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Monday, January 28, 2013

ENJOYING CHINA ON A BUDGET (THE FINAL INSTALLMENT)

We know it took some time to finish this final installment but with all the photos and video we've provided, we think it was well worth the wait... Enjoy!



Nadirah’s Perspective:

It’s understandable that many people decide not to travel internationally due to fear of the unknown: cost factors, culture shock, language barriers, safety concerns, etc.  However, Troy and I want to encourage others to take a chance and venture out to other countries for the personal experience and growth that traveling can provide.  As previously explained in the first installment, there are some major differences between Mainland China and Hong Kong but our goal today is to give you some insight and inspire idea/practices that can be utilized when planning any international or domestic excursion. Hopefully, this last installment will alleviate some of the anxiety that many will face when deciding if a trip China is worth the visit.

When planning a trip to China or anywhere for that matter, the first thing to do is to do your research: look at the information of the destination (language, currency value to your dollar, transit options, etc.) find a reasonable fare (tripadvisor.com/ kayak.com/etc.), locate your nation’s closest embassy in the foreign land, look up recommended dining ideas and tourist spots, and hotel/condo deals.

Lodging:

While visiting mainland China over the years, hubby and I have found wonderful accommodations in different cities.  Let me give a quick disclaimer that most hotel beds are typically hard in comparison to what Americans are used to sleeping on and can literally cause discomfort to your hip bone if you are a side sleeper.  Most international hotel chains, for example, Best Western, Holiday Inn, Shangri–La hotels offer softer mattresses and bedding that we are accustomed to but will be more expensive with their nightly rates, ranging from $70.00 – on up.  However, on an average, you can spend about $50 or $60 dollars for a reputable four star hotel room. On side note, try to find hotels/condos that provide breakfast or dining options throughout the hotel. Videos will be provided below!

RAILWAY STATION HOTEL - SHENZHEN (LUOHU DISTRICT)

SOMERSET GARDEN CITY HOTEL/APT. - SHENZHEN (NANSHAN DISTRICT)


Hotels in Hong Kong and Macau are a different price range altogether.  Because this part of China is of true opulence, prices are more expensive the closer you are to the main airport. The further you traveling inward to neighboring cities for example: Wan Chai, Tsuen Wan, Kowloon, the prices can become more affordable (ranging $70.00 – 110.00). 

HOLIDAY INN - MACAU

Traveling:

The cool thing about major cities in mainland China, they have a well-developed transit system with English-translated maps.  The train stalls are operated and paid with cards called Octopus. You can purchase the cards and add any additional money amounts with fare machines that are situated throughout the main halls of the train stations.  Hong Kong has train stations but hubby and I never tried them.

Taxis are cheap and available everywhere throughout mainland China and Hong Kong.  When you first leave Hong Kong International Airport, their taxis run on a system (red taxis are for urban travel within the island, green taxis are for the areas/island of New Territories, blue taxis are for the island of Lantau). FYI: Before you leave the airport or your hotel, have someone at the front desk write out in Chinese your destination so that you can easily give it to the taxi cab driver. If you’re trying to get to mainland China, your travel will differ because Hong Kong taxis can only get you to the border of Hong Kong and then it’s up to you to get on the train to continue onward or you could just pay for a private car at the airport to transport you to the mainland.

Walking is always an option and I will admit is the best way to check out the local sites, parks, restaurants and stores. Just keep notice of street names and keep a map on hand. While in Hong Kong, Qingdao  and  Macau, hubby and I found it more thrilling to walk the well-lit and bustling streets.  


                                      WALKING THE SIDE-STREETS OF MACAU 
  
For those who want a change of scenery, know that you can take a variety of ferry/jet boats from Shenzhen (Mainland China) or Hong Kong to the neighboring island of Macau… China’s adult version of Las Vegas.  Macau has numerous big named hotel/casinos (Wynn, MGM, etc.), shows, restaurants, clubs, and culturally-accepted prostitution. This place has it all with more lights and bigger casinos. Although this island is populated with a melting pot of Portuguese/Chinese/relocated cultures, this place is jumping and English-speakers can easily enjoy themselves all day long.  


JET BOATS TO MACAU

Troy’s Perspective:

Food:

The Shenzhen Best Western breakfast buffet is a great buffet for the price ($12-15 US) and for the Western palate. Located in the ever-busy lobby of the Best Western Hotel, this buffet caters to the taste and traditions of both a typical American/Asian breakfast. The buffet includes pancakes/waffles, eggs/omelets, sausage, bacon, cereal, sliced fruit, pastries, orange juice and coffee customary for the westerner’s desires. This buffet also includes the typical delicacies of Asia with noodles, rice, sticky buns and various soups for the Asian pleasures. The breakfast is fast, reliable and a great way to start your day.

The Shenzhen Shangri-La breakfast buffet offers both Western and Asian delicacies of a superior quality than other buffets. My wife always enjoys the sweet/mouth-watering taste of their outstanding carrot juice of all things, leaving a refreshing and distinct taste that brings you back for more. As frequently stated, “you pay for what you get.” The buffet is held on the top 27th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel of Shenzhen overlooking the active city. For the price of $25 US, this may seem expensive, but is well worth it as you relax and plan your adventure for the day with free access to a computer and Wi-Fi. The service is fast and accommodating for the finest pleasures.

Shenzhen’s Wal-Mart is an adventure in itself in China. Upon first entering, your mouth drops as you pass numerous counters of Chinese delicacies of dried rattle snake skin, insects and other snacks/ingredients for the Asian palate. With the unique innovation of magnetic wheeled shopping carts that halt in place as you ride up-or-down the escalator with your cart in hand, you are stunned in amazement. You begin to ask yourself, “Why don’t we have this in America?” Once you enter the meat market and seafood sections, this is where the true adventure begins. Wifey and I stood still flabbergasted as bystanders, witnessing an entire gutted pig held up by a meat hook in the middle of the meat aisle as people chose their desired portion to be cut by the butcher. As we strolled into the seafood section we were amazed to see people fishing with nets into a large vessel of fish for their own choosing. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience purchasing a variety of snacks (chicken flavored potato chips, etc.) that would never be found in America. Wal-Mart in China is a true culture shock and immersion into the West meet East Chinese lifestyle. This is a practical option is you decide to stay in an apartment/condo rental.


MAGNETIC SHOPPING CARTS


FISHING INSIDE WAL-MART - SHENZHEN



EVERY TIME WE GO TO WAL-MART

A hidden gem that we discovered and had to mention was a reputable pizza restaurant but unfortunately, we cannot correctly translate the name on the sales receipt.  This pizza place is located in Halifeng Square, on Renmin Nan Lu Street, within the Luohu District. It is encircled by three very vivacious neighboring bars and is right next door to JC3 (Jazz Club Bar). The familiar sounds of Jazz, Country and R&B resonated from the bars as people socialized. As our pizza was being prepared, Wifey and I enjoyed a freshly made aloe tea/juice mixture conjured up by our waiter, Pizza Yu (Yes, that’s his name). When our pizza arrived, at first sight the pizza appeared pretty appetizing. The thin flaky butter crust, fresh vegetables and tangy tomato sauce was pleasing to palate. From the smile and joyful expression beaming from wifey’s face, I am sure that she appreciated the similar flavors that we are accustomed to. This pizza place is a great option in a lively location to frequent if in the Shenzhen shopping district of mainland China.    

FYI: If anyone knows the name of this restaurant we are describing, please send us a comment with it and we will gladly re-post it.

Entertainment:

Entertainment by far is not hard to find in both Hong Kong and mainland China. China features some of the world’s greatest sites, landmarks and escapes to paradise. You will never have enough time to see it all. Our experiences of entertainment included the island of Macau, traveling to various landmarks in the province of Qingdao, walking through the hectic streets of Hong Kong Island, viewing the massive malls of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, singing in the ever popular karaoke bars (FYI… they take karaoke very seriously and provide private soundproof rooms) and clubbing in the mainland area. No matter how many times we go to both Mainland China and Hong Kong, a new and exciting adventure awaits my wifey and I. 

Macau, China is a true expedition in itself, starting with the 1-hour jet boat ride to the island. Once on the island you will experience the same rules as if you were entering the island through the airport as thousands of people are waiting to get through customs (literally). Once you cross customs, expect yet another line with just a few hundred to catch a taxi to your desired hotel/location. When you finally get settled in, the home of the most extravagant and largest casino scene awaits your arrival. This by far is a place that is truly mouth dropping/stunning and you will have to see it to believe it!  In comparison to what we know as Las Vegas, Macau is 10 times bigger and better (they are still building more casinos daily). If you are impressed with the ever-popular Venetian Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Macau not only has the Venetian Hotel/Casino but they have (3) Venetian Hotels/Casinos that are all bigger than the one in Las Vegas (unbelievable) and is currently the largest casino in the world. The activities in Macau are endless and it is a must experience if you ever get the chance.


VENETIAN HOTEL GONDOLA - MACAU 

VENETIAN HOTEL/CASINO #1 - MACAU
VENETIAN HOTEL #2 - MACAU

MGM HOTEL/CASINO - MACAU
  
WYNN HOTEL/CASINO - MACAU (1ST VIEW)

WYNN HOTEL/CASINO - MACAU (2ND VIEW)


GRAND LISBOA HOTEL/CASINO - MACAU

Qingdao is the home of the popular philosopher/teacher Confucius. This is a place that we only spent a few days visiting but while there we experienced great eateries with friends, relaxing walks along the Fushan Bay water front and visited some of the popular landmarks on the Northeast part of China.


ENJOYING THE VIEWS OF QINGDAO FROM OUR HOTEL ROOM

MAY WIND SCULPTURE @ MAY FOURTH SQUARE - QINGDAO 2008


The hectic streets of Hong Kong Island never fails to amaze me. The steady stream of people, cars, food and stores can truly overwhelm all five senses. With people brushing by in close proximity, car horns honking, tempting smells of mouthwatering specialties coming from every restaurant and the sight of this bustling city at all hours can truly have your senses in high alert. With the flashing lights, loud sounds and everything catching your attention at every turn, before you know it you have walked several miles and 6 hours have gone by. 


THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF HONG KONG ISLAND


In the mainland areas of China, we always take full advantage of clubbing with our Asian counterparts every chance we get. Multi-colored light shows, smoke machines blasting, music bumping, drinks pouring and people dancing fill the scene. After a tiring day, it sure feels good to let loose and dive into the Chinese club scene. We may look different, but one thing stands true is that everyone loves to have a good time. The people of China dance, party and listen to the same music as we do in the states and know how to party the night away till sunlight.



DANCING IS A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE!



OUR FRIENDS HENRY AND ALEX @ CLUB RICHY - SHENZHEN 2012


 THE LUGGS PARTYING @ CLUB RICHY - SHENZHEN


THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF MUSIC AND DANCE... PARTY ON! 


BRINGING IN 2010 NEW YEAR @ MGM'S LION'S DEN CLUB - MACAU 

PARTY HARD MACAU 

PARTY ON TROY




2 comments:

  1. Your writing is very descriptive, but I appreciate the videos as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Dan for your positive comment!

      Delete

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