An excellent alternative to the noise and bustle of Central Hong Kong but easy to get there, with the locals, by ferry - which is two minutes from the hotel. Close to the airport (about 40 mins by taxi, 60 by bus). Excellent value.
D.D. 2 Lot 648 Silvermine Bay, Mui Wo, Lantau Island
Tel: (852) 2736-0922 Fax: (852) 2405-0922
Why Big Wild Goose? Nothing to do with the 1978 action film Wild Geese, legend states that Xuan Zang (Monk Tripitaka) and the Monkey King were saved by a big wild goose during their epic journey to the west. Built during the Tang dynasty, as pagodas go this is one of the country's best.
AKA Dayan Ta, located in the south of the city
You're in the tropics: it's going to rain. But when it does, you can still see Hong Kong in this breathtakingly modern complex. The display walks you from the geological origins of the island through the dinosaurs, cavemen, ancient dynasties, colonisation, world war two and the final handover in 1997 - all of it an engaging fashion that brings the exhibits to life.
100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong (next to the Hong Kong Science Museum - nearest Metro is Tsimshatsui) Tel: 00 852 2724 9042 hk.history.museum
China never fails to throw out a surprise for you now and again. Xi'an was once the capital city and the starting point for the Silk Road to the Middle East and ultimately Europe. Xi'an was thus pollinated by a variety of influences and today it is still an oasis of Islam in a secular sea.
The Muslim Quarter has one of the best street markets in China for souvenir shopping, with trinkets on show from Little Red Books to Arab coffee pots and everything in between. It's also a great place to see life as it once might have been, when China was a centre of world trade much as it is now.
Xi Dajie, near the Bell Tower
Yangshuo is one of the few places in China where foreign tourists can easily escape the urban jungle. Hire a bike and see a tiny corner of the real China of rice paddies and peasant farmers, all of it framed by the scarily photogenic karst rock formations.
Rental shops around the tourist market, and from cafes and hotels.
A good 90% of visitors to Xi'an come for the famed Terracotta Warriors. Don't bother. OK, do bother, it's nice to say you've seen them, but what the brochures describe as 'The Eighth Wonder of the World' is really little more than an unspectacular bunch of mannequins in a big hangar.
Once you're actually there, they just don't have the impact they have in the photos. Sorry. There's plenty other stuff in Xi'an to keep you happy instead.
By bus from the train station - quite far out from the city centre
Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi epic broke the cinematic mould with its bleak depiction of early 21st Century urban dystopia. But Blade Runner is already with us. Drive through Shanghai some night after a cloudburst; take one of its elevated highways and soar above the streets below. With the neon fireworks of distant skscrapers reflected in the wet tarmac, you'll see what I mean.
Available on DVD across Europe and North America, yet strangely hard to find in Shanghai's pirate DVD stores. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain..."
Once you take the Star Ferry from the main port, you (a) get THE most fantastic view of Hong Kong (aim to come back at night - and get your camera ready), and (b) realise how small the place is. Once you get on Lantau, take the bus to Po Lin. You get to see a snapshot of real life on the island, which is amazing, and then once you get to the monastery AND that seated Buddha - well it's awe inspiring.
I went for a meal at the 'worst looking' but tastiest restuarant on the island, about a ten-minute hike from Po Lin (avoid the large dogs). The food was good, as I was starving.
Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island
An impressive mountain on Hong Kong island, either walk up it (takes about one hour or more) or take the funicular railway. Queues for the rail can be harsh though, especially at the weekend - make sure you get there early. Once you get up to the top you have a fantastic view of Hong Kong and over to Kowloon on the coast and surpass tallest building on the island, quite exhilarating!
Hong Kong Island, buses go to the funicular regularly from the harbour station
A lovely hostel right on the harbour at Tsim Tsa Shui - it's next door to the famous Peninsula hotel, and you get the same amazing views for a fraction of the price. Breakfast is great value, the rooms are hotel standard rather than hostel and there's a gym and swimming pool. Rooms are great value at 800-900HK dollars, which is about £55-65 for a double.
This is one of the best street markets in Hong Kong. You can find very affordable clothes and souvenirs. A beautiful and relaxed beach is part of the bargain, as are wonderful restaurants and bars. Murray House is a restored colonial building that was dismantled and moved to Stanley from its site in Centra. It houses lots of restaurants. A special mention to the Spanish Restaurant: fantastic food and service.
South side of Hong Kong Island. Bus 6, 6A, 6X or 260 from Exchange Square bus terminus in Central. MTR to Chai Wan station Exit C and catch the green minibus 16M
A Cambridge degree course in Mandarin Chinese: £18,000. Pocket phrasebook from Lonely Planet / Rough Guide / Berlitz: £4. Getting off the plane and finding that not one of the hotel staff, waiters, shopkeepers, public officers, bus conductors or taxi drivers you need to deal with speaks a word of English: Priceless.
Unless you are a fluent Chinese speaker or have a Chinese friend on hand to help you at all times, you will need one. English is not as commonly spoken as in other Asian destinations. If you can't get one at the airport, try the Foreign bookstore at 390 Fuzhou Lu or Garden Books at 325 Changle Lu - Tel: +86 21 5404-9728
One of the very few choices for budget foreign travellers, the Captain's hostel enjoys a prime location on the Bund and sports a pretty decent roof restaurant to boot. It's 20RMB for a bunk; best to book. Though it's possible to get 'Chinese' dorm rooms elsewhere it's not recommended.
37 Fuzhou Lu, nearest Metro Henan Zhong Lu (Line 2) Tel: +86 21 63235053 www.captainhostel.com.cn
A lot of people disdain 'Irish pubs' and on the whole they'd be right. Nonetheless, but for the extortionate prices (you're looking at 65RMB - that's five quid - for a Guinness), O'Malley's is still a great place to settle down for an afternoon. The place really comes alive when there's a big sporting event on, and in the covered beer garden on match night there's no beating the atmosphere.
42 Tao Jiang Road, Tel +86 21 6474 4533 omalleys-shanghai.com
More than just a temple, it is a park, a teahouse, a shopping street, a snack street, and a mini-Sichuan theatre house all rolled into one. Go here anytime during the day or night for a bit of relaxation and fun.
Not far from Sam's Guesthouse at 130 Shanxi Jie.
Only 10km North of downtown Chengdu, Giant Pandas can be found eating, sleeping or at play. The Centre works to educate the public and provide a research base for scientists across the globe. The Centre also houses the red panda. Both can be held for approximately 100 Yuan. The entry fee is 50 Yuan.
The easiest way to get there is to find a taxi and point to the symbol for the Panda Centre on the tourist maps found at the airport, bus and train stations.
The Shamrock, or Shrock to locals, is an Irish pub owned by an Aussie and sought out by anyone looking for a great English breakfast, good pizza, football, rugby, cricket and a place to dance all night. It is a bit of home in the middle of China.
www.shamrockinchengdu.com No. 15, 4th section, Ren min nan lu (right around the corner from the American Consulate)
When the noise, grime and mayhem that otherwise characterises Shanghai gets you down, head for this flower market. It's a refreshing change to wander around the aisles of this huge indoor bazaar that still retains a whiff of old-school charm about it, not to mention the scent of a multitude of exotic blooms shipped in from who knows where. And at festival periods, even Christmas, the upper floor is reborn as an all-singing all-dancing plastic tat wholesaler - just what you need for those last-minute decorations...
225 South Shanxi Rd, near Yongjia Rd. Look for the trail of floral debris and turn into the car park. Nearest metro - Shanxi Nan Lu (Line 1)
It's worth noting that before you leave the customs hall there is an HSBC ATM which accepts foreign cards, and at the custom hall's exit is a rack with transport info leaflets. The easiest way into town, but probably not fastest because of town centre traffic jams, is Shuttle Bus 5 to People's Square and Shanghai (main) Railway Station. The bus departs from the ground floor ("1st Floor" or "Level 1" in China) outside exit door 8. Pay on the bus.
The quickest way into town MAY be the Maglev train (upstairs, across a long bridge) which goes to Long Yang Rd tube (on metro Line 2, the green line) but the MAGLEV ONLY RUNS 08.30-17.30!
Cheaper and reasonably fast (and closer to Arrivals!) is Shuttle Bus No.3, also to Long Yang Road tube. This bus departs from outside exit door 7. Pay on the bus. Long Yang Rd tube will normally be the FIRST stop, after about 30 minutes, so make sure you don't miss it.
The Shanghai metro is a bit of a luxury for UK visitors to China, as it's bilingual Chinese/English (well, all signs/announcements - can't vouch for the staff...) Look for a little chart by the ticket machines which graphically indicates price according to destination - likely to need 4 or 5 one-yuan coins to go into the centre. If you have no change queue for the ticket office. If in doubt as to cost I think 5 yuan is the highest fare (June 2005) and that's still only about 30p. You're issued with a plastic 'ticket'. Make sure you take the train in the direction of Zhong Shan Park.
If you want Shanghai Railway Station change at People's Square and follow the long wide curving passage to Line 1 (the red line) and take the train towards Gong Fu Xin Cun. If you want to catch an overground train that departs from Meilong station, take the tube to Jin Jiang Park on Line 1. Then it's about 150 yards walk, including a very high footbridge, but no shortage of eager 'porters'. Meilong is one stop after Shanghai South station which is closed for reconstruction, hence the schlepp (so I heard...).
Airport Shuttle Bus 3 also goes to Xu Jia Hui. If this is by the metro station, this could be an easier way to get to Meilong station via metro Line 1 as it's only 4 stops from Jin Jiang Park.
Shanghai tube maps: while displayed everywhere in the tube system, I could not find one in printed form. The one at urbanrail.net is therefore very useful. If your final destination is not Shanghai but not too far, eg Hangzhou, consider getting a bus from the airport's long distance bus station. This may be less hassle than getting a train. Go out at the ground floor and look for the little old ticket office to the very right of the numerous bus stands. Whether train or bus, having your destination clearly written in chinese characters will help greatly!
Taxis: one I took TO the airport from a southern outer suburb of Shanghai (so it was closer) cost me 100 RMB. Always only use a metered taxi, no tip expected, and never accept a touting taxi that already has a passenger in - it will cost you double, not half! Taxis for short distances in China are cheap, and normally have a fixed charge for the first 2km.
Food at the airport: if you don't want the limited and very expensive (for China) 'tourist' food on the airport mezzanine level there's a 'normal' restaurant just outside in the middle of the bus area. One of the upstairs bridges towards the Maglev train has a lift/steps down to it. I haven't used it yet. Menus likely to be only be in Chinese.
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