Travel Asia
Will travelling help you live longer?

Is it possible travelling will help you live longer? I’m sure you don’t need another excuse to travel regularly but… it’s good for your body, your soul and your brain too!  A study conducted by the Global Commission on Aging, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and the U.S. Travel Association has found that travel helps prevent depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, especially in people who have retired.  It is possible that travelling can help to prevent heart disease and heart attacks too!

Travel exposes you to different environments, and that helps create stronger antibodies which boost your immune system significantly. Research shows exposure to some dirt and minor illnesses actually keeps your body and gut stronger. So travel from place to place, your body adapts to thousands of new bacteria, which it turn makes it much stronger.

Research has shown that travel makes you healthier and happier. Women who go on holiday at least twice a year had a much lower risk of heart attack and heart disease than women who didn’t travel. The study also found that men who don’t travel at least once a year have a 20 percent higher risk of death and a 30 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Travel lowers stress levels and it has been scientifically proven that travel will increase your happiness, decrease your depression, and chill you out. A study found that three days after vacation, travelers felt well-rested, less anxious, and in a better mood. These improvements didn’t disappear when they returned home, they lasted for weeks afterward. People who take a break from situations that cause them stress, and take a little vacation, are generally less stressed and anxious. Therefore, men and women who traveled annually were less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease. Findings indicate that 86 percent of the people who travel feel more content with their lives compared to 75 percent who don’t travel.

Travel impacts you positively in many ways. Travelling improves your brain health and expands your mind; you meet new people, adapt to new situations, become more globally and culturally aware. This is all good for your health because new experiences increase cognitive flexibility, keeping your mind sharp. Studies have shown a connection between travel and an increase in creativity, a deeper sense of cultural awareness and personal growth. People who travel and study abroad tend to be more open and emotionally stable.

Travelling keeps you fit and encourages a healthy lifestyle. When you travel you will want to try new things and see all there is to see so it’s more likely you will attempt an extreme sport, walk the city streets much more than you would back home, or hike to get the best views of your surroundings. Even if you plan to stay all day at the beach, walking on sand will force your muscles to work twice as hard.

It is good exercise for your brain when you are in new surroundings where you may need to communicate with people who speak a different language or when you are trying to find your way around a map. It keeps the mind sharp and can sometimes be quite challenging. Just being in a new place stimulates the brain in ways that help improve your mental focus and your memory.

It’s true; those who travel tend to have a longer life expectancy. Whether local or global, all forms of travel enhance our lives and can actually increase our life expectancy. Travel is part of a healthy lifestyle that can help improve the duration and quality of our lives while at the same time having more fun doing it!

 

Terracotta Army – 5 things you didn’t know

The Terracotta Army were ancient warriors well known for guarding the tomb of an emperor for millennia. To this day we are still fascinated by these life-sized figures standing in eerie eternal vigil. They are a symbol of Ancient China whose purpose was to protect the Emperor in his afterlife. Here’s what you need to know about the Terracotta Warriors:

  1. IT WAS CREATED FOR CHINA’S FIRST EMPEROR

The Terracotta Army was painstakingly constructed to honour the man who created China: Qin Shi Huang who was born in 260 BC and is now remembered as the First Emperor. He was the powerful ruler who through sheer force of will united several rival states to create one vast nation: China. He is also credited with being responsible for some of the original stretches of the Great Wall of China.

  1. THE ARMY WAS FOUND BY A FARMER

The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 by farmers digging a water well approximately 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) east of the Qin Emperor’s tomb mound at Mount Li. A Chinese farm worker named Yang Zhifa was out digging a well when his hoe clanked against a chunk of terracotta. More digging revealed a headless statue and other old objects. One of Yang’s fellow workers joked “These things will be worth quite a bit of money. You’ll be able to swap them for tobacco.” This discovery prompted Chinese archaeologists to investigate, revealing the largest pottery figurine group ever found in China. Decades later, Yang revealed that he still tended his garden with the very same hoe which dug up the first soldier of the Terracotta Army.

  1. EACH STATUE IS UNIQUE

It is estimated that there are around 8,000 warriors in the Terracotta Army. Incredibly each statue is as unique as a fingerprint. The terracotta figures are life-sized. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. It is said that they were actually built using a surprisingly modern-seeming mass production process, with workers creating various body parts using moulds and were then “hand finished” using clay to apply individual facial features and hairstyles. And don’t be fooled by their relatively drab appearance – the warriors were once brightly bedecked in a multitude of colours, painted with bright pigments, variously coloured pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac. but the paintwork has long since flaked away.

  1. THEIR WEAPONS ARE LETHAL

It’s not just the warriors of the Terracotta Army which are so impressively detailed and convincing; their weapons are too. Most of the figures it appears originally held real weapons such as spears, swords, or crossbows, and the use of actual weapons would have increased the figures’ realism. Most of the original weapons were looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away. Nevertheless, many weapons such as swords, spears, lances, battle-axes, scimitars, shields, crossbows, and arrowheads have been found in the pits. Over 40,000 pieces of bronze weaponry over the years, ranging from spears to swords to battle axes. The blades are still sharp and dangerous, and this is down to the 10–15 micrometer layer of chrome-plating technology which has protected the metal from corrosion over the past thousands of years. It’s a perfect example of the ingenuity of Ancient Chinese science, coming so long before chrome-plating became commonplace in the 20th Century.

  1. THE ARMY IS PART OF A VAST SECRET CITY

The Terracotta Army makes up just a fraction of a sprawling subterranean “city” built around the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. It appears this complex is a scaled down model of Chinese society at the time, but much of it is still a mystery. The tomb itself has never been opened, although according to the account of an ancient historian it’s a miraculous creation which features rivers of mercury flowing in an elaborate mechanism.

Historians now believe that some 700,000 workers worked for nearly three decades on the mausoleum. So far, archaeologists have uncovered a 20-square-mile compound, including some 8,000 terra cotta soldiers, along with numerous horses and chariots, a pyramid mound marking the emperor’s tomb, remains of a palace, offices, store houses and stables. Even 40 years after its discovery, less than 1 percent of Emperor Qin’s tomb has been excavated. Initial fears of damaging the corpse and the artifacts within the tomb later gave way to concerns about the potential safety hazards involved with excavation and, as there’s so much concern about accidentally destroying the complex, chances are we’ll never get the full measure of this secret realm.

Travel Myths Busted: 25 Facts About China

China is an incredible destination to travel to and explore, but how much do you really know about the most populated country in the world? To help you scrub up on your knowledge and bust the myths before planning a holiday to China, here are 24 facts about the Chinese people, culture, history and geography.

Travel Asia China Tour

1. Throughout the century, the name of the capital of China has changed. It has been known as Dadu, Yanjing, and Beiping. Peking or Beijing means “Northern Capital”.

2. Ketchup is a Chinese invention. It was originally a pickled fish sauce called ke-tsiap.

3. The highest mountain in the world, which is 29,028 feet tall, is named after the first surveyor of India, Sir George Everest. The Chinese people call Mount Everest Qomolangma, which means “Mother Goddess of the Earth.”

4. Because of their aggressive nature and keen vision, geese are used as police animals instead of dogs.

5. The Yangtze River in China is the fourth longest river in the world and reaches 5,797 km (3,602 miles) in length. Also, the Yellow River is the sixth longest, stretching 4,667 km (2,900 miles).

6. China is also called the Flowery Kingdom, and many of the country’s flowers and fruits, such as the orchid and orange, are now being grown all over the world.

7. When McDonald’s first introduced drive-throughs to China, the concept was so foreign that many people would pick up their food through the drive-thru, park their cars, and bring the food inside the restaurant to eat it.

8. 100 million people in China live on less than US$1 per day.

9. For the Chinese, red symbolizes happiness and is used at Chinese festivals and many other celebrations, such as birthdays and weddings.

10. Many Chinese children are being named after the Olympic games. More than 4,000 Chinese children are named Aoyun, meaning “Olympic Games.” It’s actually quite common for Chinese children to be given names of common events and popular slogans.

11. Ping-pong was not invented in China, even though it is one of China’s most popular games. It started in Britain, where it’s called table tennis.

12. There are currently 32 million more males than females in China.

13. China’s annual consumption of ice cream would fill 2,344 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

14. The best-known traditional festivals in China are Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, Double Seven Festival, and the Winter Solstice.

15. If you took all the disposable chopsticks used over 3 years in China and distributed them around the world, every single person could get about 32 pairs.

16. China has more English speakers than the United States.

17. In China, the Guest is Seated at the Table’s “Head” . The honoured guest is customarily seated furthest from the door with the fish, chicken, duck… heads pointing his way.

18. Paper money was invented in China.

19. Chinese dragon : According to the Chinese legend , the dragon was a benevolent and strong creature that has the power to bring rain, floods, and even hurricanes to land.

20. As early as the Qin Dynasty (221-207BC) when building the Great Wall of China , glutinous rice flour was used in making the binding material to bind the bricks.

21. Over 10 million people visit the Great Wall of China every year.

22. China is the world’s largest producer, and importer of rice.

23.In the West it is common to wear black as a sign of mourning, in China, they mourn in white.

24. For the most part of the last two thousand years, China has been the largest economy in the world, seeing cycles of decline and prosperity during this time.

25. There are five yellow stars on the Chinese flag: a large one that represents the Communist Party and the four smaller ones that surround it represent the four different classes of society.

Best Street Eats in Saigon
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Delicous Meal from one of the Best Street Eats in Saigon

Photo credit: Paro Nguyen / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Chicken Vendor Truong Dinh
A lunch vendor in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City, specialises in a dish that is described as crack fried chicken. Located on the corner of Truong Dinh and Vo Van Tan, mama Lang runs a tight ship with her daughter Thao. It’s a typical streetside affair. Everything is set up with a couple of large metal tables as their ad hoc cafeteria, complete with no fewer than ten different dishes on offer. At least six dishes are on rotation, depending on what is fresh at the market, but what doesn’t change is a couple of pork dishes, thit kho tau or braised pork in a caramel sauce, and suon ram, or pork ribs in a caramel sauce, as well as two very tasty chicken dishes.

The ga ran or fried chicken is the business. While the chicken is moist and tender, it’s the glaze that puts it over the top. The crisp fried chicken skin holds a mixture of fish sauce with a heavy dose of garlic, chilli and brown sugar, addictive in its combination of sweet, spicy and umami. The other chicken dish, ragu ga, sees a wealth of chicken on the bone, potatoes, carrots and herbs swimming in the punchy tomato and annato infused broth.

The stall gets really busy for lunch because of the proximity of several offices and one TOEFL center located just around the corner.

Sui Cao Viet Nuong
A good place to go for sui cao is in District 5 on busy Tran Hung Dao. it’s a no-frills hole-in-the-wall that dishes out some seriously good dumplings. The English menu is also a plus, as most restaurants in District 5 are strictly Vietnamese or Chinese affairs.

Sui cao refers to anything that is wrapped in rice flour dough. There can be a bit of confusion regarding sui cao and hoanh thanh as both are filled with meat and covered in dough. Hoanh thanh is wrapped in an egg flour dough akin to a pasta while sui cao is wrapped in a dough of rice flour. Sui cao is prepared in a number of ways: boiled, steamed, deep fried or potsticker style and is usually stuffed with minced pork and chives.

Goi du du bo kho
While there is an abundance of noodle dishes, soups and grilled items on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, salads seem underrepresented and are only found in restaurants. One vendor in District 1 bucks that trend and makes one of the best goi du du bo kho that can be found in town.

The unassuming cart is manned by a trio of sisters and while the setting looks kind of generic the salad they serve is certainly not. Like most vendors in the city, they take the base of the dish and add their own flair to it. And by the looks of the crowd of motorbikes that are usually parked next to their cart, they are doing something right.

This particular salad takes young unripe papaya julienned and this is the base upon which everything is built. Next is succulent bo kho or beef jerky. The meat has a glaze that is equally sweet, savoury and spicy, which paradoxically keeps the meat moist while it is being dried out. Aromatic herbs such as Thai basil and rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) are added along with rice croutons and roasted peanuts. Everything is dressed with a spicy chilli sauce and a slightly sweet, tart dressing made from fish sauce, lime and a bit of soy. The tart dressing melds with the smoky flavour of the bo kho while the peanuts bring a certain earthiness to the salad. The deep-fried croutons add some crunch to round out the dish. Those averse to spicy food should ask for “khong ot” or no chilli as this stall tends to douse the salad with the stuff.

94 Quan Thuy
This restaurant is located on 84 Dinh Tien Hoang and they are famous for their crab, which they offer in a variety of styles. It is a favourite spot for those looking to feast on shellfish. Their most popular dishes include cha goi cua, a fried crab spring roll, and mien xao cua, glass noodles sauteed with crabmeat. They also serve just plain soft shell crab coated in your choice of sauce.

Banh Xeo 46A
This is the go-to spot for authentic street food. Tucked down a tight alley on the edge off Dinh Cong Trang in District 1, to the outside observer Banh Xeo 46a might not look like much, a mostly outdoor restaurant with red plastic stools and generic metal tables. The seating area is covered, and fan cooled, but it’s about as basic as you can get. The kitchen is also without walls, so you can see the chefs cooking on their large frying pans. The restaurant attracts large groups, often drinking and in high spirits, which when mixed with the constant stream of traffic flowing by your plastic stool can make for a uniquely Saigon atmosphere.

Banh Xeo 46a is one of the better-known street food restaurants in all of Saigon, so it’s quite the popular spot, with a steady stream of customers at all hours.

The specialty here is banh xeo, a fried, rice-flour crepe stuffed with savoury meat, generally pork and shrimp, a touch of diced onion, maybe some mung beans and a healthy dose of bean sprouts. A popular spot with the tourist crowd, portion sizes are quite generous compared to more local banh xeo carts.

Visiting Vietnam Dos and Don’ts
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Traditional Vietnamese food being enjoyed by a local in Vietnam, Asia.

Photo credit: gudi&cris / Foter / CC BY-ND

Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in Southeast Asia. It is safe to travel there and the country is full of wonders. Vietnamese people are very gracious, polite and generous and appreciate visitors who travel to Vietnam abiding by their customs. Tourists on Vietnam tours usually complain about over-aggressive street vendors, tour operators with a bad attitude and dangerous driving. However, with a cool head and sensible planning, one can avoid these problems. There are some do’s and don’ts to bear in mind when visiting Vietnam.

Travel Don’ts
Do not wear shorts or old T-shirts to visit a Pagoda, they won’t let you in. It is considered extremely rude and offensive. Be sure to dress conservatively and dress for the occasion, you are after all visiting a piece of history

Do not sit with your feet pointing towards a family altar if you are staying in someone’s house.

Do not take pictures of anything to do with the military, this can be considered a breach of national security and trust us, you don’t want to see the inside of a Vietnamese jail.

Do not take video cameras into the small villages, it is considered very intrusive and they’ll be too polite to ask you to stop filming.

Do not display any personal displays of affection! Just don’t do it. Find a hostel, hotel, whatever suits – but anything beyond holding hands is seriously frowned upon.

Do not expect to sleep late as Vietnam starts moving at 6am and the noise can be overwhelming.

Do not touch someone’s head and point with your finger.

Do not sit until shown where to sit. The oldest person sits first.

Losing your temper in Vietnam means a loss of face. Keep a cool head and remain polite, you’ll have a greater chance of getting what you want.

Travel Do’s
Dress conservatively. Do not wear shorts, dresses, skirts or tops with no necklines and bare shoulders to Temples or Pagodas. The dress code is more relaxed in major cities but do yourself (and the Vietnamese) a favor – don’t wear booty shorts to the fish market.

Drink loads of water as you’re wandering around checking out the sights. The heat can be oppressive and heat stroke can be a real killjoy, so take our advice and drink lots of water.

Hold your bag in front of you and wrap it around a limb when riding in a Cyclo – bag snatching is a big problem and if you are looking at a Pagoda there’s a good chance someone’s looking at your bag.

Keep your valuables, such as cash, credit cards and airline tickets in a safe place.

If you’re invited into a local’s home be sure to take your shoes off at the entrance.

Travel by train, it’s one of the best ways to see the country through the eyes of the locals (prepare for the trains to be late and smelly – but that’s part of the charm, right?)

Carry a bit of toilet paper with you at all times – we won’t go into detail – just trust us.

Make sure that you have a hotel/hostel business card from the reception desk. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.

Do expect to pay less for a beer than a bottle of water – but remember our hydration tip above!

Packing Tips and Packing Essentials

 

Why check a bag, ever, when I can fit what I need for up to a month in a single rollaboard and second small bag?

All of the packing essentials when heading to Asia with Travel Asia or other places in the world.

Photo credit: lyzadanger / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Many airlines have reduced baggage weight limits and charge for anything extra so it has become more important than ever to pack wisely, and to travel as lightly as possible when planning to travel.

Recently baggage comes in the latest fabrics and plastics which are much lighter, more durable and far easier to wheel or to carry than they’ve ever been. Many include good ideas for better packing, with separate compartments, expandable sides, strong zippers, easy-to-manoeuvre wheels and longer handles making it easier to pack for your exotic Asia tours.

Make a packing list and start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your all inclusive tours to Asia.

Check the climate of your destination, and choose your clothing accordingly. Pack a careful array of mix-and-match items that can all be worn with each other, in easy wash and drip-dry fabrics, that don’t need ironing.

Roll clothes instead of folding to take up less room and end up less creased. Stuff small items, like socks, into shoes, to make the most of space and, if you’re going away for a while and really do need a lot of clothes for all weathers, consider buying a compression bag, either an automatic one, or one that works off a vacuum cleaner, to suck out all the air before putting into a suitcase.

For your toiletries leave all heavy glass bottles at home. Decant your favourite shampoo, conditioner and any face and skin lotions into small plastic travel bottles and buy a sample size of toothpaste, and put all of them into a clear, resealable plastic pouch. Count out the number of pills or vitamins necessary for your time away, and put them into small empty plastic tubs.

It’s terribly important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. Split up your bank cards, cash, travellers’ cheques and credit cards as much as possible in different pockets, your bags and wallet. In case you do get robbed, at least you won’t be strapped for cash while on tour packages.

When you are packing things into a backpack, place the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier ones on top. Your bag will feel lighter this way as the pack rests on your lower back. It is also smart to place the things you use the most on top. Dirty clothes are perfect to pack at the bottom of a backpack.

It is always handy to have a few plastic bags around certain items, especially toiletries. Not only does it counter any leaking, the bags can also come in useful to keep dirty clothes in, as garbage bags or even as a makeshift umbrella. Ziplock or other airtight plastic bags are the best.

When you are flying somewhere and especially if you have a few stopovers, divide the clothes between different suitcases/backpacks/bags etc. If one persons luggage doesn’t arrive at the destination, they’ll still have clean clothes available.

Packing essentials for travel tours include:
Address list and list of important contacts or numbers
Backpack, suitcase, sports bag (something to pack everything in)
Paper or Notebook, pens, pencils
Passport (check validity!)
Tickets and itinerary (airline, train, bus, accommodation bookings, etc.)
First aid kit
ATM card, cash (local currency), money belt

Aeroplane Etiquette

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Photo credit: { pranav } / Foter / CC BY

When traveling by air, you’re sometimes forced to rub elbows (literally) with people you don’t know. In close quarters and for extended periods of time, a little consideration can go a long way to make a flight as smooth as possible for both yourself and others (and to avoid dirty looks).

Carry your bag in front of you and low to the ground as you walk down the aisle in search of your seat. Holding it up and at your sides will inevitably knock seated passengers on their arms, shoulders, and heads. You can pull it along if it has wheels.

Utilize the overhead space above your own seat row but don’t hog the overhead bin. Do not place your bags in the overhead at the front of the plane unless you are sitting in that row. Don’t put your bag in a bin near the front of the plane for a quick exit — it means someone else will have to wait until the entire plane has emptied to walk back to get their bag. Taking the storage space of other passengers is rude and can potentially delay departure as they search for storage.

Keep your chair upright at least until you’re told it can be reclined. Don’t lean your chair back as soon as you get on. When you do recline your chair, do it slowly. If you are traveling with one or more children, keep a close eye on them. Children have a tendency to bump, kick, or yank the seat in front of them without realizing it throughout the flight, which can make the person in front of them very uncomfortable.

Don’t fight the flight attendants over electronics. The ban on the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing may be absurd but it was not created by the flight attendants so giving them a hard time is obnoxious, and just delays the plane getting to cruising altitude.

Don’t get drunk during (or before) the flight. You may be having the time of your life, but your fellow passengers may not think so. You open the door to annoying everyone around you, reeking of booze, and needing to get up to use the lavatory every 20 minutes.

Avoid grabbing the back of the seat in front of you. Grabbing the seat back as you walk in the aisle or in your row, can be unpleasantly jarring to the person sitting in it. Copy the flight attendants who balance themselves in the aisle by grabbing the luggage compartments above their heads, rather than the seat backs.

Respect personal space. No matter how much you love to make new friends on the plane, the person next to you might rather get some work done, or simply may not feel like being chatty. If a friendly comment gets a minimal answer, take the hint and leave them alone.

Only get up at convenient times. Plan bathroom breaks. If you see a flight attendant with a cart in the aisle, stay put. You could easily end up with the cart between you and your seat and depending on the flight attendant, you’ll be stuck in the aisle until the service is complete, or delay service so the cart can back up and you can sit back down.
Respect the lavatory; don’t take a lot of time and don’t make a mess. There are probably people waiting to get in there, and they deserve a clean lavatory as much as you do.

Be considerate of other passengers when you exit the plane. Resist the urge to push your way out first; let those nearest the exit disembark the plane first. When your turn comes, move quickly so people with connecting flights can make it in time.

Top Tips for Safe Travel in Asia
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Beautiful mountains in Vietnam, Asia.

 

Photo credit: nhi.dang / Foter / CC BY

Get into the habit of looking back when you get up to leave somewhere. Travel is very distracting, and you’re probably carrying more stuff than when you’re at home, so you’re more likely to leave a jacket or something else behind.

Separate your sources of money. You know how you keep all your bank cards in your wallet/purse when you’re at home? Well, don’t do this while you’re travelling. Keep at least one in a different place, preferably not on your person. If you lose all your cards on the road it is very difficult to get replacements, and being without money on your all inclusive tour isn’t fun at all.

Don’t keep your wallet/purse in your jeans’ back pocket. To avoid being pickpocketed, keep your wallet in your front pocket, especially a pocket that can be buttoned up. Best of all, use the inside pocket of your jacket.

Scan all your major documents; that way your documents won’t go missing even if your bags do.
It is hard to get to know the locals at a destination if you don’t trust them, but there are limits to how much you should trust them when it comes to your personal safety, for example, going with them into a risky area of town, with money, and consuming their food or drink if they are not consuming it themselves.

Get travel insurance particularly for health costs if you get ill or injured while abroad. Hospital costs can quickly get into the tens of thousands of dollars, even for a minor injury.

Get vaccinated; visit your doctor before you leave to get all the relevant vaccinations/immunisations for the destinations you’re visiting, and to learn what health precautions you should follow.

If you’re travelling abroad on tour packages then you’re more than likely to be richer than most of the locals, but advertising this fact by wearing gold jewellery or carrying a $2000 camera around your neck is not advisable. It makes you a target for thieves. Leave your jewellery at home and keep your camera in a bag when you’re not using it.

Teaching yourself to ride a motorbike or jet ski in a foreign country is probably unwise. In Thailand, for instance, 38 people a day die in scooter accidents. Some travel insurance policies won’t cover scooter-related injuries so make sure you check your travel insurance first. And Check the fine print and certificates of instructors; if you’re doing a specialist course (scuba diving) or something risky (bungee jumping) then check the operators have legitimate qualifications and a good safety record. There’s usually a reason a course is cheaper than the others.

Don’t leave your belongings unattended in public spaces; travelers leave their bags at their feet or hanging from the back of chairs when they’re at cafes or restaurants. Either keep them on your lap or wrap its strap around your leg.

Keep your travel plans, including accommodation details, to yourself.

Don’t hitchhike and try not to travel at night. Avoid ‘seedier’ areas of the cities you visit on your travel tours, especially at night.

Ask your hotel manager for advice on ‘safe’ versus ‘unsafe’ local areas.

If you are mugged, don’t fight back. It is better to lose a few dollars and a wristwatch than get injured.
Avoid incidents such as fights, riots or civil disturbances at all times.

Giant Pandas – The National Treasures of China

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Photo credit: ironmanixs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The giant panda is a bear native to China and are considered a national treasure and regarded as the symbol of valiancy and peace. In the wild, giant pandas are only found in the remote, mountainous regions of central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In these areas, there are cool, wet bamboo forests that are perfect for the giant panda’s needs. Giant pandas make their dens from hollowed-out logs or stumps of conifer trees found within the forest.

Giant pandas were once widespread across central, southern, and eastern China, and China’s neighboring countries of Myanmar and northern Vietnam. However, their habitat has shrunk to a few patches in western central China, due to China’s farming and logging practices. Currently, giant Pandas mainly live in the Qin Mountains in Shaanxi Province, and the Min Mountains in Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

Giant pandas are loners. They dislike being around other pandas so much that they have a heightened sense of smell that lets them know when another panda is nearby so it can be avoided. The Giant Pandas’ mating season is only 2-4 days during March to May. If missed, they will wait till the next year. One female panda will usually breed only one baby. As a result of this the lowered fertility generated the research on captive breeding. The China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda was established in 1983, jointly by Wolong National Reserve and WWF.

Giant pandas are endangered: only about 1,600 live in the wild. There are 50 panda reserves in China that protect around 45 percent of the giant panda’s habitat.

According to the census of 2014, there are only 1,864 giant pandas alive in the wild. It is one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, thus the giant panda was selected and used as the symbol of the WWF since its formation in 1861.

Giant pandas are easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around their eyes, over the ears, and across their round body and are distinguished from other pandas by their large size and black-and-white coloring.

99% of giant pandas’ food is the tender stems, shoots, and leaves of bamboo. Because bamboo is low in nutrition, one giant panda needs to eat about 12 to 38 kg (26–84 lb) of bamboo a day, up to 40% of its own weight. Giant pandas spend as long as 14 hours eating a day. 1% of their food consists of other plants, even meats. Wild giant pandas eat grasses, wild fruits, insects, even small animals if they can catch them.

Many travelers on guided tours to China make their trips to China for the giant pandas. There are many places in China where you can see giant pandas but the best places are around Chengdu in Sichuan Province, “the giant pandas’ home town”. The place travelers are most likely to see a giant panda in the wild is Foping Nature Reserve in Shaanxi Province, but the reserve is currently closed to travelers.

Chopstick Etiquette
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Chopstick Etiquette in Asia. Chopsticks rest on a set table in a restaurant in China.

 

Photo credit: ben matthews / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Chinese people are familiar with the use of chopsticks but many foreigners are interested in using it but also puzzled about how to use it with facility. Chinese dining etiquette is built on tradition, not dexterity.

To use the chopstick you must first hold the upper part and don’t cross it, then hold it with your thumb, index finger, middle finger and third finger. One stick is against your third finger and the other leans on your middle finger. When you pick vegetable or meat in the dishes, use your index finger and middle finger to control the sticks.

The use of chopsticks has been a part of Chinese food culture. There are some taboos that visitors on China tours must pay great attention to, or you may make mistakes:

Don’t use it to hit the side of your bowl or plate to make a lot of noise, because Chinese people think only beggars would do this to beg for meals.
When you use it, don’t stretch out your index finger, which would be regarded as a kind of accusation to others.

Never use chopsticks to point at others or wave them around in the air or play with them too much.

It is thought to be an impolite behavior when you suck the end of a chopstick; people will think you lack family education.

Don’t use it to poke at every dish without knowing what you want.

Don’t insert it vertically into the bowls or dishes. Chinese people do this only when they burn incense to sacrifice the dead.

Do not stab or skewer food with your chopsticks.

Pick food up by exerting sufficient inward pressure on the chopsticks to grasp the food securely and move it smoothly to your mouth or bowl. It is consider bad form to drop food, so ensure it is gripped securely before carrying it. Holding one’s bowl close to the dish when serving oneself or close to the mouth when eating helps.

To separate a piece of food into two pieces, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks while moving them apart from each other. This needs much practice.

Some consider it unhygienic to use the chopsticks that have been near (or in) one’s mouth to pick food from the central dishes. Serving spoons or chopsticks can be provided, and in this case, as a visitor on travel tours to China, you will need remember to alternate between using the serving chopsticks to move food to your bowl and your personal chopsticks for transferring the food to your mouth.

Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.

It is acceptable to transfer food to closely related people (e.g. grandparents, parents, spouse, children, or significant others) if they are having difficulty picking up the food. Also it is a sign of respect to pass food to the elderly first before the dinner starts. Often, family members will transfer a choice piece of food from their plate to a relative’s plate as a sign of caring.

Holding chopsticks incorrectly will reflect badly on a child’s parents, who have the responsibility of teaching their children.

When seated for a meal, it is common custom to allow elders to take up their chopsticks before anyone else.

Chopsticks should not be used upside-down; it is “acceptable” to use them ‘backwards’ to stir or transfer the dish to another plate (if the person does not intend to eat it). This method is used only if there are no serving chopsticks.

Resting chopsticks on the side of one’s bowl or on a chopstick stand signifies one is merely taking a break from eating.

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Travel Asia is a tour agency that specialises in customised, all-inclusive tours throughout China and Asia. We create adventurous, reliable and cost-effective customised tours for Australians wanting to travel throughout Asia.

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