Awesome Layover #1 – 12 Hours in Shanghai

“Awesome, I have a long layover!” Let’s face it, those are words that are rarely uttered by anyone. Travelers either want to get to their destination or return home as soon as possible. I too prefer direct flights to lower my chances of having any missed connections, unexpected delays, or boring stays in the airport, but don’t scoff at a layover so quickly. It is a golden opportunity to visit a place that you weren’t expecting. These days, I think of layovers as a bonus travel destination. It is kind of like a trip within a trip. On some occasions, like my layover in Amsterdam, I have even gone out of my way to ensure that I have a longer stay to properly explore the layover city. This is the first of what I hope are many posts about layovers I have had on the way to my main destination. This is what I did on my layover in Shanghai.
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Travel Tales #2 – Getting Scammed in Beijing

Traveling takes effort… it really does. What is worse, it is terrifying. Unfortunately, much like everything else in life, it is the bad memories that stick around the longest. Much like anything else in our digital lives, people post about the good parts, and we don’t often hear about what went wrong. However entertaining it may be, traveling can be scary enough without having to read about horror stories online. When I finally get around to write a post about Angkor Wat, I will be sure to skip the part where I got diabolical diarrhea for two weeks after leaving Cambodia.
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The Great Wall Guide to Even Some Remote Sections

This Great Wall Guide is not flashy (read: no pictures). It is a thorough guide (read: many maps) on how to get into Beijing, see the great wall like a local, avoid the tourist traps, and do it as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Since I already wrote a review on the great wall, this is strictly a guide, and not an opinion or evaluation. I wrote the bulk of this article two years ago, using my own personal experience traveling with a Chinese person, and referencing many expats and locals. The biggest contribution came from the great wall forum, the single best resource for people who would like to see the wall without the crowds.

I) Before going to China (visas):

China is one of the few countries that require visas for everyone ahead of time as it is the most visited country in the world (believe it or not). This means that you must plan for China earlier than most other countries. Getting a visa is relatively simple, but not cheap if you’re American.

1) If you live in the US: You must go to the Chinese Embassy nearest you, and follow the instructions on this website: Chinese Embassy. [Cost: ~$150 for US citizens, otherwise ~$30] The prices continuously go up, so you might have to pay a little more than this. The prices quoted are for single entry visas.

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The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

Location: North Eastern China (Accessible Through: Beijing, China)

Visited: February, 2010

Background and Opinion:

“What is the Great Wall of China” you ask? No you don’t, no one asks this EVER because everyone knows right? Actually, you might not know as much as you think you do.

First, the Great Wall is not a single wall at all (excellent map here) and would be more appropriately called “The Great Set of Walls.” This name doesn’t sell as many tickets, as you may imagine, so lets just continue calling it the ‘Great Wall’ for now. Secondly, it is built horizontally. While city walls are built in a circular shape to protect from all sides, the great wall was built as a barrier separating the northern people of the steppes (modern day Mongolia) and the Chinese people in the south. Third, it was built by a number of different Dynasties. The wall was started by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China who, coincidentally, also ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and was the founder of Unified China (busy guy). It was built from 200 BCE – 1400s CE to protect different parts of China from external threats. Over the centuries, the numerous parts linked up in many places, but to this day, more and more parts of the wall are being uncovered. Something else that you might not know is just how many sections are accessible. There are dozens of entry points from Beijing alone if you know what you are doing.
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Old Town of Lijiang
Another section of the river
Along the river in the Old Town of Lijiang

Location: Lijiang, Yuannan, China

Visited: Dec 30, 2009 – Jan 2, 2010

Opinion and Background:

If I had written this article right after I came back from China (the first time), I would have given it a glowing, spotless review. After all, it was one of my first travel experiences that wasn’t long term (like Korea). Sometimes, it is good to let a little time pass by to have some perspective. How can you say a place is the best if you haven’t been anywhere else to compare?

Lijiang has a history dating back almost a thousand years. It is a prime example of the diversity of China as a country. When most people think of China, they think of a homogeneous place, with the exception being Tibet. While Tibet is an example, China is home to hundreds of ethnic minorities, including the Nakhi people of Lijiang. The Nakhi still live in Lijiang and the surrounding areas, and some still practice silk embroidering which they have been doing since the times of the Silk Road. In those times, Lijiang was one of the last stops of the road where traders could get some of the finest silk in China. Much like Xi’an, China, Lijiang is very unique and quite different from Chinese mega cities like Beijing. One special feature is that cars are not allowed inside the Old Town at all.

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