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 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 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....... 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!

Monday, April 8, 2013

One Day Walking Tour.....Beijing Insight Out!

In case you are in Beijing on Sunday Apr 21st, read this event poster.......

The first fundraising Beijing sightseeing walking tour for queers and allies!

So you’ve been in Beijing for a while but all you’ve seen so far is the Forbidden City and just because you thought it was some kind of red light district?
And then again you’re persuaded there’s not much queer life beyond dinners, drinks and dances?

Well it is time to finally broaden the horizons and enjoy the warm Spring days ahead with something different. Join us for the very first fundraising Beijing sightseeing walking tour for queers and allies, a chance to explore known and less known places in the big city and share a day out with a lively bunch of queer folks for a good cause! A professional English speaking guide will lead us along routes old and new, letting us discover some still *closeted* corners of our capital.

The itinerary will be as follows:
Visit Dongbianmen Tower, the last remaining Ming dynasty watchtower

 Brief tour of Red Gate Gallery [see July 2011 blog] , for some fusion culture mixing oil on canvas, ink on rice paper
 Walk along Ming Wall remains
 Dongdan Park (self catered lunch break), no lingering in the infamous cruising area J
 Walk along Dong Jiao Min Xiang (old legation quarter– buildings and St. Michael’s church)
 Police Museum (entrance not included: 5 RMB) for those who like uniforms, weapons, torture and crime

Qian Men 
    Dashilar old commercial street: stories about Chinese arts and crafts (no, there won’t be any “encouraged” shopping!), se. Jun 2012 blog.
Xianyu Kou Food Street: stories about all those weird Chinese bites (no, there won’t be any “encouraged” eating!)


When: Sunday, April 21st. Meeting at 10.45, leaving at 11.00am (plenty of time to recover from that Saturday hangover)

Where: Jianguomen subway station, lines 1 and 2, exit C (south west)

What if: very bad weather/rain/Mongolian sand tornados are expected? Then we’ll reschedule and if the date does not suit you, you will have your money back. But if the sky is gray that won’t count, you know that is just the standard Beijing colour.

How long and how far: we expect to be done by 6.30 ish in the evening. The itinerary is about 5 -6 km long, but you know it’s all flat and it’s all good for your body and soul. And you’ll get some rest during the lunch break at Dongdan Park !

How many: our nice little bunch won’t count more than 20 people, queers and allies both welcome.

How much: ticket is 100 RMB per person. It includes a professional English speaking guide who’ll provide explanations, stories and answers for each stop. It does not include the entrance to the Police Museum , but that one is very cheap. And it’s all for good: all the revenues will go to the Beijing LGBT center. That’s why it’s not refundable, once you did the good deed why would you want to take it back? Anyway, if anything comes up, you can still re-sell or give it out as a nice gift (if so, please let me know).

To reserve your ticket or if you have still some more questions you can email me at . Better not wait, tickets are limited!

Don’t forget: a self catered lunch, a pair of comfy shoes and your sunshine smile. Then, it’s all set for some good fun in good company.
Beijing LGBT Centre
If interested, please write direct to the organisers, mentioning ChinaMango. No prizes for guessing who the professional English speaking guide will be. If you want a personalised individual walking tour, do let me know!