5 Myths about China that are not true

1. Everyone eats dog meat

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A dog enjoying the calmness of that dirty river :’D

It’s true that there is a dog meat festival in a village in Guilin. These people are definitely the cruelest, dumbest, most ignorant and evil people in this world. Seriously, how can you possibly tortue and then eat a dog??!?!!?!??
Yes, this festival is a reality in China, but it’s the exception. I have never seen anyone eat dog meat where I lived in China. I also don’t know anyone of my friends who tried it or seen dog meat being offered anywhere.
Of course I am not trying to deny that this behavious exists in China, but it is also not true that everyone in China eats dog. It’s rather more common to see dogs being kept as pets now, and they seem to be more popular than cats. There are also more people protesting against the dog meat festival every year. So I hope that after a few years, the government will actually do something to ban it for good.

2. You will return with lung cancer

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That day the smog in Shanghai was stronger than on other days.

Another misconception that many people get after watching the news too much. Again, I am not trying to deny the fact that the air is polluted, but it is by far not as bad as you see in media. Of course, when you happen to live in Beijing, it is more serious, but if you happen to live in any other city, you won’t see the smog as often as you feared. I was living in small town close to Shanghai, and the only times it was really smoggy were the 2 or 3 days after Christmas.
December is a very bad time to visit China, because the pollution is gonna be the strongest. Since winter is really hard in the north, heating will go up during the cold months. The eastern and southern parts of China don’t have central heating since there is basically only one month of proper cold weather. Still, the smog from Beijing wanders east to Shanghai and the cities around it. I did wake up to a smoggy morning and I just cried in my bed. I didn’t know what to do other than wear a face mask.
Still, this only lasted a few days. The other days were maybe only a little bit more polluted than the weather here in Germany. No city nowadays is 100% clean. I guess you’d have to live up on a mountain or by the beach to have clear and clean air.

3. Street food is not safe

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Some fatty but yummy street food in Xi’An

Totally wrong! Street food is in most cases even safer and cleaner than restaurant food. You can actually see all the ingredients and how they cook it, so they can’t trick you. Also, most locals get streetfood on an almost daily basis, so don’t worry. It seriously is restaurant food that you should be worried about. Behind closed doors, those cooks use MSG and used oil and what else we can only guess about.
Street food is the safest option in Asia in my opinion.

4. Everyone is rude

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Some frown, some laugh.

I hear a lot of tourists and travellers complain about how rude chinese people are. I can see how that happens though. I also had my share of chinese rudeness, but it was mostly some mean taxi drivers refusing to take us because we were not chinese, or couldn’t speak the language, or didn’t have the adress in chinese characters. Other than those evil taxi drivers, I mostly met the nicest people on earth. When I was lost, there were people who would get out of their ways to help me. Once, a girl even took us all the way to our hostel although it was raining outside. Not only young people, but also older people are so nice when they see you are lost. They are actually the ones who will understand your broken mandarin the best :’D
Also, when you plan to go to China, you should get ready to learn at least some basic sentences in mandarin. People will appreciate it and they will be more eager to help you out. Actually, this is something you should do for every country you visit. In the end, you are the visitor.

5. It’s a communist country

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Mao is watching you

Of course, the party that rules the country of China is a communist party. Still, chinese people must be the most capitalist nation I have seen. They are addicted to shopping and real estates as well as tourism. China is a rising star, and without a capitalist concept, it would have never become the most powerful developping country.
I would describe China as a perfect mixture between communism and capitalism. I am sure, that the political situation in China will eventually get better and better after the following years to come. I kind of feel like China might be the next super nation since the US is doomed with Donald Trump :’D
Anyway, what I wanna say is that the political situation in China is actually not as bad as others imagine it to be.

So these were the most crucial myths people know about China before actually visiting. If you visit a country with specific misconpetions already floating around in your head beforehand, then it is quite certain that these things will actually happen.

So please, wherever you go, let go of your prejudice and enjoy the place in its purity!

Merveille.

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Xi’An Day 2: The Terracotta Warriors – Do’s and Don’ts

As you may have read in my previous blog post about my arrival in Xi’An here, you might expect a visit to the Terracotta Warriors for sure, which I was looking forward to see for quite a long time already.

I knew about the Terracotta Warriors way before I even planned to go to China. And now, it was finally time.

I woke up early and took my breakfast at the hostel. Then the group arrived to pick me up. Here, I want to say that I wouldn’t recommend to book a tour to the Terracotta Warriors, neither from your hostel/hotel, nor online. Here is why:

  1. Money:
    It’s gonna be more expensive than going there on your own. The amount of money they take from you might not seem much, but it would be even less if you went there on your own.
  2. Time:
    You’re not only gonna save money, but also time. Although I was picked up really early, we didn’t only go to the Terracotta Warriors and back. We first went to a factory where they produced and sold replicas, statues and figurines of the Warriors which was actually not so bad to see. But after that we stopped at 2 more archaeological excavations which was soooo boring, omg!!! I can’t believe that this was actually included in the price. I would have saved so much money -.- AND time of course. Even after visiting the Warriors, our trip was not finished yet. We still went to another tourist sight, which we would have to pay EXTRA if we wanted to get in. And because some idiots in our groups have already pre-booked a ticket (they were germans, of course), we had to wait for them finish and exit.
  3. Making you own decisions:
    I could have decided when to wake up, when to take the metro, and when to leave the warriors. If I went on my own, I even would have had time to explore the Muslim Square a little bit more again -.- I actually regret taking that group trip more than probably anything that I did during my time in China.

Of course, tours can often be very handy, informative and a great way to meet new people. I did meet an interesting woman from England. She was hilarious and as crazy as me, so I always hung out with her. Our guide was also great. Her english was almost perfect and she gave us a lot of information about emperor Qin and the Qin dynasty. 

So, if you don’t wanna make the same mistakes as I did, make sure to inform yourself about the stops on the tour you are taking, and only take it if you really wanna see the additional sights.

After this little lecture, let me show you some snippets of that day:

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The little figurines being painted here
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The end product

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That guy made me try my calligraphy skills. I got to keep that work of art I created without having to pay anything :)

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One of the many excavation sites. As you can see, nothing interesting here…
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Spring was starting, so the first flowers were almost in full bloom already :)

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Finally at the Terracotta Warriors

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Headless warriors. There were several stations here. One of the stations was the hospital, where broken or incomplete warriors were mended. 
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We were able to pose with replicas in exchange for 20 RMB
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The UNESCO World Heritage Sight is for the grave of Emperor Qin which is supposed to be in the hills and mountains in the background. He wanted to be buried close to the Warriors, so they could protect him in the afterlife.
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That place we had to wait for that elderly german couple to finish their sightseeing. This statue depicted the importance of belly dancing in Xi’An. 

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At the end of our trip, our guide offered us to book a seat at a traditional dance show that included a dumpling Dim Sum. I love dance performances, and I love chinese food, so I was quite intrigued by that. I seemed to be the only one interested, so I asked about it. The price was a bit expensive, but it really sounded good so I did it. It was really worth it guys! If you are looking for some evening activities to do in Xi’An other than exploring the food market, I can highly recommend you to visit this show. Apart from the show, the food was DELICIOUS! The dumplings were beautifully prepared and I kinda felt sad eating them.

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Unfortunately, the duck-shaped is very out-of-focus in this one. I don’t know what my camera did here :’D
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Deliciousness <3
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The two amazing bamboo baskets in one picture. 

You don’t have to book that show through a tour. I guess you can also do it online or through your hostel. You also don’t have to include the food, but I recommend. It is a great atmosphere as well, since it takes place in an old chinese opera house with tables at the front part and normal seats at the back part.

For me, going to the show after the trip was a bit stressful. I barely had 1 hour to get changed until I was picked up next. That was insane. But I made it!

The show was great as well. The music was not as weird as the typical chinese opera music. The performances were utterly beautiful, as well as the dresses they were wearing. It was awesome!

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At the end of the evening, I was full but super tired. I was so happy that my driver was actually waiting for me outside and brought me back to the hostel. I immediately prepared my bags and got bed-ready.

This amazing trip ended with a busy last day in Xi’An. I would like to revisit this city just because of the food alone. It was fantastic. Definitely one of the best cuisines I got to try in China. I would even say that, together with Zhejiang food, Xi’An food is my favourite. 

What about you guys? Have you ever been to Xi’An? Do you have a favourite chinese cuisine? And have you ever had bad experiences with organized tour groups? Let me know below!

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

From Beijing to Xi’an: First evening in Xi’An

As you might have followed my previous blogposts about my trip to Beijing and my 3 days there, you know that the city was a very exhausting one. There is no denying it, that it is beautiful, has a lot of culture and history and I saw so many different things I couldn’t have seen anywhere else, I can be sure that I would never want to live in this city, even if the smog disappeared one day. This also doesn’t mean that I dislike big cities, quite the contrary actually, I really love big cities. I am in love with Shanghai for example, and I could seriously imagine living there, but Beijing was something different. It’s nice for a trip, but that’s all.

If you have missed the posts, you can read about them here:

Arrival | Day One: Great Wall |Day Two: Forbidden City

When I woke up on my fourth day in Beijing, I took my bags, checked out and headed to the train station to catch my early train to Xi’An. The train station was smaller than expected and super busy. There were almost more foreigners than chinese people. I also saw like three travel groups full with german people.

Taking trains in China is so convenient and the prices are pretty good. Way cheaper than the trains here in Germany. That’s one of the things that I miss the most about China.

Anyway, I arrived in Xi’An in the late afternoon. By the time my taxi driver took me to my hostel it was almost early evening. While I was on the train and on the taxi, I was texting my friend Qiqi, who lives in Xi’An. I met her on my travels to Suzhou in September as I posted on this blogpost, and I promised her to visit her in Xi’An before I left China.

She told me that her friend would pick me up and show me around town until she made it out of work.

By the time I got my things inside my dorm room which was huge by the way and very clean and almost empty (only 2 other people with me there), Qiqi’s friend texted me that he arrived and waited in the lobby for me. We planned to go visit the Drum Tower and Bell Tower and then go to the Muslim Street Food Square. I was starving, so this was a great idea.

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This guy was legit fire spitting in front of the Bell Tower
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Drum Tower

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It was really nice of him to show me around. His english was also quite good, so he could do a little bit of translation between Qiqi and me. Qiqi’s english was around the same level as my chinese. We somehow managed to communicate, even if it was just through smiles, gestures and hugs. But it was nice to somehow be able to communicate with her through her friend.

The Muslim Square actually blew my mind. It was my favourite part about Xi’An, and I would love to return just for the food sold there. They have everything from Kebap, Nut Candies, Muslim noodles, soups, pita-like breads, Fruits, Juices, Milk drinks, Fried stuff, just EVERYTHING! I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to look at and what to eat.

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This is how the nut candy is made. The white stuff is a sugar mixture they use for any kind of candy. It was very relaxing to watch this. 

We sat down at a traditional restaurant that sold soups and meat. My friend told me that this place was a very old family restaurant, and all the locals knew about it. I ordered a normal noodle soup, my friend ordered the spicy version and he also ordered a dish made of intestines. He didn’t know that I don’t like intestines, but I tried to see how it tasted. I definitely didn’t like it :D But he appreciated that I tried.

The food was delicious. We continued to roam around the streets a little bit more. I found a stand with the pita-style bread and bought one. It looked yummy, but it tasted a little bit dry.

Then I saw something fried. It was dough filled with vegetables and it looked sooooo yummy! We ordered some, shared it, but could only eat a little bit since it was really oily.

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The Street Food market has a lot to offer. I was so full after only 3 dishes, that I could neither eat nor drink anything. I regret not having tried the pomegranate juice and the milk drinks that are really famous here.

I still wanted to buy some boxes of the nut candy though. I love them and I wanted to bring them to Germany so I bought two boxes, one with sesame and one natural.

After that, we finally went to meet Qiqi. She came with our friend’s car which was a Jeep. We then drove to the Wild Goose Pagoda, another famous sight in Xi’An.

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The Wild Goose Pagoda does have its charm when it’s dark

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Bascially, on that first evening, I saw all the famous sights you can see inside of the city of Xi’An.

We took a lot of pictures there, walked around the square, and even found a park which had funny sculptures to pose with.

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One of the few nice pictures of me that day. I looked just so tired and exhausted, that I didn’t want to upload the pictures showing me in the park. 

It’s one of the best things you can do during your travels: Hanging out with locals who can show you around.

Unfortunately, it was getting quite late already, and I was feeling really sleepy. I had an early start and I had to wake up early the next morning as well, to go see the Terracotta Warriors.

Have you guys ever been to Xi’An? And let me know about your favourite street food you ever had.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille