It might seem obvious, but to some maybe not so. You may not speak the language. The subway map may not be as thoughtfully laid out like the Tube map Harry Beck masterpiece of 1931. The bus system may not be as slick as the one in your home town. If you own a car, and you live in the sticks, you may not even be used to using it back home.
“Shit, busy would be an understatement. But the article said it was pristine and peaceful.” Every traveller has muttered words to that effect. Should it not occur to us that we went there, because of the guidebook, or that travel site we stumbled upon. AND so did all the others.
The LP effect. This often useful publication has been known for the influence it exerts on certain businesses and particular destinations. Recommend one cafe in Goa, and that cafe becomes the place to go for the average visitor. Suggest one beach over another, and that becomes the preferred beach for the masses, no matter if just over the headland there is an even more picturesque, and of course quieter stretch. Travel in India, and see that if a cafe has been recommended by the LP, you’ll see signs all over the business exterior shouting about it. You may also find that other enterprises have opened up with the same name, knowing full well that any recommendation in the LP would boost their takings hugely. Such is the influence travel writers can have.
Until recently, I lived in Beijing, and during the hot summers, I would search for a pool where I could cool off. Sure, some Beijingers swim in the Liangma river, but I only ever skated on it in the winter.
My first experience of a Beijing pool went like this. I found a public swimming pool that was recommended online, and so after a hour of getting lost I arrived with high expectations. I was met with a grimy pool, people spitting everywhere, not only in the dedicated spit boxes on the sides of the pool. The place was packed with loud kids leaping around, and the changing rooms stank of stale urine. I longed for the time when I lived in Bangkok and I could just jump on a bus and a short ferry to a Thai island for the weekend. I missed those days, and I still do.
However, what I didn’t realise was that, Dalian 大连, a beachside city in relatively close Liaoning province, not only has great beaches, but also has summer sea temperatures that are very close to what you’d find in Thailand. If you don’t believe me, see the following.
Source: seatemperature.org August 6th 2018.
Dalian Beer Festival 2018 starts on 26th July 2018 and runs for approximately 12 days. If you are reading this from outside of China and have never visited, your experience of Chinese drinking culture may be restricted to the world famous Tsingtao beer. In fact Tsingtao or 青岛 – Qingdao – as is actually written in pinyin (the official system for Romanisation of Chinese characters), comes from the city of Qingdao on the east coast of China. It is no coincidence that Qingdao was occupied by Germany from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Presumably because the occupying Germans found the local 白酒 baijiu, rice whiskey, a little too potent, in 1903 they established the Germania Brewery. This later became the Tsingtao Brewery.
If you are familiar, you’ll know that Tsingtao beer does not taste like a typical German beer. It is in its simplest form a light, refreshing lager, that is typical of mainstream beers throughout Asia. It’s around 4% abv. In China, alcohol content of beer is usually given as an exceeding or equals to rather than an exact figure. Sometimes, it can feel like a kind of beer lottery.
There was a certain feeling of certainty as I woke up that morning and recalled peering through the hot steam the night before, sound of chatter and banter and mouthwatering aromas almost beyond the realm of human detection. I got up as usual, took a shower, drew a hole in the steam on the bathroom mirror, brushed my teeth, and went down for breakfast. But so far nothing. Not the breakfast, this was plentiful. But my stomach wasn’t showing anything, any sign of trouble that is. You might wonder why that morning I was expecting stomach trouble.
Humidity was building in the night sky, the tall coconut trees starting to sway dramatically, signalling a storm on its way. “I wish I’d come here 10 years ago”, I said as the last of the Chang beer dripped from the bottle whilst I lay in my hammock precariously strapped between the uprights of my 100 baht-a-night (£1.50 at the time) rickety beach bungalow. “Yeah man, me too”, replied my newly met travel mate, shouting over from his adjacent bungalow, in-between strums on his beat-up travel guitar.
Beijing. A fascinating city, one that is thoroughly enjoyable to live in. But pollution can get even the most hardy of resident down, and like any big city, it can be overwhelmingly busy and hectic at times. Unsurprising for a city in excess of 21 million residents. But what arguably gives Beijing an edge over other similar sized cities, is being able to escape to the relative tranquility of the hutong areas. For those who are unfamiliar,