Friday, October 16, 2015

Just back from China

I have been in China for the past 4 weeks in Beijing, Xinjiang, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.It was good to be back seeing family, friends and my associate tour guides who are carrying on the ChinaMango business. There was not that much pollution surprisingly! We had quite a few sunny days and blue skies in Beijing. Also the high speed rail network makes travelling large distances so easy.

In Beijing, we saw something you would never see on the streets of London:


This little fella was being taken out for a walk by its owner......actually not a pet, but up for sale at 1600 RMB (around 160 pounds or 250 USD).You know the Chinese believe that they make a great soup and have anti-carcinogenic properties, probably related to their long lives.

In Shanghai, despite the national economic slowdown, business is still booming. There are over 1000 buildings exceeding 30 stories, and new skyscrapers are still being built.There are more free standing buildings over 400m high than in any other city in the world, except for Chicago.


The building on the left, the recently-completed Shanghai Tower, has 128 floors and is 632 m tall, the tallest in China and the second tallest in the world, and next to it in the middle of the photo is the Shanghai World Financial Centre at 492m.

We took some time off to sample the nightlife in Shanghai and there were a few new hotspots to see and be seen in. One place that caught my eye was a UK-themed bar that only opened after 11pm.



If you want to know where the door to Heaven is, then do book a Shanghai night tour!

However, it was the street scene below that reminded me of England the most, with sycamore trees, few people and even fewer cars! This was taken during the holiday period in the French concession area of Shanghai, a wonderful area for walking around in.


 Do let me know if you need any help with going around Beijing or Shanghai,day or night, and don't forget to look at previous posts for more information.

jetchina0602@hotmail.com


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seasons Greetings from London!


It's been a very warm Xmas in London this year, and I've been enjoying myself celebrating with lots of old friends and also new friends. I was fortunate to be invited to dinner at the Oriental Club in London recently,so here's a photo of me all dressed up forthe occasion. Lovely staircase and paintings, don't you think? Almost as impressive as your home?

Talking about home, I'm looking forward to going back to China for holiday at the end of this month and after travelling around there and S. E Asia, I'll be spending Chinese New Year (19th Feb) back in Beijing with my family.

Many thanks to you all for your continued support. I wish you and your families all the best for the New Year and I hope we can continue to be in touch.

Monday, October 14, 2013

ChinaMango Tour Information for Beijing and other cities

ChinaMango would be very happy to arrange a guide in Beijing, and surrounding areas, for half or full day tours, as well as night tours. I will not be posting new blog updates in future, and would encourage you to browse through the previous posts for a taste of the many things you can do and see in and around Beijing.


If this is your first visit to Beijing, there are the 'must-see' historical sights like Forbidden City (renovated and more displays since the 2008 Olympics),
 Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace. These can be done by taxi at reasonable cost. Also a one day trip to the Wild Wall (non-touristy part of the Great Wall) and Ming Tombs is very popular with private car.

There are other places such as hutong tour (traditional alley and street life), modern art area '798', museums and the municipal planning exhibition. The blog posts over the past few years also show the variety of things you can see in Beijing and surroundings. We are very flexible, and can discuss and customise a program based on your particular interests, putting in as much or as little in one tour as you like.


We can of course also give recommendations on the best places to eat, there is such a huge range now from very cheap local restaurants with food from all over China (and the world!), and also fine dining Michelin star restaurants. 

We also arrange night tours which can include a show (acrobatics or kung fu or Beijing opera), Olympic sites at dusk,
a night food market and visits to local spa/massage and/or bars (Weekends are the best times for the bars).



For the more adventurous, there are several interesting possibilities around Beijing such as Chengde (Imperial Resort),

Tianjin, Pingyao (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Xian (terracotta warriors) where we have standard 2 and 3 day packages. Further afield, we can arrange a visit to Xinjiang for an Old Silk Road tour.

 

I hope you choose ChinaMango. We offer value for money, understand your needs, are up-to-date on what's happening on the scene, and do not waste your time in factory visits or tourist shopping, unless requested. Do feel free to contact me on jetchina0602@hotmail.com for further information and rates.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Taste of (Bitter) Medicine...Chinese Style

Luckily, I never had a client who fell ill and had to see a doctor or go to the hospital. That's quite amazing considering we are sometimes walking over 10 km a day in the hot sunny weather or eating all sorts of delicious street food.
 
Actually it could be quite interesting for you if you went to see a Chinese doctor. You don't have to be sick, maybe just want to get rid of a headache, or back pain or feel tired easily or have a skin rash or whatever.
 
A friend recently recommended to me a famous Chinese traditional medicine doctor Dr Cao whose skills have been passed down from generation to generation. We went along to see him at his clinic, which was in a residential apartment.  
 
There is a distinct feeling of entering a buddhist temple.

 


 Dr Cao also knows a thing or two about fengshui, with a stone water pond with fish, and lucky wooden carvings on the wall. 
 

He treats patients not for the direct symptoms of the disease but for the underlying causes. When you go in, he doesn't ask you what's wrong; instead he feels your pulse for some time, looks at your face and asks you to stick out your tongue, chats a little about your eating and sleeping habits and then he tells you his diagnosis of what's wrong with you. He writes out a prescription and you buy the herbs from a TCM store.


I don't understand how TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) works, but certainly believe in it, like most of my Chinese friends. It's all to do with energy flows and how different organ systems such as the heart, liver and spleen, which are linked to various elements of earth, fire and water, interact to give balance or imbalance of yin and yang. If you are ill, things are not in harmony and the systems are not balanced.
File:Yin yang.svg

By treating these imbalances and unblocking internal energy flows you will feel better and have less symptoms. Believe it? Well, who knows if he is correct because the medicine he prescribes, usually herbal in nature but could be animal (e.g. snake skin for skin diseases) sometimes, takes time to take effect. At least it has few side effects and has been tried and tested over thousands of years.

Western medicine is much stronger and is directed at relieving the immediate symptoms only, and not necessarily at getting to the root causes of the illness. Western medicine is also partly based on believing you have a good doctor and that the medicine he/she prescribes is doing you good too! 


Dr Cao supplements herbal medicine with acupuncture treatment, and this model of an ear shows the many many different pressure points that exist. It takes an experienced doctor to put the needle(s) in the right point for treating the right symptoms!
Here my friend can be seen relaxing on the doctor's couch, but look at his left wrist.

Yes that's right, he's got two needles inserted that stay in for 10 minutes or so. Not painful, just a strange feeling.

Now it's time to go to the medicine store. The most famous brand in Beijing is Tong Ren Tang, where you can be sure of quality and with no fake medicine. It was started in 1669 by a senior physician to the Qing dynasty Emperor Kangxi, and is now the world's largest manufacturer of TCM.

There are 13,000 different herbs that could be used. Each one of the hundreds of boxes that line a whole wall behind the counter contain a few different types of Chinese medicine, and one prescription may contain 10 to 20 different ones. 


The prescription is made up into different batches, one for each day, with one course of treatment usually lasting one or two weeks.
Traditional Chinese scales are used to weigh out each herb. There are seeds, grasses, dried bark, dried flowers, leaves, orange peel and all sorts of other bits and pieces that I didn't recognise in this prescription.
If you are lazy, you ask the shop to "boil" the herbs for you in water, which is then sealed in plastic sachets, giving enough bitter liquid to drink 2 or 3 times a day.

However, the proper way is to take the batches home and boil up one batch freshly in a special ceramic pot every day for best effect. There's a whole tradition of boiling the first lot of water for 20 minutes, pouring the liquid off, and then boiling another lot of water for 30 minutes, then mixing the two lots and drinking through the day as prescribed by the doctor.

Looks quite disgusting during cooking.....

...and doesn't taste too good either! You have to drink this not once but at least twice a day, and for at least 7 days. But there is a Chinese saying "good medicine tastes bitter" (liang yao ku kou).


Friday, May 17, 2013

Strolling down a Beijing hutong off the beaten track

 
I've been very busy over the past few weeks. The tourist season is starting to warm up in Beijing. I've been very pleased to see old friends and also friends of friends introduced by past clients.
 
It's the middle of May and spring has nearly gone. Temperatures are rising again in Beijing, air conditioners are in demand, and we're all so happy when we get a sunny blue sky. I went with some friends on a stroll down a hutong recently, and it's surprising what you can find. There are some hutongs being restored and developed, but the more they become famous, the more they become commercialised and crowded.

This hutong is getting well known, but for now is still very quiet, look no traffic and very few people!

The street life is so varied. Here we see some neighbours (and their dog) enjoying the afternoon playing mah jong.
This little shop sells exotic products from Nepal
The guy dressed up like a  Confucian master actually is a man of many talents, giving clients advice on personal and company names, feng shui for their homes and offices, marriage counselling, choosing lucky days for events.....an all-round fortune teller!  
Some grand renovated courtyard houses can be seen...but what an ugly exhaust pipe!
Some original stonework.
The Chinese character for happiness is important no matter where you live.
 This is a well preserved courtyard house.......
Now used as a school....I hope the students know how lucky they are...and retired cadres' centre.
It was a Prince's mansion before, read on......!
Further down the hutong, we came across 2 quite different food shops. I'm sure you would all like the noodles but I'm not so sure about the duck blood tofu.......
 ....you can always go next door for some Hong Kong style desserts.
No 46 is an old factory compound which has been turned into a contemporary arts centre.
For relaxation, these prices are very attractive. (1 USD = 6.2 yuan RMB)
A new coffee shop has opened outside No 46.
And there's more choice around the corner. It may not be cheap but it's f....g good!What more would you want!