Tuesday, June 29, 2010

China for cheap!

I like to plan trips, even if we don't take them. Last night I was tinkering with the idea of going to Beijing for a couple of weeks in the fall. I got to checking airfares and hotels on the list of websites I check when I'm in the planning stages.

I found a deal on Expedia that was really reasonable, in fact the cost of  two weeks in a budget hotel and airfare was just slightly moe than airfare alone. We sometimes  fly out of Portland, Oregon, when we go to China because it's usually so much cheaper the savings more than pays for our gas and airport parking, not to mention the schedule is almost always more convenient.

Anyway, I priced a trip to Beijing from Portland for just over $1,000 which includes round-trip airfare and two weeks in a budget hotel. This is per person double occupancy. This dates I used were departing Nov. 3 and returning Nov. 17. Airfare alone is running about $1,000 per person at that time. The weather will be cool in Beijing, but the cold winter winds shouldn't have started by then. And because it's off-season, the sights should be less crowded. Play around with the dates as well as other reputable online travel agencies to see what turns up; I didn't do this, though I frequently do, and go for the best deal regardless of who has it.

We went to Beijing two years ago, returning in late October and the weather was really nice. Just a little rain on one day. Believe it or not, the Expedia price is almost $300 per person less than what we paid for that trip. That trip was one of the few where I booked airfare and hotel separately -- it turned out to be cheaper that way, especially since I negotiated a discount with the hotel.

If you book a trip to Beijing, you may want to take my mini-guide, DIY Beijing: a guide for the independent traveler, to help you get around the the city. Check out Cheryl's Guides for more of my China guides. If you have questions about travel in China, especially Beijing, please see my website, Cheryl's China, or email me.

The picture
Rubbing the gold knobs on the entrance doors to the Forbidden City is said to bring good luck. Thousands of people do it every day.

The fine print
Because I mentioned Expedia in this blog, the FTC requires me to disclose if I will receive any payment from Expedia for mentioning them. I won't.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two Beijing podcasts are now available on Amazon

Two of the nine podcast tours I did for Vusual Travel Tours are now for sale on Amazon.com. They also arefor sale through Magellan's as well as the Visual Travel Tours website, where you can find all of my tours.

The tours are:
  • Imperial Beijing which is a walking tour that starts at Tiananmen Square, continues through the Forbidden City and ends at Jingshan Park for a stunning look back at what you've just seen.
  • China's Grat Wall: Walking on History is a visit to several sites on the Great Wall, all of which I have visited, some several times. This tour focuses on Badaling, because that's the site most tourists will visit from Beijin. It does give tips on how avoid the crowds at Badaling.
Other tours I did for VTT include a visit to Western Beijing, which includes the very beautiful Summer Palace; Beijing for Kids, which I later expanded into 52-page book, Parents Guide to Beijing; Cuandixia: China's Village That Time Forgot, which also was expanded into an ebook, Cuandixia: an ancient mountain village in China; a visit to Beihai Park and the hutongs, my favorite places in Beijing, and tips on where to find peace and quiet in Biejing. Yes! It is possible.

My non-China podcasts are on Maryhill Museum, a fabulous little museum overlooking the Columbia River Gorge about a hundred miles from where I live, and British motorcycle museums, which was expaned to an 88-page book, Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom: an enthusiasts' guide to British bikes.

The podcasts are designed to be downloaded to mobile devices such as iPods wo you can view them while touring a sight. Handy? Yep!

If you're planning a trip to China, please visit my website for more information. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about traveling in China, especially Biejing.

The fine print:
The FTC requires me to let you know that if you purchase one of my books or podcasts, I will make a little money on the purchase.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Joan Hinton: an American in China

I frequently browse the online edition of the New York Times, and am generally stunned when I find mention of someone I know or, in this case, met briefly many years ago. The article in question was the obituary of Joan Hinton who died recently in China.

I was working as a foreign expert copy editor for China Daily in Beijing at the time. The paper's first foreign expert had just died, and a couple of us went to the memorial service China Daily hosted for him. I never met this man, but mainly went out of respect to the person who paved the way for my job there a couple of decades later.

China Daily had set up a large square table in a conference room. Everyone sat around it, and people at the head section talked about the expert. Ms. Hinton was one of the speakers. She and her husband wee introduced as long-time China residents who had done a lot for the dairy industry in China. Without them, the nation's dairy industry would not have made such rapid advances. She appeared a pleasant woman and a good public speaker. All the foreigners who spoke were long-time residents of China, as was the deceased, another American.

Based on comments made, I envisioned Ms. Hinton coming from a farming background. Was I surprised to learn that wasn't the case. The NYT article notes Ms. Hinton worked as a physicist on the Manhattan Project, which created the atom bombs the United States dropped on Japan to end World War II in Asia. She became disillusioned with the United States after that, and in 1948 left for China where she became an avowed Maoist. During the McCarthy era she was accused of being a spy and giving nuclear secrets to the Chinese, but the article notes this was never proved.

During my time in China I met several people -- mostly Americans -- who had spent most of their lives in China. While I enjoyed my two years in Beijing and have fond memories of China, I don't think I could spend my whole life living there. What I got most out of my time there was how fortunate I am to be an American.

China travel

If you're planning a trip to China, please see my website for some great information about things to see and do, especially in Beijing. Questions? Please email me. If you're interested in seeing the world from a different perspective, you might be interested in a Cheryl's Guide.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Where's the wildlife?

We just got back from a camping trip to the Cascade Mountains in Central Washington. We saw a lot of elk and deer, including two which wandered through a campground not too far from ours. Seeing deer and elk in the forest isn't that unusual. My husband has also seen a cougar, a wolf and a bear as he rides his dirt bike over the trails.

On the way home, it struck me that I've never seen wildlife in China, except in a zoo. (I don't count cows, sheep and goats in farm fields.) Granted I haven't traveled in the really remote areas (yet), but I have been out in the country and moutains over there. Heck, we live in the city here, and I see more wildlife on our street every day than I've ever seen in China. I enjoy watching squirrels scamper over the power lines or play tag on the fence outside my office window. Sometimes driving down our street we have to slow down for a Mama Quail and her babies. We've even seen a racoon or two.

But the only non-domestic animals I've seen running loose in China are rats. And those I could do without!

One day I'd like to travel to the Woolong Nature Reserve in southwest China and maybe see a panda or two munching on a bamboo stalk Or maybe down to the jungles near the border with Laos. I know there are wild animals in China, I just have to go where they are to see them in their native habitat.

If you are planning a trip to China, please visit my website. If you have questions about traveling in China, please feel free ro email me. I've also written mini-guides to travel in China; check them out on Cheryl's Guides.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cheryl's Guides

See the world from
a different perspective!

Cheryl's Guides is the line of guidebooks I founded last summer. I call them Cheryl's Guides because . . . well, I wrote them and my name is Cheryl.

I wrote my first guidebook, 17 really neat things to see and do in Beijing and after good stuff I learned the hard way, after returning home after my first year living in Beijing. I updated the guide over the next several years, but then got away from it when I got married and no longer went to China as much.

Last summer, I resurrected my Beijing guide, calling it DIY Beijing: a guide for the independent traveler. About the same time, I also published Parents Guide to Beijing: a kid-friendly city. Since then I've added Cuandixia: an ancient mountain village in China and China travel tips: 26 ideas to help you survive the Middle Kingdom. And I just published last month, my latests guide, Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom.

The name Cheryl's Guides covers just about any travel guide I could write, and I've got a lot of ideas for more books simmering on the back burner. Most of them will be about China, but some will be about other places, including my own back yard of the Pacific Northwest.

I've just recently set up a website for Cheryl's Guides which gives more information about my books, including feedback from my readers.

All my guides are for sale at GuideGecko.com, a Singapore-based publishing company which only sells travel books.

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out my website, Cheryl's China. If you have questions about China travel, please feel free to email me.

P.S. The picture was taken outside the Gulou subway station on Second Ring Road in Beijing. The subway station has several of these whimsical children playing at the entrance.