Beijing

Beijing on a budget

Looking for a break that blends blockbuster sights, historic hutongs, cutting edge architecture and stellar street grub? You’d better make a beeline for Beijing. Check out TNT’s tips on how to make the most of the Middle Kingdom on a budget…

 

Seek out street markets
Chances are ‘chi fan’ (lets eat), is the phrase you’ll hear most often. Beijing has a thriving local gastronomic scene but, if money is too tight to mention, avoid high end dining joints like Beijing Da Dong Duck (www.dadongdadong.com, even if the restaurant does serve up superior versions of Beijing’s signature dish) and head to a night market like Donghuamen. The latter isn’t for the faint hearted (Beijing is city that adores its meat and subsequently you’ll see vendors peddling silkworms, scorpions, seahorse, snake and starfish and such) but it’s certainly lens friendly! Select your food-stall and then sit and feast with locals eating street nosh like noodles and jiaozi (steamed dumplings) that are guaranteed to have you keeling over in bliss.

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Hold your nerve and haggle hard
Beijing’s trendiest shopping street is without a doubt the pedestrian-only Wangfujing , but it’s also one of the most expensive. The budget conscious would do well to seek out the Silk Market or Yashow where industrious bootleggers will be happy to test your conscience by offering DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters long before they hit screens for a couple of quid. Here - so long as you haggle hard - you can pick up a pair of Louboutin look-alikes for a snip. Lastly if you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, head for the colourful Panjiayuan Antique Market – Beijing’s biggest and best-known arts, crafts, and antiques market and a photographer’s dream.

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Park life
Worried about all the calories you have been consuming on your hols? Your worry isn’t misplaced. Beijing adores the body beautiful - and that, my friend, demands a devotion to exercise. Ditch the gym though and tune into the Beijing vibe, by practicing Thai Chi, for free, in Ritan Park – easily one of Beijing’s prettiest parks. China’s capital city is punctuated with parks and, for most Beijingers, they are akin to a second home – a place to socialise, relax and yes stay fit.
 

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Walk this way
Walking is the best way to see Beijing - everywhere has something of interest - and happily it’s a free form of transport. However if you’re suffering from sore feet, hop on the subway which is cheap, clean, efficient and easy to use. Alternatively take a taxi. Drivers rarely speak English which can prove problematic if your Mandarin is miserable but they are inexpensive and (unless it’s raining) in plentiful supply.

Enjoy time out in Tiananmen Square
Only a philistine would leave Beijing without visiting the free attraction that is Tiananmen Square. Standing at 880 metres long and 500 metres wide, the world’s largest public square has enough space to accommodate up-to one million people. The square was originally designed and built in 1651 but has been enlarged four times since and is considered the symbol of the People’s Republic and the centre of Beijing’s landmarks. The iconic square owes its name to to its location - it’s situated in front of the south gate (Tiananmen) of the Forbidden City.
 

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Karaoke calling
Sanlitun - a popular nightlife destination - is where Beijing’s elite and expatriate population head when they want to let their hair down in a hip (read eye-waveringly expensive) haunt. However if you want to party for peanuts like a local and not a laowai (foreigner), look to a karaoke (KTV) bar. Karaoke might not top your Saturday night agenda back home in Blighty but trust TNT when we say that once you pick up the mic and play air guitar, you’ll soon discover that it’s actually a whole heap of fun. Prices for room hire vary according to time (as a rule, the earlier you go the cheaper it is) but as rule of thumb, expect to pay around 200RMB per room, per hour.

Try TCM
Body aching following a long flight? Try TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). TCM aims to balance your yin and yang and ward off disease and illness through a combination of nutrition, exercise and treatments such as acupuncture (where fine needles are inserted into the skin), moxibustion (an alternative to acupuncture which involves a therapist moving a heated cup of herbs above your body), mediation and traditional Chinese massage. All of the aforementioned can be tried on the cheap in any street corner parlour.
 

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Go to the Great Wall
Built between the fifth and 16th centuries, The Great Wall of China - the longest wall in the world - is arguably the symbol of China and no visit to Beijing is complete without making a pilgrimage to this UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Or as Mao Zedong himself once put it: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall, is not a true man.” 
However as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, guided tours to the Great Wall - built to function as an impenetrable line of defence - can be crazy expensive. If you don’t fancy forking out a fair amount of dosh, skip the official excursion and travel to the wall (we recommend the less touristy Mutianyu or Simatai sections) independently by bus. 
 

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Tea time
China is celebrated for its tea, which first rose to popularity during the Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago. As such, lost-in-time tea houses abound. You can while away a whole afternoon in a tea house enjoying an inexpensive cup of scented tea (spring), green tea (summer), Oolong tea (autumn), or black tea (winter) while watching Beijingers eating, drinking, doing business, chatting, playing chess and simply enjoying each other’s company.

Take advantage of the 72-Hour Free Transit Visa
Thanks to blockbuster sights such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City, Beijing is top of the bucket list for a lot of travellers - but obtaining a tourist visa isn’t exactly hassle free. The amount of detail required on the application (expanded from two to four pages back in 2011) plus the steep fee proves a little off putting to say the least. The good news, however, is that passport holders from 45 countries - including the UK, the US and Australia - can make three-day visa-free visits to the Chinese capital provided they have a valid passport as well as a confirmed flight ticket (to a third country or region) that will depart within 72 hours.

Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/beijing-on-a-budget/

The best of Beijing

Beijing is yours to discover with our list of unmissable sights and activities
 

1. Great Wall
Built between the fifth and 16th centuries, The Great Wall of China - the longest wall in the world - is arguably the symbol of China and no visit to Beijing is complete without making a pilgrimage to this UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Or as Mao Zedong himself once put it: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall, is not a true man.” 

However as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall - built to function as an impenetrable line of defence - can get crowded. If you don’t fancy sharing the Great Wall with tonnes of tourists, visit on a weekday in winter. And skip the Badaling section of the Great Wall (which attracts the lion’s share of tourists owing to its proximity to Beijing) and make for Mutianyu or Simatai. Alternatively if you’re feeling adventurous and want to get off the beaten track, seek out un-restored sections such as Huanghuacheng. Popular with hikers, Huanghuacheng is only 48 miles north of Beijing but feels a lot further owing to the lack of crowds. Lots of tour companies include The Great Wall as part of a Beijing/China itinerary but it’s easy to visit many sections of the wall independently by bus or taxi.
Lastly if you’re in town in May, don’t miss the Great Wall Marathon  - one of the most picturesque yet toughest marathons in the world. Over 3,000 runners runners from all around the world sign up for the annual event which involves some 20,518 steps.

2. Forbidden City
Beijing has a wealth of historical sights but the magnificent Forbidden City - which took more than one million labourers over 15 years to build - is arguably the linchpin of Beijing’s tourism. Once the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it is now recognised as one of the five most important palaces in the world and also, at 74 hectares, the world’s largest.
Beijing’s most spectacular site earned its name because in the old times, law forbade entrance to the complex unless the Chinese Emperor gave his permission.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987,  The Forbidden City compromises 980 buildings - so don’t scrimp on time - and serves as superb example of Chinese palatial architecture.

Rectangular in shape, the structure (called Gu Gong in Chinese), is surrounded by a six metre deep moat and a 10 metre high red wall with a gate on each side. The Forbidden City is divided into two parts - the northern and southern section. The former is where the ruling emperor exercised his power while the latter is where he lived with his royal family. Both sections are home to an array of rare treasures and curiosities. In total, 14 emperors of the Ming dynasty and 10 emperors of the Qing dynasty reigned at the Forbidden City.
For Instagram worthy pictures of the Palace, climb the Coal Hill in Jingshan Park (just north of the Forbidden City). 

3. Traditional Chinese Medicine Cultural Tour
Don’t miss the chance to try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and discover for yourself that, in the words of Mao Zedong, “traditional Chinese medicine is a great treasure”.

Based on five interdependent branches compromising exercise, nutrition, herbal medicine, massage and perhaps the most familiar ingredient of all, acupuncture, TCM aims to balance your yin and yang and ward off disease and illness. Today TCM - which has a history of over 4,000 years - is more popular than ever, perhaps because it chimes perfectly with the modern wellness mantra of illness prevention over cure.
TCM centres abound all over Beijing but Tai Shen Xiang He Villa comes highly recommended. Located at Bei Qing Lu, Huilongguan in Changping district, Tai Shen Xiang is home to many veteran traditional Chinese medicine specialists who will happily offer their expertise. Elsewhere the villa’s traditional Ming and Qing architecture and beautiful natural garden scenery combine to make it the perfect place to master the ancient art of Tai Chi.
Visitors can learn a little more about TCM over at the Museum of Chinese Medicine at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Covering an area of 1,500 square metres, the museum continues to play an important role in the international exchange of TCM between China and the outside world. 

 

4. 72-Hour Free Transit Visa
Thanks to blockbuster sights suggest such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City, Beijing is top of the bucket list for a lot of travellers but obtaining a tourist visa isn’t exactly hassle free. The amount of detail required on the application (expanded from two to four pages back in 2011) plus the steep fee proves a little off putting to say the least. The good news is that passport holders from 45 countries - including the UK, the US and Australia - can make three-day visa-free visits to the Chinese capital provided they have a valid passport as well as a confirmed flight ticket (to a third country or region) that will depart within 72 hours. In addition to Beijing, the 72 hour visa waiver programme is valid in Chinese cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Kunming, Shanghai, Shenyang, Wuhan, Xi’an and Xiamen.

 

5. Tiananmen Square 
Only a philistine would leave Beijing without visiting Tiananmen Square. Standing at 880 metres long and 500 metres wide, the world’s largest public square has enough space to accommodate up-to one million people. The square was originally designed and built in 1651 but has been enlarged four times since and is considered the symbol of the People’s Republic and the centre of Beijing’s landmarks. It owes its name to to its location - it’s situated in front of the south gate (Tiananmen) of the Forbidden City.
To the north of the square sits The Tiananmen Gate Tower together with China’ s national flag which is hoisted and lowered every day at sunrise and sunset, by a troop of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers drilled to march at 108 paces per minute, 75cm per pace.
The Monument to the People’s Heroes dominates the centre of the square while the Great Hall of the People is on its west and the National Museum of China on the east. Chairman Mao's Mausoleum lies to the south of the square.

6. Cuisine
Chances are chi fan (let’s eat), is the phrase you’ll hear most often in the Imperial City. Beijing has a thriving local gastronomic scene: there’s over 60,000 restaurants dedicated to feeding you up, in addition to hawker fare and night markets like the legendary Donghuamen. The latter isn’t for the faint hearted (this is a city that adores its meat and subsequently you’ll see vendors peddling silkworms, scorpions, seahorse, snake and starfish and the like) but it’s certainly lens friendly. Choose from food-stalls, then sit and feast with locals eating street nosh like noodles and jiaozi (steamed dumplings) that will have you practically keeling over in bliss.
Another tasty treat is Peking duck and the best place to try it is at Beijing Da Dong Duck restaurant which has built up a reputation for serving superior (leaner) versions of Beijing’s signature dish, in a stylish setting. Be prepared to battle for a booking, but if you get one you won’t be disappointed.

7. Teahouses 
China is celebrated for its tea, which first rose to popularity during the Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago. As such lost-in-time tea houses abound. However contrary to what the name suggests, tea houses aren’t only a great place for a cup of scented tea (spring), green tea (summer), Oolong tea (autumn), or black tea (winter). Chinese tea houses also serve as prime people watching spots: expect to see elderly Beijingers eating, drinking, doing business, chatting, playing chess and simply enjoying each other’s company.
Many of Beijing’s teahouses also put on traditional performances including Peking opera, pingshu (story telling), acrobatics, puppet and magic shows, folks arts and regional operas. Some of Beijing’s best loved tea houses include Laoshe - named for the noted Chinese novelist and playwright, Lao She and his masterpiece drama, Teahouse - City Impression Tea House and Peace Art Co.

8. Theatres
Catching a performance of Peking Opera – Beijing’s oldest art form - should feature on any China itinerary. Regarded as a Chinese cultural treasure, Peking Opera  incorporates dance, mime, music, masks, martial arts and acrobatics. Peking Opera has clearly defined roles: sheng (the male role), dan (the female role), jing (a painted face role reserved for men) and chou (the comedy role) and tells stories of romance, intrigue, politics, history, society and the adventures of scholars, emperors and warriors.
Wondering where to see Peking Opera? Look to Liyuan Theatre - one of the most famous Peking opera theatres in Beijing and a good choice for foreigners as screens above the stage translate the dialogue into English. Other options include Zhengyici Theatre (the only surviving wooden theatre in Beijing),  Chang’an Grand Theatre, Mei Lan Fang Grand Theatre and Hu Guang Hui Guan Opera Theatre. The latter also houses a small museum filled with photos of famous performers like the legendary Mei Lanfang.

9. Temple of Heaven
Built in 1406, the Temple of Heaven was traditionally a place of worship for emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties who used the space to pray for a good harvest. Even the smallest mistake in the prayer ceremony - which involved abstaining from eating meat and wearing special robes - was regarded as a bad omen for China’s crops. Today the Temple of Heaven - which lies on axis directly south of the Forbidden City - stands as a glorious example of Imperial architecture with its curved cobalt blue roofs layered with yellow and green tiles. The principle buildings include the Altar of Heaven (a three-tiered platform upon which emperors would meditate before proceeding to pray to the gods for good harvest), Imperial Vault of Heaven  and Circular Mound Altar.

Apart from being Beijing’s most beautiful temple,  the Temple of Heaven is also  surrounded by pretty parkland, full of people singing, dancing, playing Chinese chess or practicing Thai Chi.

10. MICE Tourism
Beijing’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism industry has exploded in recent years following the success of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Convention and exhibition venues include Beijing Exhibition Center, Beijing International Convention Center, China Hall of Science & Technology, China International Exhibition Center, China World Trade Center and The Great Hall of the People.
The capital is also home to a host of prestigious international hotel chains including St Regis, the Ritz- Carlton, Kempinski and Shangri La to name but a few, all of which boast majestic meeting spaces. Other exciting options include functions atop the Great Wall or in an Imperial garden.

11. Museums
Beijing has a myriad of museums but Beijing Capital Museum is arguably one of the best explaining, as it does, the narrative of China’s capital in chronological order through exhibitions and artefacts spanning seven floors. For more history, make for the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution - which was built in 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Zhou Enlai’s plane and Mao Zedong’s limousine are just two of the objects on display. Elsewhere art aficionados will want to check out the 798 Art District in the north east corner of the city. Formerly an old factory district, designed with East German architects, 798 Art District is now home to a cornucopia of great art galleries including the prestigious UCCA (ucca.org.cn).

12. In addition
If or when you need a break from the urban bustle, seek respite in one of the capital’s parks which, for most Beijingers, are akin to a second home – a place to socialise, relax and stay fit. The city is punctuated with parks but Ritan Park is one of the prettiest.
Alternatively escape to the Zhoukoudian - a small village approximately50 km southwest of Beijing, that’s famed for its Peking Man Site. It’s here that a cave - containing fossils, bones and the famous prehistoric man’s skull - was discovered in the 1920s. The Peking Man Site was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Or simply splash about at Happy Magic Water Cube -  Beijing's second most visited tourist spot, after the Great Wall. Situated on the site of what was the National Aquatics Centre - one of the iconic venues for the 2008 Beijing Olympics - Water Cube boasts an array of rides sure to put a smile on the faces of both the young and young at heart. 

13. Getting around 
Located approximately 25km northeast of the city, the award winning Beijing Capital International Airport serves as the entry point to the Imperial city for most travellers. International arrivals and departures use Terminal 2 as well as the new Terminal 3, while all Air China flights use Terminal 3. The simplest way to travel from the airport to thecity proper is to take the Airport Express train (there are stations at both terminals) to Sanyuanqiao (interchange with Line 10) and Dongzhimen (interchange with Line 2 and Line 13). The journey takes around 20 minutes making it a much faster option than the airport shuttle bus and, at 25RMB for a one way ticket, more affordable than taxis. When it comes to getting around Beijing, walking or cycling is the best way to see the city. Everywhere has something of interest, but keep your wits about you: traffic is chaotic and aggressive and pedestrians occupy the bottom rung in the hierarchy of Beijing road users, below bicycles, buses, tuks tuks and cars.
Alternatively use the subway which is cheap, clean, efficient and easy to use - if crowded - or take a taxi. Drivers rarely speak English, which can prove problematic if your Mandarin is less than masterful - but they are a bargain and, unless it’s raining, in plentiful supply. 

Eight things I don't miss about living in China

Kaye Holland - a former laowai (foreigner) in China - loved her time in China but there were a few things she doesn’t miss...

Being a vegetarian
Good luck being a veggie in China: even seemingly innocuous tofu and celery offerings sold in 7-Eleven and the like have actually been cooked in a meat stock. And I lost count of how many times I ordered so called ‘vegetarian dishes’ only to find, as I poked my chopsticks around, some meat in the middle of my mi fan (rice).

Pollution
China was a dynamic place to call home, but it wasn’t a healthy one by any means –thanks to the widespread pollution caused by the 1,000 new cars that take to the roads on a daily basis. Subsequently despite sporting a pollution mask that makes me look like Michael Jackson, I still managed to succumb to the China cough – a hacking, lung ripping cough that left me gasping for breath. On occasions, the thick brown stuff was so severe that Beijing International airport was forced to close. Make no mistake, the severity of the smog can’t be denied: lung cancer rate in the Chinese capital has risen by 60 percent (despite a decrease in the number of smokers) over the last decade.

Baiju
The Chinese are passionate about Baiju - a grain-based distillate, whose principle base is sorghum. It’s China’s national drink but it evokes a mixed response among expats. Much like marmite, some love it and others hate it. I fell into the latter camp. I must have had hundreds of sips of the spirit - that’s often referred to as the white lady - but I never managed to acquire a taste for the tipple. So what does it taste like? Unlike anything you've ever had before… Firewater would be a polite way of describing China's homegrown alcoholic spirit. Alas if you’re living and working in China, you’ll find yourself forced to take part in a Baiju show (read necking the stuff at networking events and business meetings) on a weekly basis. It’s considered rude to refuse...

Hitting a (highlights) wall
Pre China, I was a perfectly passable enhanced blonde with a head of top notch, regularly replenished highlights. During my time in the Middle Kingdom, my hair was invariably the colour of custard. Is it possible to achieve a glossy Grace Kelly shade of blonde in Beijing? Having tried out around 30 salons between us, myself and friends (and fellow blondes) Em and Amanda would answer: no. The prevailing hair colour hierarchy in China is brown whereas blonde, by comparison, is toxic: it’s time consuming, costly and invariably catastrophic.

Plane delays
China’s trains and subway systems are fantastic and put the London Underground to shame. It’s planes? Not so much. Make no mistake: all planes get delayed in China. I don’t think I ever departed on a flight that left at its 'scheduled' time. If and when your flight does eventually take off, expect an entertaining ride: the Chinese will ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ every time air turbulence occurs. At the end of the journey once the plane has touched down on tarmac, your Chinese flying companions will break out into relieved applause before rushing down the aisles so as to be first off the flight.

Spitting
Planning on travelling to China? Plan on seeing and hearing a hell of a lot of spitting. There have been government campaigns to curb spitting since the 80s but to no avail: the older generation of Chinese simply don’t consider spitting to be rude or impolite. I 'got' that spitting was acceptable form of public behaviour in China but I never got used to hearing that horrendous hocking sound - aka an alarm bell that someone is about to spit.

Banking in China
Banking in China is a big headache. Forget online banking, every single little transaction has to be done in person at a particular branch. Want to open a bank account? That’s done at one branch. Need to charge up your electricity card? Off to another bank you go. Looking to transfer money home? Good luck with that one  - Chinese  officials will try their damnedest to make sure that your Rénmínbì remains in the Middle Kingdom. Regardless of which bank you visit and why, you’ll be told to take a number (much like going for a blood test in Blighty) and then join a queue snaking out the door. If you’re lucky, approximately two hours later* you’ll finally get to the front of the glass window where the teller will demand to see your passport, pay slips, bank cards and millions of other documents before cheekily charging you a fee for dealing with your request.
*Tip: it doesn’t matter whether you visit first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon, the banks are invariably always busy. Apart from at lunch time: at 12 midday on the dot, everyone - customers and staff alike - disappear to chi fan (eat).

The Internet
Can you imagine living in a world without Facebook? In China, that’s a daily reality. Turns out I not only survived, but positively thrived sans Facebook (not spending spare time checking out pictures of peoples' holidays or new houses or torturing yourself tracking your ex's every move is a wonderful thing). However having to purchase and then fire up VPN every time you want to access a ‘proper’ news website? Arghhhh! And I definitely don’t miss having to always access the internet via a cable modem (nobody at China Unicom - China’s only Internet company - knew how to set up a wireless router in my apartment.) And emails that ‘magically’ disappeared from my inbox...

To read what Kaye misses most about the Middle Kingdom, please click here

Eight things I miss most about China

Ahead of Chinese New Year next month, Kaye Holland – a former laowai (foreigner) in China – reveals what she misses most about the Middle Kingdom

The culture
In China, English is most definitely a foreign language – I found myself using gestures and smiles to interact with people 24/7. Patience testing? Yes but for me, China embodied everything I love about living and working in another country: namely new experiences and the challenge of trying to comprehend them. And I was warmly befriended by Chinese compatriots, most of whom had grown up without a sibling – a legacy of China’s stringent one child policy.

The countryside
Beihing and Shanghai may dominate the headlines, but there’s more to China than its big cities. I loved leaving the skyscrapers and luxurious Luis Vuitton stores behind and venturing into the countryside for intimate glimpse into the lives of locals. I’d see old men and women sitting on the floor playing mah jong, while grandmothers gossiped and chewed the fat over endless cups of tea in rural villages where electricity remained a luxury. But to really tune into the China vibe, I’d start my day by practising Thai Chi in a park which – for most of China’s population of 1.4 billion people – are a place to socialise, relax and stay fit.

KTV
Want to party like a local and not a laowai? Head to a karaoke bar (aka KTV) to belt out Britney, Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga and the like. Westerners might see it as an odd way to relax and unwind, but once you pick up the mic and play air guitar, you’ll soon discover that it’s actually a whole heap of fun! KTV bars abound all over China so wherever you, you’ll find somewhere to sing. Prices for room hire vary according to time (as a rule, the earlier you go the cheaper it is) but as rule of thumb, expect to pay around 120RMB per room, per hour in a big city like Beijing.

The subway
The subway system in China is fantastic! For one thing, it costs about 2RMB (20p) to go ANYWHERE in the city. Not only is it cheap, it’s clean, easy to use and on time. Make no mistake: you’ll never “be held at a “red signal” in China (Transport for London: please take note!). China’s efficient public transportation system made meeting friends so much easier. Speaking of mates, I met like minded people (it’s a certain kind of person that ‘chooses’ China) such as Em, Geraldine, Amanda, Lis, Katharina and Fernando, all of whom have become firm friends for life.

The markets
China is chock full of modern shopping malls, but if – like me – you think that sounds too much like civilisation make for a market, where industrious bootleggers will happily test your conscience by offering DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters long before they hit the big screens for RMB12 (approximately £1.20). Here (provided you’re prepared to haggle hard), you can pick up a pair of shoes plus a cute skirt and work shirt for the price of a pizza. Today in London when my friends ask me where my clothes are from, the answer is  invariably always: China.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
In China I learned that, despite what I had been brought up to believe in Britain, the most effective cure for complaints isn’t always to be found on the shelves of the pharmacy but within ourselves – and would now always seek an alternative to drug therapy. True TCM isn’t an ideal medical system – certainly it has its limitations in treating serious illnesses that can be seen on a scan - but when it comes to chronic illnesses, it’s a miracle worker! Now whenever I succumb  to a cold or a case of the flue, I don’t pump myself full of chemicals. Rather I turn to TCM having discovered, in the words of Mao Zedong, what a “great treasure” this ancient system of medicine truly is…

Jianbing
Chances are “chi fan” (let’s eat), is the phrase you’ll hear most often in China. On almost any street corner, you’ll find food stalls and vendors selling street nosh like noodles, jiaozi (steamed dumplings) and my own personal favourite, egg based jianbing. This sweet, salty and crunchy ‘Chinese crepe’ – a bargain at just 5RMB (50p) – had me practically keeling over in bliss.

Feeling like a celeb
If like me you are/were a laowai (foreigner) who looks nothing like a local, prepare to be stopped by people wanting to take your picture (I suspect I’m on the Instagram feeds of thousands of giggly, teenage Chinese girls). Everytime they whipped out their iPhones to take pictures of the unusual looking creature with the cropped platinum ‘do, I felt – albeit fleetingly – like a Hollywood A lister! Of course not every laowai likes the constant ‘staring and snapping’. Me? I loved it!