China Dos and Don'ts

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Travel Tips for Dos and Don’ts in China

Dalian, Fujian Province, China
When most Australians go to live abroad for the first time, they usually take the "safe" option and go to the UK. If they are feeling extra adventurous, maybe they'll go to America or Canada. My best friend and I decided to go to Dalian, China, and I have no doubt in my mind that it was the best experience of my life. When Chinese people refer to Dalian, they allude to one catch-phrase - "Dalian is a beautiful city," or "the pearl of the orient." While the beaches don't have the pristine sands of Western Australia, or the magnificent skyline of Melbourne, Dalian is undoubtedly one of the nicer cities of China. Dalian is one of the smaller Chinese cities with only a population of about 6.2 million(yes this is small), but only has and urban population of about 3 million including a developmental zone. Dalian governs the entire Liaodong Peninsula of North-East China, while mountains surround the northern end of the city, which makes for many-a lovely hiking trip through the mountains and surrounding townships. As Dalian is a seaside city, there are also plently of opportunities for strolls along the coast when weather permits. As with most of China, there is also plenty to do and costs were minimal. As an English teacher, I was able to live on about 500RMB per week(about $70US) and this included eatling out every night, and having an active social life. Having travelled in most provicences of China, Dalian definitely had the best food, as unlike the rest of China, it food was niether sweet or laden with MSG. For $1 US, you could enjoy a tasty Chinese BBQ with lamb sticks and Corn bread, before heading out for an evening of drinking and playing Jenga or connect 4 at Noahs Ark or Dave's Bar. In the summer, Dalian comes alive in it's many paks and squares where you can join in with the locals and play Hacky Sack(with a feathered ball thing), or a version of Duck Duck Goose they play where someone walks around everyone who are standing in a circle and drops the hankey behind you before being chased (sadly I got caught and ended up having to stand in the middle with the other losers singing "We Will Rock You". In Zhongshan Square, in the city, they also do dancing. In our mis-guided attempts however to learn the steps, we ended up leading the locals in dancing the "Nutbush" to their music! Don't get me wrong, Dalian had it's drawbacks. Hygiene in retaurants, a hole in the ground for a toilet, the beaches had pebbles instead of sand, and communicating and accepting the beuracracy of their customs was often frustrating -as you would expect, but overall, Dalian was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.
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Beijing, Beijing Province, China
You gotta see the Forbidden City and venture out to see the Great Wall. It might be better now, but when I was there 5 years ago nobody spoke any English and everyone wanted to take pictures of us cause we looked so different. It can be a bit off putting at the start but you find out that the locals are really friendly. I recoomend finding an English speaking local tour guide and get them to introduce you to people. After that it's great!
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Labrang, Gansu Province, China
AMAZING i tell you, the largest monastery outside of Tibet and definitely worth a visit. Hike around the monastery with the other "visitors" and take in the smell and sound of another world! EAT MOMOS...they r delicious. And dress according to nightly temperatures.
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Rongwo, Qinghai Province, China
Around 4 hours SE of Xining and a fabulous town to see Tibetan culture, temples, and one-of-a-kind artwork. The areas has fantastic complexes to explore and is known for its Thangka paintings, especially at the Upper Wutan Si. You won't find better artwork for this form of art. Ask for my friend Duo Lata within this monastery - he's the best artist in the area by far and is extremely friendly. Be prepared to drop some cash - knowing a local or being able to explain in Chinese you're a volunteer will lower the price. The monks at friendly and don't be surprised if you get invited to a meal or their private quarters

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Gyegu, Qinghai Province, China
Yushu - If you can get past the 20 hour bus ride along some of the worst roads in China, it's worth the trip. Sleeper buses are not much better (extremely dirt linens and cold) than a regular bus seat due to the roads. The town itself is not much to see, other than the obvious cement architecture. What makes the town unique is that it is well over 95% Tibetan, and the Han and Hui minority Chinese are afraid of the Tibetans. The local government supports the Tibetans in this small town which is unique to see. The Gyana Mani Temple is impressive with its countless prayer-stones. A small monk school contains many friendly trainees at the Princess Wencheng Temple outside of town. There is a friendly Tibetan school in the fields past this gorge complex also and its one of two teachers will be happy to have a foreign visiter. The food is not the best, but the yak yogurt is highly recommended.
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