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Nara, Japan

Nara (奈良) [1] is an ancient capital city in Nara Prefecture, Kansai region of Japan.

Overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Kyoto, Nara is omitted from many a time-pressed tourist's itinerary. However, Nara is home to many important scenic and historical sites, and today preserves its main sights much more attractively than Kyoto within Nara Park and neighborhoods like Naramachi.
[edit] Understand

Along with the development of Heijyōkyō (平城京), the capital of Japan between 710-784 AD, Nara flourished under the influence of Buddhism, leading to the creation of an enormous number of cultural assets, buildings and books, many of which are preserved today. Nara has the largest number of buildings designated National Treasures in Japan.

While the Heijyōkyū Palace (平城宮) site turned into plain fields after the capital was moved to Kyoto, the shrines and temples were left on the east side of the palace (called Gekyo (外京)), and Buddhism remained influential throughout the following centuries. Another part of the area developed as a merchant town, notably in the Edo period, known as Naramachi (ならまち) today.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

Nara does not have its own airport, so most visitors arrive via Kansai International Airport, or Osaka's Itami Airport.

From Kansai Airport, Airport Limousine buses run to the two Nara train stations every hour (¥1800, 1 1/2 hours). More frequent service is available by rail: If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take the Haruka limited express to Tennoji station and then transfer to the Yamatoji line for the run to Nara (¥2390, no charge with rail pass). Otherwise, it's cheaper to take the Nankai Railway's Kūkō-Kyūkō (空港急行) express train to Shin-Imamiya, and then take the JR Yamatoji line from there (¥1510). Both trips take around 1 1/4 hours with good connections.

Limousine buses connect Itami Airport to the two Nara train stations for ¥1440; the ride takes about one hour.
[edit] By train

From Kyoto station, both the JR Nara Line and the private Kintetsu Kyoto Line will get you to Nara quickly. The Kintetsu Nara station is better located than the JR Nara station, but unless you want to take an all-reserved Tokkyū (特急) train which leaves twice an hour and runs to Nara in 35 minutes, you will have to change at Yamato Saidaiji (get onto a Kyūkō (急行)) for the last hop into town. The latter takes about 50 minutes depending on connection at Yamato Saidaiji. The trip will cost ¥610, plus an extra ¥500 on the Tokkyū. For Japan Rail Pass holders, JR's Miyakoji Kaisoku (みやこ路快速) runs from Kyoto to Nara in as little as 41 minutes (¥690, no charge with rail pass).

The fastest route from Osaka is to take the private Kintetsu Nara Line from Namba station. Kaisoku-Kyūkō (快速急行) trains run to Kintetsu Nara in 35 minutes (¥540). For Japan Rail Pass holders, JR runs two Yamatoji Kaisoku (大和路快速) trains each hour from Osaka, Tennōji, and intermediate stations on the Osaka Loop Line. The run to Nara is 44 minutes from Osaka and 31 minutes from Tennōji (¥780 and ¥450 respectively, no charge with rail pass).

If travelling between Kyoto, Nara and Osaka explore the Kansai thru-passs which enables unlimited travel for 2 or 3 days on private railways, buses and subways (not-JR) within the Kansai area.
[edit] By bus

As Nara is a major tourist attraction, there are a good number of buses that run between Nara and other locations throughout Japan, which can result in significant savings when compared to train fares.

The JR Bus Group (Japanese Website) is a major operator of the routes from the Tokyo area to Kansai. Buses to Nara operate via the Tomei Expressway (to/from Tokyo Station), and make a stop at Kyoto Station enroute. Seat reservations for JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains.

You can receive a discount of between 10 and 35 percent off the cost of the ticket if reservations are made at least 21 days in advance on most routes.

The Japan Rail Pass is NOT valid on buses running between Tokyo and Nara. However, you can take a bus into Kyoto Station, which is covered under the pass, and change there for rail service on the JR Nara Line for the final run.

The following overnight services are available: (Current as of June 2006)

* The Dream Nara departs Tokyo Station every night at 22:00, with the returning service leaving Nara at 22:10. The cost is ¥8400 one-way and ¥15120 round trip.

* The Seishun Dream Kyoto-Nara departs from Tokyo Station every night at 21:50, with the returning service leaving Nara at from Kyoto at 21:10. This bus costs ¥5000 one-way and ¥9500 round trip. The notable difference is that the Seishun bus uses four-across seating found in standard buses, while the other uses more comfortable and wider three-across seating.

Both of these services reach Nara in about 9 1/2 hours.
[edit] Get around

The World Heritage Loop Line Bus Ticket [2] provides unlimited bus rides of the World Heritage Loop Line as well as any commuter lines in the designated area for ¥800 (adult) or ¥400 (children less than 12 years old) per day.

It is recommended to take buses for visiting Heijōkyū Palace Site, Tōshōdai-ji Temple and Yakushi-ji Temple.

Once within Nara Park, you can simply walk to almost all the other major sites.
[edit] See

If you only have one day to spend in Nara, focus on Nara Park. With more time, though, there's more to see. Three days in Nara provides suggestions for longer trips to the area.
[edit] In Nara Park
Yakushi Nyorai, Buddha of medicine and healing, at Todaiji
Yakushi Nyorai, Buddha of medicine and healing, at Todaiji
Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha
Lanterns at Kasuga Taisha

Most of Nara's sights, including temples, shrines and famously mercenary deer, are concentrated in Nara Park (奈良公園 Nara-kōen), a wide, pleasant space of greenery. According to legend, the god of the Kasuga Taisha came riding a white deer in the old days, so the deer enjoy protected status as envoys of the god; however, based on their current behavior, either the deer have lost the job, or the god has taken an extremely passionate interest in biscuits from tourists (¥150), empty food wrappers and harassing shopkeepers.

* Tōdai-ji (東大寺) is home to the Daibutsu (大仏), the largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world, appropriately, the Daibutsu-den, which houses it, is said to be the largest wooden building in the world. It's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The giant front gate, Nandai-mon, is guarded by two fierce, awe-inspiring protectors. (It's also swarmed by deer, who know this is the best place to come looking for a hand-out.) Through the gate is a stone path leading to the outer walls surrounding the Daibutsu-den. Follow the signs to the left to enter the inner courtyard; if you happen to have a stick of incense with you, join the crowd around the incense offerings before you head onward.
o The Daibutsu-den (8am-4:30pm Nov-Feb, to 5pm Mar / Oct, 7:30am-5:30pm Apr-Sep; admission ¥500) also contains four other giant statues. Once you've taken in the Daibutsu itself, walk around it to the left to see the other statues, as well as a few old tiles and leftover relics. There's a stand inviting you to sponsor a tile in order to help with the upkeep of the temple, and English-language fortune scrolls (omikuji) are on sale year-round. Take a final look at the Daibutsu as you leave; don't let the souvenir stand be your last memory of this incredible sight.
+ Just before the souvenir area, behind and to the right of the Daibutsu, is a wooden column with a small hole carved through the bottom. Enlightenment is reportedly promised to anyone who can squeeze through this hole. In practice, this means a lot of kids have enlightenment in store (thanks in part to other kids who kick their feet to "help" them through), and all but the skinniest adults can only look on in envy.
+ To the right of the entrance to the Daibutsu-den is a statue of the Yakushi Nyorai. Though a bit scary-looking on first glance, it's actually a Buddha of medicine and healing. Touching a part of the Yakushi Nyorai and then the corresponding part of your own body is said to heal any ailments you have there.
* Kōfuku-ji (興福寺) (9am-5pm; admission to the Eastern Golden Hall ¥500) [3] has a three-story and a five-story pagoda; historically, the latter has contended with Kyoto's Toji for the title of Tallest Pagoda in Japan, although Kofuku-ji seems to have surrendered for now.
o Sarusawa-no-ike (猿沢の池) This small pond at the east end of Sanjō-dōri with Nara Park behind or Naramachi to its south is a very popular viewing spot for Kōfukuji.
* Nara National Museum [4] has one of the world's best collections of Buddhist art and changing exhibitions. The National Treasure Hall has an impressive collection of statues. Entrance fee ¥500.
* Ukimidō (浮見堂) A hexagonal building built on Sagi-ike (鷺池) Pond in Nara Park so that it appears to float on water.
* Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) is worth a visit for the beautiful approach, through the Kasuga-yama Primeval Forest (see below), more than the temple itself. What Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha is for torii, Kasuga Taisha is for stone lanterns. Notice the giant rack of sake barrels near the front gate and the fountain-statue of a giant buck. The temple is occasionally closed for services, but a walk around the outside is likely to be no less rewarding.
* Kasuga-yama Hill Primeval Forest (春日山原生林) is a gorgeous hill and wild, undeveloped forest leading to Kasuga Taisha and some of the other sights in Nara Koen. The path is clearly marked, though, so don't worry about getting lost. It's a magical, quiet walk at any time of day. If you're determined to feed some deer, save your biscuits for the ones out here instead of the loafers by Todai-ji.
* Isui-en Garden (依水園) (9:30AM-4PM, Entrance fee ¥650) [5] is located on the way to Kasuga Taisha Shrine from Kintetsu Nara Station. Enjoy the magnificently arranged garden with full of flowers, surrounded by all the rest of Nara Park.
* Shin-Yakushi-ji (9am-5pm; admission ¥500) can be reached through the forest; follow the signs from Kasuga Taisha. It's a single hall with twelve ferocious warrior statues (each with his own collection plate) standing guard by a Buddha of healing. The statues are quite impressive; this is as well-protected a Buddha as you're likely to find.

[edit] Other sights

* Nara City Museum of Photography is near Shin-Yakushi-ji, a couple blocks outside Nara Park. The steel-and-glass building sits as if reflected upon the linear pond that surrounds it. Inside, there are reasonably interesting exhibits of photography on local subjects like the Mount Wakakusa Fire Festival (see below).
* Yakushi-ji Temple (薬師寺) (9am-5pm; admission ¥500) [6]
* Gangō-ji Temple (元興寺)
* Heijōkyū Palace Site (Nara Palace Site) (平城宮跡)[7] (Suzaku Gate(restored) (朱雀門), Daigoku-den (under restoration) (大極殿))
* Tōshōdai-ji Temple (唐招提寺)
* Nara Century Hall, next to JR Nara station. Events, concerts, and musicals. Sometimes a flea market is held in front of the hall.

[edit] Do

* Naramachi is ten minutes on foot south of Kintetsu Nara station. The neighborhood, originally founded in the 8th Century when Heijōkyō was the capital of Japan, today contains several small museums, machiya (町家) (traditional Japanese merchant houses from Edo Period), unique cafes and restaurants and much more. (David Bowie is rumored to have owned a house here.) It's well worth the time to stop and do a tasting at Harushika (春鹿), Naramachi's fabulous Nihon-shu (sake) brewery.
o A morning walking tour (Naramachi Walker) leaves from the Tourist Information Center on the ground floor of Kintetsu Nara Station at 9:30. It's led by a professional English-speaking local guide. You will see old "machiya" houses and lively local alleys full of interesting sights. This area is not easy to see unless you know where to go. Seeing the area with a local guide is desirable. Tours cost ¥2000( ¥1500 for students, children under 15 free) and are available every Saturday in April-July and Sep-Nov, running from 9:30am to 12:30pm. No reservation required; just meet the guide by 9:25am in front of TIC at Kintetsu Nara Stn. The tour ends near Kasuga Taisha (or Kasuga Grand Shinto Shrine) in Nara Park. URL:http://www.eonet.ne.jp/~naramachiwalk
* Mount Wakakusa Fire Festival (Wakakusa-yamayaki), Nara Park - Wakakusayama. Night before second M on New Year, dry grass on the slopes of this mountain is set on fire by two temples. (Planned on 13 Jan for 2008.)
* Shuni-e (Omizu-tori) (修二会 (お水取り)), Nigatsu-dō of Todai-ji Temple (東大寺二月堂.) At nights every 1-14 Mar. An annual Buddhist memorial service that has been carried out first in 752 AD and continues today without one single break. Priests will run around the Nigatsu-dō carrying 1m large fire torches.
* Nara Tōka-e (なら燈火会) is a light festival held 6-15 Aug every year. 10,000 candles illuminate the area around Nara Park and major temples.
* Deer-horn Cutting Ceremony, at Roku-en (鹿苑) inside Nara Park. Every Oct. The deer have their horns cut to prevent people from being injured.

[edit] Learn

Three organizations offer free tours in English:

* Nara YMCA Goodwill Guides 0742-45-5920 (eggnaraymca@hotmail.com) [8]
* Nara Student Guide 0742-26-4753.
* Nara S.G.G. Club 0742-22-5595. [9]

[edit] Work

Nara features the typical range of English conversation schools, including a prominent NOVA near the Kintetsu station.
[edit] Buy
[edit] What to Buy

narazuke (奈良漬). A local specialty pickle made of various vegetables and fruit, traditionally melon cucumber (瓜 uri). The distinctive strong flavor comes from the use of sakekasu, the sediment of sake fermentation, and the pickle also has some residual alcohol. Shops are found on any of the shopping areas listed below.

Handmade writing brushes (fude,筆) and ink (sumi,墨). Nara is famous for its calligraphy brushes called Narafude (奈良筆), which are available in the specialist stores on Sanjō-dōri Avenue. However, as these brushes are made with a special kind of animal hair, they are expensive and rare, and customers will need to make a specific request for them. Other brushes sold in the specialist stores will be less expensive than Narafude, but still generally of reputable quality.

Nara Sarashi (奈良晒), or Nara fabrics, is another traditionally artisanal product of Nara. Originally made of boehmeria variation plants in the older ages, cotton has become the major material since Edo Period, mainly due to availability and cost. Towels, handkerchiefs, blankets, blinds and many other cloth material products can be found in stores located on Mochiidono Shopping street or in Naramachi area.
[edit] Where to Buy (Central City)

* Higashimuki Shopping Street (東向き商店街), a covered shopping arcade of about 250m stretching south from Kintetsu Nara Station, where many souvenir shops as well as restaurants can be found.

Yamazaki-ya (山崎屋) 5 Higashimuki Minamimachi (along the covered Higashimuki Shopping Street) 0742-22-8039. A well-known purveyor of narazuke.

* Mochiidono Shopping Street (もちいどの商店街), another covered arcade further into south, connecting from Higashimuki Shopping Street, is the main street leading to the center of Naramachi.

* Sanjō-dōri Avenue (三条通り), most shops are located within the apporx. 800m zone, between JR Nara Station and sounth end of Higashimuki Shopping Street, of this Avenue. Many souvenir shops, traditional writing brush (fude,筆) and ink (sumi,墨) stores, narazuke stores as well as various bars and restaurants are located on this avenue. Most of the major banks are found on this Avenue, too.

[edit] Shopping Malls

* Nara Family, 3 minutes walk from Yamato-Saidaiji station, [10]. One of the largest shopping malls in Kansai.

[edit] Eat

A local specialty is kaki-no-hazushi (柿の葉ずし), or sushi (usually mackerel and/or salmon) wrapped persimmon leaves, which actually originates from nearby Yoshino. Kudzu from Yoshino too is a very renowned product of Nara, which is used for making various food ranging from kudzu noodles (葛切り kuzu-kiri) to Japanese sweets (和菓子 wagashi). The thin wheat noodles (somen) from Miwa region (三輪そうめん Miwa sōmen) has a long history as old as Nara; the noodles are served either hot or cold.

* Sanshū-tei (三秀亭) (in the Isui-en Garden, 依水園) is worth a visit more for the attractive old house and garden than the menu, which consists of two very traditional dishes: mugi tororo (plain rice with ground yam, ¥1200), and unagi tororo (the same with grilled eel, ¥2500). Open 11:30AM-1:30PM only, daily except Tuesday.

* Hiraso (平宗), 30-1 Imamikadocho (south of Sarusawa Pond), 0742-22-3900 10AM-8PM Closed on M. [11] (Japanese only) A nice sampling of local foods such as kakinohazushi and chagayu ("tea gruel", but it tastes better than it sounds) are included in dinner sets miyoshino and heijou, around ¥2500. English picture menu available.

* Udon-tei (うどん亭), 6 Higashimuki-Nakamachi (inside Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade), 0742-23-5471 Daily 11AM-8:30PM. Served udon (thick wheat noodles) in various ways, hot or cold, plain or with tempura, etc, mostly less than ¥1000. Always fully packed with local people at lunch times. Suitable for time-savers and relatively small appetites. Sample display at front of entrance.

* Okaru (おかる), 13 Higashimuki-Minamimachi (inside Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade), 0742-24-3686 11AM-9PM Closed on W except if Holiday. A restaurant specialized in okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), the pan-fried cabbage cake with selection of meat. Okonomiyaki is definitely shortlisted on Kansai people's most beloved dishes. ¥530-1400. English menu available. Samples displayed at front.

* Yatagarasu (やたがらす), 13-1 Hayashi-kōji-cho, 0742-20-0808. Daily 5PM-0AM. Fresh poultry from local farms cooked and served in many different ways (eg. grilled, fried, even raw) with a variety of either local or other regional sake available. Budget around ¥2500 depending on your appetite.

* Nara Shōya (奈良庄屋), 48-5 Takama-cho (Keiwa building B1F), 0742-24-2151. Daily 11:30AM-2PM, 4:30PM-11PM. A branch of large chain pub restaurant with traditional food like raw fish (さしみ sashimi), sushi, tempura, yakitori available. Though little (except for sake) is Nara local, quality of food is excellent for a chain type of restaurant. The restaurant is always filled with a dynamic, yet agreeable mood.

[edit] Take-out

Alternatively, you can take out kaki-no-hazushi, which is actually very popular for domestic travellers. There are three kaki-no-hazushi stores that can be easily spotted around Kintetsu Nara Station. Packages of various size and combination are available.

* Hiraso (the same brand as mentioned above), close to the north entrance of Higashimuki Shopping arcade, next to a bakery called Douce.
* Nakatani Honpo (中谷本舗), inside the Kintetsu Station concourse.
* Honpo Tanaka (本舗たなか), in front of Bus terminal & Taxi zone above Kintetsu Nara Station.

Otherwise, a take-out sushi store, again in the Kintetsu Nara Station concourse named Maruchū (丸忠) has a selection of prepared packages ranging ¥400-1000 with good quality.

Another well-known culinary product is shika-senbei, a rice cracker sold around Nara Park. Don't try eating it yourself though — it's meant for the deer!

Note that closing times are generally as early as 10 PM in Nara.
[edit] Drink

Yamato-cha (大和茶) is the locally produced Japanese green tea which is healthy and tasty. There are also numerous sake brands, among which is Harushika brand, produced by one of the oldest existing sake breweries in Japan.

* Kuramoto Hoshuku (蔵元 豊祝), 28 Higashimuki (Nara Kintetsu building B1F / in the Kintetsu Nara Station concourse), 0742-26-2625. Daily 11:30AM-2PM, 4PM-9PM. Directly operated by a local brewery Nara Toyosawa. "Sake testing Set" (利き酒セット kikizake-set), including three small glasses of different homebrew sake by the brewery at ¥350. "Hoshuku Set" is a mini combi set with either a glass of Hoshuku brand sake or beer plus small snack dishes at ¥500. A popular drop-by place for people commuting back home on Kintetsu lines.

[edit] Sleep
[edit] Budget

* Ryokan Seikansō (静観荘), 29 Higashi-Kitsuji-cho (15 minutes south of Nara Kintetsu station, along Mochiidono Street), 0742-22-2670 (fax 0742-22-2670 , seikanso@chive.ocn.ne.jp). Tatami mats, classical architecture, and a well-kept inner garden feature in this traōditional ryokan. The rooms are showing their age, but each features a samovar for tea and a small room with a table overlooking the garden. The shared bathrooms have been recently remodeled. Japanese/Western breakfast for ¥700/450 is served in the tatami dinning room. The manager speaks limited (but sufficient) English. ¥4200/person.
* Ryokan Matsumae, 28-1 Higashi-Terabayashi-cho, Nara, Nara Pref. 630-8362, ☎ 0742-22-3686 (hanami626@yahoo.co.jp, fax: 0742-26-3927), [12]. Located off Sanjo-dori, close to Sarusawa Pond and Gango-ji, about 7 minutes from Kintetsu Nara station or 15 minutes from JR Nara. The owners profess to be "familiar with Buddha statue carving" and calligraphy. ¥5250-5750 1 person without/with bath, ¥8820-9450 2 people, ¥13,230-14,175 3 people.

[edit] Mid-range

* Hotel Fujita Nara (ホテルフジタ奈良),47-1 Shimosanjō-cho (on Sanjō Avenue), 0742-23-8111 (fax 0742-22-0255)[13] A modern western style hotel, very conveniently located in the middle of JR and Kintetsu Nara stations. ¥7500-18000/room (wide variety of reservation/price plans available)

* Nara Washington Hotel Fujita Nara (奈良ワシントンホテルプラザ),31-1 Shimosanjō-cho (on Sanjō Avenue), 0742-27-0410 (fax 0742-27-0484)[14](Japanese only) A nationwide chain hotel of modern western style. Convenient location. All rooms equipped with free Internet access. ¥6900-16500/room

* Tempyō Ryokan (天平旅館), 9 Higashimuki-Nakamachi (situated inside the Higashimuki Shopping Street arcade) 0742-22-0551 (fax 0742-22-0553) [15](Japanese only) Budget type accomodation with both Japanese and western style rooms available. ¥6500-8000/person

[edit] Splurge

* Kikusuirō (菊水楼), 1130 Takabatake-cho, 0742-23-2001 (fax 0742-26-0025) Typical Japanese-style deluxe ryokan inn. ¥+/-40000/person depending on days and season.

* Nara Hotel (奈良ホテル), 1096 Takabatake-cho, 0742-26-3300 (fax 0742-23-5252)[16] Classic westernized style hotel of de luxe class, since 1909. ¥12000-90000/room.

* Hotel Nikko Nara 8-1 Sanjō-Hommachi (close to JR Nara Station) 0742-35-8831 (fax 0742-35-6868)[17] A JAL (Japan Airlines) group chain hotel. ¥10500-27000/room

[edit] Contact

Tourist information centers operate in Nara:

* Nara City Tourist Information Center (on Sanjo-dori) 0742-22-3900. 9 AM to 9 PM

* JR Nara Station 0742-22-9821. 9 AM to 5 PM.

* Kintetsu Nara Station 0742-24-4858. 9 AM to 5 PM.

* Sarusawa Pond 0742-26-1991. 9 AM to 5 PM.

[edit] Cope
[edit] Stay safe

The deer in Nara Park tend to be friendly and perhaps overly eager to eat shika-senbei (¥150) biscuits from the hands of tourists. Small children may be frightened to have the suddenly manic deer coming after them, so it may be best to feed the deer yourself and let the kids watch. While in the Kasuga-yama forest, steer clear of any deer which still have their antlers. They can be aggressive and their antlers can injure you.

If you are allergic to pollen, beware: the heaviest cedar pollen fluctuation in this area is usually from mid-February to April.
[edit] Get out

As the center of a plain dense with history, Nara makes a good hub for exploring the vicinity.

* Hōryūji (法隆寺) — A World Heritage site with an ancient temple complex housing some of the oldest existing wooden buildings in the world
* Kashihara (橿原) — the site of Japan's capital city, Fujiwarakyo (藤原京), before Nara.
* Imai (今井町) — part of contemporary Kashihara City, preserving full of old merchant houses dating back from Edo period.
* Asuka (飛鳥) — the homeground of Japan's earliest historical capital city, Asukakyo (飛鳥京)
* Yoshino (吉野) — the mountain area which comprises a part of another UNESCO World Heritage, and possibly Japan's most famous cherry blossom viewing spots

permalink written by  garisti on April 1, 2008 from Nara, Japan
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima (広島) [1] is an industrial city of wide boulevards, criss-crossing rivers and a dense city center. It is located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea in the western Chugoku region of Japan. Although many only know it for the horrific split second on August 6, 1945, when it became the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack, it is now a modern, cosmopolitan city with a lot of great food and nightlife.
[edit] Understand

Those expecting to step off the Shinkansen into a pile of smouldering rubble may be in for a surprise, as Hiroshima has all the ferroconcrete and blinking neon of any other modern Japanese city and a population of more than 1,100,000 people. It is the financial center of the Chugoku region and most of west Japan. Automobiles are a major local industry, with Mazda's corporate headquarters nearby. There is also a busy naval port, Ujina.

Hiroshima was founded in 1589 on the delta formed by the Ota River, flowing out to the Seto Inland Sea. It became a major industrial center and one of Japan's larger cities in the Meiji period. During World War II, the Japanese military used Hiroshima as a communications and supply center, taking advantage of its position on the Inland Sea. It was left largely untouched by aerial bombing campaigns before the atomic bomb was dropped. It is estimated that 140,000 people were killed in the explosion and its aftermath. The survivors, known as hibakusha, were subjected not only to radiation-related diseases but severe discrimination from other Japanese, but have since been at the forefront of Japan's post-war pacifism and its campaign against the use of nuclear weapons.

Many visitors, especially Americans, may feel apprehensive about visiting Hiroshima. It's a friendly, welcoming city, however, as interested in Western culture as anywhere else in Japan, and the exhibits related to the atomic bomb are not concerned with blame or accusations. Tourists are welcomed with open arms. Bear in mind, though, that many of the hibakusha still live in Hiroshima. Even many young people may have personal ties to family members who lived through the atomic blast. As such, the average Hiroshima resident isn't likely to relish talking about it, although you needn't shy away from the topic if one of the chatty fellows around the Peace Memorial Park brings it up.
[edit] Orientation

JR Hiroshima Station is a 15 minute walk from the city center. If you arrive by Shinkansen, you will be at the back of the station, facing a silver Peace Pagoda on the top of Ushita-yama. If you cross under or through the station to the main side, you will see the taxis, trams and buses that lead to the city center. The front of the station also has the main tourist information office. If you feel like walking from the station, cross the river in front of the station and take the first right along the main road. You will be in the city center in less than 15 minutes.

Other visitors may arrive at the Hiroshima Bus Center (広島バスセンター), which is right in the center of the city, inside the Sogo department store. Hondori, a long covered shopping street, is a good landmark to use to orient yourself, and most sites are within walking distance from there. The Peace Park (平和公園 Heiwa Koen)is in the city center. Most trams and buses from the train station run past or close to the Peace Park. Across from Peace Park is the current Hiroshima Carp baseball stadium. Also just north of the city center is Hiroshima Rijo Castle (広島城)a rebuilt version of the original, but beautiful and a great place to relax or stroll. Across the street from the castle is Chuo Park (中央公園 Chuo-koen), where you can find groups picnicking and exercising in the biggest open space in the city.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

Hiroshima Airport (HIJ) connects to domestic destinations in Japan. Both ANA and JAL offer flights from Tokyo Haneda and Sapporo Chitose airports. ANA also offers flights from Tokyo Narita, Sendai and Okinawa. There are also international flights to and from Bali, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei. Bangkok Airways also (since 2006) flies directly to Hiroshima from Bangkok.

Buses connect the airport to Hiroshima station (50 minutes, ¥1300).
[edit] By train

Hiroshima is a major station on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. It is 40 minutes away from Okayama (¥5860 by Nozomi) and 90 minutes from Shin-Osaka (¥9950 by Nozomi). Regular local and rapid trains on the Sanyo Line reach Hiroshima in as little as 6 hours (¥5460).

From Tokyo it is four hours via Nozomi; five hours via Hikari (change trains once at Shin-Osaka or Okayama). Be very careful about taking a Kodama for the last leg of the journey; Hikari and Kodama services are valid under the Japan Rail Pass, but the all-stations Kodama service will add up to two hours to your trip.

Cheaper but slower local services radiate out to other cities in the region.

The Hayabusa overnight sleeper train leaves Tokyo daily at 6 PM, arriving in Hiroshima at around 5:20 the next morning. A later alternative from Tokyo is to take the 10 PM Sunrise Izumo/Seto train to Okayama, then take the San'yo Shinkansen to Hiroshima, arriving around 7:30 the next day.
[edit] By bus

The New Breeze overnight bus runs from Tokyo to Hiroshima. There are two nightly departures in each direction: From Tokyo, departing at 20:00 and 21:00, with both buses arriving in Hiroshima at 8:00 the next day. From Hiroshima, departing at 19:00 and 20:00, with both buses arriving in Tokyo at 7:00 the next day. The trip costs ¥11600 one way, ¥21200 round trip.

Daytime express buses run from Osaka to Hiroshima. There are five departures daily, and the travel time is five hours each way. It costs ¥5000 one way, ¥9000 round trip.

There are also overnight buses from Osaka: The Sanyo Dream Hiroshima from Osaka Station and the Venus from the Namba bus terminal. Both buses take between 6 and 7 1/2 hours to make their journeys, and cost ¥5700 one way, ¥11000 round trip.

There are also two daily buses, and one overnight bus, from Kyoto. The daytime buses take 5 1/2 hours (¥5500 one way, ¥10000 round trip) and the overnight bus takes 6 hours (¥6300 one way, ¥11400 round trip).

Daytime buses also run from cities such as Okayama, Fukuyama, Takamatsu and Fukuoka.
[edit] By ferry

Ferries run from Hiroshima's Ujina Port, which also serves as terminus for several tram lines. Ishizaki Ferry operates daily boat service to Matsuyama in Shikoku, with some boats stopping in Kure (呉). The ride takes 70-80 minutes to reach Matsuyama and costs ¥6300 each way. Slower ferries depart on different schedules and arrive in about 2 1/2 hours at a cost of only ¥2700 each way.
[edit] Get around
[edit] By tram
Hiroshima city tram
Hiroshima city tram

Hiroshima is the last major city in Japan with an extensive tram (streetcar) network, Hiroden (広電). It's a slow but reliable way of getting around. The trams themselves are a mix of old rattle-traps and new "Green Movers", although both run on the same lines for the same fares. There's no difference other than the smoothness of the ride. (During the summer, open-air trams are an extremely rare but occasional sight.) Most lines start or finish at JR Hiroshima Station, and they run frequently during daytime and evening hours. Trips within the city are a flat ¥150, while trundling out all the way to Miyajima will set you back ¥280. One-day passes are available for ¥600 (¥300 children), or ¥840 (¥420 children) including the ferry to Miyajima.
[edit] By bus

Bus lines run through Hiroshima and out to the suburbs. Generally speaking, these serve areas more likely to be used by locals than visitors, but bus #30 does run to the Hiroshima Youth Hostel. Signs include English, and the bus depot is next to the tram depot in front of JR Hiroshima Station.
[edit] By sightseeing bus

Sightseeing buses run to a few of the major sights from JR Hiroshima Station at 9am, 10am and 1pm. Look for the bus stops and route maps on the shinkansen side of the station, near the Hotel Granvia.
[edit] By metro

The modern (if strangely named) Astram links the city center with its northern suburbs. It is useful if you want to visit the Hiroshima Asa Zoo, or watch a professional San Frecce J-League soccer game at the Big Arch stadium.
[edit] By bike

If you want to cycle around Hiroshima, walk left along the main street in front of the station for 5 minutes to the Nippon car rental shop, where you can rent bicycles for the day. Hiroshima is a great city for cycling. The paths along the many branches of the Otagawa River offer a much more enjoyable ride than the sidewalks. To their credit, though, most of the streets and sidewalks in Hiroshima are wider and less crowded than ones in Tokyo or Kyoto, so you'll at least have a bit more room to maneuver.
[edit] See
[edit] Atomic bombing
A-Bomb Dome
A-Bomb Dome

The following memorials related to the bombing are all clustered in Peace Memorial Park (平和公園 Heiwa-kōen), reachable by tram line 2 or 6 to Genbaku Domu-mae. Coming from JR Hiroshima Station, you'll see the Peace Park on your left and the baseball stadium on your right, just before crossing the Aioi Bridge - which was thought to be the target of the atomic bomb.

The International Exchange Office (Tel. 082-247-9715. Open 9am - 7pm May-Nov., 10am - 6pm Dec. - Apr.) near the center of the Peace Park can provide English-language information about any of the many statues and memorials that are dotted throughout the park.
Kannon statue draped with origami cranes, Peace Memorial Park
Kannon statue draped with origami cranes, Peace Memorial Park

* Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Better known as the A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム Genbaku Dōmu) is Hiroshima's best-known symbol. Formerly the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, it was designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel and completed in 1915. The fanciful green dome in particular made the building a much-loved symbol in Hiroshima before the war. When the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, the explosion is thought to have taken place almost directly above the building. Its skeletal remains were among the few buildings left standing in the entire city. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 amid some controversy - the United States and China both voted against the nomination for reasons related to the war, and some Japanese continue to find it a disturbing sight. It has become a symbol of the city once again, though, and the benches around the building are as likely to be occupied by Hiroshima natives reading, eating lunch or simply relaxing as they are by tourists.

* Peace Memorial Museum (平和記念資料館 Heiwa Kinen Shiryōkan) (March - Nov. 8:30am to 6pm, Dec. - Feb. to 5pm, Aug. to 7pm. Closed 12/29 - 1/1) [2]. This heart-wrenching museum documents the bomb and its aftermath, complete with scale models of "before" and "after", melted children's tricycles and a harrowing recreation of a post-blast Hiroshima street. The first floor describes the events leading up to the bomb and attempts to give a sense of what Hiroshima was like before the war. The second floor contains a number of displays and artifacts related to the day of the bombing. Some of these are extremely graphic, evocative and - consequently - disturbing. The rest of the museum describes the post-war struggles of the hibakusha (bomb survivors) and the state of nuclear weapons in the world today. Entry costs a token ¥50, and audio guides are available for an additional donation. Be warned: a visit here, while by all means worthwhile, will ruin your day. Allow plenty of time afterward to decompress. Shukkeien (below) is a good destination for that purpose.

* The Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims is a saddle-shaped concrete memorial containing the names of persons who died from the bombing, "regardless of nationality". Under the arch is a flame which, it is said, will not be extinguished until the last nuclear weapons are gone from the earth. Beyond the cenotaph is a pond leading toward the A-Bomb Dome.

* Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims (March - July, Sep. - Nov. 8:30am - 6pm, Aug. to 7pm, Dec. - Feb. to 5pm. Closed 12/29 - 1/1. Admission free) [3]. Next to the Cenotaph, this museum is dedicated collecting names and photographs of people who died in the blast. The entrance of the museum leads downward to a quiet hall for contemplation, and then back up again, to a set of kiosks with compelling stories and recollections from survivors (in English and Japanese).

* Statue of the A-Bomb Children. Perennially draped in thousands and thousands of origami paper cranes, folded by schoolchildren across Japan in memory of bomb victim Sadako Sasaki. Dying of leukemia in 1954, she was told an old folk tale according to which anybody who folds over 1000 cranes will have her wish come true; she managed 642 before her death in 1955 at the age of twelve.

[edit] Gardens and castles
Bridges in Shukkeien
Bridges in Shukkeien

* Shukkeien (縮景園). While not officially one of Japan's Top 3, this is a compact and beautifully landscaped Japanese garden well worth a visit. Despite more and more high-rises peeping over the trees recently, it can feel like an entirely different world. Little paths crossing ponds on bridges and winding their way around graceful teahouses and waterfalls. Open daily 9 AM to 6 PM, entry ¥250. Get there on tram line 9, stop Shukkeien-mae. It's behind the Prefectural Art Museum, and combined admission tickets are available. The garden is especially pretty in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, in the fall with the Koyo, vibrant colors of the fall leaves, and in winter when the park is covered in a light dusting of snow.

* Hiroshima Castle (広島城 Hiroshima-Rijō). The castle is a fun place to walk around or jog around- there is a 1.5km running path that circles the castle grounds outside the moat. There is a small kids playpark on one side and its a nice place to sit and relax for a while. Kids have fun spotting the fish that swim in the moat as well as turtles. It's just across the street from Chuo Park. The grounds of the castle and the banks of the moat are great places to view the 350 or so cherry trees that come into bloom in early April. The castle museum is a ferroconcrete reconstruction of the 16th century, 5-story Donjon, well worth a look if you are interested in a bit of culture. There are amazing relics and armor to see (and try on!) as well as informative displays about the history of the castle and the city. The view from the top is worth the entrance fee all by itself.
o The castle grounds also house a monument to Chinese workers killed by the atomic bomb, which was not allowed into the Memorial Park for political reasons.

* Hijiyama-koen is a huge park to the south of JR Hiroshima Station, between two branches of the river. (Follow Ekimae-dori from the station to the southeast, and you'll walk directly into it.) There are the usual areas for sitting in the sun (and rather a lot of stray cats), but much of the park remains refreshingly undeveloped forest land. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Manga Museum are within the grounds of the park, as is a futuristic long tunnel / escalator to the SATY grocery store / shopping mall / movie theater. One of the very few remaining structures from before the atomic bomb is also on the outskirts of the park. Walk up toward the park on the street branching off from the Hijiyamashita tram stop. You'll see a temple on your left. Just past the temple is a set of stone steps heading back toward the tram stop. At the top of the steps is a small house and an explanatory plaque. (Notice the vane at the top of the house, warped from the heat of the bomb.) Please note that while visitors are welcome in the front yard, the rest of the area is private property, including the house itself.

[edit] Other museums

* The Hiroshima Museum of Art (3-2 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-223-2530. Open 9am - 5pm, closed 12/29 - 1/2; admission ¥1200 adults, ¥900 high school students, ¥500 junior high and elementary school students) [4] was established by the Hiroshima Bank in 1978. The permanent collection covers European art from late Romanticism to early Picasso, including a couple of Japanese painters who painted in Western styles. It's a ruthlessly stratified selection: at least one painting by every Famous Artist of the period, but no major works by any of them. It's on the other side of Jonan-dori from Hiroshima Castle. Take tram lines 1, 2 or 6 to Kamiya-cho (a big intersection just before the Peace Park) and walk two minutes north. It's included in the route of the sightseeing buses that leave from JR Hiroshima Station.

* The Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art (2-22 Kaminobori-cho, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-221-6246. Open 9am - 5pm, until 7pm on Saturday, closed Sunday and 12/25 - 1/1. Admission ¥500, ¥300 for college students, children free) [5] has a good permanent collection of modern European art, including major works by Dali and Magritte, and a a few modern Japanese artists as well. Special exhibitions are of a generally high quality, ranging from Persian carpets to The Legend of Ultraman. It's located in front of Shukkeien, east of Hiroshima Castle, a couple blocks north of Jonan-dori and Hakushima-dori.

* The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1-1 Hijiyama-Koen, Minami-Ku, Tel. 082-264-1121. Open 10am - 5pm, closed Mondays, national holidays, Tuesdays after national holidays that fall on a Monday, August 6th, and 12/29 - 1/3. Admission ¥360 for adults, ¥270 for college students and ¥170 for other students; free November 3rd) [6] is probably the most worthy of a visit among Hiroshima's three art museums. There are a few famous Western names in its collection, including Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, but the real emphasis is on interesting modern Japanese artists working in their own styles, and the exhibition designers make creative use of the museum space. Special exhibitions cost extra. There is a sculpture garden outside that can be visited for free, and a decent city-view from the plaza near the museum's front steps. (Head past the giant sloping gate-sculpture.) See the directions to Hijiyama-koen above.

* The Manga Library / Museum is around the corner from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

* Mazda Museum (Mukainada-cho Shinchi 3-1, Tel. 082-252-5050) [7]. Mazda's corporate headquarters are a short distance outside of Hiroshima. They offer free tours every weekday at 9:30am and 1:00pm in Japanese, and 1:00pm in English. The tour is a must for any automobile fan. Space is limited, and they ask that you call first to make a reservation. If you have any serious technical questions then you should go on the Japanese tour and bring along your own interpreter. The English tour guides are not very knowledgeable. The tour will begin with a historical view of the Mazda company from its early days making three-wheeled trucks and cork, to the present day Renesis Wankel Rotary Engine. Highlights include the Mazda Cosmos (the world's first Rotary Engine car) and the 4-Rotor Mazda 787B, which is the only Japanese car to win at Le Mans. From there you will be taken to see how the design and build process works at their Ujina plant, and you will be taken onto the actual assembly line to see the latest Mazda vehicles being made. The tour concludes with a view of Mazda's attempts to make Hydrogen fueled cars and some of their concept vehicles. Take the San-yo line two stops east to JR Mukainada, head two blocks south, turn right and cross the street.

* Hiroshima's Transportation Museum. Located on the outskirts of the city, the transportation museum has many exhibits and interactive games. Outside, behind the museum, they have a track with many different, odd, funny and interesting kinds of bicycles to ride. It's great fun for children.

* Hiroshima Children's Museum and Library. Also a must-see for kids, with a planetarium on the top floor and full of fun scientific games for kids to play and learn from.

[edit] Do

* Hiroshima Family Pool. Open from July 1st-August 31st every year, this huge open-air pool is a popular place for kids and families to beat the heat. It becomes an ice-skating rink in the winter. Skates are available for rental, although they're pretty beat-up.

* Hiroshima Carp Professional Baseball. Hiroshima's entry in Japanese professional baseball, the much-beloved and bemoaned Carp play in a stadium across the street from the Peace Memorial Park. A new stadium is being built outside the city center for use in a couple seasons. While the team doesn't win much, the enthusiasm of the fans can hardly be faulted, and Hiroshima is as good a place as any to witness the fervor of Japanese baseball fandom. Get a seat in the bleachers, though, ideally on the right-field side - that's where the drums, chants and excitement are. (The reserved seats are oddly tame by comparison, and the left-field bleachers put you close to the area set aside for the fans of the visiting team.) Bleacher seats are ¥1500 and can usually be bought on the day of the game.

[edit] Learn

* Hiroshima International Center. Tel. 082-541-3777. In the Crystal Plaza building on the corner of Heiwa Odori (Peace Boulevard) opposite the Hokke Club Hotel. You can get free Japanese language and culture lessons here.

[edit] Work

Hiroshima features the standard array of English teaching opportunities, from JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) to branches of the major eikaiwa like NOVA, Geos, AEON and ECC. Companies in the Hiroshima area hire contract workers from Southeast Asian and South Pacific nations for industries like ship-building, notably in Kure, a short distance from Hiroshima. Some non-Japanese work legally or under-the-radar as bartenders or sell jewelry in Nagarekawa.
[edit] Buy

The city center is packed with shopping areas. Across the street from JR Hiroshima Station is Fukuya, which has a good selection of English language fiction and travel books on the tenth floor. DeoDeo and Best / Yamada Denki are the major electronics stores. There's a towering Denki to your left as you exit JR Hiroshima Station, and a big DeoDeo on Aioi-dori close to the Peace Park.

Hiroshima has a few major department stores, including the aforementioned Fukuya and SOGO, which also has a good foreign language book section (6th floor), across the street from the Peace Park. For the latest in Japanese teen fashion, though, PARCO is the place to look. It's in a towering concrete block - just look up - on Hachobori and Hon-dori. Club Quattro is on the top floor of PARCO, and it plays host to most touring bands that deign to visit Hiroshima. The covered shopping streets of Hon-dori (本通り)have plenty of small shops for all purposes, especially clothing. SunMall, at the far end of Hon-dori, has CDs and Uniqlo, which has good, cheap clothing with larger sizes than most Japanese stores.

A tip for souvenir hunters on a tight budget: check out the fourth floor of the DeoDeo just off Hon-dori, next to the old Hiroshima Bank building. There is a 100 yen shop with an improbably excellent selection of distinctively Japanese souvenirs: pottery, sake sets, art, statuettes, signs and cheap ukiyo-e. It's on the left side of the store. Remember, nobody at home knows you only paid 100 yen for it!
[edit] Eat

Hiroshima is famous for its style of okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which literally means "cook it as you like it". Often (and somewhat misleadingly) called "Japanese pizza", this is essentially a type of savoury pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat (or fish). It is grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you and slathered liberally with okonomiyaki sauce and options that can include mayonnaise, pickled ginger and seaweed. It sounds and looks like a mess, but can be very tasty and filling if done well. Hiroshima style and Osaka style are the two competing types of okonomiyaki, and if you raise the subject of okonomiyaki with a local, be ready to state your preference between the two.

Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters and a maple-leaf-shaped pastry called momiji manjū (もみじ饅頭). Momiji is the leaf of a Japanese maple tree. Momiji manjū are available with a variety of fillings, including the more traditional anko (あんこ) or red bean and matcha (抹茶) or green tea. It's also available in cream cheese, custard, apple and chocolate flavors. Momiji manjū are considered the quintessential Hiroshima souvenir.

Hiroshima also has a lot of great Japanese and international restaurants, so you'll be able to find pretty much any kind of food you want in the city. If you're pressed for time on your way out of town, the sixth floor of JR Hiroshima Station has several restaurants, including STEP, a decent okonomiyaki joint with English menus. (There's also a McDonald's on the first floor of the tram side, and on the second floor of the shinkansen side.)
[edit] Budget

* Bikkuri Ramen (びっくりラーメン). The cheapest eats in town, at ¥180 for a, well, decent bowl of ramen. Take the price to ¥367 for six gyoza, or ¥598 to add a bowl of rice and some kara-age (fried chicken). There are two shops within a block of JR Hiroshima station, and a couple more near Hon-dori - look for the red and yellow '180' sign.

* Grazie Gardens (グラジエ ガーデンズ). A cheap and tasty Italian on Hondori near Parco department store. It's above a shop called Ships.

* Okonomi-mura (お好み村). 3-3 Nakamachi, Naka-ku. A two-story building packed with no less than 27 okonomiyaki shops. It's right behind PARCO, with a distinctive 'Okonomi-mura' arch out front. They all serve okonomiyaki, and they'll all start clamoring for your business as soon as you walk through the door. Figure on ¥1000 for a meal.

* Okonomi Monogatari Ekimae-Hiroba (お好み物語 駅前広場). Another okonomiyaki village, with almost twenty shops sharing the same floor, in a vaguely Edo-ish atmosphere. This one is across the street from JR Hiroshima station, next to the Fukuya department store and across from the central post office, on the 6th floor. (You'll see a banner sign outside.) Meals run about ¥900.

[edit] Mid-range

* Nanak, 2-2 Fukuromachi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-243-7900. 10am-3pm, 5pm-10pm. Probably the biggest of Hiroshima's many good Indian restaurants. Individual sets are available, but ordering as a group is the best value. It's easily recognized by the uniformed fellow in the window booth facing the street, hard at work on the day's curry and oblivious to the passersby. English menus are available. Lunch sets from ¥700, dinner from ¥2300.

* Nono Budo, in the Sogo-Pacela Credo building. An all non-smoking, healthy "viking" buffet style Japanese restaurant in Pacela offering a ¥1575 for lunch (¥2100 for dinner) all you can eat & drink deal (no alcohol). A great selection of juices, teas, and coffees. If you want nomihōdai (飲み放題)(all you can drink) for alcohol, add on another 1900 yen. The menu offers a wide selection of curries, tempura, and other Japanese dishes, some made with organic products, most foods are made with ingredients from in and around Hiroshima.
* Roopali, Hiroshima-city, Higashi-ku, Wakakusacho 14-32, ☎ 082-264-1333. 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm; Sundays 11:30am-9:30pm. The best food in the under-developed area on the shinkansen side of JR Hiroshima station - coming out of the gates, head up to the main street and turn right. It's about a block away. A wide range of curries are on offer, and there is plenty to eat for vegetarians. The thali sets are good and filling. Comprehensive English menus are available, and it's kid-friendly to boot. If you're just arriving in Hiroshima on an empty stomach, you can't get much better than this. Sets from ¥2000.

* Spicy Bar Lal's, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Tatemachi 5-12, ☎ 082-504-6328. 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm. Indian and Nepali cuisine, with several good course dinners for individuals and pairs. Befitting the name, they're specific about their spiciness: you can choose a strength from 1-100. Basic English menus are available. It's just off Hon-dori, near the post office. Lunch sets from ¥880, dinner sets from ¥2100.

[edit] Splurge

* Floating Oyster Boat, Kanawa. Hiroshima is famous for oysters and this high class floating restaurant offers the highest quality oysters and seafood all year round. Wait staff serve in Kimonos and the view is romantic and relaxing. Located just across Peace Boulevard, South of Peace Park. Expect to pay ¥7,000-¥15,000 per person not including drinks.

* Shabuchin Shabu Shabu dip fresh meat and vegetables in a hot sauce to lightly cook it before dipping it in a savory sauce to eat. Small, friendly, family run shabu shabu restaurant in fashionable Jizo-dori. They make their own sauces and all the ingredients are of high quality and superfresh. Expect to pay from ¥3,000-¥5,000 per person including drinks.

* Sumojaya Takabayama Chanko Nabe- the food of sumo wrestlers is a filling, fun and healthy dish for anyone to enjoy, especially on colder days. Expect to pay ¥4,000-¥8,000 per person including drinks. Much cheaper lunch deals available.

[edit] Drink

Nagarekawa hosts the highest concentration of bars in Hiroshima, but there are a host of quiet wine bars on Hakushima-dori, and plenty of foreigner-friendly pubs around the giant PARCO building. Yagenbori-dori street is full of bars and clubs that are spread across all the floors of the high-rise buildings along the street.

* Kulcha is a popular bar just off Hondori. If you're walking towards Parco from Rijo-dori, take a right at Andersens. Walk one block down (past Daiei supermarket) and turn left. The bar is on the right. It's frequented mainly by foreign teachers and tourists and is known for its monthly theme parties and televised rugby and soccer games.

* Mac Bar is another bar worth visiting. The bar owner is chatty and has a substantial collection of rock CDs. He's only happy to take requests. Mac Bar is located in the Nagarekawa district, so be careful going there alone.

* Molly Malone's is another popular foreigner hang-out on Chuo-dori, across the street from PARCO. (Look for the giant orange neon .AU sign - that's the view from the windows inside the bar.) Rugby and soccer games are also shown here. It has a good menu of pub food, desserts and imported beer.

Saijo, in Higashi-Hiroshima, is famous for its sake and the annual Sake Festival in October. For a small admission fee, attendees can drink their fill of sake from local breweries. In short order, the festival area turns into a wild (yet reasonably well-behaved) display of public drunkenness involving people of all ages. Outside the festival area, tours of sake breweries are also available. Box-like wooden sake cups are available as souvenirs for your visit.
[edit] Sleep
[edit] Budget

* Business Ryokan Sansui, 4-16 Koami-cho Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshime Pref. 730-0855, ☎ 082-293-9051 (sansui@ccv.ne.jp, fax: 082-233-2377). Located a fair hike from JR Hiroshima Station but only a few minutes away from the Peace Park. The owners ask for reservations to be made three weeks in advance. Take tram 2 or 3 to the Koami-cho stop. ¥4200 single, ¥7500 double, ¥10,500 triple.

* Capsule Inn Hiroshima (カプセルイン広島), Yagenbori 4-6, ☎ 082-248-0101. Available only for male visitors. In the Shintechi Entertainment District, halfway between JR Hiroshima station and the Peace Memorial Park; on Aioi-dori, after M5 Kanayama-cho tram stop, turn left at the corner with a post office. Enter the sixth small street on the left. (There are actually two hotels on the both sides of the street.) Has a decent sento (hot bath) for guests. While many sento disallow tattooed guests, this one is fine with them. ¥2300 per capsule, ¥100 per hour for checking in early, and another ¥100 to put your passport/valuables in the safety deposit box behind the front desk.

* Hiroshima Youth Hostel, ☎ 082-221-5343, [8]. About the cheapest accommodation available in Hiroshima; the rate includes sheet and air conditioning charge. Off the beaten path, but well worth the savings. They do lock the doors at midnight, though. Take Bus #30 from JR Hiroshima Station. ¥2000 per night.

* Mikawa Ryokan, 9-6 Kyobashi-cho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Pref. 732-0828, ☎ 082-261-2719 (fax: 082-263-2706). About 7 minutes from JR Hiroshima Station. Has a dodgy claim to the title of "ryokan", but it's cheap. ¥3675 single, ¥6300 double, ¥9450 triple.

* Minshuku Ikedaya, 6-36 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-231-3329. The rooms at this minshuku are clean, bright, and pleasant. The staff speak enough English to get you checked in, although you may not see a trace of them afterward. Take tram lines 2 or 6 to the Dobashi stop and walk about two minutes; look for the "Ikedaya" signs outside. Single rooms with/without bath from ¥4200 to ¥5775; double rooms from ¥7350 to ¥9450.

[edit] Mid-range

* Comfort Hotel Hiroshima (コンフォートホテル広島), 3-17 Komachi. Conveniently located near the Peace Park and opposite the Chuden-mae tram stop.

* Dormy Inn. Centrally located along Heiwa Odori, this is a comfortable and friendly full-service hotel with Western rooms, free laundry facilities (with soap) and a great Japanese style sento bath for guests to enjoy any time of day.

* Hiroshima Grand Intelligent Hotel, 1-4 Kyobashi-cho Minami-ku, 732-0828, ☎ 082-263-5111 (fax: 082-262-2403), [9]. A big (twelve floors), pleasant Western-style hotel on the other side of the Ekimae bridge from JR Hiroshima Station. Breakfast is served for ¥1350 buffet, ¥600 toast set. LAN internet access is available in every room. Rooms from ¥6195.

* Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel Annex, 3-27 Inari-machi Minami-ku, 732-0827, ☎ 082-263-7878 (fax: 082-263-7892), [10]. About halfway between JR Hiroshima Station and the Peace Memorial Park.

* Ikawa Ryokan, 5-11 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Pref. 730-0854, ☎ 082-231-5058 (ikawa@go.enjoy.ne.jp, fax: 082-231-5995). Take tram 2 or 3 from JR Hiroshima station to the Dobashi-cho stop. ¥5775-4725 single rooms with/without bath, ¥9450-8400 double, ¥14,175-12,600 triple.

* Toyoko Inn Heiwa Odori, [11]. An affordable business hotel on Heiwa Odori, and within walking distance from the Peace Park. Also has a small shuttle from Hiroshima Station. This is one of several Toyoko Inns in Hiroshima.

* Via Inn (Tel. 082-264-5489; single rooms from ¥6195) [12] is a tall business hotel with tiny rooms but a fair number of amenities. It's tucked away behind the Hiroshima Post Office, next to JR Hiroshima Station. Head between Kohi-kan and the Daily-In convenience store to find the front desk.

[edit] Splurge

* Hotel Granvia (1-5 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku; Tel. 082-262-1111. Single, double and twin rooms from ¥10,700 - ¥20,200.) [13]. Located right outside the shinkansen gates of JR Hiroshima Station, this will be the most convenient hotel for any late-arriving travelers, but like the station, it's 10-15 minutes away from downtown and the Peace Park.
* Rihga Royal Hiroshima (6-78, Motomachi, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-502-1121. Single, double and twin rooms from ¥13,000 to ¥ 30,000.) [14]. Centrally located near Peace Park in the middle of downtown, near the Hiroshima Carp stadium, this is a luxury hotel. It is the tallest building in Hiroshima. Baseball fans take note: this is where visiting teams stay when they're in town, so the lobby is a good place to pick up autographs.

[edit] Contact

There are two 24-hour internet cafes next to JR Hiroshima Station. GIGA is on the sixth floor of the building immediately to your left as you walk out of the station. It serves free drinks and soft-serve ice cream for about ¥500 per hour. Just as for an "open seat". On the other side of the street, on the fifth floor of the building next to Fukuya and across the street from the post office, is the elegant A'precio, which serves an even wider variety of free drinks, ice cream and hot soup, and includes a pool table toward the back.
[edit] Stay safe

Hiroshima has a rough reputation among Japanese people from other cities, thanks largely to the 1971 Bunta Sugawara gangster classic Battles Without Honor and Humanity (also known as The Yakuza Papers) and its four sequels, which were filmed here. In reality, though, it's much safer than any large Western city. As with most places in Japan, scams and petty theft are virtually non-existent. The nightlife district does have its share of prostitutes, sex clubs and rip-off hostess bars, but to no less extent than Tokyo or Osaka. There have been a few surprise police raids on bars that offer dancing after 1am, in accordance with a semi-obscure local law about public immorality that Hiroshima suddenly feels compelled to enforce - probably in order to catch people who are in the country illegally. Japanese citizens are generally allowed to leave right away, but foreigners have been made to stand in line to have their paperwork checked. If you find yourself in one of these situations, just stay calm, show the police your passport, and you'll be allowed to leave without any trouble.
[edit] Cope
Mother and child, Peace Memorial Park
Mother and child, Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima is a safe and friendly city, so travelers shouldn't have any problems out of the ordinary. The average English level among Hiroshima residents is relatively high for a Japanese city, particularly around the Peace Memorial Park. Directions to the major sights are also very clearly sign-posted in English throughout the city.

As mentioned above, visiting the sights related to the atomic bomb can be an intense experience. If you only have one day set aside for Hiroshima, you'll naturally wind up spending most of it at the atomic bomb memorials. For your own peace of mind, though, try to set aside time to relax and reflect in other parts of the city - either at one of the pleasant, sprawling parks around the city center, such as the one around Hiroshima Castle or Hijiyama-koen, or if your time is short, during a walk along one of the riverside trails, which are easy to reach from anywhere in the city.

Hiroshima is a very popular school trip destination for Japanese kids, and you're virtually guaranteed to be accosted by kids working on school projects, asking you (in halting English) where you're from, what your name is and whether you think nuclear bombs are a good thing. Good luck coming up with a snappy answer, but if their teacher is around, you can trying asking them back whether Japan would have used the bomb if they had come up with it first.
[edit] Get out

* Miyajima is an easy day-trip from Hiroshima - only a short tram and ferry trip away. It's one of the Three Great Views in Japan and has a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Itsukushima Shrine and the famous floating torii gate. It also offers some terrific hiking opportunities.

* A longer ferry ride could take you to Matsuyama for a day at the famed Dogo Onsen.

* Iwakuni, about 45 minutes away by train, features the famed Kintai-kyo samurai bridge and a scenic castle reconstruction - as well as a U.S. Marine Corps Air Station.

* Onomichi, a hillside town of temples and Japanese novelists, 75 minutes away by train.

* Okayama is the other major transit hub for the region, about 45 minutes by shinkansen, and it offers access to the museums and canal of Kurashiki.

* Aki no Kofuji. Off the beaten track, old style Japanese village, a great hike and wonderful views.

permalink written by  garisti on April 1, 2008 from Hiroshima, Japan
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Beijing, China

Beijing (北京) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. As such it is rich in historical sites and important government institutions.

The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There is only one hill to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous Forbidden City). Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis.

The International Olympic Committee has decided that Beijing will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, the Summer Olympic Games of 2008.

Beijing literally means "northern capital", a role it has played many times in China's long history. While various small towns and warlord capitals have been traced back as far as the 1st millennium BCE, Beijing first served as the capital of a (more or less) united China in 1264 when Kublai Khan's victorious Mongol forces set up the city of Dadu (大都, "Great Capital") to rule their new empire, from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands.

After the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was moved back to Nanjing ("southern capital"), but in 1403, the 3rd Ming emperor Zhu Di moved it to Beijing again and also gave the city its present name. This was Beijing's golden era: the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and many other Beijing landmarks were built at this time. Beijing remained the capital into the Qing era and into the revolutionary ferment of the early 1900s, but in the chaos following the abdication of the last Emperor, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. The Kuomintang thus moved the capital to Nanjing again in 1928, renaming Beijing as Beiping (北平, "Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. However, the Kuomintang was eventually defeated by the Communists, who in 1949 proclaimed the People's Republic of China with its capital at Beijing.

Many tourist areas in Beijing are under renovation for the 2008 Olympics. The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace all had sections under renovation as of the middle of March 2006. Sources say some of the renovations have been completed and moved onto other sections. As a plus ticket prices were reduced for these exhibits because of the closed off sections. Just be aware before the Olympics there may be continued renovations.

* Forbidden City (故宫 gù gōng) (also known as the Palace Museum) get there when the gates open (around 8.30am) if you want to walk through the vast and spectacular courtyards in relative peace. This is truly the spot to appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in Ming and Qing dynasties. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City remains mercifully relatively untouched. A few years ago there was a lot of local fuss when a Starbucks coffee shop opened in the Forbidden City, some interpreting this as a return to the bad old days of colonial domination. Despite the fuss it is still there, on an inconspicuous corner, and still serving coffee. Only 2/5 area of the palace is opened, but some places are under restorations and will be opened before 2008.

Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square

* Tiananmen Square (天安门 Tiānān mén) (largest square in the world!) Built by Mao to impress; his riposte to the Forbidden City, the square is surrounded by Soviet-style monuments and government buildings, and houses Mao's mausoleum at the end opposite the entrance to the Forbidden City. It remains an astounding place and a spot to linger and see visitors from all over China, many visiting their capital for the first time. There is a flag raising and lowering ceremony at dawn and dusk. There are 4 marble lions in front of the Tiananmen gate, the northwest one has a bullet hole on its stomach.

* Temple of Heaven (天坛 Tiāntán), south east of Qianmen and the Tiananmen Square. Not only a fine sight, but also surrounded by a lively public park, filled with local residents practicing tai chi, dancing and so on in the mornings and at weekends. A must-see in Beijing.

Summer Palace [March 2006]
Summer Palace [March 2006]

* Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhé yuán) extensive gardens and the ruins of palaces constructed by the Qing emperors. Most visitors stay in the front hill area, but if you prefer quiet places, the west bank and back hill areas are good choices. There are some quiet and secret ruins, caves, and other fun stuff in the back hill area.

* Zoo (北京动物园) (they do have Pandas, but displays are not great, your best bet is to go to the Panda Breeding Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province). Some think the Zoo is one of the worst you will ever see (partly because of the way they treat animals), BUT the aquarium is one of the biggest in the world, and very impressive. The Zoo was built on the sites of some ancient gardens, has lakes, pounds, pavilions and other beautiful old buildings. The Soviet revival Beijing Exhibition Hall is located nearby and has a Russian restaurant, "Moscow Restaurant".

* Winter Palace (北海 Běihǎi) - Beihai is a good place to take a glance at Zhongnanhai (中南海 Zhōngnánhǎi), heart of Communist China. There's a big island and white pagoda which was built in the 17th century. The giant buildings westward outside are PRC's Ministry of Defence and General Staff, which, to be honest, ruin the scene of the west bank. On the north bank, you can visit some small but beautiful gardens.

* Yonghegong (雍和宮 Yōnghégōng) - (also known as Lama Temple or Palace of Peace) The temple was built by Chinese emperors who harbored a deep fascination for the Tibetan (Tantric) version of Buddhism. Over the years many Tibetan and Mongolian monks lived and taught here, and there are still monks in residence today. The temple is famous for its 18m statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood.

* Prince Gong's Mansion(恭王府 gong1 wang2 fu3) - The garden is fulled with Chinese tourists, and the mansion will be opened as a museum before 2008, which will display the life of princes during the Qing dynasty

* Legation Quarter - east of Tiananmen Square, once famous in the Boxer Rebellion, the legation quarter is now occupied by government offices and army offices but can still be seen from outside. There's a wonderful bakery store called "Sapporo" near the legation quarter, famous for its breads and cheesecakes.

* Beijing Botanical Garden and Fragrant Hill(香山 xiang1 shan1) - good place for weekend outings and picnics. The Fragrant Hill was a Qing imperial garden, burnt in 1860 but restored to its original grandeur, and famous for its mountain paths through the gardens as well as the Fragrant Hill Hotel, designed by I.M. Pei, designer of the Louvre Museaum Pyramid. The Beijing Botanic Garden, steps away from the east gate of Fragrant Hill, has a silent and beautiful retreat area called Cherry Glen. Sir Johnston, last emperor Puyi's teacher, had a villa in Cherry Glen and is available to visit.

* The Hutong Villages (胡同 hú tòng) of Beijing most represent the traditional housing of Chinese locals. Some of the streets in the Qianmen Hutong (前门胡同) have a history around 500 years, with unchanged street layouts. The Qianmen area is undergoing aggressive restoration and gentrification that will continue through 2010. As a result some of the streets are blocked by construction. The Hutongs are the perfect place to get a glimps of Chinese daily life. The majority of Hutongs have been demolished to make space for modern buildings. For these reasons, the Hutongs are considered very valuable and are a popular tourist attraction. Rickshaws carrying tourists weave in and out of the narrow streets of the Hutong Village to give individuals an up-close look at these homes.

* China Aviation Museum is a must see for all aviation fans. It is located about 50 km outside Beijing in Changping District and is probably better known by the name Datangshan. Best way to get there is to arrange a taxi from your hotel. The other more adventurous way is to take bus 912 from Andingmen bus station, just remember that 912 has some branch lines and not all of these go via museum. Museum hosts over 200 exhibits, many of them very rare. Entrance fee is ¥45.

[edit] Do

* Rent a bicycle and traverse some of the remaining hutongs. Companies like The Bicycle Kingdom [2] rent bikes for foreigners.
* Visit Temple of Heaven(天坛) early in the morning to see thousands of Beijingers starting the day with tai chi.
* Have a highly enjoyable and relaxing foot massage and/or pedicure etc. (for a fraction of the price in the West) from any of the respectable and professional offerings in central Beijing (in the vicinity of the Beijing Hotel for example).
* See a Beijing opera at the Laoshe Tea House (老舍茶馆) near Qianmen station. There always are short displays in the afternoon (about 40 min). They are free of admission, but you should buy a cup of tea. Long displays are in the evening. You should book a seat in advance, since the place is always crowded.


* Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, bargaining is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 5% to 10% of the vendor's initial asking price. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level.
* The true clothing market where the Chinese buy, is located in Xizhi Men, next to the Zoo. directions: in front of the Zoo there is a new huge building, which is just another big market, BUT behind it, there is the wholesale market, with the best prices, almost no need to bargain, and a lot of genuine goods (clothing).
* The Malls at Oriental Plaza (东方新天地) - East of Tian'anmen Square, next to Wangfujing Street. Shopping area (expensive) but provides you with a lot of buying opportunities from diamonds, to real (affordable) DVD's, (international) Music CD's and food.
* Wangfujing (王府井大街)- where most of the higher end shops are located
* Xidan(西单) - West of Tiananmen square. Several large malls near a substation, and look for the market, it's quite good - bargaining is a must (sellers even enjoy it)!
* Golden Resources Shopping Mall near Yuanda Bridge / Yuanda Road -- Located by West Fourth Ring Road (Xisihuan) in Haidian District, Beijing, the mall covers 680.000 square meters, the second largest in Asia. Multiple stories, snaking alleys, infinite shopping opportunities... you get the gist.
* China World Trade Center (Guomao) -- here you will find a lot of expensive stores and some international convenience stores.
* Silk Street (秀水街) -- 8 East Xiushui Street Jianguo Men Wai Dajie. This building is located east of Tian an men square. It was reopened in March 2005 as a 5 story air conditioned building selling entirely for foreign visitors with 'export' quality goods. You can find luggage, leather bags, clothing and Chinese artwork. This location caters entirely to foreign customers. The place stocks higher 'export' quality merchandise and out-of-season clothing.
* SanLiTun YaShou Clothing Market -- Located at 58 Gongti Beilu, this is very similar to Silk Street (see above) with slightly better prices. Its less touristy than Silk Street, and prices will start far closer to a reasonable sale price. The net result is the bargaining is far less agressive and you will probably feel more comfortable with your purchases here.
* For the more technologically-oriented tourist, Zhong Guan Cun (中关村)is a must. Located a couple miles from Tsinghua University, this area is dubbed "Silicon Valley of China." Sells everything from speakers to computer parts at an astonishingly low price. There are many salesmen who will try to make you go take a look at their shop, it is best to avoid them. If one looks around at the small shops inside the large malls, they may find a box filled with pirated CDs and DVDs, usually selling at 5 to 10 Yuan. Don't have too high an expectation of the quality, though, many of them are 'gun versions' filmed in the cinema with a camcorder. If you really want to buy it, look for '英文' (yingwen) which means English language.
* Sanfo is the leading outdoor gear stores in China and their stores in Beijing are located at Building 4, Entrance 5, Nancun, Madian (Metro 2 to Zhishuitan, bus 315, 344 or 345 to Madian, store is located southside of Bei Sanhuan, west of Madian intersection) and at Jinzhiqiao Dasha, Guomen, Chaoyang District (west entrance of China International Trade Center, continue west along northside of street to east side of second block of buildings).


The best way to eat good and cheap in Beijing is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Truth be told, anyone familiar with Western currency and prices will find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China.

Some of the cheapest and delicious meals can be had on the streets. Jiānbĭng guŏzi (煎饼果子) is one of the most popular street snacks, eaten from morning till night. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled in scallions and a savory sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the "best" jiānbĭng cart in the city. This ubiquitous treat only costs ¥2, with an extra egg ¥2.50.

Lamb kebabs (羊肉串 Yángròu chuàn ) and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Often, the worst looking grills offer the best taste, so be brave and try them all. Wangfujing has a "snack street" selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order.

A winter specialty, candied haw berries (冰糖葫芦 bīngtáng húlu) are dipped in sugar and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season's crop.
[edit] Beijing Roast Duck

This famous Beijing specialty is served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥40 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-¥190 at high-end restaurants. Beijing duck (北京烤鸭 bĕijīng kăoyā) is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce (甜面酱 tiánmiàn jiàng), and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You dip the duck in the sauce and roll it up in the pancake with a few slivers of scallions and/or cucumbers. The end result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.

* Quanjude (全聚德), 32 Qianmen Dajie (前门大街32号), ☎ 6510 9608, [3]. 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30-8pm. The oldest and most venerable of the roast duck restaurants, Quanjude is slipping these days, but its fame still brings many customers, mostly tourists eager for the "classic" experience. Ducks cost ¥168 each, and quality varies by location. The most reputable of Quanjude's 14 branches is the listed Qianmen location. Other branches are at Hepingmen (south of the subway stop), the east side of Tian'anmen Square, and Qinghua Science Park near Wudaokou.

* Guolin Restaurant (郭林家常菜). This well-kept secret among Chinese people has some of the tastiest and inexpensive ducks in all of Beijing. Half a duck is just ¥28. And all its other delicious, innovative dishes at a fair price keep its customers coming back: be prepared for a bustling, noisy atmosphere. Locations all over Beijing—look for a sign with two little pigs—including at Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun, Wudaokou, Xuanwu, and more.

* Dadong (大董烤鸭店), Tuanjiehu Beikou Bldg. 3, East 3rd Rind Road, southeast corner of Changhongqiao (团结湖北口3号楼,东三环长虹桥西南角), ☎ 6582 2892. 11am-10pm. Considered by some to be the best Beijing duck in the city, this upscale restaurant also delivers on a nice atmosphere. Reservations suggested. Also at Dongsi Shitiao 22A, Bldg. 1-2 of the Nanxin Cang International Tower (东四十条甲22号南新仓国际大厦1-2楼).

* Bianyifang (便宜坊), 36 Xingfu Dajie, Chongwen District (崇文区幸福大街36号), ☎ 6711 6545, [4]. Other locations at 73 Tiantan Dong Lu (天坛东路) and 2A Chongwenmen Wai Dajie (崇文门外大街甲2号).

[edit] Hot Pot

The other culinary specialty of Beijing is hotpot. Unlike the Southern Chinese and Thai variants of this dish, you cook the meat yourself in a spicy boiling broth. Raw meat is purchased by the plate, as with any vegetables or noodles you would like to add. A thick sesame dipping sauce is usually also served. While "raw" sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. In the city center, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-¥50 per person, but on the outskirts it can be found for as little as ¥10-¥25.
[edit] Other Chinese cuisines

Indeed, Beijing provides an ideal opportunity to sample food from all over the Country. Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, Tibetan, Yunnanese minority cuisine, and many other region-specific cuisines are found in Beijing. Many, such as Makye Ame (11A Xiushui Nanjie Jianguomenwai Beijing Tel: +86 (10) 6506 9616) and Dai Nationality Restaurant feature live dancing and performance, and are not to be missed.

For vegetarians, Beijing's first pure vegetarian buffet restaurant is located on the Confucius Temple on Guo zi jian street, west of the famous Lama Temple. No English menu so far, but one can just ask for the buffet, which contains a large variety of delicious vegetarian dishes, as well as a vegetarian hotpot, and a large selection of dessert.


Foreign visitors often are "restricted" to staying in high-priced official hotels, that restriction being less and less obvious as a great majority of accommodation now takes place in the form of low-cost hotels and hostels. Zhaodaisuos (招待所) are more difficult, and may be fully inaccessible altogether to the foreign community.
[edit] Budget
Red Lantern House hostel
Red Lantern House hostel

* Red Lantern House, No.5 Zhengjue Hutong, Xinjie Kou, Xicheng District. Absolutely adorable hostel with a genuine Chinese feeling. The courtyard in the middle is a great place to hang out, talk to new friends or just sit by yourself and read. Its location in a classical Hutong adds to the feel of experiencing the real China. Dorm beds from 45 Yuan, singles from 130 Yuan, doubles from 140 Yuan. They offer airport pickup for 160 Yuan.
* Qiao Yuan Fandian: Located not far west from Beijing South trainstation. About 20 yuan from Beijing Zhan (Beijing Train station) by taxi, or take buses 744 or 20; best from Qianmin near Tiananmen Square. There's a whopping 200 ya jin (key deposit) but 4 bed dorms with a/c are reasonabley priced at 31 yuan or 260/360 for standard suites, the more expensive option in the building in the back (newer). Level 6 has a laundry, kitchen, and travel agency. Internet access located towards the train station (look for the fish net character on the signs, or ask for 'wung ba') or a few blocks away to the west near KFC, McDonalds and a supermarket. Plenty of eating is nearby, and also don't miss the Art Deco interior of a hotel/restaurant when its lit up at night (head towards KFC).
* International Youth Hostel: Located directly across from Beijing Zhan (Beijing train station). Dorms 60 yuan (4-8 beds).
* Beijing Saga International Youth Hostel, No. 9 Shijia Hutong, Dongcheng District. Tel. 86-10-65272773, 65249098, Sagayangguang. This place is about a 15 minute walk from the Beijing Main Railway Station. From the station, follow the road North past the Beijing International Hotel. After about a ten minute walk look for the hostel sign with an arrow pointing down one of the hutongs on the left side. The hostel is very popular with backpackers. They charge 180 Yuan for a triple room, 160 Yuan for a double room and 40-50 Yuan for a bed in a dormitory (the price depends on how many beds are in the room). There's a restaurant on the top floor. The staff speaks some English.
* Beijing Far East Youth Hostel Far East Youth Hostel, 90 Tie Shu Xie Jie, Xuan Wu District. Tel. 86-10-51958811. It's in a traditional Chinese courtyard, about 10 minutes walking from Tiananmen Square. The Far East Youth Hostel has become very famous after having been added to major travel guides. During summer time you should book one week in advance.
* Leo's HostelLeo's Hostel is a good alternative to the Far East and is just around the corner. Leo's Hostel is in the same road as the Far East, has a free Playstation 2, Internet, Pool, lockers, maps, guides, magazines etc. It is well known for its friendly staff and lively bar atmosphere. It has a beautiful courtyard, with dorm rooms (45-70rmb) as well as private rooms (160-200rmb) Tel: (10) 63031595 or (10) 63033318.
* Changgong Hotel is one of the cheapest places in the Qianmen Hutong. It has an traditional arichitecture and is just next door from Far East and Leo's. Don't try to find any of the narrow roads on the map. Navigation is only possible by asking or in a riksha. Dormbeds are 35, a triple room is 210. Tel: (10) 63015088 or (10) 63032665.
* Eastern Morning Youth Hostel is a great budget option if price is your primary concern. The hostel is located in the basement of the Oriental Plaza shopping/office/residential complex next to Wangfujing. Private rooms cost about 90 RMB per night - book in advance. The staff does not speak much English but are friendly. Internet access is available at 10 RMB per hour. The hostel is located on Dongdan Santiao (which runs behind Oriental Plaza). It is a 5 minute walk to the Dongdan or Wangfujing subway stations and about a 15 minute walk to the International Hotel airport shuttle stop. Tel: (10) 65284347

Beijing is a very safe city. However, tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.

* For tours to the Great Wall, be wary: the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination. Only pay afterwards if you are absolutely sure you are at the destination. Do not go for organized tours to the Great Wall in the 100-150 Yuan range that are advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City (or in the latest scam, masquerading as the real bus service to the Great Wall which only costs 20 Yuan, but is guaranteed to waste your entire day). Conveniently you are picked up from your hotel (so they know where to get back at you, in case you will not pay), you end up on a shopping tour through many many Chinese art, China, Chinese medicine, etc. shops and afterwards you have to pay upfront to get back to the city. Of course, there are exceptions, and people showing letters of recommendation from their previous travels and pictures are usually ok, as are people offering trips to the wilder parts of the Great Wall (ie. not Badaling or Juyong).
* Do not follow any "students" wanting to show you something. They are most likely scammers or semi-scammers. Examples include "art students" who bring you to their "school exhibition" and pressure you to buy art at insanely inflated prices. Tea sampling is another scam. It is free to sample tea for locals, but for tourists...you should ask. In one incident, after sampling 5 types of tea with two "students", a group of tourists were confronted with a bill for 1260 Yuan! They even produced an English Menu with the extortionate prices for sampling. Young attractive female "students" also try to lure male tourists to shops, restaurants or night clubs. The prices at such places can be extremely high for basically nothing.

* Take care when offered a ride in a rickshaw. Make sure you know where you are going to be taken in advance, and agree a price in writing. you may well end up dropped off in a deserted alleyway and extorted for a large amount - 600 Yuan or more.

Be wary of fake money. You may observe Chinese people inspecting their money carefully, and with a reason: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation. The most common are 100's and 50's. A few tips for identifying counterfeit bills:

* Be very careful if someone wants to give back the largest currency bill (50 and 100 Yuan) by the excuse of "no change". In an attempt to pass you a counterfeit bill they may tell you that they have lowered the price in your benefit. Or, they may ask you to contribute an additional sum in order to pass you the 100 Yuan. If they give you back all the change money plus the coins on top (though coins are rare in Beijing) take your time to check each bill carefully.

* Another version of the above trick is when a vendor refuses to accept your 100 Yuan bill claiming that it's fake. The truth is most likely that he took your genuine bill and discretely changed it for a fake one which he now is trying to give back to you. Hard to prove unless you see the swap.

* To check any 50 and 100 Yuan bill you get, do this: most importantly, check the paper. If its torn, thin or very slippery, ask for a different bill. Next, check the watermark, it should blur out softly. If there are hard visible corners in the watermark, reject the bill. Last, check the green "100" imprint on the lower left corner. It should be clearly painted on the bill so you can both feel and see a relief. If its missing or not feelable, reject the bill also. Rejecting bills is not considered impolite. If the colouring of a banknote is faded, it does not necessarily mean it is fake.

* Great Wall (长城 Chángchéng) (about a 1.5 hour bus ride from the city, recommended (but be aware of bus scams!) Two or more sections near the city have been restored and are available for tourists to walk upon. One section even has a ski lift up and a toboggan (or ski lift) down. The Wall is on top of mountain chains. You may want to bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier season - in the summer you will need lots of water, there are vendors on the wall. The Badaling section is the most famous, but also the most over-restored and crowded. Jin Shan Ling, Huang Shan and Si Ma Tai are more distant (several hours drive) but offer a better view of the wall in a less restored state with fewer crowds. Mutianyu is well restored, but far less crowded than Badaling. Crowds are a definite issue with the great wall. At popular sections at popular times, it is not the Great Wall of China, but rather the Great Wall of Tourists. It is possible to rent a taxi for a day to take you to these sites. Renting a taxi should cost 400~450 yuan. For this price the driver takes you whereever you want, and will wait for your return.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Datong, China

Datong is a city in Shanxi Province in China.
The Hanging Monastery outside of Datong
The Hanging Monastery outside of Datong
[edit] Get in
[edit] Train

Trains from Beijing - an eight-hour journey.

Daily overnight trains run from Beijing to Datong and from Datong to Beijing. A hardsleeper ticket costs around 250,- Yuan. Booking tickets at the Datong train station can be difficult as for popular directions a large part of the tickets are hatched by black market sellers when they become available four days before the train runs. So book your tickets from Datong as early as possible. The night trains arrive and start from Beijing West Station (Beijing Xi Zhan).

The quickest way southwards (Shanghai, Hongkong, etc.) is over Beijing, and beside the night train there is is daily morning train, starting at 8:50, costing 45,- Yuan for a hardseater.
[edit] Get around
[edit] See
Huayan Monastery
Huayan Monastery

* Like many cities in China, Datong has it's own Drum Tower.
* The Hanging Monastery
* A 600-year-old screen made of glazed tiles and depicting nine dragons.
* The Huayan Monastery, which has the largest wooden shrine hall in China
* By far the greatest attraction of the area are the 1,500-year-old Yungang Grottoes. These mountain-side caves and recesses number more than 50 in all and are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues - the largest being a 56-foot Seated Buddha while the smallest is only a few centimeters tall. In addition to the carvings of the Buddha, there are also scenes depicting Buddhist teachings and famous monks. The Yungang Grottoes are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buses and taxis ply the ten mile route from Datong City to the Yungang.

[edit] Do
[edit] Buy
[edit] Eat
[edit] Drink
[edit] Sleep
[edit] budget

* Feitian Binguan, 1 Chezhan Qian Jie, ☎ (0352)2815117.

[edit] midrange

* Hongqi Dafandian, Houchezhan BeiLu, ☎ (0352)2816813 (fax: (0352)2816671).

* Yanbei Binguan, 1 Yuhe Beilu, ☎ (0352)6024116 (fax: (0352)6027287).

[edit] splurge

* Datong Binguan, 37 Yingbin Xilu, ☎ (0352)2032476 (fax: (0352)2035174).

[edit] Get out

Evenings around the Red Flag Square are quite entertaining and full of locals.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Datong, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Pingyao, China

Pingyao (平遥; Píngyáo)is a small city whose old town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
[edit] Get in

Pingyao has no airport. The closest major city is Taiyuan, two hours by train to the northwest. You can catch a train to here from Wuhan, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, and Beijing. All of these trains are overnight trains.
[edit] Get around

The Old City is small enough that you can do most locations by foot. But if you need to cross town between attractions, or are simply lazy, you can hire golf carts that wander the streets. Pay around Y5 for a ride if a single person, around Y15 for four people.
[edit] See

The main attraction in Pingyao is the Old City. This area is surrounded by a large wall. Admission to any of the 30 attactions inside the city, and the city wall, is a flat fee of Y120. This ticket is good for three days, but only if it is validated in the afternoon the previous day between 4:30-6:30. This can be done at the booth near Yamen Gate.

* Town Building/Bell Tower
* City Walls
* Rishengchang Financial House Museum
* Former Residence of Lei Lutai
* Shuanglin Temple

[edit] Do

* Visit during the Lantern Festival to see the town decked out in red lanterns.

[edit] Buy

Most of the Ancient City, at least the areas near the major attractions and the West Gate, are lined with shops that cater toward tourists. Standard Chinese bric-a-brac is for sale, at relatively high prices. Bargain hard and keep an eye out for stalls that sell handmade crafts right in the places where they make them. The city makes excellent cloth shoes, which you will see the locals wear as they march up and down the dusty streets.
[edit] Money

There's an ATM of the Agricultural Bank of China a few meters out of the south-western gate of the Ancient City. Foreign Maestro cards accepted (checked on August 2006).
[edit] Eat

Pingyao's speciality is Pingyao Beef. It has an acquired, strong taste. Be careful in some of the more touristy restaurants: outrageous bills of Y100 or more are not uncommon for a meal that appeared to be quite cheap. Be sure to ask about the price of any chef's specialities, and take a look at the bill as you are ordering your food.
[edit] Drink

Chinese beer, what else? There aren't too many clubs or bars, but you can sip a brew until midnight at many guesthouse restaurants.
[edit] Sleep

The Ancient City is full of guesthouses with Ming/Qing style beds. These are flat beds with ornate headrests that sit close to the ground. On the main street these beds can go for as much as Y400. Poke around backstreets and this price can easily quarter.

Fancy, Western-style accodmation tends to be located outside the Ancient City Wall.

* Harmony Guesthouse, 165 Nan Dajie (harmonyguesthouse@asia.com). Expect to pay about Y40 for a dorm bed, and between Y80-120 for a private double.

* Yamen Hostel, affilated with Hostelling International, [1]. Expect to pay about Y35 for a dorm bed, and maybe Y80 for a double. Discounts for HI members.

[edit] Get out

Mostly by train, although bus links are available with Taiyuan and other Shanxi locations.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Pingyao, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Zhengzhou, China

Zhengzhou (郑州) is a city on the south bank of Yellow River (Huang He) in China. It is the capital of Henan Province.
[edit] Understand

The name Zhengzhou comes from a city in the Sui Dyansty, but its actual location was in modern day Chenggao. During the Tang Dyansty, the name switched here. The area remained an unimportant backwater until it was selected for development by the Chinese Government after 1949. Strategically located in the center of the country, Zhengzhou is now a major transportation hub and rapidly growing city.
[edit] Get in

Zhengzhou is a transport hub; you can get here from nearly every major metropolitian area in China on many forms on transport. There are several arrivals each day from Beijing (about 11 hours), Guangzhou (about 18 hours), Xi'an (about 10 hours) and Shanghai (about 14 hours). Trains arrive from other places less often.

The airport is about 30 km outside of town. A public bus runs from the airport to a centrally located hotel. It costs Y25.
[edit] Get around

The city's focal point is February 7 Square (二七区). This large public square comes alive at night, when an entire market fills the space with vendors and locals hanging out. From the square, several main streets man fan out to different areas of the city.

Since Zhengzhou was handpicked to serve as a transportation hub -- and does not have a very history as a large city -- the urban planning is more noticeable here than in other places of China. This means there is plenty of green space, tree-lined streets and logical arrangment to the city.

Zhengzhou is relatively spread out, but most sites are accessible by public bus, which costs Y1 per ride. Taxi flag fall is Y7, with each kilometer after the second Y1. As of June 2006, the cabs were also adding a fuel surcharge of Y1 to all trips.
[edit] See

* The February 7 Memorial Tower is a museum inside a rather garish double pagoda that looms over February 7 Square. Inside there are exhibits explaining the city's development.
* Worth a visit is the Henan Provincial Museum in the northwest part of the city. Learn about ancient civilizations in the area (most of which were not based in Zhengzhou, but nearby cities such as Kaifeng and Luoyang), and even see a dinosaur bone or two in the area. While you're out there, pop into the Henan Museum of Science & Technology that's a fascinating insight into Chinese children's education. Play on crumbling science exhibits, gawk at the garish space tributes and meet local families, all for Y5.
* You can see remants of a Shang Dyansty Wall in the east side of town. Be warned: these mounds aren't terribly impressive.
* Zhengzhou Zoo
* City parks

[edit] Do
[edit] Buy

Large department stores and international brands tend to be concentrated around February 7 Square. There's a Friendship Store on Wenhua Lu specializing in trendy foreign imports at rip-off prices (best to wait for Beijing or Shanghai). As for local goods, head toward the north of the city. Save kung-fu souvenir buying until Shaolin.
[edit] Eat

If Zhengzhou doesn't have the best food in China, it doesn't have the worst, either. The night market in Feburary 7 Square is a good place for a snack and scenery. There's the usual assortment of dumpling shops and noodle joints on every street and back alley. The city's big enough to have a scattering of cosmopolitian restaurants, so look for Korean and Japanese options about. There's a good number of Sichuan restaurants, which make sense considering the proximity to the Province of Spice. Noodles, especially the Mutton noodle(Simplified Chinese:羊肉烩面 Pinyin:yangrouhuimian) and Beef noodle(Simplified Chinese:牛肉拉面 Pinyin:Niuroulamian) are must-eat in Zhengzhou.
[edit] Drink

There are bars around the city, but there isn't an obvious focal zone to point tourists in. It's best to wander around some of the main streets such as Wenhua Lu or Erqi Lu looking for places. Another area to try is near Zhengzhou University, where there's a good student crowd. The University is about 1.5 kilometers from February 7 Square.

Laowai, find "Target Pub". Southernmost block of Jing Liu Lu, north and east of the train station.
[edit] Sleep

Zhengzhou isn't a major backpacker stop, so there are few cheap lodgings in the city. That said, there are some hotels that offer real value for money if you are more than two people.

* Your best bet is the relatively new Hotel Home chain. There are over half a dozen locations around town. The most centrally located one is right off of Wenhua Street (文化路) about a kilometer from Erqi Square. The rooms here are super-clean with hardwood floors and a fresh coat of paint that invoke a SoHo loft more than a Chinese hotel. (Don't worry, you'll still get calls in the middle of the night for "Massage?" just to ensure that you're still in China.) Ask for a discount of about 30% of the rack rate. Doubles go for around Y120 and include breakfast.

* Guangzhou Hotel caters toward business travelers, but still is very reasonable. Doubles start at around Y200 with a discount. Just ask at the front desk.

* Erqi Hotel has a great location, right in the main square. This might be a little loud at night, and you have to pay for the space. Full service rooms are about Y250, but there are budget ones available with shared bathroom for Y150. This can be hard to get, however.

[edit] Get out

Henan awaits:

* Go to the Shaolin Temple. One of China's most famous attractions, the temple is about two hours from Zhengzhou. It's an easy day trip. Bus leave opposite the train station every 20-30 minutes all morning. Be warned: many of the bus tickets are actually tours, that may spend most of the day at auxilary sites or eating lunch instead of the Shaolin complex. These tours do not include entrance fees. Try to make sure you're going on a direct bus, or hire a van, if you want to see it on your own.

* Kaifeng is a laid-back about 90 minutes to the east of Zhengzhou. Enjoy ancient temples and an escape from Chinese skyscrapers. Kaifeng was the capital of several dyansties before it slid into irrelavence the last 200 years.

* Another great city nearby by is Luoyang, home to the Longmen Grottoes. The city itself is worth a look, with an interesting old section and easy walking downtown. It's about three hours by bus, which leave Zhengzhou every hour or so. An express -- the "elephant bus" or kuai che -- costs Y40.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Zhengzhou, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Luoyang, China

Luoyang (洛阳; Luòyáng) is a city in Henan province.
[edit] Understand
[edit] Get in
[edit] By Plane

Luoyang Airport (IATA: LYA) is located over 10 km north of the city center. Flights are available to Beijing and Shanghai.
[edit] By Train

Location - at the northern end of Jinguyuan Lu

* Beijing - takes about 11 hours
* Guangzhou - takes about 24 hours
* Shanghai - takes about 17 hours
* Wuhan - takes about 08 hours
* Xian - takes about 5-6 hours

[edit] By Bus

Location - across plaza from train station , corner Jinguyuan Lu and Daonan Lu

* Anyang - takes about 4 hours
* Guangzhou - takes about 27 hours
* Jinan - takes about 9 hours
* Kaifeng - takes about 4 hours
* Taiyuan - takes about 8 hours
* Xian - takes about 4 hours
* Zhengzhou - takes about 2 hours

[edit] Get around
[edit] See

* Ancient Han Tombs Museum - fascinating museum with reconstructed and unearthed tomns from the Western Han dynasty to the Northern Song dynasty
* Baima Si (White Horse Temple) - first officially sanctioned Buddhist temple
* Guanlin - temple commemorating Guan Yu, great warrior of the Kingdom of Wu time period
* Longmen Shiku (Dragon Gate Grottoes) - on the banks of the river Yi and considered to be one of the the great sculptural treasure sites in China and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* Luoyang Museum - very well done museum
* Wangcheng Gongyuan - site of the Luoyang Peony Festival in April, something not to be missed

[edit] Do

* Luoyang has a long, beautiful ancient store street with fully functioning stores, a lot like Pingyao, another incredible visit

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Xi'an, China

Xian (西安 Xī'ān), or officially, Xi'an, pronounced roughly she-ahn, is an historic city in Shaanxi Province, China.
[edit] Understand

Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, with a 3,000-year history, was known as Chang'an in ancient times. For over 1,000 years the city has been capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it's no wonder that there are so many historical ruins and, in the museums, cultural relics. It's hard to believe that before the lifes of Christ, Mohammad, and Siddhartha, Xi'an was a world class city and already influencing the world outside of The Great Wall of China. As the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, traders from far and wide brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their communities. In the present times, not much of its former glory remains within the city due to warfare and constant political changes throughout the ages.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By Plane

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA: XIY) is located 40 km northwest of the city centre. Flights are available to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dunhuang, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Lhasa, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Urumqi, Wuhan, and Xining within China, International flights are available to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul as well as Nagoya, Fukuoka, Niigata, and Hiroshima in Japan.

Most people use taxicabs or the airport bus to reach town from the airport. Be careful though, one of the airport buses (from the airport to the Drum Tower) will try their absolute best to sell you expensive plane tickets and then upon getting off the bus you'll be hounded by a few dozen more touts and a large concentration people begging for money that were all seemingly waiting for you to get off that bus. It's probably best to avoid this route and take the bus to the train station instead.
[edit] By Train

There are plenty of trains transporting passengers to and from most of the major cities inside China. Located at the center of China, it often takes one day to travel from Xian to other cities by train.

Xian Station - located at the north end of Jiefang Jie

Approximate journey times to other major cities:

Beijing 14-18 hours, Chengdu 16-27 hours, Chongqing 14 hours, Guangzhou 24 hours, Kunming 36-53 hours, Lanzhou 10-13 hours, Lhasa 36 hours, Shanghai 18-24 hours, Urumqi 31-56 hours, Wuhan 14-18 hours and Zhengzhou 7 hours.
[edit] By bus

The main long-distance bus station is located across from main railway station

Approximate journey times to major local cities:

Huashan 2-3 hours, Lanzhou 8-10 hours, Luoyang 7-10 hours, Taiyuan 12 hours and Zhengzhou about 9-12 hours.
[edit] By car

Traffic is heavy, right of way is unheard of, the rule of thumb is keep going no matter what (although drivers do note red lights).
[edit] Orientation
Bell Tower (种楼 Zhonglou)
Bell Tower (种楼 Zhonglou)

The city is surrounded by a city wall, in its middle the Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhōnglóu). From this one, the four main streets descend into the four points of the compass.

* North-Street (北大街 Běidàjiē)
* East-Street (东大街 Dōngdàjiē)
* South-Street (南大街 Nándàjiē)
* West-Street (西大街 Xīdàjiē)

Don't get confused by different names in tourist guides, addresses and bus stops: Nandajie; Nanda-Street, South-Street; South-Avenue... are all the same.

Locals often speak about Within city walls and Outside city walls when talking about locations. Outside the walls, the southern part is the most interesting: it offers shopping streets, bars and some nightlife.
[edit] Get around

There are plenty of Buses departing everywhere in short-intervals (main lines every 5-10 minutes). If you are not confident enough with orientation, or if you don't liked packed busses, the cheap taxis are the best alternative, broadly available, except for rush hours.
[edit] By train

A subway system is planned for Xian running east to west. It will have a total length of 26.22 km, including 15 stations. As of 2004, Line 1 will be not be completed till 2009.
[edit] By bus

There are busses leaving regularly for the Terracotta Warrior museum in front of the Xi'an bus station (opposite the train station, within the city walls). Take bus 306 from the central bus station. It will take you to a parking lot right in front of the museum site within 40 minutes. A one way ticket costs 7RMB. Alternatively, most hostels run tours to the warriors with an English speaking guide. These aren't necessarily better, be prepared to spend a good portion of the day (as with any Chinese tour) visiting "terra cotta factories," "museums" and other tourist traps. But, you will get to your destination without dealing with the bus (the warriors are quite far outside of town) and not all of the public buses that go there are legitimate.

Regular busses within the city cost 1RMB (2RMB for air-conditioned, marked with a snow-flake) no matter how far you go.
[edit] By taxi

Watch the taxi drivers in Xian as the industry is not regulated as it is in other larger cities like Beijing. You may find yourself being taken on a long ride around town to get where you are going. It can also be difficult to convince them to take you anywhere - even to the railway station, if in doubt get your hotel or hostel to write down the place you want to go in Chinese. Trips within the city walls are generally in the 6RMB range; longer trips to the attractions south of the city are in the 12-20RMB range.

Some taxi drivers in Xian won't take you seriously when you tell them that you want to go somewhere and will drive off without you getting in.
[edit] By bike

Fortunately Xian's main sites (with the notable exception of the Terracotta Warriors) are bunched fairly close together, so renting a bike is a good option. Be wary of the narrow streets and cars that squeeze you out of the way.
[edit] See
[edit] inside the city
Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu
Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu
Shop in the Muslim Street
Shop in the Muslim Street

* City Wall of Xi'an - the only city wall to remain intact in China. In such great shape and wide enough to walk as on a promenade

* Shaanxi Provincial Museum, many artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age are on display

* Forest of Steles (西安碑林 Xīān Bēilín) situated in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, this collection of 2,3000 stone tablets and epitaphs is the largest and oldest of its kind in China

* Big (Wild) Goose Pagoda (大雁塔 Dà Yàntǎ) Located at Ci'en Temple and built by Emperor Gaozong(Li Zhi) in 652 AD. Emblem of the city of Xi'an. Take bus No 41 or No 610 from the main train station.

* Little (Wild) Goose Pagoda (小雁塔 Xiǎo Yàntǎ). Located at Jianfu Temple and completed in 709 AD.

* Drum Tower (鼓楼 Gǔlóu) located in the exact center of the city and Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhōnglóu) located northwest within the Muslim Quarter

* The Grand Mosque (清真寺 Qīngzhēnsì), behind Drum Tower, built in a perfect mixture of Islamic and Chinese architecture styles with seating for 1,000 worshippers and the Muslim Street (回民街 Huímín Jiē) around it.

[edit] outside the city

* Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses (兵马俑 Bīng mă yŏng). This mighty army of terracotta warriors and horses, found in three vaults a short distance away from the Qinshihuang Mausoleum, is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction of Shaanxi. An in-site museum has been built over these pits, covering a floorspace of 20,000 square meters and displaying 8,000 life-like terracotta warriors, 100 or so chariots, and 30,000 weapons - an assemblage billed as the Eighth World Wonder and a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.UNESCO World Heritage List

* Banpo Village Ruins 6,000 year old ruins of a village site (residential and pottery-making areas) outside Xian as well as a burial ground and tools

* Famen Temple The 13-storied brick pagoda of the monastery, first built in 1609, fell down in the rain in August, 1981 and revealed a 1000 year old underground palace with 2,400 treasures belonging to the Tang and previous dynasties. These included gold and silver utensils, glazed wares, porcelains, pearls, precious stones and textiles, as well as religious items such as a finger bone of Buddha offered to the Emperor of China during the Tang dynasty.

* Huaqing Palace (华清池 Huáqīngchí), built by the Tang emperor Xuanzong near hot springs at the foot of Li Shan in Lintong County so he could frolic with his favoured Imperial Lady Yang to his heart's content

* Mao Ling Mausoleum - the tomb of the fifth emperor of the Han Dynasty has many stone carvings

* Qinshihuang's Mausoleum - Mausoleum of the First Emperor of China

[edit] Do

* Walk along the City walls and see the South Gate (南门 Nánmén) (illuminated at night)
* Bicycling around the city walls will take about 2 hours
* Walk through the Hui Muslim Quarter (回民街 Huímín Jiē) sampling food

[edit] Learn
[edit] Work

Native speaking foreigners, no matter what age, can easily find jobs as English teachers, for example at Kid Castle or Aston English.
[edit] Buy


* If you are visiting the terracotta warriors, be prepared to meet some of the most hardcore hawkers you are likely to meet anywhere. If you keep quiet, they will usually bargain themselves down in front of you in desperate pleas for your money. Buy a 15cm Terracotta warrior for 5-10RMB even if they offer it to you for 45RMB. Wood-carved Buddhas and Dragons for about the same. They are fortunately kept at a distance from the actual site. Many travelers report enjoying this experience. It's definitely not a reason not go see the Terracotta Warriors.
* The best place to buy souvenirs in the city centre is behind the Drum Tower in the Muslim Quarter (around the Mosque). The seller usually offers you a very high price, and even if you bring them down by 50%, they will still make a big profit. This is also a good place to buy folk art, specifically folk style block prints in a single shop which go for about 50RMB if you can stand bargaining when the older gentleman artist himself is standing right there.
* Tang Tricolored Pottery is a style that was lost and has now been recreated from pieces of pottery found in tombs. It is graphic in image and eye-pleasing in color. The factory recreating the style offers over 100 varieties of items, like statues, animals, and utensils.


Xi'an is amazingly cheap for clothes

* The East-Street (Dongdajie, the eastern of those 4 big ones descending from the central Bell Tower) has regular fashion shops
* The fancier one is the South-Street (Nandajie) with fine shops for clothes & shoes (f.ex. Louis Vuitton).
* Local youngsters buy in Baihuo-Market(百货市场)in Xiaozhai (小寨),10RMB by Taxi from the centre. It's one of those fake-brand-markets. Sport shoes should be less than 150, pullovers and nice jeans sometimes less than 100, a lot of cheap fashion accessories. This is also a great place for DVDs and CDs, but be careful, most of them are pirate ones.

[edit] Eat

Yang Rou Pao Muo is one of the signature dishes of the area, it consists of a piece of bread and a kettle of lamb soup. The diner shreds the bread with his hands and places the shreds in a bowl, the soup is then poured over the shreds. Tong Sheng Xiang Restaurant is recommended.

The Muslim Quarter is located close to the Drum tower and is a vibrant area with many restaurants spilling out onto the street and mixing with the street sellers

Street food (mostly sold after sunset, or some near night clubs/bars after 11PM) presents a variety of local/regional dishes, ranging from noodle soups, dumplings, hot pot, and so on by tens of little food vendors on street side, each with a red lamp.

* Rou Jia Mo (sandwich like, with pork, beef or lamb, must try)
* Yi long bao-zi, basket-steamed dumplings (one basket 3RMB), common as a midnight snack.
* Guan Tang Baozi, steamed buns served with sauces inside)
* Rou Jia Mo, finely chopped pork stuffed in toasted wheat flour flat bread).

[edit] Vegetarian

* To the west of Da Yan Ta square is Tian Long Boa Vegetarian Restaurant. They do amazing fake meat dishes such as kao rou and chicken feet!! They have an easy to order from picture menu.
* Xiao Zhai Da Xing Shan Temple also has a vegetarian restaurant with dishes similar to to thos on offer at Tien Long Boa. There is no English on the menu, but choose and point works well.

[edit] Budget

A good way if you don't want the expensive hotel food or just want to try real Chinese cuisine, is to simply go into a small restaurant and point on your the dish somebody else is having and you will get a Meal for less than 10RMB (seldom 20RMB) per person.

* Wen Xin Jiaozi Guan (温馨饺子馆) is a good cheap place for Jiaozi(dumplings,if you speak Chinese. There is no menu, but endless suplies of fresh jiaozi of many flavors, from 4 or 5 RMB a bowl. It is at 123 Xushimiao jie, next to the Good World Hotel, off of Lian Hu Lu.

[edit] Mid-range

McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC or its Chinese brother Dicos are widely available within city walls for a change of the daily Chinese cuisine.

* Highfly Pizza (高飞), located a bit down the right street after coming out of South Gate (南门), offers best Pizza and other western food in town.

[edit] Splurge

* La Seine, french style restaurant recently opened at NanDaJie (南大街) near Bell Tower

* 'Tang Paradise Hotel', (Dinner Show) is located near the Wild Goose Pagoda in the Qujiang Resort of Xian. It is described as the largest theme park in Northwestern China with an area of 165 acres. The charm lies in that all the buildings in the park are built in the luxurious style of the Tang Dynasty. The best time to visit is at night when most of the shows, including fireworks and dances, are performed.

* The 'Real Love' [N34.23887 E108.93407] is located on ZhuQue DaJie (朱雀大街), opposite of the Small Wildgoose Pagoda (小雁塔). Located on the 7th floor it also has a roof terrace with a view to the Small Wildgoose Pagoda. The place offers excellent Chinese food of different styles. An English menu is available. Try the Baby Lamb Leg or the Fried Dumplings With Diced Beef.

[edit] Drink

Night clubs in Xian are not abundant since the hip-hop culture is not popular in the city. All clubs play the same music, a mix of Chinese disco and some pop music, but it might change slowly in future. But for now, don't expect latest charts or hiphop music. Most people go out between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., but clubs are generally open until 4 a.m.

* Along the short Nandajie (南大街) are the most clubs (you can also eat on the street after late midnight). You will easily find the MIX (big light ad) and its neighbour Palando. Both are rather places to sit and drink. If you want a dance floor, go along towards South Gate, on the same side there are first Night Cat with some foreigners and OK-DJs and Kulala.

* The most popular club remains 1+1 (pronounced "yi-jia-yi" for the taxi driver)in the middle of Dongdajie (东大街) The club has 3 dance floors: first floor is mostly hiphop music, second floor is mostly techno and third floor is for slow jam music.

* In summer time, the area around South Gate (南门) is beautiful. East of it are three nice bars with terrace and garden.

[edit] Sleep

Xian is by no means cheap. A regular single room at a hotel will gouge you from 250 yuan and up. However, there are many low priced budget hostels starting as low as Y30 for a dorm bed, so if you're on a budget be sure to check around.
[edit] Budget

There are also 4 international youth hostels right in the center of the city, easy to find.

* 3e Hotels International, 54 Nandajie, Xian (located between the South Gate and the Bell Tower, right next door to a KFC on the West side of the street).

An absolutely beautiful single room with all the fixings and free broadband internet is 154 yuan. A plus is that right outside the door is a REAL COFFEE shop!

* Ludao Binguan, 80 XiBa Lu, Xian, ☎ (029)87420308 (fax: (029)82101222).

A nicer-than-average hotel and hostel. Dorm rooms are between 25-50 RMB, depending on the season and your bargaining skill. You can also get a reasonably nice hotel room for around 75 RMB, again depending on your bargaining skills. The manger Jim Beam is friendly.

* Xi'an Shuyuan International Youth Hostel, Xi Nanmen, Xian, ☎ (029)87287720 (fax: (029)87287721).

[edit] Mid-range

* Jiefang Fandian, 321 Jiefang Lu, Xian, ☎ (029)87698881 (fax: (029)87698882).

* Lijing Jiudian, 20 Xi Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87288731.

* Qingnianhui Binguan, 339 Dong Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87673002.

[edit] Splurge

* Bell Tower Hotel, Xi Dajie, Xian, ☎ (029)87279200 (fax: (029)87218767).

* Grand Mecure at Renmin Square, A few blocks north of the Bell and Drum Towers.

* The Hyatt, At the corner of Dondajie and Heping Lu (和平路), 10 minutes walk from the Bell Tower.

* Howard Johnson Plaza, Outside the South gate, a few meters to the west.

[edit] Contact
[edit] Stay safe

Xian is, like other Chinese cities, generally quite safe. Just watch out for pickpockets (usually children) in crowds.

pickpockets are more to be found during holidays. and pickpocketing is more likely to happen on the bus, in the East Street---the most properous commercial street in Xiann, and some of the most crowed resorts like the North Square of the wild goose pagoda where there is a fountin show every night.
[edit] Cope

Look at the Beijing site advisories, they apply to Xi'an, too. Most importantly, take paper tissue with you to toilets.

Generally, Western style accomodation will have toilets, whereas the very inexpensive "Zhao Dai Suo" will usually have communal facilities that do not include toilets. If you need to use toilets, learn to plan your day accordingly. Major tourist attractions will have toilets.

If you arrive in Xi'an by train, try not to be overwhelmed when you exit Xi'an's train station. There are usually aggresive hotel tout's looking for customers. Just insist that you already have a place to stay and tell them no, with a serious face ("Bu Yao"), but don't get appear too angry.

It is a good idea to check your bags at the left luggage office and then go into town to look for accomodation. This way you will not be overwhelmed by the burden of carrying your heavy bags or luggage around.
[edit] Get out

* Chen Lu Pottery, a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Xian, this community of potters has been producing pottery since the Tang dynasty and is well worth the look if pottery is your thing, private transportation recommended.

* Hu Kou Waterfall (壶口瀑布 Húkǒu Pùbù) located 150km north of Xian, private transportation recommended; can be combined with a day trip to Huang Di Mausoleum

* Huashan National Park approximately 2 hours by train or bus east of Xian. A 2000 metre mountain with spectacular views. It is possible to take the 2-3 hour (6km) walk up or take the 10 minute European built cable car for 元70. It is best to go for sun rise on the East peak. Take plenty of warm clothing for when the sun goes down. Basic accomodation is available, but can be quite pricey.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Xi'an, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Chengdu, China

Chengdu (成都 Chéngdū; [1]) is the capital of Sichuan Province in south-west China.
[edit] Understand

Chengdu is located in the fertile plains of western Sichuan province. Due to its agricultural wealth Chengdu is sometimes called "Land of Milk and Honey". The Fulan river bisects the city although boat traffic, common until the 1960's, has all but disappeared. The greater city area is divided into five districts and 12 counties, altogether home to 9.2 million people.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

The airport is located 20km outside of Chengdu. Chengdu airport is one of the main air hubs in China, ranked 5th in passenger volume. It has flights to most major cities in China and some international destinations including Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Singapore and Osaka. It serves flights to smaller cities within Sichuan Province, including the popular tourist destination Jiuzhaigou.

Taxi fare from the airport to the city center averages ¥45. There is no extra charge for luggage or additional passengers. Going from the city to the airport, add an additional ¥10 to cover the toll on the Airport Expressway. There is also bus no. 303, which will take you to the China Airlines office on Renmin Nanlu, right in the center of the city. It costs ¥10.

If you intend to take a taxi, be sure to turn LEFT when you exit the domestic arrival area toward the taxi stand and get in a marked, green-and-yellow or blue-and-yellow taxi. Turning right may lead you towards no-goods who are waiting to prey on foreign tourists with unmarked vehicles. Beware as these people sometimes sport official-looking ID, but is in reality fake. The fare offered will often exceed ¥100, and if you bargain with them, you may find yourself sitting in the cab for a while until agreeing to raise the price back up.
[edit] By train

The Chengdu railway station (成都火车北站) is located in the north of the city, a ¥15 taxi ride from the city center. Caution is advised in the neighborhood around the train station after dark.
[edit] By bus

For bus stations, there are three bus stations in Chengdu, and they serve different destinations:

* Chadianzi bus station (西门 Ximen), for Songpan and Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve.

* Xinnanmen bus station (新南门汽车站), near the Traffic hotel, has daily buses heading to Leshan, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, and Mount Emei and to Kangding in Kham.

* Wuguiqiao bus station, for Chongqing

From Chadianzi Bus Station
To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
Dan Ba 7:00 ¥71 12 29 June 2005
Jiuzhaigou 7:20 8:00 8:40 14:00 ¥97.00-103.00 10 July 2006
Rilong 6:30 7:00 12:00 ¥43.00 5 29 June 2005
Ruo Ergai 7:00 7:20 ¥88.50 10 29 June 2005
Songpan 6:30 7:00 7:30 ¥74.00 8 July 2006
Wolong 11:40 ¥23.50 4 29 June 2005
From Xinnanmen Bus Station
To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
Daocheng 10:00 ¥217.00 2 days 29 June 2005
Emei Shan 7:00-19:00 (every 20 min) ¥35.00 2-3 10 September 2006
Jiuzhaigou 8:00 ¥92.00 13 29 June 2005
Kangding 7:00-14:00 hourly ¥100.00 7 29 June 2005
Leshan 7:30-21:30 (every 20 min) ¥37.00 2-3 29 June 2005
Songpan 8:00 ¥74.00 9 29 June 2005

[edit] Get around

* Chengdu has an extensive system of city buses plying the streets. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. Tickets are ¥1 for common and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses respectively.

* Taxis are equipped with meters, which should be used. A free taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters in its dashboard. Taxi fares at ¥5 on flagfall and increase at ¥1.4 per km. The meter records fares in increments of ¥1. Try to have small change on hand for taxi rides.

* There are bicycle-propelled pedicabs called san lun che (三轮车) who will take you short distances. Fix a price (¥4-10) in advance.

* Most guesthouses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated "parking lots", where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can't find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure.

* A subway system[2] is under contstruction. The first line is slated to open in June of 2008. It will start at Tian Fu Square and extend southward down Ren Min Nan road.

[edit] See

* Panda Research Base is the biggest facility of this kind in the world. Due to habitat destruction and other reasons, the Panda Bear is maybe the most famous endangered animal. The Research Base is home to some 60 giant Pandas, but also has some Red Pandas and a colony of black-necked cranes. The Research Center affords views of the pandas from much closer than is possible at many Western zoos. Be sure to bring your camera. The Research Base also has a small museum and a cinema screening related documentaries. A restaurant and souvenir-stalls top off the tourist installations. To get there on your own, you can take a taxi for about ¥35 from downtown Chengdu. Or, catch a northbound bus Nr.1 (¥1) and stay with it until the local bus-terminal. Leave the local bus-terminal through the exit leading to the long distance-terminal (LDT), but do not enter the latter. Instead, wait for the suburbian public bus Nr.1 to come by and stop at the left corner of the LDT. For another ¥1 it will take you to the Panda research center within 20 min. Get off when you see a big white Panda-Statue in the middle of the street. Admission fee is ¥30. The best time to visit is in the morning, when pandas are most active. It is possible to take your picture while holding a Red Panda for a fee of ¥50; occasionally during the morning you can take a pictures alongside a giant panda for a fee of ¥400 per person. Knowledgable English-speaking tour guides can be hired at the office by the Base entrance. The cost for a guide for a small group is ¥100.

* Chengdu Zoo The Zoo, located in the north of the city near the Panda Research Base, offers all the typical animals that one might expect in a zoo (elephant, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, as well as panda bears). While the zoo itself is large and spread out, some of the cages are woefully small and the facility seems understaffed. Might be good for a family to visit. Admission is ¥12 per adult. The zoo has vendors selling Chinese snacks as well as some carnival type rides.

* Sichuan Science and Technology Museum[3] (四川科技馆 ) Located directly behind the Chiarman Mao statue in the city center's Tian Fu Square, this huge 4 storey museum is filled with interactive exhibits about science, aerodynamics, space, mathematics, robotics and physics. Children will love the interactive displays and indoor playground on the 4th floor. Adults will appreciate the descriptions in both English and Chinese. Everyone will love the crowd-pleasers like the robotic orchestra and walk-through maps of Sichuan's waterways. Admission is ¥35 per adult, free for children. To get there, take a taxi or bus to Tian Fu Square and walk to the large building directly behind the Chairman Mao statue. Note: During weekdays this museum can be overrun by local school groups.

* Sichuan University Museum (四川大学博物馆 sichuan daxue bowuguan)[4] has an excellent display of local artifacts and is worth while way of spending an hour or two. The museum is one of the better in China and there are four floors of well lite, air conditioned displays with decent English translations. Starting in the basement, enter the first room where dozens of stone carvings dating from the Han dynasty to the Tang are on display. The room next door has a moderately interesting display on the museum's history and numerous examples of ancient bronzes and stone age artifacts. The first floor is mostly artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasty, including furniture, silk clothing, and an interesting display of leather puppets. The second floor has the perhaps the most engaging display: artifacts and daily use items from ethnic minority groups in China's southwest, including Tibetans, Miao, Yi, Qiang, Jianpo and Naxi. The third floor has a decent display of calligraphy scrolls, paintings, and ceramics. The museum is located on Wangjiang Road (望江路), about a 15 minute ride from Xinnanmen bus station or a 40 minute walk. Admission is ¥10 and the museum is open from 9:00-5:00 seven days a week. It's telephone number is (028)5412313.

(Information as of 26 July 2006)

* Sichuan Opera Most guesthouses and travel agencies offer to arrange visits to these traditional shows. It's more like a burlesque cabaret than an actual opera, sometimes including magicians, musicians and dancers besides the traditional pieces. Of course the most famous is never omitted: face-changing and firespitting performed by dancers clad in colourful traditional costumes. You will follow the story sitting at your table, sipping on your constantly refilled tea cup and nibbling some salted snacks.
(Information as of 28 June 2005)

* Jin Li This neighborhood is part of the old city of Chengdu, it features hotels and small stores in and old-fashioned style. Antiques are sold in a variety of different stores. It is very popular among both tourists and locals, especially at night, with many bars and nightclubs.

[edit] Do

* Massage / Foot Washing Chengdu has establishments that offer massage or foot washing. Generally, these places cater to groups of people who come in together, relax in a private room, perhaps eating fruit or sipping tea, while receiving a fully-clothed massage or foot washing. Prices are very reasonable, often well under Y100 per person. A great way to relax with friends.

For up-to-date information on activities, places and attractions you should check out the "GoWest"-magazine's listings. You'll find copies in most bars or guesthouses.
[edit] Learn

The following universities accept foreign students (with the proper visa):

* Sichuan University
* Sichuan Normal University

* Those interested in ongoing, private classes in the Chinese language can hire a experienced teacher for ¥40-¥85 per hour. Ask for a referral at one of the universities, or from another student. Textbooks for learning Chinese are available at many local bookshops.

[edit] Work

* Job postings for English teachers are located in many guest houses, at Western bars and restaurants, anywhere foreigners congregate.
* The Peace Corps [5] has its China headquarters in Chengdu and places highly selected and qualified US Citizen volunteers in 2 year assignments throughout the region.

[edit] Buy

* There is a big antiquities-market close to the Green Ram Taoist-temple in the western city. From the temple, walk straight west. It's on your right hand side after you crossed the bridge over the channel. You'll find communist relics, old porcelain dishes, jewellery, calligraphy equipment and also some Tibetan stuff. Be warned that overpricing is excessive (10-20x the real price), so bargain hard.

* All sorts of plush pandas, and other panda trinkets, are sold at the gate of the panda base, as well as ones of a slightly higher quality at the shop inside the panda base itself.

* Supermarkets are located throughout the city, although the selection of imported foods is limited. If you must buy American food, and don't mind a 50% premium over US prices, Sabrina's Country Store at #54 Ke Hua Bei Lu, across from the western gate of Sichuan University and near Linshiguan Lu has friendly service and all imported products. Phone 8524-2987.

* Major retailers Cerrefour, Metro and Wal Mart have locations in Chengdu.

[edit] Eat

Sichuan being the most known Chinese food style within China, you will find no shortage of delicious Sichuan food in Chengdu. Most of the food is quite spicy, be sure to order non spicy (不要辣 bú yào là) or little spicy (微辣 wēi là) food, at least if you are not accustomed to it yet, or have a bottle of peanut milk ready to quell the fire. The local king of kings is the Hotpot, basically a big pot of oil, water and spices simmering in a hole in the middle of your table. Patrons choose from a big variety of skewered food including veggies, sea-weed, fish, beef, chicken, and dog's meat and proceed to boil them in the oil. After the meal, your bill will be calculated by counting the skewer-sticks.
[edit] Budget

* There are a number of stalls and hole in the wall type places all over town. Food here is dirt cheap - expect to pay no more than ¥8 for a meal, and the quality is good. Things to be on the lookout for are spicy bowls of breakfast noodles, double cooked pork, and dozens of dishes coated in "ma" the Sichuan chili spice famous the world over.

* There's an excellent place serving Uighur Food across the street from Sam's Guesthouse. Buns, noodles and more.

* Steamed buns (baozi) are sold for breakfast or lunch from street vendors throughout the city. Typical fillings you can request include meat, read bean paste, mushroom, or pork. Cost for 3 buns is ¥1. A container of soy milk (dou jiang) is about the same price.

[edit] Mid-range

* WenShu-Temple Vegetarian Restaurant is run by the monks of the monastery and offers a huge selection of vegetarian food, including dishes imitating meat-dishes. You can order special group courses if you can sum up about 10 people and check in advance. (86) 28-6938703

[edit] Splurge

* Bridge Restaurant This restaurnt is actually a historic bridge over the Fulan river. Sichuan food. Very good reputation within Chengdu. Expect to pay at least US$10 per person for food, drinks additional.

[edit] Western Food

Chengdu has a few local Western restaurants. Service is always friendly, although you should expect occasional mistakes, such as appetizers served at the same time as your meal. Chengdu is just starting to get accustomed to Western tastes.

* The Chengdu Bookworm[6] The Bookworm has something for everyone: it is an English language lending library, a Western restaurant, a bar, as well as an occasional venue for local singing and musical talent. Expats might want to join the membership library or take kids to the children's morning storey hours. Evenings, you might find a travel author reading from and signing books, poetry reading, or singing. Great place for to connect with others, catch up on some reading, or just relax.

* Grandma's Kitchen Western restauant with four locations around Chengdu, including one next door to Peter's on Zhong Hua Yuan.

* Peter's Tex-Mex Actually an American restaurant with some Mexican dishes. Peter's has good food. The Zhong Hua Yuan location (028) 85180903 also has homemade ice cream, the best ice cream you will find in Chengdu. If you are coming from out of town, the Zhong Hua Yuan location is right in a major expat area with lots of other restaurants and shopping surrounding it.

* Zoe's Barbeque & Restaurant 30 Renmin Nanlu 4th Section(人民南路四段30号) (028) 85593345 [7] - Southern American BBQ and more. Good food and good service, plus wireless internet.

* Fast food including McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut have locations throughout Chengdu. McDonalds and Pizza Hut add some distinctively Chinese offerings to their menus. Unusual cultural tidbit: At Pizza Hut only one trip to the salad bar is allowed per person. Notice how many Chinese turn their salad plates into artistic creations, stacked high with vegetables to share.

* All of the hotels in the "Splurge" category have Western restaurants or buffets. Call ahead for more information.

[edit] Drink

On the southern bank of the Jin Jiang there is a row of bars between Renmin Nanlu and Xinnan Lu.

* Highfly Cafe, 18 LinJiang Rd, 028-85442820 is a relaxed place with a tiny outside sitting area. They serve beers and western food including pizza and breakfast. There is one computer for free Internet access and a small book exchange (2 for 1).

* Feeling4Seasons Cafe [8], Orient Times Mall 2F, Xia dongda street (near Dongmen bridge), Chengdu. Phone 028-66208848. Good Italian coffee: espresso, cappuccino, especially latte. Also pasta and pizza. They also provide Internet service: wireless access for your laptop, loan of a wireless card if you don't have one, use of a PC if required. You can also burn CDs. It is also one famous China blog freelancer's cafe bar; he published a book named "Ten Years, Flying with one Dream".

* Shamrock Pub [9], #15, 4th Section, Renmin Nan Lu, 028-8523-6158 ( located near Linshiguan Lu and the US Consulate), an Irish pub in Chengdu is currently the hub of Chengdu's small expatriate community (of approximately 3,000). Friendly pub atmosphere and live music some evenings. In addition to drinks the pub serves dishes including pizza and other snacks. The pub has also sponsored several nonprofit organizations, including holding events for moon bear rescue and for the disabled. Copies of the informative Chengdu Sichuan book are available at the Shamrock.

* High Connections Coffee House [10] is located on the west side of Chengdu near Metro and the Southwest Financial University at Qingyang Qu Shuangqing Nanlu 6 Hao Fu A-20, 028-8732-5855. The coffeehouse provides a relaxing, comfortable, environment with soft lighting and easy-listening music. They have non-smoking and smoking sections. Bring your computer and hook up to the wireless Internet. They also have large conference rooms available for meetings.

[edit] Sleep
[edit] Budget

* Chengdu Jason's Nest Guest House (成都驴行天下青年旅舍), No.26 west way of south railway station, 0086-28-85125498, [11]. Fully-equipped hostel with spacious bright rooms, clean bunks, the Tibetan-style dining room and bar. Located in the leisure, entertainment, dining center of Chengdu, with most attractions within a ¥10 taxi ride. It's a ¥30 taxi ride from the airport or north rail station, a 10-minute walk from the south station, or call for a free pick-up. Helpful, very knowledgeable staff.

* Traffic Hotel (交通饭店; No. 6 Linjian St, 成都市临江路6号; tel. 028-85451017; [12]), conveniently placed just near Renmin Nanlu directly bordering the Xinnanmen bus station. This hotel is one hundred percent geared towards foreign backpackers and is a good place to around a tour or buy tickets. Four-bed dorms rooms are ¥30 per bed and three-bed dorms are ¥40. The rooms and shared bathrooms for ¥40 are very clean and come with a reliable air conditioner. Washing machines are available for ¥10 per load; bring your own detergent. Singles and doubles start at ¥200 and range up to ¥500.

* Chengdu Mix Hostel (Backpackers' Accommodation, Guesthouse & Youth Hostel) 成都驴友记青年旅舍, No.23 Xing Hui Xi Lu, Ren Jia Wan, Wan Fu Bridge, Chengdu, Sichuan, P.R.China. [13] [14], E-mail:mixhostel@hotmail.com. In downtown, with cheap beds, good shower, nice food, lots of people! Wi-fi for laptop, DVDs for you, free Internet, 20GB of Music, very friendly staff.

* Dragon Town Youth Hostel 成都市宽巷子27号, 27 Kuanxiangzi St, tel. 028-86648408, fax 028-86245901, reception@dragontown.com.cn, [15]. A five minute walk north of the Renmin park. Serving younger people and families, catering mostly for young western budget tourists. Many travelling services available from within the hostel, such as tours to nearby attractions, Tibet travel tours. Facilities include Internet access, restaurant and camp grounds. Cheapest accommodation is ¥15/bed with rooms starting from ¥100.

* Sam's Guesthouse 130 Shanxi Jie, samtour@yahoo.com: tel.028-86099022, 10 minutes walk from the Chairman Mao Statue at Renmin Nanlu. Look for Rongcheng Fandian (Rongcheng hotel). Sams Guesthouse office is next to the entrance to the Rongcheng Fandian. Rooms start from ¥80. Doubles are ¥120.

* Sim's Cozy Guesthouse 42 Xizhushi, tel :028-86288691, mobile: 8613980787075, simscozy@hotmail.com, [16] is close to Wenshu temple in the northern part of town. Opened in 2004 by two experienced travellers, it's located in a nice old house and has a fairly big seating area and a small garden. Care has been taken to avoid the typical pains of the traveller's everyday life, so for instance toilets are equipped with paper, there is a lockable security box at your bed, mosquito-coils adorn the rooms and corridors, the bar provides guitars and cold beers and so on. Staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They do arrange tours to several sights. There is Internet access for ¥5 per hour. A dorm bed is ¥15, doubles and triples with/without air-con are from ¥70 to ¥120. If you don't want to stay in the dorm, is advisable to make a reservation some days in advance.

* Xiaoguanyuan Hotel (小观园 xiǎoguānyuán), 成都市宽巷子40号, 40 Kuanxiangzi St, tel. 028-86640663, 028-86639883, 028-86640241. Beautiful garden and classical architectured hotel. Staff is Chinese speaking only though, but with a good location and rooms starting from ¥100, a very good offer. Just 50m from the Dragon Town Youth hostel. As at February 2007, Kuanxiangzi Lu is undergoing extensive reservations, and it appears that Xiaoguanyuan Rest House has closed down.

* The Loft Located three blocks north of Dragon Town Hostel. Very modern hostel. Use to be a printing factory but now converted to a contemporary style hostel. Has free pool table, free Internet access (Nov.2006), TV and DVD. Rooms are clean. Twins and doubles cost ¥120.

[edit] Mid Range

The vast majority of Chengdu's mid-range hotels are not afiliated with a national or international brand and generally charge between RMB 300 to RMB 700 per night. The hotels in this category can generally put up the facade of the more luxurious hotels, but often suffer noticeably from deferred maintenance or haphazard customer service. Many are geared mostly towards Chinese and Asian tour groups. The hotels listed below are the best of the bunch with lobby staff who speak at least a basic level of English and usually offer a free Chinese breakfast.

* Sunjoy Hotel #34, 4th Section of Renmin nan lu. The Sunjoy is a 7 story hotel with a nice Chinese restaurant, good facilities and small but nice rooms. Chinese breakfast provided. Located near US Consulate. About RMB400/night.

* Jin Jiang Inn [17] Part of a China-wide hotel chain; 3 locations in Chengdu; the South Chengdu Yulin location is near Ren Min Nan Road and the US Consulate. Good value for money with rooms from ¥129-179 per night. Rooms are small but clean and well apportioned. Breakfast and free internet provided. Secure lobby area and friendly staff.

* Super 8 Hotel[18] In the SOHO Building, #60 Ke Hua Bei Lu, phone 86-28-85250058. Located above an enclosed shopping arcade, near the Western Gate of Sichuan University. Free internet. No breakfast. Rooms are small and poorly designed and priced from ¥139-188 per night.

[edit] Splurge

Chengdu's luxury hotels provide world class service at very reasonable prices. Business and leisure travelers can expect, at a minimum, to find fluent English speaking staff, Western and Chinese restaurants, full conference facilities, business center, sauna and concierge service at all of these hotels. Room rates range from US$105 - $US200 per night for a standard or deluxe room. The Kempinski and the Jin Jiang hotel are generally the lowest price within this category.

* Chengdu Lido Sheraton[19] Modern, American managed hotel conveniently located in in the center of Chengdu near Tian Fu Square and the sports stadium, but a few blocks away from shopping districts. This hotel can accommodate the most discriminating of guests in luxury and world class service.

* Sofitel Chengdu[20]: French managed, overlooks Fulan river, similar to but more expensive than the Sheraton.

* Jin Jiang Hotel[21]: Chengdu's first international luxury hotel, the Jin Jiang still offers good service. While it has been eclipsed in luxury by the newer hotels listed in this section, it offers reasonable room rates and great service, with good facilities for conferences of all sizes.

* Kempinski Hotel[22]: German managed hotel offers hospitality and luxury. Great German events, including Ocktoberfest, Christmas and New Year's parties. Excellent gym, pool and workout facilities. Close to the United States Consulate.

* Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel[23]: The Holiday Inn goes all out to indulge its guests with the finest of service. Great service, very responsive management.

[edit] Contact
[edit] Consulates

* United States Consualte General[24] (美国驻成都总领事馆) #4 Linshiguan Lu, Chengdu. Phone 8558-3992. American Citizen Services hours Monday-Thursday 1:30pm-5:00pm, Fridays 9:00-4:00pm.

* Royal Thai Consulate[25] (泰国驻昆明总领事馆驻成都办事处) Located in the Kempinski Hotel: 42 Renmin Nan Rd. 4th Section C210-212, Sichuan 610041

* German Consulate General (德意志联邦共和国驻成都总领事馆) 25th Floor of Western Tower located at No. 19, 4th Section Renmin Nan Road, Chengdu 610041, Tel: (0086-28)8528 0800 Fax: (0086-28) 8526 8308

* Consulate General of Singapore (新加坡驻成都总领事馆) 31/F East Guan Cheng Square, No.308, Shun Cheng Main Street, Chengdu. Phone 86 28 8652 7222

* Consulate General of the Republic of Korea (韩国驻成都总领事馆) No. 2, Wangfu Oasis Hotel, Xianan Main Street of Chengdu. Phone 86 28 8616 5800

[edit] Phone

China's country code is 86. Chengdu's area code is 28. Coin-operated pay phones are located throughout Chengdu, and calling cards can be purchased from many vendors. Local landline phone numbers are eight digits long; cellular phone numbers in Sichuan are elevin digits long and start with 13.
[edit] Internet

Internet access can be found in most guesthouses and through cheap internet cafes all over town. Look out for the Pacman-character 吧 in the Chinese name for internet bar: 网吧.

* A large Internet cafe is located on the second floor of the Xinnianmen bus station, just 100 meters from the Jiaotong Fandian hotel. The connection is fast and access is ¥2/hour.

[edit] Stay safe

Thieves are prevalent around certain areas of Chengdu. Be careful around the Yanshikou markets and especially around the North train station. There are also many thieves on crowded buses who use razors to cut open pockets and bags. Also watch your bag at all times when riding bicycles around the city, thieves like to run alongside bicycles at traffic lights and reach into bags.
[edit] Cope

For such a big city, there's surprisingly little Western influence in Chengdu. It's definitely not Beijing or Shanghai. This might at first be a little trying, as the level of English is spoken is noticeably lower than other places, but it's really a blessing. Carry a phrasebook or get a guide, and enjoy a more authentic Chinese urban experience!
[edit] Get out

Chengdu is the gateway to Sichuan. Daytrips and trek can be organized to any major attraction is the province. The Giant Budda, Mount Qincheng, Stone Elephant Lake and Jian Chuan Museum can all be reached by regular bus or tour bus (ask your hotel for guidance). Families and those short of time might consider hiring a car with driver (¥300-900 per day, depending upon type of car and experience of driver, with cars booked at the luxury hotels the most expensive and highest quality).

* The Giant Buddha in Leshan is probably the most popular nearby destination. A day trip to this ancient man-made wonder should be about ¥100-150. Two day tours are available which combine the Buddha with a visit to the nearby Buddhist holy mountain Emei Shan.

* Mount Qincheng and the Dujiangyan irrigation system (built 250 BC) are easy day trips about 40km from Chengdu and make for a fascinating visit. You can do both sites in one long day, or better yet, plan to spend a day at each. Qingchen is a beautiful mountain with an extensive and well kept network of steps and pathways, and includes many pogadas, a small lake, and a chair-lift for those who don't want to walk. Dujianyan has a fascinating history and a marvelous swinging pedestrian bridge. Both trips involve lots of walking. The entrance fees for both sites are not cheap. The mountain is ¥90. The cable car up is ¥35 one way or ¥60 round trip. There is a boat one needs to take to cross a natural pond for ¥5. The irrigation system costs an additional ¥90 to enter.

* Stone Elephant Lake Ecological Resort(石象湖) [26] is a fantastic park with acres upon acres of live tulips and tiger lily flowers as well as nature walks and boat rides, and stone carved animals. The best time to go is during the Tulip Festival in early Spring and when the Tiger Lillies bloom in late summer, however, various flowers are usually in bloom from March through August and the nature walks are open year round. Bring your camera. Also bring a picnic lunch or eat in one of the several Chinese restaurants and noodle shops there. The park is about an hour and 15 minutes drive of pure highway driving south of Chengdu. Arrange a car to take you there or ask about bus service. Admission is ¥50.

* Jian Chuan Museum Cluster Industrialist Fan Jian Chuan built this campus of museums to explain the history of 20th Century China. This is the first privately owned museum in Sichuan (privately operated museums in China have only been permitted since the year 2001). The Museum campus contains four buildings about World War II in China - one explaining the Communist Party role, one the Kuomington, one about the American volunteer group "Flying Tigers", and one about Sichuan volunteers. There is also a the modestly named "New China Porcelian Museum", which actually tells the story of the Cultural Revolution through porcelians of that era. A museum that more directly addresses that era is under construction. You will also see buildings explaining the practice of foot-binding and one about prisoners of war. Nearby, you can also walk through a landlord's manor. Make a day trip out of it; the Musuem is in the nearby county of Dayi about an hour's drive from Chengdu. Admission is ¥60. Get around the museum cluster by walking or rent a bicycle built for two; a tea-house is located on site.

* Bi Feng Xia[27] Bi Feng Xia is a large ecological park in the mountains about a two and a half hour drive from Chengdu. It centers around a huge gorge with waterfalls. One can hike down into the gorge on well marked paths and take an elevator back up. The park also has special panda bear habitats, as well as a more traditional "zoo". The main reason to go here is for the walks and hikes into the gorge. The zoo, although filled with animals such as tigers, lions, bears, monkeys, and even a drive-through section, has woefully inadequate and sometimes smelly enclosures. (The enormous bird aviary is one exception). Admission is about ¥80, with additional charges for bus rides between different sections of the park. There is a hotel and basic restaurants on site. Given the distance from Chengdu, probably best to make an overnight trip if you wish to stay here.

* Further afield, you can also trek out to the Tibetan areas of Sichuan. Buses leave everyday for Moxi and other towns. These long bus trips from Xinnanmen-bus station (it's about seven hours to Moxi, and the heating systems on buses in the winter are painfully inadequate) pass through incredibly steep mountain valleys wandering through the Gongga Mountain range. This all terminates at the Hailuogo Glacier, a massive park nearly nine hours from Chengdu. A good two or three day trip.

* To the north there are the Sichuan horse plains and the Jiezhaigou Valley.

Train connections are available to Kunming in Yunnan, Chongqing and Xi'an. Frequent buses also leave for Chongqing, which is the beginning of many cruises down the Yangtze. These tours are available around town in Chengdu, and include transport to Chongqing, about three or four hours away.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Chengdu, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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Chuzhou, China


permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Chuzhou, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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