007

  • denotes a stop-over in Dongguan (Changping)

  • Trains cover the 182 kilometers from Hong Kong in one and a half hours or less. Guangzhou-Kowloon Through Train from Hong Kong (Hung Hom station) to Guangzhou East station is operated by KCR [4].

    A project is underway to link the entire Pearl River Delta area with high speed (200+ km/hr) train network. The Zhuhai-Guangzhou section is due to open in 2008, and the journey will take just 56 minutes. Shenzhen and other major cities will be connected at a later date.

    A new express line connecting Guangzhou with Lhasa, Tibet is now open. The 4,980 km journey will take 58 hours. (¥869 and up)

    Bear in mind there are two major train stations in Guangzhou. The Guangzhou East Station (火车东站) services routes to Hong Kong, and other popular tourist destinations. The Guangzhou Station (广州火车站) is one of the biggest in the country and services routes that go all the way to Harbin. Countless travelers have gone to the wrong station and missed their scheduled trips. So be sure to know which train station to go to, which is specified on the tickets. Metro line 1 ends at Guangzhou East Station, and line 2 has a stop at the main station.
    [edit] By bus

    Coach services are available to bring passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to several locations in Guangzhou. Among the destinations are recognizable landmarks like Jinan University (暨南大学) on Huang Pu Da Dao (黄埔大道), Garden Hotel (花园酒店) and China Hotel (中国大酒店) (see hotel section). The trip takes about 3+ hours and costs 250 HKD. There are also cross border bus terminals throughout Hong Kong. One of the Stations is at Austin Road and Canton Road near Kowloon Park. A one way ticket costs about 100 HKD.

    Domestically, it is possible to hop on a bus from any corner of Guangdong province and get to Guangzhou. There are also many options from nearby provinces like Guangxi, Hubei and Fujian. The main stations are the Provincial Station (省汽车站), Tianhe Dasha Station (天河大厦站), Liuhua Station (流花站) and Yuexiu Nan Station (越秀南站).
    [edit] By boat

    There is a frequent ferry and hovercraft service from Hong Kong, Macau, and Haikou (Hainan Island) at the Zhoutouzui Ferry Pier (洲头咀码头). There are boats from other mainland cities, such as Xiamen, Shanghai, and Qingdao at the Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头). New Nansha Pier (新南沙客运港) is now open with 6 lines daily traveling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The trip takes 75 minutes (¥116-230). However, Nansha is very far from the city center, although there is a bus route available from White Swan Hotel, running three times a day.
    [edit] Get around
    Yang Cheng Tong card
    Yang Cheng Tong card

    Guangzhou has a fairly efficient and rapidly expanding public transportation system.

    If you intend to stay in Guangzhou for an extensive period of time, it is highly advisable to purchase a multi-purpose Yang Cheng Tong (羊城通) stored value card, similar to the Octopus Card in Hong Kong. It can be used not only for public transportation (bus, subway, parking meters and some taxis), but also for public phones and designated shops, places of interests and certain vending machines. The card includes a ¥30 refundable deposit. While you can purchase the cards in many places, returning your card at the end of the trip is a hassle, since service locations are limited. The best place to do so is at the service center at the metro Gong Yuan Qian station. It may be worth it to simply keep it as a souvenir.
    [edit] By subway
    Guangzhou Metro
    Guangzhou Metro

    Guangzhou's metro system opened in 1999. The network covers much of the city center and is growing rapidly outward. The fare ranges from ¥2 to ¥12. Most of the signs and announcements are also in English. Tickets are bought from vending machines in the stations. Bills or coins from ¥1 - ¥20 are accepted at ticket vending machines. You can change smaller bills at the customer service counter. The ticket is a small plastic token, which you use at the gate entering the platform, and at the exit. Multi-Pass and Yang-Cheng-Tong are also accepted and can be purchased at the customer service counter.[5]
    [edit] By bus

    There is also a comprehensive public bus service that covers Guangzhou from end to end. By far, it is the cheapest way to move around. Bus fares are ¥1 for the older buses and ¥2 for the air-conditioned ones, although the older buses are slowly being retired.

    There are also 3 tourist bus lines, passing through many scenic spots in the city.
    [edit] By taxi

    This is the most popular way for foreigners to get around, and it is very affordable. The starting charge is ¥7 for the first 2.3 kilometers, or about 1.4 miles. After that is ¥2.6 for each kilometer. The cost may be slightly different, depending on the taxi operators. ¥1 fuel surcharge is now added. Although widely publicized, many of them actually do not accept Yang Cheng Tong as payment. The taxi hot line is 96900. This comes in handy when you forget your valuables in a taxi. Save your receipt because it contains the taxi's identification number.

    Tip: Business names and addresses on this guide are also in Chinese. Print them out and show them to the taxi drivers. Most drivers do not speak English; many not even Cantonese.
    [edit] By car

    While driving in Guangzhou is an option, drivers unfamiliar with the driving conditions in China's large and densely populated cities should be aware that the experience can be a extremely daunting and even potentially dangerous.

    Car rental companies in Guangzhou:

    * Avis 9 Huali Lu + 86 20 3758-5080
    * Hertz 89 Linhe Xi Lu + 86 20 8755-1608

    See also Driving in China.
    [edit] By motorcycle

    Although a convenient way to navigate the city's back alleys and lanes, motorcycles are totally banned from the downtown area of city, and riding a motorcycle into these prohibited areas can lead to fines and possible confiscation of the bike.

    In addition to the downtown motorcycle ban, electric bicycles are banned from the city road. [6]
    [edit] Talk

    The primary language of Guangzhou is Cantonese, although standard Mandarin, or Putonghua, is fast becoming the lingua franca due to the large influx of migrants. English is not common, but is still better understood here than other Chinese cities, especially in restaurants and bars. Be sure to check out the Cantonese phrasebook and Chinese phrasebook.
    [edit] See
    [edit] Landmarks
    Sun Yat Sen Memorial
    Sun Yat Sen Memorial
    Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, on Shamian Island
    Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, on Shamian Island

    * Guangxiao Temple (光孝寺 guāng-xiào-sì) 109 Guangxiao Lu (光孝路). As the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui Neng, trained at this temple in the 7th Century, it is a popular pilgrimage site for Zen Buddhists. The temple has been destroyed several times by fire, and the current buildings date only from the mid 19th century. (Admission ¥4) [Metro 1 Xi Men Kou - Exit C]
    * Liurong Temple (六榕寺 liù-róng-sì) 87 Liurong Lu (六榕路). The Temple of Six Banyan Trees, which includes the 17 story, eight-sided Hua Ta, or Flowering Pagoda, is one of the most popular attractions in Guangzhou. The temple dates back to the 6th century, while the pagoda predates it by about 300 years. (Admission ¥5; Flower Pagoda: ¥10) [Metro 1 Gong Yuan Qian - Exit I]
    * The buildings and streets of the former British and French concession on Shamian Island (沙面岛) have been beautifully renovated, creating an oasis of tranquility in an otherwise bustling and hectic metropolis. One of the old structures is Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, located at 14 Shamian Street. Attractions on the island are all free. As an island, Shamian is not particularly spectacular, but what makes it special that for several hundred years this tiny spit of land was the only place in all of China that Europeans could establish settlements. The architecture reflects that era, and it has a very unique atmosphere. [Metro 1 Huang Sha - Exit D]
    * Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (中山纪念堂 zhōng-shān-jì-niàn-táng), located on Dongfeng Zhong Lu, is dedicated to the founder of the Republic of China and local hero Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. It was constructed in 1931 and built on the original site of Sun Yat-sen's presidential office on Yuexiu Hill. (8AM-6PM; Admission ¥5 to the park; ¥20 to go inside the hall) [Metro 2 Ji Nian Tang - Exit C]
    * Chen Clan Temple (陈家祠 chén-jiā-cí) [7] Zhongshan 7 Lu (中山七路) This is a very well preserved architecture from the 19th century. It used to belong to a wealthy family by the name of Chen and now houses many articles including ivory sculptures and artistic statues. (Admission ¥10) [Metro 1 Chen Jia Ci - Exit D]
    * Shishi Sacred Heart Catholic Church (石室圣心大教堂 shí-shì-shèng-xīn-jiào-táng) 56 Yide Lu (一德路旧部前). It is one of the oldest church structures in the city, and the largest of its kind of Southern China. It is currently in use for worship. Visiting hours are limited to Sunday morning only from 7AM-10AM. (Admission: Free) [Metro 2 Hai Zhu Guang Chang]
    * Huangpu Military Academy (黄埔军校旧址 huáng-pǔ-jūn-xiào-jiù-zhǐ) is located on Changzhou Island. It was founded in 1924 by Sun Yat-sen, along with the Chinese Communist Party at the time. Many famous Chinese war heroes were trained here. (Admission ¥15)
    * Wu Xian Guan Temple (五仙观 wǔ-xiān-guān) Weifu Xi Lu (惠福西路). (Admission ¥5) [Metro 1 Xi Men Kou Exit C]
    * Huaisheng Mosque (怀圣寺 huái-shèng-sì) 56 Guangta Lu (光塔路) It is one of the oldest Muslim mosques in China, built in 627. The mosque is not open to the public, but you can take a peek outside. [Metro 1 Xi Men Kou Exit C]
    * Sanyuan Temple (三元宫 sān-yuán-gōng) Yingyuan Lu. This is the largest and oldest Taoist temple in the city. [Metro 2 Ji Nian Tang - Exit C]
    * Xiguan Residence (西关大屋 xī-guān-dà-wū) See the traditional Cantonese architectures from ancient Guangzhou, used to be occupied by the upper class. [Metro 1, Chang Shou Lu]
    * Hualin Temple (华林寺 huá-lín-sì) [Tour Bus No. 2; Metro 1, Chang Shou Lu]

    [edit] Museums and galleries

    * Guangzhou City Art Museum (广州美术馆 guǎng-zhōu-měi-shù-guǎn), located near the Zhehai Building in Yuexiu Park, this impressive gallery has more than 10,000 pieces of art work, including calligraphy, traditional Chinese paintings, sculptures and Tibetan Buddhist art (Thangka). [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan]
    * Guangdong Museum of Art (广东美术馆 guǎng-dōng-měi-shù-guǎn), 8 Yanyu Lu, Er-sha Island [8]. 9AM-5PM, Tu-Su. The museum is located on Er-Sha Island focusing on contemporary Chinese art, with particular emphasis on Guangdong artists. (Admission ¥15; under 18: free with paying parents) [Tour Bus No.2]
    * Nanyue Royal Tomb Museum (南越王墓 nán-yuè-wáng-mù), 867 Jiefang Bei Lu (解放北路867号) - across from Yuexiu Park. This is a tomb of a king of ancient South China. (9AM-5:30PM; ¥12, 20 8666 0885) [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan]
    * Guangzhou Sculpture Park (广州雕塑公园 guǎng-zhōu-diāo-sù-gōng-yuán), Tongxin Lu at the foot of Baiyun Mountain. [Tour Bus No. 1, 3]
    * President Sun Yat-Sen Museum (孙中山大元帅府纪念馆) [9] 18 Dongsha Jie, Fangzhi Lu (纺织路东沙街18号). +86 20 3428-1366. (Admission ¥6; 9am-5pm; closed Monday)
    * Guangzhou Uprising Museum (广州起义旧址纪念馆) 200 Qiyi Lu (起义路200号). The Museum is at the site of the first Communist government building. (9am—12pm; 1:30pm-4:30pm; closed Monday). [Metro 1, 2 Gong Yuan Qian Exit J]
    * Guangdong Revolutions History Museum (广东革命历史博物馆) 2 Lingyuan Xi Lu [b8907[p (陵园西路2号大院之2) in the martyrs memorial park. Sun Yat-Sen was sworn in here in 1921 as the president of Republic of China. The museum tells stories from the Opium War to the founding of the new China. [Metro 1 Lie Shi Ling Yuan Exit D]
    * Peasant Movement Institute (农民运动讲习所 nóng-jiǎng-suǒ) 42 Zhongshan 4 Lu (中山四路42号). This is the original site of Communist training center founded by Mao Tse-tong in the 1920s. Now it is a museum covering the recent China revolutionary history. (9am-4:30pm; closed Monday) [Metro 1, Nong Jiang Suo Exit C]

    [edit] Parks
    Yuntai Garden
    Yuntai Garden
    Communist monument in Martyrs' Memorial Garden
    Communist monument in Martyrs' Memorial Garden

    * Huanghua Gang Commemoration Park (黄花岗公园 huáng-huā-gǎng-gōng-yuán) [10] 79 Xianlie Zhonglu. This is a park set in a poignant mood. The main attraction is the monument built to commemorate the 72 martyrs who died during the 1911 uprising. (6:00AM-8:30PM; Phone: +86 20 3758-8321; Admission ¥8) [Tour Bus No. 1]
    * Yuexiu Park (越秀公园 yuè-xiù-gōng-yuán) [11] the largest urban park in China, is a lush green area that flows over acres of hills and includes several lakes, the Ming Dynasty Zhenhai Tower (镇海楼 zhèn-hǎi-lóu), now home to the City Museum with relics dating back to the 15th century, and an up-to-date miniature of Guangzhou. Also here in this park is the Stone Statue of the Five Rams (五羊石像), the symbol of Guangzhou (For more details, see 'History' section of Understand).(6AM-9PM; Admission: ¥5; Zhenhai Tower: ¥10) [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan Exit B1]
    * Yuntai Garden (云台花园 yún-tái-huā-yuán) is situated at the foot of Baiyun (White Cloud) Mountain, famous for its wide variety of rare flowers and trees. From now to January 8, 2007, there is a beautiful 3-D flower exhibit. During this period, admission is ¥20, but it is well worth it. (Admission ¥10) [Tour Bus No. 1, 3]
    * Huadu Square (花都广场 huā-dū-guǎng-chǎng) is a park-cum-recreation square located in the north part the city and near the government office buildings of Huadu District (花都区). The square incorporates, among other attractions, an outdoor theater, large fountain, outdoor dance area and statues. There is a large grass area that is similar to a Western style meadow, and also an area of subtropical forest and ornamental flower beds.
    * Xiangjiang Wild Animal Safari Park (香江野生动物世界 xiāng-jiāng-yě-shēng-dòng-wù-shì-jiè) is in Panyu district.
    * Guangzhou Martyrs' Memorial Garden (广州起义烈士陵园 guǎng-zhōu-qǐ-yì-liè-shì-líng-yuán) Zhongshan 2 Lu (中山二路). The park was dedicated to those who fought and died in the Communist Uprising in 1927. [Metro 1 Lie Shi Ling Yuan Exit D]
    * Grand World Scenic Park (广州世界大观 guǎng-zhōu-shì-jiè-dà-guān) [12] 888 Daguanyuan Nan Lu (天河东圃大观园南路888号). 8:30AM-5:30PM. [Bus 548, 224, 245]

    [edit] Mountains

    * The Baiyun Shan (White Cloud Mountain) (白云山 bái-yún-shān) [13] is a great place to relax and enjoy a day among lush, rolling hills. It also offers great views over the city. The road to the top is restricted to park trams and pedestrians. To get to the top lookout point, you can use the main roads or trails. There are many places to rest and refreshments are available along the way. It is a great place to see people enjoying nature and playing games, such as badminton, football (soccer) and even bungie jump. There are many bus routes to and from different parts of the city, as well as taxis usually available near the park gate. (6AM-7PM; Park entrance ¥5; Cable Car: ¥40 round trip; tram: from ¥20; other attractions ¥5-¥10) [Tour Bus No. 1, 3]
    * Lianhua Shan (Lotus Mountain) (莲花山 lián-huā-shān) features an impressive quarry from which red sand stones were mined about 2,000 years ago, a pagoda from 1612, and a barrack from 1664. The obligatory statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of compassion, at the side of the Buddhist temple is also not to be missed. From Guangzhou, take bus 308 or 302 and exchange bus at Panyu (番禺). The bus takes about 2 hours and costs ¥14. There is a ferry service from Guangzhou at Tianzi Pier (天字码头) at Beijing Lu Nan (北京路南) for ¥25. The boat leaves at 8:15AM and returns at 3:15PM (Admission ¥30).

    [edit] Learn

    * Sun Yat-Sen University [14] (中山大学 zhōng-shān-dà-xué) This is the most famous university in Guangzhou and Southern China, founded by Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China. The school now has 3 campuses. The old campus is green and beautiful, and has many historical sites. The north gate has a great river view. [Metro 2 Zhong Da - Exit A]
    * Chinese medicine and acupuncture (中医和针灸) is taught at Guangzhou University of Traditional Medicine (广州中医药大学 guǎng-zhōu-zhōng-yī-dà-xué) [15]. This is one of the main universities for traditional medicine in China and attracts many overseas students. [Metro 2 San Yuan Li - Exit B]

    [edit] Buy
    [edit] Street markets

    If time and weather permits, walking is perhaps the best way to see the city as the back alleys are littered with antiquities that are not accessible by motorized vehicles. Most trades and goods categories are concentrated in a specific area or along one main street.

    * Xiguan Antique Street (西关古玩城) near Liwan Park (荔湾湖公园).
    * Flower Street (花卉水族街) Baohua Lu (宝华路).
    * Jade Street (玉器工艺街/玉器街) Changshou Lu (长寿路) and Wenchang Lu (文昌路), near Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu]
    * Ivory and Sea products (象牙雕刻海味街) Daxin Lu (大新路).
    * Toy Street (玩具街) and Dried goods and snacks Street (干果海味食品专业街) Yide Lu (一德路). [Metro 2 Hai Zhu Guang Chang]
    * Bridal Street (婚纱专卖街) Jiangnan Bei Lu (江南大道北).
    * Flowers, Aquatic and Lightings Street Danan Lu (大南街) near Beijing Lu (北京路). [Metro 1, 2 Gong Yuan Qian]
    * Household Merchandise Street (日用百货街) Gaodi Jie (高第街). The street has become a shopping center selling everyday goods.
    * Cultural Street (古玩字画街 / 文化商业街) Wende Lu (文德路). This is a good place to look for antiques and traditional Chinese artistic goods. [Metro 1 Long Jiang Suo]
    * Qingping Market (清平市场) Qingping Lu (清平路). It is located North from Shamian Island. Cantonese are known to eat just about any animal, and the market is world famous for its wild animal trades, although it has been tamer since the SARS outbreak. It is still a great place to go for exotic goods. [Metro 1 Huang Sha]
    * Haiyin Shopping District (海印专业购物区) is located at the northwest side of the Haiyin Bridge (海印大桥), selling appliances, sporting goods, cloth, fabrics, camera accessories, and eletronics.

    [edit] Malls and shopping centers
    Shangxiajiu pedestrian street
    Shangxiajiu pedestrian street

    * Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street (北京路步行街 běi-jīng-lù). This is the main shopping thoroughfare, a pedestrian street where most stores are open from 9am to 10pm. Avoid touts who solicit pirated DVDs and imitation goods, and whomever you have to follow into the small dark alleys in between buildings to see the goods. Remember to visit Mayflower Plaza (五月花广场 wǔ-yuè-huā-guǎng-chǎng) at 68 Zhongshan 5 Lu (中山五路68号), at the northern end of the Pedestrian Street. This is a place where young people hang out and shop. [Metro 1, 2 Gong Yuan Qian - Exits C, D]
    * Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (上下九商业步行街 shàng-xià-jiǔ) This shopping area is also a showcase of traditional Cantonese architecture, especially pretty at night when it's lit up. Prices here are generally lower than Beijing Lu's, but prepare to bargain a fair bit. Remember to visit Liwan Plaza (荔湾广场 lì-wān-guǎng-chǎng), located at 9 Dexing Lu (德星路9号), the east end of the street. You will find a good selection of crystal here. [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu - Exits D1, D2]
    * Grandview Plaza / Zhengjia Plaza (广百正佳广场 zhèng-jiā-guǎng-chǎng) [16] 228 Tianhe Lu (天河路228号). +86 020 3833-0098. This is the largest Western-style shopping mall in China. [Metro 1, 3 Ti Yu Zhong Xin]
    * China Plaza (中华广场 zhōng-huá-guǎng-chǎng). 33 Zhongshan 3 Lu (中山三路33号). Located on top of a metro station, this is another large shopping mall with brand name department stores, clothing and electronics stores, restaurants, etc. [Metro 1 Lie Shi Ling Yuan]
    * Tee Mall (天河城 tiān-hé-chéng) [17] (Chinese) 208 Tianhe Lu (天河路208号). This is probably the busiest and most popular shopping mall in the heart of the city. It is located right above the metro station. [Metro 1 Ti Yu Xi Lu]
    * Zhong Tian Shopping Plaza (中天购物城 zhōng-tiān-gòu-wù-chéng) Located at Zhongxin Square near the East Train Station (天河北路 233号中信广场), it's more than a place to shop and eat. The plaza has great one-stop services to meet your banking, dry cleaning, grooming and transportation ticket needs. [Metro 1 Guangzhou Dong Zhan]
    * Friendship Store (广州友谊商店 yǒu-yí-shāng-diàn) 369 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路369号). 9:45AM-9:45PM. It is one of the oldest department stores targeting foreigners in Guangzhou. You will also find its branches in Zhengjia Plaza and Times Square on 28 Tianhe Beilu (天河北路28号).
    * Zi You Ying Outdoor Travel Goods (自由营户外旅游用品店) 229 Jiangnan Dadao Zhong, Xin An Plaza Suite 180 (江南大道中229号新安大厦180号地铺) This is a great place to replenish your travel supplies.
    * Wang Fu Jing (王府井百货 wáng-fǔ-jǐng) 40 Long Lin Xia Lu (农林下路40号). The famous department store in Beijing opened a branch in Guangzhou with the same name, featuring mid to high-end products.

    [edit] Do
    Pearl River Dinner Cruise
    Pearl River Dinner Cruise

    * Pearl River dinner cruise (珠江夜游) Dashatou Pier (大沙头码头), Tianzi Pier (天字码头), and Xiti Pier (西堤码头). A one to two hour cruise in the evening and a great way to see the Guangzhou skyline along the Pearl River, including a light show at Bai-E-Tan. Tickets for the deluxe dinner cruise can be bought from most high-end hotels, such as the White Swan on Shamian Island. (From ¥50)

    [edit] Festivals

    * Chinese New Year/Spring Festival (春节 chūn-jié) on 1st day of 1st lunar month, usually in January or February. This is a 15 day celebration, and some districts can be quite deserted as many migrant workers return to their home provinces. The flower fair is popular during the days before New Year.
    * Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duān-wǔ-jié) on 5th day of 5th lunar month, usually in May or June. This festival commemorates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan (屈原), a famous poet who drowned himself in the river by way of making a statement against government corruption during the Warring States Period. The highlights are dragon boat racing along the Pearl River, and eating rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (粽子).
    * Mid-autumn Festival (中秋节 zhōng-qiū-jié) on 15th day of 8th lunar month, usually in September or October. Cantonese moon cakes are enjoyed during this holiday. Lian Xiang Lou and Tao Tao Ju's moon cakes are especially famous (see "Eat" section). Kids' favorites are paper lanterns. Many locals also enjoy riding ferries and watching the full moon on the Pearl River.
    * Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节 qīng-míng-jié) around the spring equinox, usually on April 5th. Involves visits to the family tombs for cleaning and making offerings.
    * Chinese Valentines Day (七夕 qī-xī) on 7th day of 7th lunar month, usually in August or September. According to legend, a heavenly fairy Zhi Nu (织女) fell in love with a mortal farm boy Niu Lang (牛郎). It's forbidden of course, so as punishment, they are only allowed to meet once a year on this day. This is the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, but it is steadily losing its appeal among the locals, especially to the young.
    * Winter Solstice (冬至 dōng-zhì - literally, the Coming of Winter) on December 22nd. Traditionally, Cantonese people observe the day with a family feast, which often includes preserved duck and sausages. However, the highlight of the day's festive dishes is hot soup served with flour dumplings (汤圆).

    [edit] The Canton Fair

    Twice a year, in Spring and Fall, Guangzhou hosts the China Export Commodities Fair (中国出口商品交易会)[18], also known as the Canton Fair. It has been running since 1957 and for many years was almost the only way foreign businesses could make contacts in China. It is still very important. Anyone who is doing or wants to do business with China should consider visiting.

    If you are going to the fair, book a hotel well in advance. Hotels tend to be full and expensive during the Fair. China Hotel and Dongfang Hotel are probably the best places to stay if you can afford it. It is right across the street from one of the main exhibit halls. Many good hotels provide shuttle services to the main exhibit centers during the fair. Taxis may not be your best option since there are traffic controls in the exhibit areas.

    The two main exhibit halls are the Pazhou Complex at 380 Yuejiang Zhong Lu (阅江中路380号) [Metro 2 Pa Zhou], and the old Liuhua Complex at 117 Liuhua Lu (流花路117号) [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan].
    [edit] Eat

    Cantonese cuisine is well-known for its blend of color, fragrance, taste and presentation. In particular, dim sum the delicate Cantonese pastry is famous for being simple yet delicious. Cantonese cuisine is among the top four in the country. This said, there are a couple of points worth remembering. The sanitary standards, except in better restaurants, are generally low. Don't be fooled by all the rave about the cuisine, be careful about where you eat and what you order. A lot of restaurants have menus with pictures, which is essential if you don't speak the language.
    [edit] Traditional

    * Liuhua Congee House (流花粥城), Renmin Bei Lu (人民北路903号流花湖公园) (In Liuhua Park), ☎ +86 20 8668-0108. Excellent dim sum and beatiful surroundings. [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan]

    * Panxi Restaurant (泮溪酒家), 151 Longjin Xi Lu (龙津西路151号), ☎ +86 20 8181-5718. Traditional Chinese restaurant famous for their dim sum. Menu in English is available, but the restaurant accepts only local credit cards.

    * Lian Xiang Lou (莲香楼), 67 Dishipu Lu (第十甫路67号), ☎ +86 20 8181-1638. Founded in 1889, Lian Xiang Lou is known for it's tasty dim sum. [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu]

    * Tao Tao Ju (陶陶居), 20 Dishipu Lu (第十甫路20号), ☎ +86 20 8138-9632. Tao Tao's speciality is the Cantonese moon cakes [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu]

    * Guangzhou Restaurant (广州酒家), 2 Wenchang Nan Lu (文昌南路2号), ☎ +86 20 8138-0388. This Cantonese family-restaurant has several branches all over the city. Other convenient locations include 20 Binjiang Xi Lu (滨江西路20号) and 112 Ti Yu Dong Lu(体育东路112号). [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu]

    * Datong Restaurant (大同酒家), 63 Yanjiang Lu (沿江路63号), ☎ +86 20 8188-8988. This huge restaurant spans all the 8 eight floors of the old building. The place has been around for a long time and is a favourite among locals.

    * Wenji Restaurant (文记壹心鸡), 10 Xuanyuan Qiao (荔湾区宝华路旋源桥10号), ☎ +86 20 8172-8887. As the place was established by the former chefs from Qingping restaurant, they have the original Qingping chicken on the menu. [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu]

    * Baifu Restaurant (百福酒家), 112 Tiyu Dong Lu (体育东路112号百福广场三楼) (3/F, Baifu Plaza), ☎ +86 20 3880-8268. [Metro 1 Ti Yu Zhong Xin]

    [edit] Vegetarian

    * Shui Yun Tian (水云天), 38-42 Jinghui Lu (净慧路38-42号首层) (next to the Guangxiao Temple), ☎ +86 20 8107-2463. 6:30AM-2:30PM, 4:30PM-9:30PM. Great buffet around noon. [Metro 1 Xi Men Kou]

    * Cai Gen Xiang (菜根香), 167 Zhongshan 6 Lu (中山六路167号), ☎ +86 20 8334-4363. 6:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9PM. [Metro 1 Xi Men Kou]

    * Fo Shi Jie (佛世界素食馆), Niu Nai Chang Jie (同福中路牛奶厂街二圣宫前2-8号) (by Tongfu Zhong Lu), ☎ +86 20 8424-3590. 7AM-9PM. A part of the profit from this humble Buddhist vegetarian restaurant is given to charity.

    * Fo You Yuan (佛有缘素食馆), 12 Shi Lu Ji Zhongshan 8 Lu; 712 Shangjiu Lu (上九路712号), ☎ +86 20 8181-9188. 6:30AM-3PM, 5PM-10PM. [Metro 1 Chang Shou Lu] Interesting and new vegetarian dishes.

    [edit] Southeast Asian

    * Cow and Bridge Thai Restaurant (牛桥泰菜), 2/F, Xiang Long Garden, 181 Tianhe Bei Lu (天河北路181号祥龙花园二楼), ☎ +86 20 8525-0821. This famous Thai restaurant offers many varities of Thai dishes. Ask for the more fiery version of your meal, if you're used to Thai cuisine, as the dishes are somewhat localized. [Metro 3 Lin He Xi]

    * Lan Kwai Fong (兰桂坊), 5 Shamian Nan Jie (沙面南街5号), ☎ +86 20 8121-6523. good curries and polite service in this Shamian Island favorite. It is tourist friendly and menus are available in English. [Metro 1 Huang Sha]

    * Banana Leaf (蕉叶西餐厅), 28 Tianhe Bei Lu (天河北路28号时代广场2楼) (2/F, Times Square), ☎ +86 20 3891-0728, [19]. Traditional and established Thai restaurant chain in Guangzhou. They have also restaurants at GZTV Hotel (G/F, 8 Luhu Lu, +86 20 8359-7499) and World Trade Center (5/F, 371-375 Huanshi Dong Lu). [Metro 3 Lin He Xi]

    [edit] Western

    * The Italian Restaurant (小街风情意大利餐厅), 360 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路360号珠江大厦东座3楼) (3/F, East Tower, Zhujiang Building), ☎ +86 20 8386-3840. 10:30AM-2AM. Despite the unimaginative name, this is the place to come, if you're craving for Italian in Guangzhou. The pizzas are somewhat localized.

    * The Mexican Restaurant. Just above the Italian Restaurant. OK but not great, fairly expensive.

    * La Seine (塞纳河法国餐厅), 33 Qingbo Lu (G/F, Zinghai Concert Hall), ☎ +86 20 8735-2222. The best French restaurant in the city. Also, one of the most expensive restaurants.

    [edit] Foreign Chains

    Foreign fast food, ice cream and coffee chains are well established in Guangzhou. These include KFC (肯德基), Pizza Hut (必胜客), McDonald's (麦当劳), Starbucks (星巴克) and Häagen-Dazs (哈根达斯). All of these can be found in the Zhengjia Plaza (See "Shop").
    [edit] Drink
    [edit] Bars & Pub

    When it comes to drinks, Guangzhou is one of the best cities in China to knock back a few. With a relatively large population of foreigners here, the city offers a wide variety of nightspots to cater to all tastes.

    Tsing Tao and Zhu Jiang are the two major Chinese beer brands that are sold almost everywhere. Both are fairly standard light lagers. Carlsberg is also brewed in Guangzhou, which explains the reasonably huge amount of Carlsberg taps in the bars.

    For latest reviews of restaurants, bars and night clubs pick up a free copy of That's PRD [20], a monthly English publication. It is available at several hotels and lounges.

    * Overseas Chinese Village, next to Holiday Inn Guangzhou. This is a sort of bar street consisting of six or seven bars side by side, all two-storey buildings with a different theme on each floor. Prices are on the high side, costing about ¥40 for a small bottle of beer.
    * Hill Bar, outside Baiyun Hotel and opposite Garden Hotel. Reasonable price for drinks (¥30 for a pint of beer, less at happy hour) Live band performance every evening.

    Gipsy King Bar
    Gipsy King Bar

    * Tang Club, 1 Jianshe 6 Malu (建设六马路1号). This is one of the most expensive places to hang out in Guangzhou, featuring a live band that plays good old rock-and-roll as well as contemporary rock. This is the place to be seen. The crowd is a mixture of expats and local wannabes. A small bottle of beer costs ¥50.
    * Strange Brew, 200m from the Ramada Hotel, 103 Ming Yue Xie. Three Canadians own this bar and burger joint. It is simply the best place in Guangzhou to get a great burger and put back some cheap draught beer. They are the only bar in Guangzhou serving German and Belgian draught beer and they host regular parties that rock out. This is a meeting place for Expats and Chinese and a good place to start your night. Directions/information: 13450227140
    * The Cave (墨西哥餐厅酒吧) 360 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路360号珠江大厦东侧) +86 020 8386-3660. Located at the basement on the end of the Zhu Jiang Building (珠江大厦) nearer to the Garden Hotel, this is a favourite expat hangout. The resident DJ spins a wide range of music, from pop to disco to trance. Erotic dance performances, i.e. live-python dance, start late on the dance floor. ¥30 for a standard drink.
    * Gipsy King Bar (大篷车酒吧) 360 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路360号珠江大厦西地下). +86 020 8387-5177. Located on the opposite end of the Zhu Jiang Building from The Cave, this is an underground bar on a similar theme. Many local "working" girls sashay around, looking for a good time. There are individual dance performances at one corner of the bar, while group performances start on the main dance floor from 10PM. ¥30 for a standard drink.
    * Paddy Field Irish Pub & Restaurant, probably the only Irish Pub in Guangzhou, round the back of Garden Hotel. Serves pretty good western food. Drinks are at usual bar prices.

    Bar Street at Bai-E-Tan
    Bar Street at Bai-E-Tan

    * Sleeping Wood Cafe, a nice cozy restaurant pub next to the Holiday Inn with friendly, English speaking waiters and waitresses. Serves western food and all kinds of alcoholic drinks. One-for-one pint-sized Tsingtao draft beer during happy hour (before 8PM). Good place to unwind and take it easy, especially in the open area. A drink costs ¥25-30. There's a separate branch along the Pearl River.
    * Sky Bar, newly opened in June 2006, also next to the Holiday Inn. Serves Brazilian-style food and all kinds of drinks. Standard drinks start from ¥25.
    * Lucy's (Cafe Bar) next to the White Swan Hotel, right by the Pearl River. Excellent western food and drinks for very reasonable prices. Very nice area in the open for al-fresco dining.
    * Bai-E-Tan Bar Street (白鹅潭酒吧风情街) Changdi Street (长堤街) in the Fangcun area, across the river from White Swan Hotel. The street is packed with bars, but action is scarce until at least 10:30PM. It is recommended to have dinner in one of the nearby restaurants before heading out to the bars. Special promotions, such as a half dozen bottles of beer for ¥100, are common. [Metro 1 Fang Cun]

    [edit] Tea houses

    The culture of tea drinking, also known as Yum Cha (饮茶), runs deep in Guangzhou. After all, the city was at the center of the massive tea trade that existed between China and Europe during the 19th century.

    * Simple Love Tea Shop, #102, 94 Tianhe Nan 1 Lu (Down from the south gate of Teem Plaza). 3PM-2AM.

    * Tian Chang Di Jiu, 1 Zhengping Zhong Jie, Taojin Lu, ☎ +86 20 8358-1627.

    * Chun Ya Yuan Teahouse, 19 Siyou Xin Ma Lu (4/F, Changcheng Hotel), ☎ +86 20 8761-2888 ext.6488. 7PM-1AM.

    * Crystal Tea House, 6 Longkou Dong Lu, Tianhe (1/F, Yuan Yang Hotel), ☎ +86 20 8759-6988 ext.67. 10AM-2AM.

    * Wong Chun Loong Herbal Tea. Several branches at 17 Wenchang Nan Lu, 109 Huagui Lu, 51 Dishipu Lu, 504 Xihua Lu, 859 Longjin Dong Lu, 25 Longjin Xi Lu, 142 to 144 Huanshi Xi Lu, 4-lst No.1 street, Xiwan Dong Lu, 320 Duobao Lu and 120 Shangjiu Lu.

    [edit] Coffee

    * People's Cakes & Coffee, #102, 17 Jianshe 6 Ma Lu (建设六马路17号102房), ☎ +86 20 8376-6677. Enjoy cakes and coffee at this Western coffee shop run by Koreans. There is another branch at 98 Taojin Nan Lu (Tel. +86 20 8348-8085).

    [edit] Sleep

    WARNING: The last two weeks of April and October (April 15-30 and October 15-30) coincide with the annual Guangzhou International Trade Fairs. Hotel room rates are unreasonably hiked up anything from 200% to 400%, including hostels! If you're not travelling to see the Trade Fair, you might want to consider another period of time.

    This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
    Budget Under ¥150
    Mid-range ¥150-500
    Splurge Over ¥500
    [edit] Budget

    * Guangdong Youth Hostel (广东省外事办招待所), 2 Shamian 4 Jie (沙面四街2号) (diagonally across the street from the landmark White Swan Hotel), ☎ +86 20 8121-8298. It is clean, convenient and reasonably priced for Guangzhou. English is spoken. There are 8 dorm beds in each room, and it only costs ¥50 per bed (¥200 to have your own room). It is probably the cheapest western-style accommodation in Guangzhou. Reservations are accepted and encouraged, since the hostel is usually at its capacity. This hostel was featured on the Globe Trekker. [Metro 1 Huang Sha]

    * Tielu Tong Tong Hotel, 101 Guangyuan Xi Lu. A few blocks down from the train station has rooms at ¥100 for the first night, ¥80 for subsequent nights. It's on their business cards in English only. That's hot water, toilet, air-conditioned, spacious and noisy. [Metro 2 Guangzhou HuoCheZhan]

    * City Youth Hostel (广州国际青年旅舍), 179 Huanshi Xi Lu (环市西路179号), ☎ +86 20 8666-6889. This youth hostel offers tiny single rooms for about ¥80 (¥270 Oct.)per night (¥60 for members). Located close to the train station it does not provide the nicest environment. [Metro 2 Guangzhou HuoCheZhan]

    * Bin Jiang Hostel (滨江青年旅舍), 405 Yanjiang Dong Lu (大沙头沿江东路405号), ☎ +86 20 8383-4110. A little far from the center of the city, but the dorm bed rate is very cheap at around ¥60 (¥180 Oct). Having your own room and shower will cost you ¥170. There is no close Metro access.

    [edit] Mid range

    * Hotel Landmark (华厦大酒店), 8 Qiaoguang Lu, Haizhu Square (海珠广场侨光路8号), ☎ +86 20 8335-5988, [21]. [Metro 2, Hai Zhu Guang Chang]

    * Guangzhou Hotel (广州宾馆), 2 Qiyi Lu, Haizhu Square (海珠广场起义路2号), ☎ +86 20 8333-8168, [22]. Currently there are heavy constructions taking place outside the hotel for the next year (2007) or so. [Metro 2, Hai Zhu Guang Chang]

    * Guangdong Victory Hotel (广东胜利宾馆), 53 Shamian Bei Jie (沙面北街53号), ☎ +86 20 8121-6688, [23]. This rather upmarket hotel on Shamian Island offers good value rooms and nice service. English is spoken. Small travel agency handles plane, train and other tickets. There is also a recently renovated Annex building nearby, which offers cheaper rooms than the main building. (From ¥320) [Metro 1 Huang Sha]

    * Hotel Canton (广州大厦), 374 Beijing Lu (广州市北京路374号), ☎ +86 20 8318-9888, [24]. This once a glorious hotel is now a bit outdated, but is superbly located in the northern end of Beijing Lu pedestrian shopping street. Metro station for both lines 1 and 2 is nearby for easy access. (From ¥390) [Metro 1, 2 Gong Yuan Qian]

    * Baiyun Hotel (白云宾馆), 367 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路367号) (across from Garden Hotel), ☎ +86 20 8333-3998, [25]. Baiyun hotel is a member of Best Western hotel chain.

    * Liuhua Hotel, 194 Huanshi Xi Lu (across from main train station), ☎ +86 20 8666-8800, [26].

    [edit] Splurge

    * White Swan Hotel (白天鹅宾馆), 1 Shamian Nan Jie (沙面南街1号), ☎ +86 20 8188-6968, [27]. Located on the banks of the Pearl River on the quiet Shamian Island, the White Swan is complimented by a charming park nearby where locals can be found doing Tai Chi along with various native dances. Surrounding the hotel are blocks of little shops run by locals willing to bargain. (Keep in mind that many of the shops carry identical items, so finding an item cheaper somewhere else is likely.) The White Swan offers a traditional Chinese restaurant and an American style restaurant to accommodate its visitors. (From ¥800) [Metro 1 Huang Sha]

    * Holiday Inn City Centre Guangzhou (文化假日酒店), 28 Guangming Lu, Overseas Chinese Village, Huanshi Dong Lu(环市东路华侨新村光明路28号) (off Ouzhuang Intersection), ☎ +86 20 6128-6868, [28]. Not exactly the newest, biggest or cheapest hotel around, what the Holiday Inn offers is a convenient location and excellent staff service, thanks in part to its association with the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which places great emphasis on customer service. Rooms are clean, have comfortable beds and pillows, and a good selection of TV channels. Internet access is stable but costs ¥100 a day. Priority Club platinum members get automatic upgrades to executive rooms (based on availability) and access to the executive lounge. Airline ticketing office and Hertz car rental counter available. There's also another Holiday Inn at 188 Dishifu Lu.

    * Garden Hotel (花园酒店), 368 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路368号), ☎ +86 20 8333-8989, [29]. Indisputably the most recognizable hotel in the heart of the city. It has both standard hotel rooms as well as apartments and offices for rent. Deluxe rooms are clean but basic. Elite rooms are newly renovated and attractive. Excellent dinner buffet at the revolving restaurant on the top level. This hotel is also complemented with shops and boutiques selling brand name goods, a HSBC branch, a Bank of China branch, and a bus station serving express buses to the Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, Hong Kong International Airport and nearby cities such as Zhuhai.

    * Asia International Hotel (亚洲国际大酒店), 326 Huangshi Dong Lu, Sec 1 (环市东路326号), ☎ +86 20 6128-8888, [30]. This is one of a handful of hotels that feature separate bath and shower areas in a standard room. Internet access is free but slow. It also features Guangzhou's highest revolving restaurant on the top level.

    * Guangdong International Hotel (广东国际大酒店), 339 Huanshi Dong Lu (环市东路339号), ☎ +86 20 8331-1888, [31].

    * Dong Fang Hotel (东方宾馆), 120 Liuhua Lu (流花路120号), ☎ +86 20 8666-9900, [32]. [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan]

    * China Hotel (中国大酒店), 100 Liuhua Lu (流花路100号), ☎ +86 20 8666-6888, [33]. It is a Marriott hotel in the heart of Downtown. Its ground level has direct access to Guangzhou Metro. (From ¥650) [Metro 2 Yue Xiu Gong Yuan]

    * Oriental Resort (广州鸣泉居), 1068 Baiyun Dadao Nan (白云大道南1068号), ☎ +86 20 8663-2888, [34]. The hotel is located on Baiyun Mountain, quiet and away from the city. (From ¥600)

    * China Mayors Plaza (广州市长大厦), 189 Tianhe Bei Lu (天河北路189号), ☎ +86 20 8755-3838, [35]. (From ¥600)

    [edit] Stay safe

    Firearms are banned in the country except for police and military use, but the streets can still be dangerous in its own way for the unwary. Due to the enormous number of people from other mainland provinces flocking to Guangzhou in the hope of finding jobs (often unsuccessfully), the area surrounding the main train station has gained a notorious reputation for being chaotic, unsafe and rampant with petty crimes. Pickpockets are especially active here. In recent years, armed (large blades, knives, and such) robberies in the open and abductions which resulted in first degree murders have been on the rise in the city. Just bear in mind, when people become desperate, they will do anything to get what they want. If you are getting robbed, do not expect the crowd to help. And if they are armed, do not fight back. The best defence, as always, is common sense. Do not flash your valuables in public, do not wander around by yourself late at night and remain alert at all times. Use only official taxis and get advice from the government-run tourist office.

    With its vast, ever-increasing population, there will always be people (mostly from out of town) who just seem to be hanging around. Those unaccustomed to this may feel intimidated, especially Westerners who get stared at a lot. However, please remember that rural Chinese are not used to seeing a "Lao Wai" (a Westerner), so their stares are merely out of interest, and should not be taken as something rude or offensive. In this respect, it is important to be aware that 3 out of 10 people in Guangzhou are migrants from other provinces.

    Traffic accident rates in Guangzhou (or China for that matter) are significantly higher than those of other countries. Use extra caution when crossing streets; use pedestrian bridges and tunnels whenever possible. Like everywhere else in China, cars do not yield to pedestrians. Instead, drivers automatically expect pedestrians to yield to them. So in most cases, they don't stop until it's too late. Due to the high number of traffic accidents and crimes involving motorcycles, they will be totally banned in Guangzhou starting in 2007. Once the most important mode of transportation in China, bicycles will be also limited to certain roads within the city.

    Emergency numbers are: Police: 110; Fire: 119; Medical: 120; Traffic accident: 122.
    [edit] Contact

    * The area dialing code for Guangzhou is 020. From overseas, dial +86 20 XXXX-XXXX. Phone numbers are 8 digits.
    * Tourism Administration of Guangzhou Municipality (广州市旅游局) [36] 180 Huanshi Xi Lu (环市西路180号). +86 20 8107-8291.
    * Consulates
    o U.S. Consulate, Guangzhou (美国驻广州总领事馆) [37] Note that the visa, passport and adoption sections of the Consulate have recently moved to 5th Floor Tian Yu Garden (Phase II) 136-146 Linhe Zhong Lu; Mailing address remains and other offices remain at: 1 Shamian Nan Jie, Guangzhou 510133. +86 20 8121-8000. This is the only U.S. Consulate in China that processes adoption visas. Over 7,000 were issued in 2005.
    o Australia Consulate Guangdong International Hotel Suite 1509; +86 20 8335-5911.
    o Canada Consulate China Hotel Office Tower Suite 801; +86 20 8666-0569.
    o U.K. Consulate Guangdong International Hotel, Second and Seventh Floor; +86 20 8333-6520.
    o Consulate General of Australia in GuangzhouA dd: Rm 1509, CITIC Plaza Tel: 83350909
    o Consulate General of Canada in Guangzhou Add: Rm 801, China Hotel Tel: 86660569
    o Consulate General of Finland in Guangzhou Add: Rm 803, CITIC Plaza Tel: 38770188
    o Consulate General of France in Guangzhou Add: Rm 803, CITIC Plaza Tel: 83303405
    o Consulate General of Germany in Guangzhou Add: 103 Shamian Bei Jie, Shamian Island Tel: 81922566
    o Consulate General of Japan in Guangzhou Add: Garden Hotel, Huanshi Dong Lu Tel: 83343090
    o Consulate General of Malaysia in Guangzhou Add: Floor 3,Ramada Pearl Hotel [38] Tel: 87395660
    o Consulate General of Netherlands in Guangzhou Add: Unit 705, Main Tower, CITIC Plaza Tel: 83302067
    o Consulate General of Philippines in Guangzhou Add: Floor 1, White Swan Hotel, Shamian Island Tel: 81886968
    o Consulate General of Thailand in Guangzhou Add: White Swan Hotel, Shamian Island Tel: 81886968
    o Consulate General of U.K .in Guangzhou Add: Floor 2, CITIC Plaza Tel: 83351354
    o Consulate General of U.S.A. in Guangzhou Add: Shamian Nan Lu, Shamian Island Tel: 81888911
    o Consulate General of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam in Guangzhou Add: Shamian Hotel Guangzhou Tel: 88888124
    o Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Guangzhou Add: 63 Shamian Dajie Guangzhou Tel: 88861854, 88865009
    * Internet cafes are common in major Chinese cities, though are often the target of government crackdowns. Popular ones in Guangzhou include:
    o Worldwide Network on Jiangsu Lu
    o the more up-market Sparkice in Central Plaza on Huai Hai Zhong Lu
    o China Mayors Plaza (市长大厦). 189 Tianhe Bei Lu (天河北路189号)
    o Budget Internet Cafe on Fuzhou Lu.
    * Police: The Public Security Bureau is at 155 Jiefang Nan Lu (解放南路155号) +86 20 8311-5808 (Monday to Friday 8:50-11:30AM, 2:30-5PM.) You can get your visa extension done here if needed.

    [edit] Cope
    [edit] Banking

    ATMs that accept foreign credit or debit cards are common in shopping malls and tourist areas. Withdrawal is available in Chinese currency only. Most banks also accept exchanges from your local currencies to RMB. Your passport is required for this service. However, they do not change it back to your local currencies.

    * Bank of China (中国银行) [39] There is a branch inside Garden Hotel. ATM is available on the ground floor of White Swan Hotel, and over 100 locations in Guangzhou. Their ATMs are the best bet for using foreign cards.
    * Bank of America [40] Rm 2506, 555 Renmin Zhong Lu. +86-20 8130-0888. The bank has alliance with China Construction Bank.
    * Citi [41] Unit 101, Fortune Plaza No. 118 TiYu East Road Tian He district. +86-20-38981688. This bank has a full service branch, foreign currency exchange services, and a 24 hour International ATM Service.

    [edit] Laundry

    Few lower end hotels and hostels have coin-operated self-service laundry room. Self-service laundromats are not available on the streets, although dry clean and laundry stores are available to clean your clothes. Normally you can drop your clothes off and pick them up the next day. One laundry chain is TianTian (天天洗衣), which is conveniently located in all Metro stations. There are many stores on Shamian Island that have laundry service. An average load of laundry costs about ¥100.
    [edit] Television

    Guangzhou Television (GZTV) [42] has an English channel, offering entertainment and cultural programs. There are several English channels from Hong Kong, available in most hotels, offer a great selection of prime time shows from US and UK.
    [edit] Places of worship

    All the religious sites listed in the See section are open to worshippers.

    * Christian: Guangzhou International Christian Fellowship [43] holds weekly service on Sundays at 10AM for expats from around the world in English. You must show your travel documents to enter since residents are not allowed there due to local laws. The meeting location is Star Hotel (景星酒店) near the East Train Station. Phone: 1366 234 6904. Hotel Address: 89 Linhe Xi Lu (林和西路89号). [Metro 1 Dong Zhan]

    [edit] Gym

    Guangzhou has several branches of Total Fitness. One of the locations is at the 8th floor of Zhengjie Plaza (正佳广场).
    [edit] Health

    * Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital is near the Garden Hotel. 106 Zhong Shan Er Lu. +86 20 8382-7812, 2062-2031.
    * Kaiyi International Dental Care [44] Ice Flower Hotel, 2 Tianhe Bei Lu. +86 20 3886-4821, 3387-4278.

    [edit] Mail

    * Post Office There is a post office on Shamian (Shamian 3 Jie 沙面三街) 9AM-5PM, closed on Sunday.
    * DHL There is a branch in Garden Hotel.
    * UPS 1121 Guangyuan Zhong Lu. +86 20 8657-9898.

    [edit] Get out

    * Visit the peach orchards and canals at nearby Xinjiao.

    * Yuanxuan Taoist Temple includes three Taoist temples in one complex: Sanqing Temple, Taihe Temple and Yuanchen Temple. Sanqing Temple is the most architecturally important of the three structures, while Yuanxuan Taoist Temple has carvings of divine beings. The central hall is covered by yellow glazed tiles and decorated with the bright images of Yuqing, Shangqing and Taiqing, the three authoritative deities in Taoism. The temple is located near Bi Village in southwest Xinhua Town. You can take the No. 9 bus from Hua Du Downtown. (Admission ¥2)

    * The dwellings of overseas Chinese from the early 20th century in Kaiping (开平).

    * Foshan (佛山) is only an hour away from Guangzhou. Famous for its Ancestry Temple (祖庙), it is also the home to legendary Wong Fei Hong, a martial art master.

    * Hong Kong (香港) is 2-3 hours away, depending on the modes of transportation. It is so busy that some people call it "America on Steroid."

    * Humen (虎门) in Dongguan (东莞) is famous for its Opium War era relics (虎门销烟). It is a bridge away from the Nansha District.

    * Shenzhen (深圳) is a new city on the borders of Hong Kong, one of the first special economic zones set up in China. Check out theme parks such as Windows of the World, The China Folk Culture Villages and Splendid China. Frequent buses and trains are available (Tickets around ¥60 - ¥80). The trip will take 1 to 2 hours. Make sure you have your passport while traveling to Shenzhen, they check it when you enter Shenzhen, although you are still in Guangdong, China.

    * Zhuhai (珠海) is another special economic zone to the south, at the border with Macau. You can get a bus ride from any of the major bus stations in the city.

    permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Guangzhou, China
    from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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    Yangshuo, China

    Yangshuo (阳朔) is a very scenic, small tourist town surrounded by mountains and beautiful scenery.
    [edit] Understand

    Yangshuo isn't your typical Chinese town as it seems to have a lot in common with Southeast Asia. The main drag of hostels, guest houses and restaurant could be straight out of Ko Samui or Sihanoukville if dog wasn't on the menu at so many tourist restaurants. Yangshuo has a reputation as a foreigners' village in Southern China, with authentic western cuisine and a good standard of English spoken. This town feels like one of the stops on the travelers' trail, with lots of the same people you'd expect in Amsterdam, Bali or Katmandu. While this certainly isn't the whole story, the town is in some ways a break from the rest of China. Yangshuo is also a great place to base yourself for a relaxing few days of exploring the karst scenery and rivers, checking out caves, local temples, or just taking it easy in one of the many cafes and bars.
    [edit] Get in
    [edit] By plane

    Yangshuo has no airport. The nearest airport is in Guilin. As yet, there are no direct buses from the airport to Yangshuo. There is an airport bus you can take into Guilin and then take a bus or boat to Yangshuo.
    [edit] By train

    Yangshuo is not served by train and the nearest railway station is Guilin. Minibuses to Yangshuo conveniently depart from the square in front of Guilin railway station. For bus connections, see below.
    [edit] By bus

    From Guilin: There are frequent minibuses and express buses to Yangshuo from Guilin. All buses terminate at the bus terminal in Yangshuo. Minibuses cost (RMB 10. Buy tickets on the bus) depart from the square in front of the Guilin railway station. The journey takes between one and one-and-a-half hours as buses stop along the way. Express buses (RMB 15. Buy tickets from counter inside terminal) depart every half hour from the Guilin bus terminal off Zhongshan Zhong Lu and take just an hour.

    In Yangshuo, wait for minibuses at the exit of the bus terminal at Die Cui Lu; the first bus to depart will be at the head of the queue. Express buses depart half hourly from 7am from their allotted bay inside the terminal. Buy tickets from the glass counter.

    Beware that on the bus from Guilin, unscrupulous hawkers frequently stop the bus before the centre of town urging you to get off while claiming this is Yangshuo and the bus will continue to another place. The reason for this is to make you have to pay for them taking you to the centre of town and to their hotel.

    From Guangdong: Overnight sleeper buses run direct to Yangshuo from Shenzhen on the Hong Kong border, from Zhuhai on the Macau border, and from Guangzhou. These cost around RMB 100-250 depending on which station in Shenzhen you want to go to and how new a bus you go on. The buses to the border in Shenzhen are the dearest.

    From Nanning: Two daily buses go directly to Nanning, leaving Yangshuo at 8am and 9am. They go to Guilin first where they stop for just a short time to pick up passengers. Tickets cost RMB 110. In Nanning, the 8am bus stops in the Langdong bus terminal while the 9am bus goes to the Nanjiang bus terminal.
    [edit] By boat

    There are also boats down the Li River, slower and more expensive (RMB 400+) but a very scenic journey. You may be able to get these for about half that price by joining a tour group.
    [edit] Get around
    [edit] Around town

    Yangshuo is a small place - the town can easily be covered on foot. There is an electric minibus network consisting 5 routes covering most parts of town. RMB 1 per ride.

    The main tourist area is laid out roughly like a ladder. The two main tourist streets run more-or-less parallel up from the river to end at one of the town's larger streets. There are assorted smaller streets (rungs) crossing between the two larger streets. The street (ladder vertical) on the left seen from the River is West Street (西街 Xijie) and is the older more established tourist street, the real center of things. The other long tourist street is Diecuilu (畳翠路).

    There's a small creek that runs down the center of the "ladder"; some of the prettiest bars and restaurants in town are on balconies near it. At the "foot of the ladder" by the river is an open area with a large number of vendors hawking all sorts of tourist stuff, both from shops and from handcarts. Also a number of rather nice riverside hotels.

    Across the "top of the ladder" is a major street (Pantao Lu) with many hotels. The town's main bus station is at the corner where that main street meets Die Cui Lu. The intersection has a large open area that becomes very busy at night, with dozens of restaurants and hundreds of diners. Do not expect English menus or non-Chinese dishes.

    Near the top of West Street are three banks with ATMs — Bank of China, Agricultural Bank and ICBC — and there is a China Construction Bank on Die Cui Lu. Service in the Bank of China can be awful, but it has the only ATM that accepts foreign cards.

    The post office is on Pantao Lu, opposite the top end of West Street. It's open from 8am until 9pm.
    [edit] Into the countryside

    If you're planning on walking around the many streets and caves around Yangshuo, a map is recommended. Artistic tourist maps are available for sale for around RMB 5-10 at tourist shops all over town, but the free maps are better for finding your way.

    For those who want to wander a little further afield, or to check the attractions in the area, there are several options.

    * The most popular is bike rental - there are several places around the main street catering for short-term rentals charging from RMB 5 upwards.
    * There are boat tours up or down the river.
    * Local buses serve some locations. From Yangshuo's bus terminal, minibuses (xiao mian bao or "little bread loaves") go to Gaotian (for Yueliang Shan/Moon Hill), Jinbao via Baisha (for Yulong Qiao/Dragon Bridge), Shazhi (for Fuli village), Xingping (for the Xingping-Yangdi scenic area) and further afield.
    * It is possible to hire private cars for others.

    You can mix these modes of travel, for example taking a boat out of town and biking back or taking a bus upriver a ways to catch a boat tour.

    Most hostels or hotels can arrange transport and a guide if you want one. Alternately, you can choose your own tourist guide; just work out a deal with one of the ones who will accost you on the street. A guide may be very helpful for things like cycling tours.
    [edit] See
    View of Yulong River valley from Yulong Qiao (Yulong Bridge)
    View of Yulong River valley from Yulong Qiao (Yulong Bridge)
    [edit] Karst landscape

    The area around Yangshuo is renowned throughout China, and probably the world, for its Karst landscape where there are hundreds of limestone hills dotting the countryside. The beautiful scenery here is a common subject of Chinese paintings as well as the inspiration for poetry. There are several popular areas for Karst landscape sight-seeing which can be covered by river cruises, bamboo-raft cruises, cycling, trekking and combinations of the various modes.

    * Yangdi-Xingping scenic area:

    This stretch along the Li River is probably the most renowned and popular. There are river cruises available and in fact, the Guilin-Yangshuo boat ride passes through this area. There is also a 24km (5 to 6 hours) track for easy hiking along the Li river. The walk is a far more peaceful way to enjoy the Li river and mountain scenery than the loud noisy boat down the river. It takes you along the pebbly shores of the river, through many small villages, fields and bamboo forests. If you get tired, you can always rent a bamboo raft to float down the river. Getting there: There are various ways of reaching this stretch of the Li River. You can of course catch a direct river cruise from Yangshuo town. You can also get to Xingping by minibus (called xiao mian bao or "little bread loaves") from Yangshuo bus terminal, or cycle out there and then take boats or bamboo rafts to reach the scenic area. Again, combinations of the various modes are possible.

    * Yulong River valley:

    The pretty Yulong River valley is said to rival the Yangdi-Xingping stretch in terms of beauty. Besides rafting down the river on bamboo rafts, another popular way of seeing the valley is by cycling along riverside tracks. The journey will bring you through many farming villages and past several stone bridges across the river such as the Yulong Qiao and Fuli Qiao. Getting there: From Yangshuo town, you can access the Yulong River valley by turning west into a small road from the main Yangshuo bypass road just south of the Sinopec petrol station at the junction of Pantao Lu (there are road signs in Chinese). You can also access it by using the road to Jinbao from Baisha town 9km north of Yangshuo on the main road to Guilin. Minibuses from Yangshuo bus terminal to Jinbao go near Yulong village.

    * Moon Hill:

    Another popular scenic spot south of town. The main attraction is a hill with a huge hole in the shape of a moon. The hills here can be climbed for spectacular vistas from the top. Getting there: Take a Gaotian minibus Yangshuo bus terminal. If you plan to cycle, Moon Hill is located about 8km south of Yangshuo on the road to Wuzhou.
    [edit] Yangshuo town

    Many people come to Yangshuo are so preoccupied with the surrounding karst landscape that they do not spend much time in Yangshuo town itself.

    [edit] Shows

    Impression Liu Sanjie runs nightly during the high season. Set to the music from the movie of the same name (which in turn was based on an old Chinese story), it features a cast of 500 wearing traditional Zhuang, Miao and Yao dress, and a highly impressive light show. By far the best view is from the official seating area. Tickets are available from most travel agents or hotels in town for around 150 RMB. Expensive by Yangshuo standards, but well worth it. You can see it more cheaply from a boat on the river, or even from across the river, but the view is not as good.
    [edit] Do

    There are so many things to do here:

    * Bike riding: Wandering through the countryside on a bike and getting lost is one of the best things about Yangshuo. The villages often have dramatic mountain backdrops, and the people are generally friendly. Another popular trip is to take a boat ride with a bike, then bicycle back to town. Bike hire starts at RMB 5 per day, and tandems are a bit more. The bikes tend to be poorly maintained, so be sure to check brakes and gears before you set out. For travellers craving reliability, Bike Asia [1] (on Guihua Rd) has well-maintained Specialized mountain bikes for RMB 30. Bike Asia also has free bike maps of the area, and can advise on where to cycle. Find an older farmer woman for RMB 100 per day to give you a guided tour of the local pathes.

    * Rock climbing: Yangshuo has over 250 climbing routes ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.13. There is a lively climbing scene in town, so experienced climbers will have no problem finding a partner, just ask in the climbing places and they should know other climbing travellers you can hook up with. For beginners and climbers travelling without their own equipment several climbing companies (Xclimber, Karst Cafe/Climber, China Climb, Spiderman, etc.) offer equipment rental and one/muli-day trips. A guidebook showing route topos, grades, etc. can be purchased from any of the climbing companies.
    o There are three climbing shops on Xianqian Road, the first cross street off West Street as you come up from the river. The other two places are across the street.
    o Two more climbing shops are on Guihua Road, Xclimber and blackrock (a right turn then a left turn before the start of West Street).
    * Exploring caves, of which there are an abundance in the limestone hills
    o guided tours for the general tourist
    o serious spelunkers should talk to the climbing shops about possible cave climbs

    * Swimming During the summer the water and air temperature are good for swimming. Locals swim from the docks on the Lijiang a short way upstream of the town centre. The Lijiang water quality is generally good but tour boats coming from Guilin are a hazard. The Yulong River is also good for swimming although parts are crowded with bamboo rafts.

    * Bamboo rafting Rafting along the Yulong river is particularly popular in summer, but travellers should take care not to go rafting if the water is brown and turbulent. In 2005 there was a fatality during high floods.

    * Hot air ballooning Pricey by Chinese standards, hot air balooning in Yangshuo is still a bargain compared to the west.

    * Volunteering The Volunteer English Teachers [2] program visits local schools to teach poor children English.

    * Martial arts Classes in Taichi, Qigong, Kungfu, Taiquando, and other martial arts are available at the Budizhen school at the top of West Street for 80Y a day. LongTouShan Taichi school [3]offers also Taichi classes in a beautiful spot located in the country side, half an hour walk from West street.

    * Chinese cooking Single and multi-day classes in traditional Chinese cooking are offered in the beautiful traditional farmhouse at Yangshuo Cooking School [4], and at Cloud 9. Typical dishes include beer fish and stuffed pumpkin flowers. Yangshuo Cooking School teaches egg-wrapped dumplings, a delicious local treat.

    * Cormorant fishing

    * Hiking

    * River cruises Take a boat down to Liugong village then cycle back, much cheaper than the boat from Guilin.

    * Drinking

    * Chilling out

    Take a hotair balloon trip
    [edit] Buy

    There is a huge amount of touristy stuff on offer:

    * Pashmina scarves, Cashmere by a different name
    * silk products: ties, kimonos, scarves, dresses
    * pottery, bronze, stone carvings, bracelets, knickknacks of all sorts
    * scroll paintings, fans and embroidered cloths

    Much of this stuff is lovely, really very tempting. However, quite a bit of it is fake and nearly all of it is available all over China and cheaper outside of Yangshuo.

    Asking prices for such stuff in Yangshuo are horribly inflated. Here is a table showing one traveller's experience:
    Item asking price Price paid
    elsewhere Yangshuo Yangshuo
    silk ties 18-20 75-120 50 RMB for 3
    small silk scarves unknown 80-100 20
    large scarf/wrap 80 120-200 50
    old silver dollars, mostly counterfeit 20 80-150 10

    Getting the prices in the right hand column took hard bargaining, based on knowledge of prices elsewhere. Of course, even those may not be the best possible prices.

    Some tourists, having no idea of the real Chinese price, might be grossly overcharged. After all, even 120 RMB ($15 US) would be a great price for a nice pure silk tie back home. Advice for tourists who have no idea what the Chinese price should be:

    * assume nothing on offer here is worth more than a third of the asking price, and most things quite a bit less
    * if you are prepared to haggle, offer about 10% of the asking price and go from there
    * if not, offer 20% to 30% and stick to it. Walk away if the vendor will not meet your price.

    Also consider the classic mother-to-daughter advice "Men are like buses. You don't chase them because you know there will always be another one along." This applies very much to vendors of tourist goods in Yangshuo; if one is too expensive, or even if you are not sure the price is fair, try another.

    See also How to haggle.
    [edit] Local goods

    There are also a few things not usually available elsewhere:

    * Postcards and picture books of the area, in stores or hawked by older women on the street
    * Chinese paintings of the local Karst scenery
    * T-shirts with Chinese characters with different slogans, such as "I have no money" or "Foreigner coming, Foreigner going"
    o Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts are common, but there is no Hard Rock in Yangshuo
    o Some places with great names — Red Capitalism Cafe, Outside Inn, Fawlty Towers — do not have T-shirts, unfortunately
    * Silver and embroidery pieces by local minorities.
    o Prices for large pieces are high, but some pieces may be worth them.
    o Small pieces, such as embroided Zhuang minority love balls, are also available

    You should also bargain on these, of course.
    [edit] Other interesting things

    On Die Cui Lu about half a block from the river is Nature House selling various rocks. Some are interesting geological specimens; others are carved and/or painted. Fascinating.

    There is a used bookstore and reading room — with a large selection in English and some books in several other European languages — at Cafe Too, formerly on West Street, now in larger space at 7 Cheng Zhong Road. Prices are higher than at used bookstores in Western countries, but cheaper than new books. You can buy coffee and read them free. For people living in China and missing Western books, they have a web site [5] and mail-order service. Owner is Johnny Lu, email johnnylu668@yahoo.com, mobile 13237831208.

    CDs and DVDs are available at several stores on West Street or nearby. Nearly all such products in China are unauthorised copies, but many in Yangshuo look real. General quality, especially the packaging, is far better than the usual. Many come with booklets of lyrics or artist biography. Some have full-colour advertising printouts for the label's other offerings; I cannot imagine a "pirate" duplicating that. Selection is also good; the English music is not all Backstreet Boys and the Carpenters. Prices are also higher, 15-25 RMB versus 6 or 8 for the cheap copies all over China.
    [edit] Eat

    Yangshuo is a great place to eat. There are dishes from all over the world and just about any region in China. You can eat cheaply in the markets with the locals or you can try comfort food in one of the many cafes in town

    * Yangshuo produces very sweet and juicy grapefruit or pomelos (sha tian you), which can be bought everywhere for Y1-2. Ask the vendor to choose one with a small top and cut it up for you.
    * Beer fish is a local specialty, something most Chinese tourists try
    * Cloud Nine is a popular Chinese place on West Street.
    * 7th Heaven Restaurant offers great outdoor seating and views and is located just off West Street on Chenzhong Rd. Western menu.
    * 干锅鱼 (Ganguoyu) is a "dry pot" fish restaurant very popular with the locals. It is located beside the pond on Jiefang Lu (between the petrol station and the tunnel).
    * 阳朔人 (Yangshuo ren) is a Chinese restaurant very popular with the locals. It specializes in beer fish and other hot pots. It is located on the market street between Sunshine 100 and the 99 supermarket.
    * 北方饺子馆 (Beifang Jiaozi Guan) This "northern dumplings" restaurant on Xianqian Jie near the intersection with Die Cui Lu has fantastic North-East Chinese cuisine.
    * The night market near the bus station has quite a variety of food, much of it at low prices (although still more expensive than elsewhere in China). They even serve dog, rat, oysters, mussels, rabbit, duck, shrimp, frog, the local mudsnails and a variety of other surprising dishes! Make sure to haggle. WARNING: Take very good care of your belongings - there are some very accomplished sneak thieves and pickpockets specialising in wallets, phones and passports.

    [edit] Vegetarian

    * Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant 暗香疏影 素菜馆 http://www.yangshuoren.com/purelotus.htm, down near the river end of Die Cie Lu.

    [edit] Western food

    It seems almost every restaurant in Yangshuo offers burgers, shepherd's pie and a Western breakfast. Many of the staff in these places have reasonable English, a few excellent. Most of the food is quite good. However, there is much menu copying and some places serve rather bizarre impressions of Western dishes as prepared by Chinese chefs without the original recipe.

    Among the possibilities:

    * Karst cafe, 42 Xianqian Jie (off West Street near the river), climber hangout with the best pizza in town, comfortable sofas, and wireless internet.
    * Bar 98, arguably the best location in town, just off West Street, down Guihua Lu (alleyway opposite Marco Polo hotel) overlooking Guihua Well. Wireless internet and a pool table. Run by two Australians, has Aussie meat pies and good burritos.
    * Drifters, middle of West Street. Great apple crumble.
    * Buffalo Bar, Xianqian Jie, Aussie run, with meat pies and quiz night on Thursdays. Wireless internet and also has a pool table
    * Cafe China, on the corner of West Street and Xianqian Jie, great coffee, best cheesecake in town, packed out most nights, wireless internet.
    * MC Blues, opposite Karst, great cocktails.
    * Green Lotus, 100 West Street, next to Youth Hostel, open 24 hours, friendly staff, good 20 RMB breakfast.
    * Cafe del Moon, near center of West Street, 32 RMB all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet; ghastly croissants but the rest is OK.
    * Red Star Express, in a big new location a bit off West Street. Turnoffs from both West Street and Xianqian Jie are marked with a flag showing a Red Star. Excellent burritos and enchiladas.
    * Cafe Too, 7 Cheng Zhong Road, has English books to read
    * Kelly's Cafe, just off the main strip has great service and food, cheap beer. Foreigners living in Yangshuo often hang out here.
    * Kaya is a reggae bar, often has good live music (with open mic) and very laidback atmosphere. On Guihua Lu, north of Kelly's and 98.

    Several of these offer free Internet access, but generally only have one machine so you may have to wait a bit.
    [edit] Drink

    Considering its size, Yangshuo has a pretty boisterous nightlife. Most restaurants along the main street stay open late and serve alcohol. Several have live music.

    * Cafe le Votre, set back from the street with a courtyard in front, is a brew pub with its own beer. They have two brews, a wheat beer and a dark beer; both are rare finds in China. They also have French and Chinese food. Their courtyard is a great place for people-watching, but unfortunately it is also convenient for touts to find you.

    * Monkey Jane's Rooftop Bar offers panaramic views of Yangshuo, and is pefect for meeting other backpackers. It is set back from West Street up an alley near the river end, but is sign-posted.

    There are also several clubs located near the bus terminal, which sometimes stay open until 5 or 6 A.M. and other nights are shut by midnight. There doesn't seem to be a method to their hours, save going down and seeing if they're open. There should be no cover, and frequently there's an opportunity to see young PLA soliders from the nearby base in a decidely un-military context.

    As with Guilin, the local drink is Guilin Three-flower Wine, although most residents seem to prefer a glass of Tsingtao or Baijiu.
    [edit] Learn

    * Cooking school Learn to make several typical local dishes at the Yangshuo Cooking School. Classes involve a trip to a local market to buy ingredients, individual woks as you go step-by-step through preparation of the various dishes, and a meal at the end, all in a rustic setting at the Outside Inn. Classes must be booked a day in advance.
    * Kungfu, offerred at the Green Lotus on West Street
    * Tai Chi
    * Calligraphy
    * Chinese

    [edit] Sleep

    There are many places to stay - from Y20/night for a dorm room, through to US$100/night for a luxury bungalow. Hotel touts are to be found around the main bus station.
    [edit] Budget

    * Youth Hostel next to Green Lotus, 102 West Street, phone +86-773-8820933, email hostel-ys@163.com
    * Backpackers' Hostel, just off West Street
    * Moon Resort [6] in MoonHill village in front of the mountain, phone +86-773-8777688, email moon.resort@gmail.com
    * Xi Jie House Inn behind the Industrial and Commercial Bank on PanTao road is to be avoided

    [edit] Mid range

    * Fawlty Towers [7], on the main street opposite the bus station, 50 RMB/night for private room with shower in off season. Decent rooms, helpful staff.
    * Blue Lotus, near middle of West Street, 60 RMB/night for single with shower, TV, western toilet
    * Friend Hotel No. 2 Chenzhong Lu, just off West Street (coming down West Street from Pantao Lu, turn left into Chenzhong Lu and cross the bridge over the creek. The hotel is the second establishment on the right). Tel: +86-773-8828696, +86-13807735906. Clean and just far away from West Street to be quiet. Staff are friendly. Twin/Double cost RMB 80-120/night off season. Rooms with western toilet and hot water shower.
    * Karst Hotel [8]
    * Li River View
    * MorningSun Hotel [9] No. 4, Chenzhong Lu (next to Friend Hotel. For directions, see above). Tel: +86-773-8813899.
    * Outside Inn [10], restored farmhouse 5 km from town, 80-120 RMB/night
    * Sihai Hotel [11], 73 West Street
    * Water Buffalo Guesthouse [12]
    * White Lion, on West Street
    * Yangshuo Culture House [13], a little outside of town, offers three meals cooked a day, classes and a homestay experience for 60 RMB a night, shared room with double beds.

    [edit] Splurge

    * Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, a hidden gem just outside of town. China expat favorite, incredible views[14]
    * Magnolia Hotel, 7 Die Cui Lu (a block from the river and west street), [15], very clean with nice big rooms, tastfully decorated.
    * Regency Holiday Hotel, at the inland end of West Street, phone 86-773-8817200. Satellite TV and air conditioning.
    * Li River Retreat, Best views of any hotel in Yangshuo and with great rooms[16]
    * Hotel of Modern Art, Approximately 30 minutes drive from Yangshuo this hotel is set inside Yuzi Paradise, a park full of stunning modern art in a remote rural location. [17]

    [edit] Get out

    Because Yangshuo is so dependent on backpacking tourists, you'll find a range of services and agencies not commonly found in China. There are ample places that sell plane tickets to all other provincal capitals and some international destinations. There are also bus and sleeper bus services available towards Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Kunming. Train tickets -- which will depart from Guilin -- are also available. There are tickets available all the way to Hanoi in Vietnam. These aren't easily available elsewhere, and can save quite a bit of hassle at the China/Vietnam border. Vietnamese visas, however, take several days to obtain in Yangshuo and are necessary, so be careful before you buy.

    permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Yangshuo, China
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    Guilin, China

    Guilin (桂林) is a city in Guangxi, China.
    Looking down from Diecai Shan
    Looking down from Diecai Shan
    [edit] Understand

    Guilin has become more of a new residential construction area and small manufacturing area than a tourist destination over the past few years, except for the river and city-moat/artificial lake area in the center of town. Guilin itself is pretty enough, but from the tourist point of view the main reason for going to Guilin is to get to Yangshuo, the even more scenic town downriver.

    Apparently it was a strong communist stronghold during the revolution and even had more residents back then, but recently the population may have increased. There are several non-Han cultural groups in this area.
    [edit] Get in
    [edit] By plane

    There are daily flights to Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (KWL) from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou (RMB 660 one-way before taxes and service charges as of Nov 2006), Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, etc.
    [edit] By train

    Guilin has two train stations. Guilin station (Guilin Zhan) is in the centre of town on Zhongshan Nanlu while Guilin North station (Guilin Bei Zhan) is far away from downtown area. Most, but not all, trains which originate/terminate in Guilin go to or come from Guilin North while trains which come through Guilin from elsewhere usually only go to Guilin station and not Guilin North.

    There are trains from North (Beijing, Changsha, Wuhan, Shanghai, Xian), West (Kunming), South (Liuzhou, Nanning, Zhanjiang), and East (Guangzhou, Shenzhen).

    To/from Beijing: If for some reason you need to rush from Beijing to Guilin or vice-versa, three trains on either direction. To Beijing, trains depart from Guilin (not Guilin Bei) at 0059 (train from Zhanjiang), 1506 (from Nanning) and 1930. Journey time is between 22 hour to 30 hours, with the 1506 train being the fastest.

    To/from Guangzhou and Shenzhen: Two trains to Guangzhou daily, leaving at 1804 (from Liuzhou) and 2000. The latter goes all the way to Shenzhen.

    To/from Kunming: The fastest trains to/from Kunming are those which go via Nanning and the scenic Nankun railway, taking around 20 hours. Those going via Guiyang take at least 28 hours. To Kunming, trains depart Guilin at 0546 (from Zhengzhou via Guiyang), 0852 (via Nanning), 1334 (from Nanjing via Guiyang) and 1900 (from Shanghai via Nanning).

    To/from Nanning: There are around 10 trains to choose from if coming from Nanning (5 to 6 hours). From Guilin (not Guilin Bei) to Nanning, trains depart at 0013 (train from Xian), 0622 (from Nanchang), 0748, 0809 (train from Zhengzhou), 0826, 0852 (train to Kunming), 1436 (train from Beijing), 1613 (from Wuxi), 1605, 1900 (from Shanghai to Kunming). The fastest train is the 0826, taking just 5 hours. All these trains stop at Liuzhou (2 hours from Guilin). One way hard seat ticket cost RMB 65.
    [edit] By car

    There are some expressways locally and in the province, but to any distance it is a 2 lane road.
    [edit] By bus

    * To/from Yangshuo
    o Minibuses (RMB 10) depart when full from the square in front of the Guilin railway station. Although the signs are written in Chinese, there are always conductors yelling out "Yangshuo". As the buses pick-up and let down passengers along the way, the journey time can take anything from one to one-half hours.
    o Express buses (RMB 15) depart from the Xiangzhou (Guilin) bus terminal off Zhongshan Nanlu, several hundred metres north of the railway station (and on the same side of the road as the station). Buses depart about every half hour from 0700. Buy tickets from counters in the bus terminal.

    * To/from elsewhere

    Buses link Guilin with a multitude of destinations, including Nanning, Kunming, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and further afield. Buses depart from the Xiangzhou (Guilin) bus terminal on Zhongshan Nanlu, several hundred metres north of the railway station.
    [edit] By boat

    You can get to Guilin by cargo boat from Guangzhou to Wuzhou and Than Guilin. But there are no passenger boats to Guilin anymore. There are boats to Yangshuo.
    [edit] Get around
    [edit] See

    Guilin itself is like most other medium size Chinese cities, other than it has a large amount of western-style hotels and tourists. Many Chinese domestic tourists also flock to this area. What makes it special is its proximity to many picturesque limestone mountains and formations.

    Most travellers to this area will take a river trip down the Li River on tourboats. These boats are frequent and easily organised by any hotel in Guilin. Most will go from Guilin to Yangshuo (a very picturesque village downstream). The river winds through some truly spectacular limestone formations and a slow boat trip there and back (with a stop in Yangshuo) will take a whole day.

    A boat ride around the main attractions is now available at night (approx Y200). Everything is lit up by neon lights, and the boat traverses the waterways joining the main attractions. It's a bit eerie to see limestone lit up in bright blue and green, but this is quite popular with Chinese tourists.
    [edit] Do

    Getting a local map from a tourist guide or shop is a good idea. Many city parks and river spots can be accessed easily by bus. There are limestone caves and even a Buddhist temple and bulk-banana storage site in caves near 7 star park if you know how to find them. Many peaks have trails to the top or to a hole or cave-like spot. There are many good restaurants and some art shops.

    All the buses starting with 5# are free. A useful one is bus no.58 which runs from the train station (& bus station) to many of the attractions. The entrance fees to the attractions are now fairly exorbitant, but it's still worth checking out one or two that take your fancy.
    [edit] Learn
    [edit] Work

    traditional landscape painting, osmanthus tea.
    [edit] Eat

    The local delicacy is Guilin Rice Noodles (Gui Lin Mi Fen), also available as stir-fried (Chao Fen). This is served everywhere, but try to avoid the joints near the train station. Traditionally the noodle and the topping is first eaten without soup, and once the topping has run out there is usually a pot of soup to add flavour to the rest of your noodles. There are also various pickles and condiments that you can add to your noodles.

    A local snack is "Horse hoof cake" (Ma Ti Gao), which is a crumbly cake stuffed with red beans filling. Another delicious breakfast item is sweet tofu infused with a certain flower. Look for roadside vendors adding orange-coloured liquid to a steaming hot bag of tofu, which you then drink with a straw.
    [edit] Budget
    [edit] Mid-range

    * Rosemary Cafe, Good coffee and western food. Located in the pedestrianized area near Jiefang Qiao.

    [edit] Splurge
    [edit] Drink

    Liq beer and osmanthus tea
    [edit] Sleep
    [edit] Budget

    There is a international YHA across the road from the main train station, which has clean dorm rooms for Y40. Http://www.yhaguilin.com
    [edit] Mid-range
    [edit] Splurge

    * Da Pubu Dajiudian (Big Waterfall Hotel), The most ostentatious place to stay in Guilin, it features a man-made waterfall.

    * Sheraton Hotel

    * Hotel of Modern Art, Approximately 30 minutes drive from Guilin this hotel is set inside Yuzi Paradise, a park full of stunning modern art in a remote rural location.

    [edit] Contact
    [edit] Stay safe

    * Watch your pockets in the central city.

    * Also, be careful with the beggar children in the city parks as there are rumours of them claiming assault if you do not buy flowers from them. The parents apparently act as "witnesses" to the assault.

    [edit] Cope
    [edit] Get out

    It is well worth heading straight out of Guilin as soon as you arrive, and staying in the much friendlier and more picturesque town of Yangshuo.

    Taxis can easily be hired from the airport that will take you straight there (around 90 mins drive depending on traffic), or if you arrive in Guilin by train you can take a taxi from there, or go across to the buses across the square from the station's main entrance. The bus fare should be around Y10 per person. There are also boats going to Yangshou.

    permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Guilin, China
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    Yangshuo, China

    permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Yangshuo, China
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    Nanning, China

    Nanning (南宁; Nánníng) is the capital of Guangxi in south-west China. It is a huge, modern city and a transport gateway for travellers to and from Vietnam.
    [edit] Get in
    [edit] By plane

    Nanning has an airport serving both domestic and international flights, though the latter feature only a few destinations on a non-daily basis. But there are plans to have the Nanning-Ho Chi Ming city and Nanning-Bangkok direct flights in the near future. Since Nanning city is the gateway of China to southeast asian countries, the local government put a lot of emphasis on connecting Nanning to capitals of every Southeast asian country. Getting there: There is a shuttle bus every half hour to/from Chaoyang Lu in front of the Minhang (CAAC) Hotel and next to the Yinhe Hotel close to the railway station. RMB 15 per person. 45 minutes.

    You can also take a taxi. As of March 2006, a taxi will run you for about 75 RMB. If you're going to the city center or close by, don't let them charge you more. Have them use the meter.
    [edit] By train

    The railway station is at the northern end of Chaoyang Lu just north of the city center.
    To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
    Beijing 0950 28 1 Nov 2006
    Guilin 0513, 0559, 0825, 0828, 0950 (to Beijing Xi), 1049 (to Xi'an), 1415, 1524, 1829, 1942 65.00 5 to 6 1 Nov 2006
    Kunming 18:10 ~200.00 10 5 June 2005
    Pingxiang (Border to Vietnam) 7:58 30.00 3.5 30 June 2005
    [edit] By bus

    Nanning has two major bus terminals.

    * Langdong bus terminal is on Minzu Dadao to the east of the city centre amongst all the new skyscrapers.
    * Jiangnan bus terminal is on Xingguang Dadao way south of the city center. Buses to the south, Pingxiang near the Vietnam border, and Yangshuo (via Guilin) operate from Jiangnan. Getting there/away: Bus 41 (RMB 2, 20min journey) connects Jiangnan to Chaoyang Lu in the city centre. Catch them from the square in front of the terminal. Alternatively a taxi will take you for approx. RMB 5-Y10.

    To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
    Pingxiang 7, 7:40, 9, 10, 11, 12:40,
    14, 15:20, 16, 17, 17:40 ~35.00 5 29 June 2005
    [edit] Get around
    [edit] See
    [edit] Do
    [edit] Learn

    Though the older people speak Cantonese (GuanDongMa), the younger generation speak Mandarin (PuTongHua) mainly. It's regarded as one of the most sucessful city in China in terms of popularizing Mandarin or 'common language'. So, it's a very good place to learn PuTongHua for foreigners. Universities offering Chinese courses are many, including Guangxi University for Nationalities, Guangxi University and so on.

    Rembering with Mandarin there are 4 tones: flat, up, down-up and down; which are characterised by -,/,v,\ or 1,2,3,4. So for example to say Mandarin or PuTongHua it is really Pŭ Tōng Hùa or Pu3 Tong1 Hua4. Please note Pu1 Tong1 Hua1 means something completely different!

    See also: [Chinese Language[1]]
    [edit] Work

    As a provincial capital, Nanning has a lot of working oppotunities compared to other cities of Guangxi region. The booming import and export business exchanges between Guangxi and Vietnam means that there is a big demand for people who can speak both Chinese and Vietnamese.Also, if you are a native English speaker, teaching jobs are also abundant.
    [edit] Buy
    [edit] Eat
    [edit] Budget
    [edit] Mid-range
    [edit] Splurge
    [edit] Drink
    [edit] Sleep
    [edit] Budget

    Around the square in front of the station, there are several hotels offering bargains for rooms and dormbeds starting at RMB 15.

    * Yingbing Hotel, (directly infront of railway station, on the right side of Chaoyang Lu if looking away from station). Excels with English-speaking staff 24 hour on duty and a comprehensive list of train and bus connections.

    [edit] Mid-range

    * Yin He Hotel, 84 Chaoyang Lu (right in the centre of town just south of the railway station and next to airport bus terminal). Tel: 86-771-2116688. Fax: 86-771-2420303. Conveniently located near the railway station, airport bus terminal, CAAC office, Langdong bus terminal ticketing office and other amenities. Some rooms newly renovated. Rooms from RMB 388, better ones from RMB 470.
    * Jinyue Hotel, 59 Xinmin Lu (about 20 minutes walk or 10 minutes by taxi from the railway station, 10 minutes from Chaoyang Square. Access to hotel is from a ramp from Minzhu Lu opposite post office). Oldish business hotel with recently upgraded rooms in 2006. Clean and comfortable rooms, all with bath, telephone and TV. Rooms from RMB 388.

    [edit] Splurge
    [edit] Contact
    [edit] Stay safe

    Chinese cities are generally speaking very safe and Nanning is no exception. But petty robberies are quite common. On buses, it's advisable to be extra-careful about your mobilephones, wallets and so on.
    [edit] Cope

    Vietnamese Consulate: The consulate issues Visas for Vietnam. Regular service takes 14(!) workdays, but you can opt for express service (600 yuan), in which case you can retrieve your passport and visa at 18:00 in the evening. Address:

    Ground floor, Touzi Dasha, 109 Minzu Dadao, Nanning.
    Tel: (86-77) 1551 0562
    Fax: (86-77) 1553 4738

    You can either take a taxi there (ca. 15 yuan one way) or the local bus (1.2 yuan one way): Bus number 6 bound away from the railway-station; get off at the second stop after you crossed a big bridge. The consulate is in the first really high building you can see on the left hand side when crossing the bridge. (June 2005)
    [edit] Get out

    There is a train to Kunming, reportedly a sensational ride through isolated mountainous country.

    The famously scenic tourist area around Guilin and Yangshou is only a short distance from Nanning.

    permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Nanning, China
    from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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    Hanoi, Vietnam

    Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization that is making it a rising star in Southeast Asia.
    [edit] Understand

    Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and hosts many government institutions, museums and memorials. It retains much of its older colonial charm even though it was in conflicts during most of the worldwide modern architecture movement. For that reason, few buildings in the city center area are higher than five stories.

    The Tourist Information Center - tel: (84-4) 926 3366 - on Dinh Tien Hoang, just north of Hoan Kiem Lake, can provide a fairly useful map (bewilderingly, the blow-up of the old town is missing making it useless in that part of town) and other English-language advice, as well as limited free Internet. They aren't completely without bias, however, and seem to support certain companies, for example An Phu Tour (bus company).
    [edit] Get in
    [edit] By plane

    Departure tax

    As of November 2006, international departure taxes should be included in the price of your ticket, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be - check with the airline to be absolutely sure. If not, the tax (sometimes called "passenger service charge") is payable in US dollars (US$14) or in dong.

    Most folks arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport, 35 km (45-60 minutes) north of the city. Several airlines run flights from Noi Bai, including:

    * Vietnam Airlines - 25 Tràng Thi (corner of Quang Trung) tel: (84-4)9349660 fax: (84-4)9349620[1]. The primary national carrier.

    * AirAsia (tel: +603 8660 4343) [2]. Low-cost airline with daily flights to Hanoi from both Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

    * Cathay Pacific [3]. Upscale airline with flights to Hong Kong.

    * Hong Kong Airlines [4]. New carrier with daily flights to/from Hong Kong.

    * Lao Airlines [5]. Small airline with 4 flights a week to/from Luang Prabang in Lao.

    * Pacific Airlines (tel: 84-4 9550550) [6]. Newer, discount Vietnamese carrier.

    * Tiger Airways (tel: 84-4 9454565) [7]. Low-cost airline with daily flights to/from Singapore.

    [edit] From the airport

    * Taxis to downtown Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai. The driver may try to deliver you to a hotel of his choice so he can collect a commission, but if you are specific about your destination, they usually give in. Taxis from the city centre to Noi Bai Airport charge a fixed rate of about US$10.

    * Public buses to the city center from Noi Bai airport charge 5000 dong and take about an hour. Bus #07 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi. Bus #17 crosses the Chuong Duong bridge and goes close to the old quarter.

    * Shuttle-buses to the airport depart from opposite the Vietnam Airlines Office on Quang Trung (see below). Tickets cost ~US$2 and are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park. From the airport, the fare is US$4.

    [edit] By train

    Trains arrive at the main Hanoi train station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, tel: 825 3949) daily from cities in the south including Hue and Nha Trang. The Reunification Express goes all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, although there is very little 'express' about it.

    There are train services to the north-west (including Lao Cai, from which you reach Sapa - the onward route to Kunming in China is no longer open). To board trains bound for these destinations, you have to enter the railway station compound through the "backdoor" at Tran Quy Cap station. Just tell your driver which destination your train is heading to.

    However, tickets for all destinations are sold in the main station, though there are two counter halls, north and south, serving the respective destinations. Buy your tickets as early as possible, since especially sleeper-tickets can be sold out several days in advance. If you can't get a ticket anymore, try a travel-agent who still might have stocks. You may also try your luck in the station just before boarding time, agents still holding tickets will be eager to sell as the departure draws near.
    [edit] By bus

    Most of the "open-tour" bus itineraries either begin or end in Hanoi, with Hue the next (or previous) stop (12-14 hours, US$8-9), and from there to Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, and other cities in Vietnam, depending on the bus company.

    Many of the same companies also sell tickets to Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos (US$16-18), but do some research before you buy a ticket - rattle-trap scam buses abound on this route.
    [edit] Get around
    Hanoi traffic and commerce
    Hanoi traffic and commerce

    Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap and fun way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, though. There are several different cab companies, and each has different starting fares and per kilometer rates. For lone travelers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters known as xe om) are popular too.

    Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. Unless you are familiar with distances and fares in the city, it is probably safer to insist on using the meter. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind! Don't sweat it, it's all part of the expected negotiation protocol.

    Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Even if it is not their usual job, a quick dollar can be made taking tourists around to and from the sights, so be expected to be offered a ride every half-block or so. Negotiate a fare in advance, and again, turn around and walk away if you don't like their offer. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it - your fare could be the only one they get all day. You might want to write down the negotiated fare to avoid confusion. Even if you do speak Vietnamese, a driver might pretend that you said 50,000 dong instead of 15,000! A typical 10 minute fare should cost no more than 15,000-20,000 dong. Many drivers will accept US dollars as well.

    Motorcycles can be rented for around US$5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi traffic is very difficult place to sharpen motorbike skills. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores.
    [edit] See
    [edit] Museums

    * Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Open mornings only, 8-11am; closed afternoons, Mondays, and Fridays. Admission free.) The city down south may have his name, but only Hanoi has the man himself, entombed in distinctly Lenin-esque fashion - against his wishes, but that's how it goes. No talking, short pants, or other signs of disrespect allowed while viewing; photos are allowed only from outside, in the grand Ba Dinh Square. Purses are allowed into the tomb, but expect them to be searched by several bored soldiers along the way. Left luggage is handled in a complicated scheme: there is an office near the street for large bags, with separate windows for Vietnamese and foreigners, and a further office for cameras, which will be transported to a third office right outside the exit of the mausoleum. Items checked in at the first office, however, will stay there. Note that the mausoleum is closed for a couple months around the end of the year, when the body is taken overseas for maintenance.

    Gone bananas at the Ho Chi Minh Museum
    Gone bananas at the Ho Chi Minh Museum

    * Ho Chi Minh Museum (19 Ngoc Ha St., Ba Dinh, Hanoi; tel. +84-4 846-3572, fax +84-4 843-9837; Open 8-11:30am, 2-4pm, closed Monday and Friday afternoons. Admission 15,000 dong.) bthochiminh@hn.vnn.vn Right around the corner, this gleaming white museum and its gloriously ham-handed iconography are the perfect chaser to the solemnity of the mausoleum. The building, completed in 1990, is intended to evoke a white lotus. Some photos and old letters are on display on the second floor, but the main exhibition space is on the third floor. Guards won't allow photos of the giant bronze Ho Chi Minh statue at the top of the stairs, but tend not to care about photos of the rest of the exhibits, which include cars crashing through walls to represent the chaos of post-war American capitalism, soldiers charging around with electric plugs, and a cave hideout re-imagined as the inside of Ho Chi Minh's brain. Guides are available in English, French, Chinese and Russian, but don't bother; the displays are labeled in English and French, and it's hard to imagine the guides doing much other than belaboring the point.

    * Ho Chi Minh's Vestige In The Presidential Palace Area (No.1 Bach Thao, Ba Dinh, Hanoi; tel. +84 08044529, fax +84 08043064. Open 7:30-11am, 2-4pm in the summer, and 8-11am, 1:30-4pm in the winter. Closed Monday and Friday afternoons. Admission 15,000 dong.) The exit from the mausoleum takes you right into the grounds of the, uh, vestige, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 until his death in 1969. The nicely landscaped complex includes two of Ho Chi Minh's houses, kept shiny and "as he left them" by the authorities, as well as a garage with two of Ho's cars and a carp-filled pond. The Presidential Palace is also nearby, but it's not always open to visitors. Pamphlets are available in English, Chinese, French, and Korean. Guided tours are usually available if you wait.

    * One-Pillar Pagoda. Tucked away between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. Travelers find the One-Pillar Pagoda either charming and lovely or utterly pointless, depending on how many tour groups are crammed into the small grounds at the time of their visit. Either way, it's free.

    * Fine Arts Museum (Bảo Tàng Mỹ Thuật), 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.

    * Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) (On Quoc Tu Giam St., south of the Mausoleum. Admission 5,000 dong.) The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070 and established as the country's first university six years later. The courtyard features numerous stone tablets, each mounted on the back of a tortoise, with the names of graduates.

    * Army Museum (Bảo Tàng Quân Đội), Dien Bien Phu Street. Vietnam's military history extends back some two millennia, and this museum covers it. On display outside are the ubiquitous MiG-21 jet fighter and T-54 tank.

    * Air Force Museum (Bảo Tàng Không Quân), Truong Chinh Street (Southwest of center). There's a decent outdoor collection of Soviet-built MiG fighters, a huge Mi-6 helicopter, and other aircraft; unfortunately they've been exposed to the elements for some time and local kids climb over them.

    [edit] Parks
    Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
    Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

    * Hoan Kiem Lake is a pleasant park in the center of town, within easy walking distance from anywhere in the Old Quarter. It's the locals' favorite leisure spot, and a great place to watch early-morning tai chi or sit and read in the afternoon. Hoan Kiem means "returned sword", and the name comes from a legend in which King Le Loi was given a magical sword by the gods, which he used to drive out the invading Chinese. Later, while boating on the lake, he encountered a giant turtle, who grabbed the sword and carried it down to the depths, returning it to the gods from whom it had come. (You can see a version of the legend at the Water Puppet Theater - see below.) The giant turtles reportedly still inhabit the lake, and were last seen in 2002.
    o Ngoc Son Temple (admission 2,000 dong) extends out into the lake, with small but attractive grounds, displays on Vietnamese history and, more memorably, displays on the giant turtles, including a mummified specimen.

    * Ho Tay, or "West Lake", is northwest of the city, and has become a popular site for gaudy villas owned by the well-to-do.

    [edit] Wartime sites

    * Hoa Lo Prison ("The Hanoi Hilton"), Hai Ba Trung Street. Originally built by the French and later used to hold captured U.S. airmen, little remains of the structure besides the "Maison Centrale" gate and a small museum. Most of it has made way for a new high-rise building, though it's not the new, real Hilton hotel - even for Vietnam that would be a bit too ironic.

    * B-52 Lake. Until December 19, 1972, this was just a small brackish pond just off Hoang Hoa Tam Street, about 1 km west of the mausoleum. On that day, in a twisted retelling of the Hoan Kiem legend (see above), Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns (possibly with the help of flying turtles) retook the enemy's eight-engined, 100-ton sword and sent it, too, to the shallow bottom of the lake, where it remains today.

    * Downed Aircraft Memorial. Along Thanh Nien Street on Truc Bach lake there is a stone plaque commemorating the shooting down of a U.S. Navy (not "USAF" as depicted) aircraft in 1967. Peruse the Vietnamese script and you can pick out the name of John McCain, one of the airmen.

    [edit] Theatre

    * Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (57 Dinh Tien Hoang St., across the street from the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake; tel. +84-4-824-9494, fax +84.4.824-5117) [8]. A visit to the water puppet theater is a real highlight of a trip to Hanoi. Live musicians accompany folk legends from Vietnamese history, told with wooden men, women and dragons, dancing and splashing on the face of the water. The narratives are sung in Vietnamese, but a list of titles is available in several languages. Tickets are 20,000/40,000 dong. There are several performances throughout the day, but it's virtually impossible to buy tickets for the same day, and most performances for the following day will be sold out as well. Camera passes are an extra 15,000 dong, but whether you buy one or not is purely on the honor system. Don't worry about getting wet, but the seats are very small, and visitors with above-average height will have to squirm a bit.

    [edit] Do

    If you're the adventurous type or simply bored temporarily of the city atmosphere, then consider a cruise in the northern countryside. A round trip will bring you to a lot of charming villages and through hills and valleys with stunning nature. Main roads are generally in good condition and you can easily do a couple of hundred kilometers a day. The villages and provinces are generally safe at night, and you get to see a lot of Vietnamese culture such as various tribe folks. While bus services are in fact available (albeit not always reliable), a recommended alternative is to rent a bike or car and make the trip on your own. Motorbikes in decent quality can be rented for as little as US$5 a day, and many places have suggestions for routes.
    [edit] Learn
    [edit] Work
    [edit] Buy

    Hanoi is a shoppers paradise for silk, lacquerware, wood, custom tailoring and other Asian inspired design. The bargains are among the best in Asia. Artisans and craftsmen have set up shop in the Old Quarter for generations, and each street is named after the item traditionally sold there. Among the more interesting sights are the streets close to the lake full of nothing but stores overflowing with wave upon wave of white shoes, and a few shops offering to custom-carve black marble tombstones (complete with portrait) for anyone passing by.

    In the quarter between Hoan Kiem Lake and the Cathedral, you'll find numerous shops with the same selection but of better quality. Vendors know that, so prices are higher than in the Old Quarter. Shops can sometimes arrange shipment to overseas destinations, and even with the added costs you'll still have a bargain.

    There are two major shopping malls in Hanoi, Trang Tien Plaza and the new-built Vincom City Towers. Both are located in the Hoan Kiem District.
    [edit] Eat

    A local delicacy in the Hanoi area is dog meat (thịt chó), which is especially popular in the winter. There are a number of restaurants along the Red River that specialize in it. Another exotic regional taste is ca cuong, an extract from the belostomatid, or giant water bug. Just a few drops are added to noodles for the unique aroma.

    On Tô Tich, a small street connecting Hang Quat and Hang Gai, you can help yourself to a refreshing fruit milkshake (sinh tố) at one of the stalls (~7000 dong).

    You can also try BBQ pork (slice) in soup with vermicelli and lots of vegi at DAC KIM (24, Hang Ga, Hoen Kiem, Hanoi; open 8am-8pm). They serve spring rolls too.

    [edit] Budget

    Look to the Old Quarter for atmospheric street stalls and reasonably priced Western fare.

    * Huy Café & Pizza Inn (32 Dinh Liet Street) offers a large Italian dinner combo (garlic bread, soup/salad, pizza/pasta, drink) for only 65,000 dong.

    * Papa Joe's Coffee (112 Cau Go, tel. +84 926-2544; open 8am-11pm) Despite the name, this is actually a full-on restaurant, with pasta, soup, salads, sandwiches, and pretty good burgers (vegetarian included). Drinks and desserts are also on hand. Entrees are 45-65,000 dong. The best reason to eat here, though, is the view over the frantic traffic square and the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake below.

    [edit] Mid-range

    * Cha Ca La Vong (14 Cha Ca Street, also 107 Nguyen Truong To Street) - this establishment is so famous, the street is named after it, instead of the other way around. There's only one dish on the menu, fried fish, but they've been serving it for five generations.

    * Hapro, a Vietnamese vodka company, maintains two locations on the southwest corner of Hoan Kiem lake; the indoor location has free wi-fi Internet access.

    * Little Hanoi - basically Western food with some Vietnamese food.

    * Little Hanoi 2 is very good for Western breakfasts and sandwiches.

    * Moka Café

    * Tamarind Café (Ma May 80, Old Quarter; tel. +84 4 926-0580) [9] Has a menu full of inventive vegetarian dishes, lots of fresh juices, and a relaxed, stylish interior. Don't come here if you're ravenous and out to fill your belly, though, as the portions aren't very big, and it's a tad pricey.

    * La Salsa (near the church in old town) - French food and ex-pat hang-out.

    * Paris Deli (near St Joseph's Catheral)offers delicious Italian meal (pasta, pizza, bread, soup etc.)

    [edit] Splurge

    * The Press Club Restaurant

    [edit] Drink

    Bia Hơi is abundant in the streets of the Old Quarter. At the crossing of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen five separate venues fill up with travelers in the evenings, but you can get more local atmosphere on some of the side streets.

    * Bar Barracuda, To 4A, Phuc Tan, (04)9323244 hanoi_barracuda@hotmail.com is reportedly the most fashionable ex-pat hang-out, with live music, a beer garden, sports bar and dancing area.

    * Culi Café, 40 Lương Ngọc Quyến, (84-04)9262241 culicafe@wideeyedtours.com [10] - for the feeling you haven't left your hometown or just need a break from Bia Hoi, this Kiwi-run bar might be the answer. Air-con lounge upstairs, with wireless connections, sports occasionally screened in the bar downstairs. The same bar also runs a travel agency.

    * Green Lake (Ho Guom Xanh) 32 Le Thai To, is a crowded bar with weekly performances by popular local singers. A place for the definitive Vietnamese entertainment scene.

    * Le Maquis is a small bar on the norther end of Ta Hien. It's more like a loud rock music binge and smoke pub than a stylish lounge, but there's usually a happy crowd until late and the place has an authentic feel.

    [edit] Sleep

    Hanoi hotel scams

    Although most of the hotels in Hanoi are helpful and trustworthy, there are still some scam artists around. Touts will try to lure you into a hotel. If you decide to go, be sure to have them pay the transport, and don't hesitate to leave if you do not like the place. Also, do not believe anybody other than the front desk clerk if they tell you that a certain hotel is "full". They'd rather take you to a place that pays them a commission. Any hotel will be keen to have you book a Ha Long Bay trip through them, but wait a day to judge the quality of service you're receiving there - that'll give you some idea of what kind of travel agency they intend to pass you off to.

    Be aware that unscrupulous hotels will promise deals that are poorly explained until check-out - for example, "daily free water and fruit" that is only free on the first day. In the Old Quarter, Thien Tan Hotel, Old Street Hotel and Ocean Star Hotel indulge in this scam, so avoid them. If you've booked into a rotten hotel and you're planning to leave, don't be shy about taking photos of the minibar right before you leave, lest a few bottles go missing while the staff are "checking" your room. Also, ask explicitly whether tax is included in your room rate. Better hotels will include the tax, but scam-havens like the Old Street Hotel see it as an opportunity to squeeze an extra dollar or two out of you.

    With the overwhelming amount of motorbike traffic and the common rule to honk a few times before even considering the brakes, it is wise to check your hotel room's location before taking it. Having a room on the street side means being exposed to the honking which doesn't end till 1 AM and starts again around 5 AM. If you go more upmarket, chances are there will be sound-proof glass, but it is still wise to check first.
    [edit] Budget

    The Old Quarter is littered with guesthouses and hostels catering for budget travelers.

    * Real Darling Café Guesthouse, 33 Hang Quat, Old Quarter (2 minutes walk from the north side of Hoan Kiem Lake) tel: +84 4 826 9386 fax: +84 4 824 3468 darling_cafe@hotmail.com has basic but cheap rooms (US$6+, dorm beds US$3/night, long stayers can get lower rates) with fan, hot showers and optional air-con; there's a steep climb up to all the rooms. Helpful and friendly staff; the café on the ground floor does a good breakfast; they run a cheap and fair travel agency downstairs that doesn't try to rip you off; bicycles and motorbikes for rent. Keep an eye out for construction on Hang Quat (Fan Street), though.

    * Wing Hotel, 23 Hang Non, Old Quarter, not far from Real Darling, the Wing Hotel has clean rooms, friendly and professional staff and a book exchange. Breakfast is available. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the street. A double can cost as low as 160,000 dong, although the standard price is 192,000.

    * Thang Long Opera Hotels (formerly Thuy Tien Hotel) - only three minutes to Hanoi Opera House and five minutes walk from the Hoan Kiem Lake or Hanoi Old Quarter.

    [edit] Mid-range

    * Continental Hotel - 24, Hang Vai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi [11] Boutique-style hotel, has clean and spacious rooms; Hotel staffs are courteous, friendly and warm. Walking distance to Hoan Kiem Late, easy access to restaurants and shops. (around US$24 for a single room, US$28 for twin sharing, incl bf and taxes)

    * Green Park Hotel - overlooking the immense green of the biggest park of the city and along the vicinity of Thien Quang Lake. Its architectural design combines the 19th century French assembly with modern Vietnamese concepts.

    * Hanoi Elegance Hotel, No 85 Ma May Str & No 8 Hang Bac Str., tel: +84 4 9263451, fax:+84 4 9263452, info@hanoielegancehotel.com [12] is in a street in the Old Quarter that thanks to a curb doesn't see as much through-traffic and thus is quieter than most. The newly built boutique hotel offers luxury accommodation in elegant settings with modern facilities & amenities served by professional staff. Rooms US$28-70 with TV, fan, air-con, hot shower, bathtub or Jacuzzi and optional breakfast. In-room computer with Internet access is free of charge. The friendly staff can help with arranging tours etc.

    * Huyen Trang Hotel - one of the most beautiful 2 star hotels in the city, next to Hoan Kiem Lake.

    * Majestic Salute Hotel - in the Old Quarter, a newly built boutique hotel with marvelous French architecture.

    * Quoc Hoa Hotel - in the Old Quarter. Opened in 1991, and one of the first private boutique hotels in Hanoi.

    * Sunshine Hotel, 42 Ma May Street [13] has clean rooms in the middle of the Old Quarter (around US$30 incl. taxes & breakfast)

    * Sunny Hotel - enjoys views towards both the Old Citadel and the West Lake.

    * Viet Anh Hotel, 11 Ma May St., Tel: +84-4 9261302, Fax: +84-4 9261306, [14]. A terrific hotel with friendly staff, reputable tours, and newly remodeled rooms, located on a shady, beautiful street in the Old Quarter. Internet and a good buffet breakfast (with chef on hand) are included in the room rate. Room rates can be negotiable depending on the season, with some as low as US$15, but official prices range from US$18 for a standard room to US$60 for a family suite.

    * Zephyr Hotel - just a few steps from the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, and within walking distance of the Opera House.

    [edit] Splurge

    * Daewoo Hanoi Hotel

    * Fortuna Hotel

    * Guoman Hotel - on Ly Thuong Kiet Street.

    * Hanoi Horison Hotel - opened in 1997.

    * Hanoi Hotel - near the city centre and International Trade Exhibition Fair Centre.

    * Hilton Hanoi - US$80-105

    * Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel - adjacent to the Hanoi Opera House.

    * Melia Hanoi Hotel - city centre, 5-star.

    * Nikko Hanoi Hotel

    * Sheraton Hanoi Hotel - on the shore of Hanoi's largest West lake, with lush gardens, sweeping lawns and tranquil courtyards.

    * Sofitel Hanoi - 15 Ngo Quyen Street (between the lake and the Opera) [15] US$169-390

    * Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel - within walking distance of the Hanoi Opera House, Hoan Kiem Lake, etc.

    * Sofitel Plaza Hotel (formerly Meritus West Lake) - renowned as the most scenic hotel in Ha Noi with a zig zag facade and stepped architecture.

    * Sunway Hotel - boutique style, 143 rooms

    [edit] Contact

    There are hordes of internet cafés all over the city. Most are full of Vietnamese teens playing online dance or battle games, but if you want to be the one square who's using the internet for text, well, that's up to you. Rates vary, but can be as low as 3000 dong/hour. Some of the better cafés, particularly in the Old Quarter, have computers that are Skype-capable for international phone calls.
    Monks crossing the street
    Monks crossing the street
    [edit] Stay safe

    Like everywhere else in Vietnam, traffic in Hanoi is dominated by an incredible amount of motorbikes, all of which seem to be making a mad, desperate dash for something just out of reach — all of the time. In other words, pedestrian traffic can be overwhelming for visitors, especially in the narrow streets around the Old Quarter. When you leave the curb, look both ways, and take each step slowly and patiently while trying to make eye contact with any oncoming drivers. The key word here is slowly — don't rush. This way the drivers are aware of you, and can take you into account (along with all of the other motorbikes). Be patient and pay attention when you're crossing any street, large or small, and you should be fine.
    [edit] Get out

    * The Perfume Pagoda is a Buddhist pilgrimage site about 60 km southwest of Hanoi. A full-day excursion involves a boat trip, hiking up a mountain, and visiting various temples and grottoes.

    * Cao Bang, featuring the beautiful Ban Gioc waterfall, is five hours away by bus, near the Chinese border.

    * The Cuc Phuong National Park is the largest national park in Vietnam, and an easy day-trip from Hanoi.

    * Staying overnight in a boat on the breath-taking Ha Long Bay (or in a hotel on Cat Ba Island) is the most popular side-trip from Hanoi.

    * The northern village of Sapa, home to ethnic minorities and gorgeous mountain scenery, is also a popular two or three day trip.

    permalink written by  garisti on June 1, 2008 from Hanoi, Vietnam
    from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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