China, Made simple
Roisin's travel guide
Hey guys! I'm Roisin.
In my guide: I'll help you see as many sights as possible, for the lowest price, in the easiest way.
If you're like me, and only have a week to travel after summer camp with Adventure China, I've got the guide for you. I've done the research, chatted to locals, and decided to share it here, with you, for free.
If you want to experience iconic China in a short amount of time, you're in the right place.
- An inside look at Qingdao, Shandong.
- Some great tips for communicating with the locals.
- The best way to see the Great Wall of China in a hurry.
- How to navigate through China on a short time-frame.
- Some ideas for planning out your own route.
"Have you even been to China if you haven't got a selfie at the Great Wall?"
Why to see it:
The Great Wall of China is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. If that doesn't tell you why it's one for the bucket list, I don't know what will.
How to see it:
If you're on a whistle-stop trip in Beijing, Badaling is a well-known spot that is relatively easy to access. This part of the wall worked well for me as, on a short time-frame, I was able to see a well-preserved, famous part of the wall within 2 hours. There are so many awesome alternative ways to see the Great Wall but, if you don't have long, Badaling may be your best option. It is super easy to get to Badaling by train and only takes around 2 hours from Beijing.You just meet at the main spot in Beijing and they put you on the train that takes you directly to the wall, it's as simple as that!
So get that selfie stick ready and embrace the fact that you're checking The Great Wall off your bucket list.
When to see it:
My favourite time to visit the wall is in the summer. Sun, clear blue skies and less chance of rain- what's not to love? This ties in perfectly with finishing summer camp, as timing-wise you'll be able to visit the wall on a whistle-stop tour before heading home.
As Badaling is a popular part of the wall, be sure to get there early to avoid heavy clouds. If you're an early riser like myself, you can watch the sun rise over the wall- I promise you won't regret it!
Top tip: Make sure you go to the toilet before you leave the main train station!
Get your walking shoes on, as Qingdao is best done on foot.
Why to see it:
If you want an authentic Chinese travel experience, you must see the cities and the beaches. Qingdao combines city with beach with its huge towering skyscrapers and beautiful views of the Yellow Sea. Hungry? Qingdao street food has got you covered (and you can eat it on the go)! Steamed buns, pork, tofu, you name it and you'll find it in the towns surrounding Qingdao. A great way to embrace the Chinese culture on a short time frame.
How to see it:
Zhanqiao pier is an absolute must-do, so take a stroll, breathe in the clear air and embrace the incredible sea views. Also, be sure to have a wander around the old city center where you'll find stunning German-style architecture.
When it comes to the food, my biggest advice is to go for it. I won't lie - most of the time, I didn't know what I was eating- if it smelt nice, I ate it!
My family will tell you that I've always been a fussy eater, but in Qingdao, everything smelt so good that I just went for it. I even tried intestines (though they weren't my personal favourite) as the street chefs are able to take something plain like a potato and make it super tasty.
When to see it:
One day in Qingdao is plenty time to embrace the contrast between the vibrant city life and mellow beach vibe. If you're anything like me and you're happy lying out in the hot sun, mid-July is the warmest month to visit. As Qingdao is on the coast, you get a nice breeze, just remember to apply your suncream!
Top tip: Head to May Forth Square at twilight as you'll be able to see the impressive sculpture in the day and you may also then catch one of their impressive light shows once the sun has gone down.
Communicating with locals
"A smile and patience will go a long way."
When you're on your travel adventure around China, it is important to acknowledge that locals aren't likely to speak your language. This may sound like common sense. However, being a native English speaker myself, I didn't anticipate the unique techniques needed to communicate in rural Chinese areas. Often menus and sign postings are written in Hanzi 漢字 (the Chinese writing system). Also, many locals only read Hanzi characters so typing Chinese words into your phone can be a difficult form of communication too.
At first, when ordering food, I would try to connect to wifi to google an image of the type of food we wanted or attempt to use my translation app. But after a while I learnt to wing it! Honestly, I just embraced the culture as much as possible.
I learnt that 'chicken' in chinese is phonetically jee-row and 'steamed rice' is 'jung me fan' so it may be worth attempting to say the words rather than having them written out. If all else fails, point to something on the menu and get stuck in.
When working at camp you'll become friends with lots of Chinese staff so whether they're travelling with you after camp or on days off, learn words and phrases from them. This is an incredible way to take advantage of your incredible cultural exchange experience, and why not teach them a few words or phrases from your own country?
Top tip: Learning some simple phrases before you leave can make a huge difference. Every Wednesday, we post a word of the week over on our Instagram (@adventurechina) that you'll find helpful on your adventures in the Orient!
"Just give it a go. What's the worst that can happen?"
"Bullet train - does what it says on the tin. They get you from place to place, fast."
As I only had a week to travel after camp, I sought after the fastest modes of transport and found that trains were my best option for long distance journeys. I didn't even consider other options for my journey from Beijing to Qingdao as the train covered roughly 411 miles in just 5 hours! However, solely using bullet trains can eat into your budget, so be sure to book them well in advance or check to see whether there is a cheaper bus option.
Heading from Hailar to Genhe I opted to take the bus, which only took 4 hours and stopped at some amazing places on the way (places I wouldn't have seen if travelling by train). There are many amazing landscapes in China in between iconic tourist spots.
You may prefer to sit back and take in the scenery rather than using transport merely to get from A to B, so make sure that you do what works for you. As for day-to-day travel, taxis were really easy to use through the app 'dede'.
The biggest advice I have is to choose your absolute "must-see" destination and find it on the map of China. This way you can start there and work outwards, ensuring that you're not going to spend all of your time on transport trying to get across the country. You'll have an incredible cultural experience wherever you visit in China, so focus on one province and do it well! You can always go back after camp next year as a China navigating expert and explore another part of this amazing country.
"Plan your route. You'll save time, and tick off lots of bucket list moments."
When you look at a map of the world, it's clear to see that China is huge! After camp, you may have a few days, a week or a couple of weeks to travel China which can be a little overwhelming when looking at the sheer size of the place. Not to worry though, China is super-easy to get around if you plan your trip out.
The bullet trains and other navigation techniques I mentioned before will be a lifesaver when it comes to saving time, however you should use them wisely.
Take note that they don't run 24/7 so research transport times and factor that in when planning out your trip.
My biggest piece of advice when travelling on a short time-frame would be to just enjoy it. Try not to get too caught up in seeing everything, and instead focus on a few things you really have to see. China is an amazingly diverse country from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia to the beaches of Sanya. So no matter what you do, it's almost guaranteed that you'll be blown away by it's magnificence.