The Ultimate Guide to Visiting China

China

 Shanghai and Beijing are two of China’s most famous cities, and it’s not hard to see why. Each offer some incredible sights to see, but there’s so much more to China outside of these places.Xi’an, Hangzhou, and Suzhou are three cities. I travelled to Suzhou for work and it was one of the amazng trips I have been on. If you are going to China but don’t speak Mandarin don’t worry you can still have a great time and not get lost. P.S I did get lost once for a few hours, thanks to DiDi(equivalent of Uber in China).

Suzhou Skyline on a cloudy day

Before your trip

  1. Setup your phone with apps: Google offline translate with Chinese dictionary downloaded , DiDi, offline maps,Alipay,WeChat(optional)
  2. Carry cash, AMEX, VISA most international cards just won’t work and it save you a lot of pain. I will recommend carrying around $2000CNY for a decent 3 week long trip, unless you plan to splurge
  3. If you are vegetarian pack alternate sources of food, dry fruits, rice cakes, nut butters, smoothie mixes, noodles
  4. Carry a windbreaker, gloves and comfortable shoes 
  5. A good backpack will save you from a lot of trouble if you are like me and enjoy exploring a city on foot
  6.  Have flashcards with addresses of your hotel , work etc written in mandarin and printed out. Keep it handy in your jacket or wallet
  7. Subscribe for international roaming or get a chinese sim, phone and internet connection is not optional
  8. Pack some snacks you can carry when you go sightseeing, its possible you wont find anything to eat for many hours
  9. Plan ahead, don’t just throw caution to the wind, most places are open till a certain time of the day
  10. Instead of a hotel book a apartment with a kitchen to save yourself some $$$ and enjoy tasty food 
After 30hrs of travel !! phew

What did I do?

I carried food but I didn’t portion it well and ended up finishing it all towards the end of my trip. I stayed at Intercontinental Suzhou , which wasnt the best idea I beleive.I had a luxury stay with a 270 DEGREE view of the Jinji Lake. I also had a revolving futon and automated blinds for night and day.Yes I was  pampered. The highlight would be this robot butler that came off quite unexpectedly one night.

My room
😀
Robot Butler
Jinji Lake (sorry for the blur, it was misty out there)

Shanghai, the land of lush parks, crazy skyline views, delish dumplings, and cute lantern-adorned backstreets.

On the way to shanghai

While there are MULTIPLE WAYS to reach shanghai I recommend using the bullet train. The experience was really great and it was clean, not too crowded and took barely 30min to reach Shanghai from Suzhou.

Yes you guessed it right, bullet train to Shanghai
Peace Hotel, reminiscent of the war
At Crossroads

The Old City God Temple of Shanghai

Old Architecture
City of God Temple Entrance
Yes KFC found its way into the city of god 😉
Stuffed buns
Chinese Candies, snacks, most of these items are made with Rice and Suga
Chinese Medicine, museum
Yu Garden pretty crowded in the evening
If only I could read this :P, google translate failed miserably at converting any of this

Traditional Chinese Evening Tea Talk

In China it is a common practice for people to hang out in tea houses in the evening. Western equivalent of meeting over coffee or chilling with friends.

Tea house @ the city of god

Tea Pets and the right way to drink tea?

There are two kinds of tea that are popular , one being floral and other being dark or black tea. The darker tea has more tannin content in it and also more flavour. Floral tea is a good pick for someone who is new to tea. Tea is usually served with mochi, qumquat,candy on the side.I felt the qumkuat compliments the floral elements of the tea and ehnaces flavour.Not to forget its a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants. All in all a great evening snack. Tea pets are a cute addition to your tea table and they give our natural seasoned aroma of the tea , absorbed over several days.

The layout of a tea house

You will be so lost if you came here without someone to translate mandarin for you. The staff does not speak English and sign language is all you can possibly do to communicate around here. Google translate fails to convert or even identify Ancient Chinese letters.

Tea Menu, yet another use case for Google Translate to work on.
Traditional Chinese Tea

Thanks to Joanne for being a wonderful host and taking me around to so many awesome spots in Shanghai for the entire day. I really enjoyed chatting with you and learning about the Chinese Culture.

Thanks to Joanne Xue for showing me Shanghai <3

A trip to Shanghai is never complete without the cruise and a close up view of the neon lights over the skyline. The cruise costs about 100CNY and is about a 60-90min long. Totally worth it!

From the night cruise

Carry gloves when you visit China in the winter months, I forgot to and this happened 🙁

Shanghai Skyline

Shantang Street

 Shantang Street, also known as Seven-mile Shantang, is a street in northwestern Gusu District, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. Largely a pedestrian street which runs to Tiger Hill from Shiliu in the northwest of Suzhou. The southern end is lined with restaurants, fast food joints and shops selling everything a tourist might conceivably want.The night view is unparalleled in beauty and I highly recommend taking out a few hours to be here.One of the best places to buy souveniers.

Shantung Street

You can take a boat ride(called Gondola) on the Grand Canal.This little gem is a ancient Chinese street . It was interesting to see some Chinese people live along the canal and not all live in the huge High rise condo buildings.

Boats that take you places

One travel tip to shantang street, its best if you go during the off hours because it gets crowded. Some of the lanes are narrow and there are lot of people.

Iconic red lanterns in the shantung street
I would add a caption if I could understand mandarin

China is known for pearl jewelery and I found some of the best collections in old town.

Pearl Jewels
Pearl Extraction

Words can’t do justice to how beautiful and serene old town, suzhou is.Untouched beauty! 

Old Architecture at Shantang Street

Zhonghongxing Noodle Restaurant (Guanqian Street)

Well  I am a foodie and I wasnt going back without a bowl of Hefu Noodles 🙂 The restaurant is in a great area for a post-meal stroll around the shopping streets.

 

 

 

Infamous Hefu Noodles

Suzhou Museum is a great work of moder art and a must see when you are in the city. What works best is that its close to a lot of garden.You can see a lot in a single day. I covered most of these places over the weekend.

 

Suzhou museum mainly focuses on porcelain, relics, painting, calligraphy, and handcraft.
Inside the museum
Food Menu?
Chinese Hotpot
That’s it folks 😀

 

Hope you enjoyed my photo essay on China, stay tuned for more.Share your thoughts in comments or write to me at theclosetweekly@gmail.com

XOXO

Akansha 

Leave a Reply