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.

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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.

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
Safe-Travel-in-Asia

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

giant-panda-china

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.

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Old Shanghai vs New Shanghai

Wolfgang Staudt / Foter / CC BY-NC

Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year over the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people — nearly double what it was back in 1987. The colonial Chinese city is feted for its historical architecture, but the Shanghai of today is emblematic of a very modern China. In Shanghai, new development is pushing out the traditional neighborhoods.

Less than 25 years ago, the very skyline that enveloped James Bond in Skyfall was simply a glint in Deng Xiaoping’s eye. In 1978, the Chinese leader chose southerly Guangdong Province as his laboratory for economic reform, and while newly-christened Special Economic Zones like Shenzhen raced ahead, Shanghai languished in something of a malaise. Only when new Chinese president Jiang Zemin — himself a former Shanghai party boss — assumed office did the city’s economic fortunes begin to turn.

Despite the glitz, Pudong isn’t all that exciting of a place to hang out. Most of Shanghai’s culture, history, and nightlife happens on the other side of the Huangpu River, and many of Shanghai’s residents — both local and foreign — regard Pudong as a soulless ghost town. But the very fact that it exists is a perfect symbol of the vast scale of China’s development. It was Shanghai’s composure during the Tiananmen movement that finally won it the go-ahead to develop Pudong — and ultimately shift all of China to its model of economic openness.

The Tiananmen crackdown initially appeared to slow down Shanghai’s reopening. Following the massacre, a development loan for the construction of Shanghai’s new subway system got held up for six months. But seven months after the crisis, during his Chinese New Year visit, Deng told Shanghai’s authorities to fast-track the development of Pudong. Two months later, the State Council approved the Pudong New Area as a Special Economic Zone. And Deng himself christened the city the “Head of the Dragon,” re-anointing Shanghai as China’s economic hub. The following year, Mayor Zhu convinced the visiting Deng to support his ambitious plan to turn Pudong into far more than just another manufacturing SEZ. Zhu envisioned the new Shanghai as the trade and finance capital of Asia, the Wall Street of the East.

The speed and efficiency with which the Communist authorities would move Shanghai from mothballed relic of the past to stunning vision of the future would rattle the world. In just 20 years, the city’s people went from commuting to run-down factories by bicycle to riding to the city’s new international airport on the fastest train on earth. Makeshift huts were replaced by a high-rise cityscape boasting more skyscrapers than Manhattan. And the Shanghainese would go from agonizing over each year’s rice harvest to enjoying a life expectancy higher than America’s.

 


Wolfgang Staudt / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Old Shanghai was just warehouses and shacks and rice paddies, with people living there. They were moved. In Pudong, 300,000 residents were pushed out of their homes and relocated to high-rise apartments. The repetitive rehousing slabs — just stacks of simple rooms rising 25 stories in the air — may have been a physical improvement over the shacks of the old Pudong, but many inhabitants were loath to move, fearing the destruction of their village-like neighbourhoods’ sense of community. Those who failed to appreciate their government’s largesse were forcibly evicted by armed police and hired goons. Oftentimes, the authorities would cut off water and electricity to neighbourhoods they were clearing to convince the hesitant. Overall, one million families were moved in the effort to remake Shanghai.

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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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