Gateway to China: Yellow Canola Fields of Luoping

As a lover of the real “off the beaten track tourist gems”, this is one of the latest editions to my list. Enchanted and inspired by a visit to the Yunnan Province in December 2012, it was time to return to check out the sights in and around the city of Luoping, the main point was to admire the marvellous Yellow Canola Fields at Jin Ji Cun.

Most travel books don’t even include Luoping when mentioning China’s Yunnan Province, that’s how this place manages to stay so unknown. These yellow Canola fields are everywhere in the Springtime near Jin Ji Cun village, close to the town of Luoping. Once have have secured a special holiday promotion, use it as a way of escaping the tourist trail and get off the beaten path to places like Luoping.

What are these Yellow Canola Fields?

This series of yellow fields are so coloured due to the flowers. The rapeseed harvest in Spring contains a load of yellow flowers adding magnificent colour to the region. It is used to make Canola Oil.

When should you visit the Yellow Canola Fields at Jin Ji Cun?

Please make sure you go there only in Spring. This is when the yellow fields are visible. The rest of the year they are not! A little bit of research pays off here – it’s advisable to head sometime between February and April.

Getting to Luoping Yellow Canola Fields:

OK, as with all travel in China, this is NOT EASY unless you speak the language or are with a local guide. You might want to print off some photos of the fields of flowers for showing people at the bus station when you arrive so that they can direct you to the correct mini bus. It also is an idea to write down the Chinese characters for Jin Ji Cun, the village. Google all this stuff, then copy and paste onto a simple A4 page and you’ll be fine.

You pay on cash on the local bus, which is like a green mini-bus. The cost is 5RMB.

The bus takes around 20 – 25 minutes and drops you right off at the entrance to the Yellow Canola Fields. The fields will be on your right, and the village of Jin Ji Cun will be on your left – you will most likely head to Jin Ji Cun after seeing the Yellow Canola Fields, as there are ample accommodation options there.

How much does it cost to visit the Yellow Canola Fields?

There is no entry fee! The yellow canola fields are natural and completely free to visit, the beauty of the travelling lifestyle.

What do you do at the Yellow Canola Fields in Jin Ji Cun?

Admire them by walking around taking in the views and the impressive yellow colours on display. Take some photos, buy some local food from the stalls and head round the path. You can get a good view of the fields.

To get a good view, simply climb up some of the small hills, there are lots – you will see other tourists on top of them, follow the paths up to the top. We climbed up two of them, but there are lots. Take your quirky photos – jumping up, walking through the fields, standing on rocks staring down etc.

After your walk round the yellow canola fields, simply head to the village called Ji Ji Cun to get a bed for the night. That was you can stay across the road from the fields and see them for sunrise and sunset.

Is there anything unique about these yellow canola fields?

NO, of course not – these types of fields are everywhere, including parts of China, Australia, Canada and the USA. BUT this is a great place to see a vast number of them looking so pretty. It is also a fantastic off the beaten track spot and it was my first time to see these types of yellow fields. I really recommend it!

What else is there to do near the Yellow Canola Fields?

In terms of other things to do, trying the local food, visiting the 9 Dragons Waterfalls, checking out awesome views of the countryside and riding on a cart escorted by a yak are a few tips! There’s also a hillside temple in the village of Jin Ji Cun and the local beer Lan Cang River met my expectations!

Important Considerations for Your First Business Trip to China

If you are heading to China on business, it’s important to know that this is a country still under the strict rule of the Chinese Communist Party. With this in mind, you’ll need to tailor your business adventures accordingly and make sure you are using gadgets that will work in China and be aware of the social and cultural norms in this country. Here are three things you need to bear in mind for starters, once you’ve got your Chinese visa of course.

1. A VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Sadly, the Chinese government has heavily censored the internet and this means that some of your favourite websites are banned and you cannot access them, ouch! I’m talking about websites like Facebook, BBC News, Google, You Tube and BlogSpot. It’s incredible in this day and age that these sites are still banned, but they are, so deal with it.

I’d recommend installing a VPN onto your computer, this allows remote access to all of these sites while you are in China. Please note that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau have their own censorship laws. Facebook and YouTube are not banned in those three countries. A VPN will solve all your worries.

2. Bring Gifts for Your Business Partners
You business partners in China love overseas gifts – things they can’t get easy access to in China due to restrictions. Have a look at these types of gifts for example. Our personal favourites are these two:

– The personalised whiskey barrel, which is not available for shipping overseas, so this is a perfect gift to bring in. Just try and make sure you are overlanding from Hong Kong to China when taking large gifts like this. Bring something that will really impress your hosts.

– Super Nerdy ABC blocks! The Chinese love to learn new English words – they are out to impress. They might be the biggest manufacturers in the world, but in terms of education, their knowledge of foreign languages is poor, so get them these ABC blocks so the next generation of kids will turn into global Einsteins. Well, maybe.

I also shouldn’t assume your business partners will always be male. There are plenty of strong minded business women in China, so check out some women’s ideas for gifts for any female business partners.

3. Cultural Norms
The culture of China is sacred, you must respect it. China is all about the family, the history and the culture. Hikes are sacred, mountains are sacred, temples are places of pure spiritual power. It’s important to respect this at all times.

When eating, be sure to use chopsticks, don’t take photos inside temples and be prepared for the toilets in the wilderness – a drop onto a bit of concrete, washed away in the rain.

Those are just three quick considerations ahead of your first adventure into China!

Getting a Chinese Visa in London, England

So if you are thinking of heading to China and are a British citizen, the best place to get your visa in your home country is in London of course. You might have read our details on getting a China Visa in Hong Kong, now it’s time for our quick guide to London. Obviously there is the official channel to head to to get your visa and that means visiting the UK Chinese Embassy. This is a quick guide on where to go to get the visa and a few things to check out in London when you are there.

You need to fill in your forms with your two photos and take it to the Embassy with your payment. The Embassy is on Portland Place.

Visa Office of the Chinese Embassy (only for Diplomatic, Service, Courtesy visa and Visa-exemption Certificate)

– Office Hours: 9:00 am – 12:00 noon (Monday to Friday, Except British and Chinese holidays)
– Address: 31 Portland Place, London, W1B 1QD, London,W1B 1QD (the nearest tube is Regent’s Park)
– Telephone: 020-7631 1430 (09:00am-12:00 noon and 2:00pm-4:00pm by operator,during the rest of the day by auto-attendant)
– Fax (seems irrelevant as payment will still be needed): 020 -7636 9056
– E-mail: zj_uk@mfa.gov.cn

Also if you are not from London and need to stay a night or two there, you may find our tips on things to do in London useful:

1. Hippy Camden Town
Camden Town is a thriving hippy, quirky hub. Packed with markets, bars and with its live music at night and the canals of London, it’s a great place to feel a different beat to London other than the busy office work.

2. Night out in Soho
Leicester Square and Soho provide the best options to party hard and party late in London. With bars open until 5am, restaurants in China town and of course the option of London sexy call girls, Soho is sure to give you a night to remember.

3. Buckingham Palace
Probably the most famous building in London and home of the Queen is Buckingham Palace. It gets touristy but that doesn’t stop you loving it.

4. Westminster Abbey
The stunning church and grounds of Westminster Abbey are a popular sight to behold. Poky bars by the Thames make a good late afternoon tipple and the views of St. Stephen’s Tower are stunning.

5. Ten Downing Street
Pop in and see the Prime Minister David Cameron in 10 Downing Street himself! Security is tight to get inside, but you can stand at the entrance hoping for a sneaky glimpse.

Good luck securing your Chinese Visa in London and enjoying the city’s sights.

 

Gateway to China: Touring Portuguese Influenced Macau

When you consider your move to China, you’ll obviously be looking for a unique culture, some inspiring history and of course the world famous food. China has many more surprises in store for you other than the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors and the Nightlife of vibrant Hong Kong. Have you ever thought about Macau?

Macau is quite simply the Portuguese influenced country within China. It’s a self governed country with its own borders, currency and flag. Even cooler is that you don’t need to get a Chinese visa to visit Macau.

Once you arrive by air, land or ferry (regular to Hong Kong), Macau’s bright lights at night and wavy colonial streets by day will reel you in. You’ll be loving the ruins of St. Paul’s, the street food including Serradurra pudding and the sparkling area called Taipa. Wander the streets at leisure and feel the vibrant mix of China meets Europe. The schools still teach Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese. After touring the Portuguese style streets, you might see a sign for the Hotel Lisboa and then you’ll notice one more thing – Casinos!

Yes Macau is famous for casinos – it brings in more money per year than the likes of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo! By night, this is where the city kicks back and becomes a gambling haven. Full of rich businessmen, lucky tourists and happy locals, the casino lifestyle of Macau will have you loving this place as night. You must play smart though – the Chinese know their horse racing, their poker play and it’s more than just a slots site review here in the many different casinos. This is big time gambling!

If gambling isn’t your style, there are many different bars and restaurants serving up swanky cocktails, cheap Chinese beer and with live entertainment on. Macau is progressing all the time and here at Gateway to China we encourage you to check this place out when you make it over this way.

Safe travels!

 

Visa Information for Chinese to Visit the USA

Visiting the United States of America for the first time can be a daunting adventure for Chinese passport holders, and for that matter nationals of any country. You might think that it is a lengthy process with lots of forms to fill in and a huge waiting time. However if it is your desire to visit the USA, things will work out just fine for you if you are able to follow the procedures correctly.

 

Getting a visa is not easy, especially if you are based in some parts of Europe and Asia, but thankfully, there are good options to get a ‘ESTA‘ online. There are three easy steps to follow:

  1. Pick the kind of USA visa that is most suitable for you. If you are heading to the USA on holiday or on business, the application process is very simple.
  2. Complete the application form online and pay for your application using debit or credit card. You can pay right away, or save the application and pay later at your convenience if you wish.
  3. Check your email for the reply. In most cases, the visa will be approved within one day, and you will get the answer by email. Once you’ve got your visa, you’re free to travel to USA!

It can of course get more complicated if you plan to emigrate to the USA, or is you need to travel for a longer time period, either for business or for leisure. Whatever your choices are, just stay confident and submit all the information you need and you will be ready for the adventure.

New York, Chicago, the Grand Canyon, Hollywood all await!

 

Gateway to China: Gu Lang Yu Island

The amazing island of Gu Lang Yu in China is totally worth a visit. It’s an island on the coastal side of the Fujian Province attached to the city of Xiamen. All very remarkable – to reach Gu Lang Yu you can take a ferry from Xiamen.

Gu Lang Yu has fascinating history, splendid views, colonial architecture and quirky restaurants, cafes and shops. It is very touristy and very busy but it is definitely worth checking out. It might be a cliche, but try your best not to miss it when you’re in Xiamen (although remember your journey is your own so you don’t have to listen to me!!). The oddest part of this bit of travelling is actually that Xiamen the city is on an island itself. Having arrived in Xiamen by bus (from Shuyang Town) we then walked around, had our lunch and headed on a ferry to another Chinese Island, this one is Gu Lang Yu!

Getting there? – The only real option is to take the ferry – it leaves from the port of Xiamen – get yourself to the harbour and you can’t miss it. There is a ferry that goes straight to Gu Lang Yu – i.e. directly across, the other option takes a detour and gives you a decent view of the city and the island.

This by the way is totally worth doing – you get longer on the boat and you get to relax and check out the views. It’s was a bright “sunshiney” day when we were there and the views were exceptional. The ferry cost us 15 RMB each for a return (in March 2012), but the prices vary and I’ve heard you can get a free ride at off peak times if you stand. It gets busy.

What to see and do there? Here’s a few top tips for Gu Lang Yu!

1. Head to Sunlight Rock – the high point of Gu Lang Yu – excellent views of the city of Xiamen. The price is 60 RMB which is a tad expensive but worth doing just for the view. It includes a small memorial hall as well and it gets busy at the top!

2. The Colonial Style Architecture – Gu Lang Yu is unique for China – it includes building designs from the UK, Netherlands, Japan, Spain, China and a host more countries. This range of architecture makes it pretty to look at.

3. The Cobbled Streets – these cool, pokey streets get busy at times but make for an excellent stroll, plenty of restaurants and cafes too.

You will notice how Gu Lang Yu differs from mainland China particularly in the street layout, style and architecture. Enjoy your walk round it and take it all in – it’s a novelty in China!

4. Music – there is a heavy music influence on Gu Lang Yu and it’s famous for it. Famous pianists have hailed from this small island and there are regular music events and festivals worth watching.

* There are also museums, colonial residences, a cable car ride, a Protestant church and a waterfront garden as well.

Where to stay? There’s actually a hostel which is quite obvious to see on one of the main streets – I’d say it’s probably the cheapest option for overnight stays.

In a nutshell that’s actually it – staying the night there could be an option and you could enjoy the bars and restaurants after dark, I visited Gu Lang Yu Island as a day trip only though, and that’s enough time to see everything you want. At least in my opinion. For details of the bus trip to Xiamen, check this post here: Shuyang Town to Xiamen and the amazing Fujian Buildings are covered in 9 different posts, here’s The Chengqi Building.

Gateway to the Casinos of Macau

Macau is China’s Las Vegas but on an even grander scale. This relatively small special administrative area is the only place in the whole of China where gambling is permitted, and it does it not only in scale but also in style. From the popular Venetian Macau, which is the largest casino complex in the world, right down to the small intimate casinos, every weekend they are packed with thousands of visitors who travel large distances to gamble there even though there are online casino such as Jackpot City available online at ease. Here is a small selection of that you can try out for yourself if you ever find yourself in the region.

The Venetian, that we have already mentioned, is one of the most spectacular casinos that you will find not only in Macau but in anywhere else in the world. When it opened in 2007 the casino hotel complex was the largest building in the world as measured by floor area and although it can no longer make that claim (currently it is the sixth largest) it is still the world’s biggest casino, there are no casinos in Las Vegas that are even close. With 800 gaming table and three and a half thousands slot machines, there is plenty to keep the thousands of people who flock there from the rest of China entertained.

The MGM is one of the more stylish casinos in Macau. While is doesn’t have the flashy appearance of many of the other casinos, it is particularly up-market. Architecturally stunning, it includes a 19,800 square meters of gaming area which incorporated around 350 table games along with over 1,000 video slots and poker. It includes a massive 600 room hotel, a spa, bars and restaurants and a huge convention space and ballroom.

The Ponte 16 is a rather different kind of casino and caters particularly for high stakes players. The casino, which is located to the west side of Macau on the edge of the Inner Harbour, includes 5 VIP gaming halls, a 400 room 20 story hotel, and a variety of bars and restaurants. The total gaming area occupies 25,000 square meters.

The Galaxy is an elaborate complex and by far one of the most stylish looking casinos I’ve ever been in. While I’m not a big gambler on my travels, Macau is definitely a place I’d recommend!

Gateway to China: Travelling to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the perfect place to be as a tourist in China. There are so many sights to see when backpacking, especially if you happen to be doing so on a budget. Whether your interests lie in the cultural, natural or adventurous aspects of the region, there is sure to be something to make your trip worthwhile. Here is a look at some of the top sights you can experience in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong skyline has been ranked number one in the top twenty skylines of the world, beating even New York for the spot. It truly is a sight to behold. There are many key spots you can visit to get the perfect view of the skyline at night. These include Kowloon, Victoria Peak and crossing on the ferry from Victoria Harbour.

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island is another major must-see, and there is no fee included in the experience. Consider carefully whether you prefer to take the cable car to the statue or if you would like to experience the hike up the stairs and though the plush green surroundings before reaching the top. Note that this is a prime spot for tourists and children and that the area may very well be crowded. Arriving as early as possible will provide more of a spiritual experience.

For a taste of nature in the bustling city, head over to Nan Lian Garden. This location is often on top ten lists of things to see in Hong Kong. It has also been called the city’s most beautiful spot. At three and a half hectares, the garden is inspired by the Jianshouju Garden found in Shanxi Province. Nan Lian has been open to the public since 2006.

The Hong Kong Park is an attraction in the middle of the city that offers multiple activities and sights. Walk through the aviary to see beautiful birds and butterflies or take a trip to the zoo. There is a Tai Chi garden for a moment of peace and quiet and also a tea ware museum and view tower. The man made waterfall and lake are beautiful, with fish and turtles to see.

Dragon’s Back is a hiking trail that offers some of the best sights of the city. This easy to moderate climb takes just a couple of hours and allows visitors to see the city from a different perspective. The scenery is quite breathtaking and there is the option to continue hiking to Big Wave Beach for further fun.