Hainan : The New Trendy Tourist Spot

Hainan, China’s famous island province, is once again attracting the world’s attention as it hosts the Bao Forum for Asia which hosts political, scientific and business leaders. The forum that opened on Sunday will run until April 11. But this year, the village of Bao, located on the east coast of the island, has undergone a makeover to welcome participants and wants to offer them an original stay.

30 years ago, when the island of Hainan became a Chinese province, Bao was a little-known and sleepy fishing village. At the time, it was 1988. And even after the successful organization of the first Bao Forum in the village in 2001, the name of this locality nevertheless remained obscure for many.

Many opportunities have presented themselves on the way to the city for several years. Indeed, the province of Hainan has endeavored to develop tourism and to make this sector of activity the backbone of the island’s economy. The province has established itself as an international tourist destination and in 2016 became the first pilot area in China to offer tours across the province, a typical example of supply-side reform in the tourism sector.

The opportunities have created extremely important periods for the village of Bao which today has about 30 000 inhabitants. Indeed, the town has managed to host a growing number of international events. In 2017, Qionghai, the city to which the municipality of Bao belongs, launched a “flowery city” theme to modernize all tourism activities and services in this sector.

According to local officials, the plan calls for a total of 2.26 million yuan (291 million euros) to be put on the table to help modernize basic infrastructure and beautify the landscapes that the island’s roads cross. Progress is there. Last year, 68 conferences, each with over 500 participants, were held in the town, double the number of the previous year.

Several large companies such as Country Garden Group and Sunac China Holdings will invest 300 million yuan to finance the promotion of the “flowered city” brand.

“It’s worth staying there for several days, especially for the beautiful garden landscapes and rural living environment,” says Chen Caiyuan, a tourist from Hebei. Hotels, supermarkets, restaurants… everything you need is there.”

Sun Ying, director of the Hainan Tourism Development Committee, says the island is changing rapidly.

“To further develop its integrated tourism sector, Hainan is accelerating the construction of tourist towns, character towns, and pretty villages,” Sun explains. He adds that the province will promote rural tourism thanks to the 100 villages of character and 1,000 villages on the island.

Rural tourism in Hainan is also booming. Last year, 9 million tourists visited the rural areas of the island, representing 14% of all visitors and with an increase of 16.8% over the previous year. These tourists brought more than 2.8 billion yuan to the local economy.

Li Jun, deputy secretary of the provincial CPC, explains that “shared farms” will be built to accelerate the development of rural tourism and to provide an enriched travel experience. The Mount Dahuang farm, located in Danzhou in the west of the island, is one of these farms promoted by the authorities.

The 49-hectare farm offers tourists a wide range of outings: lakes, mountains, and forests, but also tastings of 17 farm products to share such as longan, lychees and coconuts. The farm also offers free-range chickens, eggs, and fish to eat in inns built of rose-scented wood.

“For 2,000 yuan, you can own a longan tree for one year. We provide help to look after the tree and make sure it bears fruit. Then, when the harvest comes, we deliver the fruit to those who bought the tree,” explains Lu Guiling, the farm owner.

Ayi and Cleaning in China

In today’s post I’m going to talk about cleaning in China and about someone that most expats living in China know very well : Ayi. Ayi is not her name, it’s her title, meaning  Auntie in Mandarin and commonly referring to the maid. Because 90% of expats in China have a maid, for the very simple reason that they actually can afford this luxury for once. When I first arrived to Shanghai, I didn’t want a maid as I was thinking I could do it myself as I have always done. After a while though, you realize how cheap and convenient it is, and how stupid you were not to do it earlier.

I had been planning to have an Ayi for some time now because 70 square meters is a bit much to maintain by myself. Basically, the agency which I rented my apartment from was supposed to introduce me an Ayi, but they didn’t seem to care about it so I decided to find a cleaner by myself.

My Chinese girlfriend asked her colleagues and we got a phone call from a serious agency that provides Ayis with recommendations and a Shanghai ID card (it’s better for security reasons).

My Ayi is a 50-year-old woman (my girlfriend did the casting…) but she is still quite dynamic and very efficient. I pay her 20 RMB per hour (5 times cheaper than in London) and she comes 2 hours twice a week. I explained to her what I expected from her and she got to work quickly.

The downside is that you have to be there. Well, you don’t have to but it’s better to be around to make sure everything is done well because we don’t necessarily have the same conception of cleaning and what clean means.

The advantage is that she does everything : floor cleaning, windows, ironing, putting clothes in the dryer, changing sheets/duvet, and even crockery (but I prefer to do it myself because I’m a bit maniac about it! ). By the way, when she changed my quilt, she noticed that a seam was dropping and pulled a sewing kit out of her bag. What more could you ask for?

Chinese cleaning VS European cleaning

First, let’s talk about the cleaning tools used in China. When I first came to Shanghai, I went to a supermarket to get a broom, which looked something like this :

Yes, this is a normal-sized broom in China, not a toy for kids. It’s fully made out of plastic, easily breakable and mostly made for people under 1,2o meter.

After sweeping the floor, you logically want to mop it. If steam cleaners have been increasingly popular in Europe these days, China seems to prefer the good old way and stick with the mop. But not any kind of mop, not those fancy mops that you don’t even need to take in your hands. Chinese prefer this kind :

I never really understood how this became an accepted way of mopping. First, you have to take the whole stick and mop to the sink when you want to wash it which is super inconvenient. Second, the material the strips are made out of and the way they are put together is just perfect to retain the dirt in the mop. Proper disgusting.

 

Sources :

 

A brief introduction of Suzhou

As you may or may not know, I use to live in Suzhou as I was studying in Soochow University when I first came to China in 2011 (check this page for info related to studies in Suzhou). Often referred as the “Venice of the East”, Suzhou is a beautiful city just 40 minutes away from Shanghai by train. Here is a brief intro of this gorgeous city, hope it will make you want to visit it.

 

Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province with a population of over 10 million. Wu culture originated here with Suzhou’s establishment dating back to 514 BC. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal in 618 AD, Suzhou became situated on an important trade route. From 1130 to 1937, Suzhou experienced many invasions and takeovers. Suzhou is now known for its beautiful gardens and silk.

Where is it?

Suzhou is in the Eastern part of China in the Yangtze River Delta. Suzhou is situated on and around a number of lakes, the largest being Lake Tai, Yangcheng Lake, and Chenghu Lake. It is located about 100 km from Shanghai and 200 km from Nanjing. Suzhou has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons: a damp and cold winter, hot and humid summer, and a dry and fair autumn and spring. The weather is comparable to southern states in the US like Georgia or Alabama.

How to get there?

Suzhou is a popular tourist destination creating the need for accessible transportation. Suzhou has two railway stations: Suzhou Railway Station and Suzhou North Railway Station. Both stations offer high speed trains to a number of cities, including a 25 minute trip to Shanghai and an approximately two hour trip to Nanjing. For air travel, Suzhou is served by the Sunan Shuofang Airport, Hongqiao International Airport, and Pudong International Airport. None of the airports are directly situated in Suzhou; Sunan Shuofang Airport is in between Suzhou and Wuxi while Hongqiao and Pudong International Airports are in Shanghai. Both Hongqiao and Sunan Shuofang offer primarily domestic flights, while many international flights are offered at Pudong Airport.

Introducing “The Northern Capital” Beijing

In today’s post, I will introduce Beijing, China’s capital and a city with one of the richest history in world. I have traveled five or six time in Beijing and I think it is the most interesting city in China, due to its heritage.

A museum in Beijing

History

Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and is the second most populous city in China, behind Shanghai. It is the country’s political, cultural, and educational centre. It is the last of the four great ancient capitals of China – Nanjing, Luoyang, and Chang’an (Xi’an) – and has been the political centre of the country for most of the last 800 years.

Location and Climate

The furthest north of China’s big cities, Beijing is surrounded by mountains which protect it from the encroaching desert steppes. The Great Wall of China also runs through the north of Beijing municipality which was built to prevent invasions from the north. In terms of latitude, Beijing is level with Turkey and Greece as well as Central American states. Beijing has a fairly dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by hot, humid summers because of the East Asian monsoon, and generally dry, windy,  cold, winters that reflect the effect of the huge Siberian anticyclone. Spring and autumn are usually short, but dry and hot.

Travel

Beijing’s Capital Int’l Airport is the second busiest airport in the world, with almost 90,000,000 passengers a year; it is only behind the Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta airport. It was recently renovated for the 2008 Olympics, with the newly built third terminal being one of the biggest terminals in the world. A second international airport, named Beijing Daxing International Airport, is currently under consturction in Daxing District, and is expected to be ready by 2017. From Beijing you can connect to any Chinese city with regular air passenger service. It takes just about two hours to fly to Shanghai, and just under three to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Internationally, it takes 10 and a half hours to London, 14 hours to New York and 11 and a half hours to Sydney.

Things You Should Do and Should not Do in China

Chinese business card etiquette

 

Being a tourist can be amazing when you have understood about the custom of the country you have visited. There are many Asian countries you can visit and learn the culture. One of the oldest and most unique countries in Asia is China. Their culture is just amazing, and you should face it when you have come to China. You have to know the culture, language a little bit and tour guide if you don’t have any skill in speaking Chinese. The language barrier is something common, but when it has come to custom, you should understand first. Here are things you should not do and should do when you are in China.

Do’s

  • When you have met an older people, you have to greet them first because the oldest person should be greeted first as a symbol of high respect to the Chinese culture.
  • Tap twice the table when you are drinking a toast.
  • It is necessary to do a handshake because it has been a common thing in non-verbal greeting in China.
  • When you are wrapping gifts in China, use red packages or wrappers and avoid using white or black because it is a symbol of death.
  • Keep calm whenever something weird happens in front of your face.

Don’ts

  • Business cards are a very big deal in China. When someone is giving you his business card with both hands, you must take it using both hands in return.
  • Never spit into the bowl, and when you are going to spit using tissue, you should place it at plate and not your food bowl.
  • If you are offered a toast, you must drink with the person who is inviting you as a mark of respect
  • Never stick your chopsticks in your bowl of rice as it is highly associated with death and funeral.
  • Never open the gifts in front of the giver when you are receiving gift and wait until they take their leave.
  • When you come to Silk Road, you should not bring any non-halal foods to keep it respect.
  • If you meet old people, you have to ask permission first when you want to photograph them.

 

As you can see, the Chinese have their own beliefs and I highly recommend to get informed of what is considered respectful and disrespectful in China before traveling there, this may avoid you big misunderstanding and even trouble !

Have you ever experienced cultural differences that surprised you in China? If you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment!

Studying in China (Part 2)

As I mentioned in the first part of my previous post “Studying in China”, I’ve met a fair amount of Western students for whom living in China was nothing but a painful experience. Being homesick when you live thousands of kilometers from your country is not a surprise, but often it takes dramatic proportions. When I was studying in Nanjing, there was some sort of game to predict which foreign student will be the first to go home. It is sad when you think about it, as they had a great opportunity to get to know a new culture and open their mind to new ways of doing and thinking, but will only take bitter memories back home.

So think twice before coming to China!

First of all, don’t be misled by the apparent modernity of major cities such as Shanghai or Beijing. Most of the country is still very poor and rural, and people have a much lower level of education. Hygiene, food poisoning, lack of manners… be prepared to meet another world. Most Chinese don’t speak English so having good mandarin basis is essential in everyday life.

Learn Mandarin in China

I will write an article about learning mandarin and what is the best approach to master this language. Making Chinese friends is the best way to improve quickly because, without practice, you will be stuck on a basic level. It will help you better integrate in the Chinese society. Most foreigners don’t even try to learn Mandarin or make Chinese friends. They usually stay among their own people or at least among westerners.

I am not saying it is essential to avoid western people, but if you came to speak English with Americans or Europeans, maybe China is not the right destination. Don’t mix up travelling and studying one year in China. Even if you have many opportunities to travel while you are living there, you will still spend most of you time in the city you are studying in. A year in China is a long time! Those who are having a good time and enjoy living in China are those integrated and with a genuine interest in the country and Asian culture in general.

Conclusion

I may have been a bit negative in this post, but my intention is really to warn potential students and spare them from what is happening too often in China: disappointment and bad memories.

If you feel this is a challenge for you, don’t hesitate and go! Learn to speak Chinese, make friends, and explore another world! With motivation, we can overcome the culture shock and have incredible experiences.

Studying in China (Part 1)

For my first post, I would like to talk about being a student in China, as it was my first experience with that wonderful country I fell in love with. The number of international students coming to China is increasing each year to the point where the Chinese government is aiming 500,000 students by 2020, compare to 265,000 in 2010.

The purpose of this article is to explain the implications of being an international student in China and how to make the most of your stay there. The views expressed in this post are solely based on my own experience.

Entrance gate of Beijing University
Entrance gate of Beijing University

Why going to China for studies?

There are a few different reasons to study in China:

– To experience another culture, live in a totally different environment. Many foreigners talk about “getting out of their comfort zone”, “challenge yourself” and simply become more open minded. China’s rich culture has a lot to offer to achieve this objective, whether you want to learn traditional arts such as calligraphy or to practice kung fu. More than just an academic background, studies are made to shape your thinking and immersing into another culture can definitely help this.

– As part of your professional project: China has been developing like no other country before for the past 15 years. Despite the recent economic crisis that has hit the country, China’s economy remains strong and work opportunities are still abundant for foreigners. Learning Chinese can, therefore, be a serious asset when doing business with China.

– To travel one of the largest and the most fascinating countries in the world. China has everything you can imag

ine regarding monuments and landscapes: from the world’s highest mountains in Tibet to the tropical beaches in Hainan along with ancient villages and the futuristic megalopolis of Shanghai. The country is home to more than 50 different ethnic groups with their own dialect, traditions and cuisine.

– China is very affordable. Most students are not rich and living in a country like China might allow them to live a life they couldn’t afford back in their home country. Food, accommodations, transportation… pretty much everything is cheap in China. Not cheaper, just CHEAP. You can easily have a meal for $2 to 3. A taxi starts at $1.5 in Shanghai, half this price in a second-tier city.

Terrace in guangxi province, china
A terrace along the river in Guangxi province, Southern China.

Be open minded and adaptable

Living in another country, especially one with a very different culture, is something that any young person should experience, providing that you are adaptable and flexible enough to embrace and enjoy this other culture. Facing a culture shock can only be beneficial as long as you have an open mind and a thirst for discovery. If you manage to overcome the language barrier and cultural differences, you will make the most of your stay in China and come home with a very rewarding experience that will be useful for the rest of your life.

It is important for me to insist on this point, as I have met quite a few students who didn’t manage to overcome this culture shock and did not have a great time in China. I will go into this a bit more in depth in next week’s post.