Miss Laowai Unveiled

“Let’s introduce you all to the ladies of the night,” said the hostess. And so began the pageant for Miss Laowai China 2010. It was a fittingly amusing start for an evening that was to be nothing less than entertaining for those that stayed till its dramatic conclusion.

The main event was split into three sections – national dress, talent, evening gown. There was a planned fourth round – the contestant’s response to a question – which, for those waiting to hear about world peace, unfortunately ended up having to be saved for Miss Laowai 2011.

Interspersed throughout the evening’s main concern were various entertainments: a Polynesian dance troupe, a Romanian expat who won a competition for singing in Mandarin and, the real stars of the night, some limelight-stealing children with an Aikido demonstration. But back to the main event …

National dress was an unusual mixture of the participants faithfully representing their own culture or liberally borrowing from another. The appearance of Indian costume and various Chinese minority outfits was an unexpected twist. The contestants themselves were a mixture mostly made up of Russians and Africans, bulked up by everywhere from Canada to the Ukraine. Their eclectic national dress gave no indication of the variety of talents that they exhibited.

Singing was a popular choice, covering a broad spectrum. One contestant offered a call-to-unarms in her desire for peace in Africa, another threw sand on the floor and gave an impassioned speech on what it is to be an African, while one opted for a crowd-pleasing TCM lecture. The free herbs were a hit.

But nothing hit like the guzheng player-turned-salsa dancer Moldovan representative. The crowd went wild – even when her dance partner’s shoe went into them. It was impressive but it did not match the Australian candidate’s balloon animal display. Full marks.

What beauty pageant would be complete without evening gowns? Certainly not Miss Laowai. This was the hardest round in which to pick a clear winner. All of the ladies did a remarkable job. Sadly that’s not the way that competitions work and after this round the judges’ scores were tallied up for the dramatic climax.

I’ll quote the Global Times for what happened next, “After 10 finalists are named, the six winners (Miss Congeniality, Miss Virtue, Miss Goodwill, Miss Charity, Miss Talent and Miss Laowai) are accidentally fingered by the host before the judges are given the chance to ratchet up the tension.” So there you go, the dramatic finale was not as dramatic as it could have been, but there was such confusion that when the winner was finally clarified it didn’t take the shine off it for Moldovan Ana Ropot as she claimed the crown.

Well done to her, well done to the other finalists and well done to all those involved in organizing the event. It was all for a good cause, the crowd were given value for money along the way and they all had a China experience that they are unlikely to forget. I’m sure they’ll all be back next year for Miss Laowai China 2011.

Source: theBejinger

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Beijing’s Traffic Madness Set to Worsen

Back in July we reported that Beijing had scored the world’s highest rating on the “Commuter Pain Index,” with traffic five times worse than Los Angeles. That followed a Chinese Academy of Sciences report in June that found Beijing had the longest commute times in China. Now comes this news, reported yesterday in the People’s Daily: “Average driving speeds in the Chinese capital will likely drop below 15 km per hour in five years if the number of vehicles continues increasing while no further measures are taken.”

The article claimed Beijing’s car fleet grew by a staggering average of 1,900 cars a day in the first half of 2010, which means the capital will have around 7 million cars by 2015 if the current growth rate continues. According to the Wall Street Journal, the city’s roads have a maximum capacity of 6.7 million vehicles.

In what may be a sign of things to come for Beijing, a traffic jam along National Expressway 110 (G110) between Beijing and Inner Mongolia entered its eleventh day yesterday according to The Guardian. Jonathan Watts reported:

“The Chinese authorities are struggling to clear the congestion, now entering its eleventh day and which, at its peak, stretched for more than 60 miles (100km). But the drivers still joining it are not optimistic about reaching their destinations swiftly.

‘I have not moved for five hours,’ said Zhang Xingping, 27, standing outside his cab near a road traffic sign mockingly warning him to obey the 100km per hour speed limit.”

Xinhua reported earlier this week that the congestion has been caused by a combination of increased coal truck traffic and road works to repair damage caused by the heavy vehicles.

Trucks have reportedly been caught in the jam for days at a time, allowing villagers along the route to make a handsome profit selling overpriced instant noodles and bottles of water to the hapless drivers.

Source theBeijinger

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Beijing’s population surges near 20 million

Commuters try hard to squeeze into a train at a stop on subway Line 1 in Beijing, July 14, 2010. [Photo / Xinhua]

Beijing municipal people’s congress revealed this week that the Chinese capital now has 19.72 million inhabitants, growing by over 3% in the past 2 years.

Previous estimates had predicted that the city’s population would swell to that level a decade later than it has. According to the guidelines regarding Beijing’s development between 2004 and 2020 set by the State Council, the number of permanent residents living in capital should have been capped below 18 million until the end of 2020.

However, a recently released report from the population investigation and research team within the people’s congress shows that by the end of 2009, approximately 12.46 million people in the capital held a Beijing “hukou” (permanent residence). An additional 7.26 million inhabitants were migrant workers who had been living in the city for more than half a year and who are therefore also classified as permanent residents.

After analyzing the change in population between 2006 and 2009, the team found that Beijing’s population had undergone rapid growth during the first four years of the 11th Five-Year Development Plan, mainly as a result of an explosion in the floating population.

Natural birth contributed 482,000 extra people during the past four years while the jump in the floating population accounted for 1.52 million additional inhabitants.

The report points out that now the total size of the floating population in the capital could have exceeded 10 million people, if members of the army deployed in Beijing, unregistered migrant workers and people on short visits are also added to the mix.

The massive growth in Beijing’s population, which is mainly comprised of young adults, plays an important role in the booming development of the city. Unfortunately, say critics, it unavoidably brings more pressure on the city’s natural resources.

Wang Jian, a water specialist with Green SOS, an NGO based in Beijing, told METRO that the current water reserves in Beijing can only support about half of its residents, and not the nearly 20 million people who now live in the city.

The population explosion not only burdens the environment but also the whole infrastructure, public service system and the management of society, say experts.

Wu Shoulun, a retired professor from Beihang University who is also a member of the congress’s research team, said in a media report that every aspect of people’s daily life can be influenced by the huge population, as it leads to high-priced-apartments, chaos on public transportation and challenges for the education system. Maya Reid, a 25-year-old woman from Canada, has noticed the sharp rise in the capital’s population since she arrived in Beijing four years ago.

“My home country has a population of 30 million. It’s not like we can find a seat in subway every time but it has never been so packed and you can always find a place to breathe,” said Reid who, commutes to work each day on Beijing’s subway.

Figures show that around 32.3 percent of commercial apartments were sold to people who did not have Beijing permanent residency papers between 2005 and 2009. In 2008, 40 percent of students in compulsory education in Beijing were from the floating population. Both facts suggest the floating population is growing massively.

“It is time for the government to take into consideration proper population control,” Wu told the Beijing Daily on Wednesday.

His team suggested that the government changes the current industry structure in Beijing, opening more hi-tech companies and attracting more high-end people to Beijing instead of laborers.

However, Mu Guangzong, a professor from the Institute of Population Research with Peking University, had a different point of view.

“I believe the market can help with the adjustment of population. High-end people will also need someone to help them with housekeeping and other stuff,” Mu told METRO on Thursday.

“People who are useful for society will stay and those who are not may leave gradually.”

Mu said the reason why Beijing attracts more people than any other cities is because the capital is a better place to live than many other cities.

“The root lies in the huge different living standards between big cities and small villages. And the difference is still increasing,” he said.

Source: China daily

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Travel guide to Beijing

Beijing (Capital City of China) As the capital of China, Beijing is one of the world’s truly imposing cities, with a 3,000-year history and 22 million. Covering 16,808 square kilometers in area, it is the political, cultural and economic center of the People’s Republic.

Situated in northeast China, Beijing adjoins the Inner Mongolian Highland to the northwest and the Great Northern Plain to the south. Five rivers run through the city, connecting it to the eastern Bohai Sea. Administratively, the Beijing municipality equals the status of a province, reporting directly to the central government. Rich in history, Beijing has been China’s primary capital for more than seven centuries. China’s imperial past and political present meet at Tiananmen square, where the Forbidden City palace of the emperors gives way to the Great Hall of the People congress building and the mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong. The old city walls have been replaced by ring roads, and many of the old residential districts of alleys and courtyard houses have been turned into high-rise hotels, office buildings, and department stores. Beijing, a dynamic city where the old and new intermingle, remains a magnet for visitors from inside and outside China.

Beijing is a city of broad boulevards, now full of traffic and pulsating to the rhythms of commerce and entertainment. Museums and parks abound, including the Palace Museum of the Forbidden City and Beihai Park in the center of town. Nearby, the China Fine Arts Museum (Zhongguo meishuguan) exhibits the work of contemporary artists. China’s ancient past and recent history are on view at the Museum of Chinese History and Chinese Revolution at Tiananmen. Antiques, crafts, and books can be found at Liulichang, an old antique market district remodeled in the 1980’s to reflect the style of the old city. Some of the spirit of Old Beijing is also preserved at Qianmen, south of Tiananmen, with stores that date to the early 20th century and beyond, including the Tongrentang Traditional Medicine Shop, first established in 1669. Beijing Opera performances and acrobatic troupes keep those traditional entertainment forms vital, while contemporary music clubs and discos thrive in an era of liberalization and prosperity.

The Forbidden City (Imperial Palace, Palace Museum, Gugong) At the city center is the imperial palace complex of 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors. In imperial times it was called as the Purple Forbidden City from the association of the emperors with the color of the Pole Star. Surrounded by 10 meter (32 feet) high walls and gates and a 50m (164 ft.) wide moat, it was inaccessible to ordinary people, but well populated by imperial family members, their servants and staffs, officials, and guards. The major ceremonial buildings of the palace are aligned on a north-south axis that extends beyond the walls toward the Temple of Heaven complex and Yongding Gate in the south. The main entrance to the palace complex is via the Meridian Gate (Wumen), from which the New Year was announced each year by the emperor, proclamations were read, and the fate of prisoners decided. Past five white marble bridges and the Gate of Supreme Harmony, a great courtyard could accommodate up to several thousand people for state ceremonies such as the imperial weddings.

The three most important ceremonial buildings are on the north-south axis, raised on a high white marble terrace, and accessed by ramps carved with ornate dragons over which the emperor was carried in a palanquin. The three main halls and associated side buildings formed the outer courtyard of the Forbidden City, devoted primarily to official and ceremonial functions, but including imperial libraries and studies. The inner chambers at the rear of the Forbidden City included private living and sleeping quarters of the imperial family, divided into three palaces and twelve courtyards. The Western Palaces were the residences of empresses, concubines, and princes. The Eastern Palace halls are now used as museum exhibition spaces, devoted to ritual bronze vessels, ceramics, craft objects, antique clocks, and paintings, including objects from the imperial collections and archaeological finds. The back precincts include the Palace of Aging Peacefully (Ningshou Gong) where the Qianlong Emperor of the late 18th century spent his retirement years.

Tiananmen Square Just south of the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square (The Gate of Heavenly Peace Square), the largest inner-city square in the world that can hold up to a million people. It was cleared in 1958 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, replacing an older open space in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the main entrance to the imperial city, that had a longer history of political importance. On May 4, 1919, students demonstrated here against provisions of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I that were considered unfair to China. The May Fourth Movement spawned here was a widespread movement for political and literary modernization that impacted the rest of the century.

After the founding of the People’s Republic, Tiananmen Square became symbolic of the socialist state through the construction in 1959 of the Great Hall of the People on its western side, and the Museums of Chinese History and the Chinese Revolution on its eastern edge. In the same period, a Monument to the People’s Heroes was erected in the center of the square. In addition, following Chairman Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, a Chairman Mao Mausoleum building was erected directly on the main north-south axis of the square. It contains the preserved body of Mao in a crystal sarcophagus, along with a standing marble statue of the Chairman. China’s imperial past, revolutionary history, and political present are all represented vividly in Tiananmen Square.(More China vacations information at Travel 2 China Info Dot COM) Temple of Heaven Located in the southern part of the city, close to the main north-south axis leading to the Forbidden City, is the Temple of Heaven complex of ritual buildings. The halls and altars here are round, symbolic of heaven.?A counterpart Earth Altar in the north of the city uses the square profile symbolic of earth; temples of the sun (in the east) and moon (west) complete a ceremonial surround for Beijing that made it not only a political capital but also a ritual center, shaped in the form of a cosmic diagram. The emperor, as Son of Heaven, performed priestly as well as ruling functions. Each year on the day of the winter solstice, following three days of fasting and meditation, the emperor would offer sacrifices and pray for a good harvest at the Altar of Heaven, a three-tiered round white marble structure, built in 1530 and reconstructed in 1740. The round altar sits on a square base, symbolic of the meeting of heaven and earth, a theme carried through in the shape of the complex as a whole, a semicircle atop a square. (More China vacations information at Travel 2 China Info Dot COM) Just north of the Altar of Heaven is the octagonal Imperial Vault of Heaven building, which contained tablets of the imperial ancestors and astronomical plaques of the constellations and meteorological occurrences. The outer wall of the Vault of Heaven Hall is known as the Echo Wall, from its ability to transmit even whispered voices around its length. Farther north is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, originally built in 1420, remodeled in 1545, destroyed by lightning in 1889, and rebuilt in the following year, in part using Oregon fir wood for the supporting pillars. West of these buildings is the Altar of Farming, where each year in spring the emperor personally ploughed eight furrows to symbolically assure a good harvest. The Hall of the Year Gods (now housing the Museum of Chinese Architecture) was where the emperor sacrificed to the gods of the year and asked for a good harvest.(More China vacations information at Travel 2 China Info Dot COM) Summer Palace Fifteen kilometers (9 miles) to the northwest of Beijing is the Summer Palace. Now a large park of 716 acres, it was formerly the imperial garden retreat from the summer heat of Beijing. Surrounding hills shelter the site, and the Kunming Lake provides a cooling effect. The site was used as an imperial park as early as the mid-12th century, and continued as an imperial garden in the Ming and Qing dynasties. In 1860 Anglo-French forces burned the site to the ground.?It was reconstructed by the Empress Dowager Cixi in 1888, using funds that had been reserved for building a modern naval force. The large marble boat that sits immobile by the edge of the lake is an ironic reminder of the waste and mismanagement that led to the decline of the imperial state. The Great Wall The Great Wall is perhaps China’s most famous and most mythologized site. Several sections are conveniently visited from Beijing, including at Badaling, the most popular site, about 70 km (43 mi.) northwest of Beijing and at Mutianyu, 90 km (56 mi.) northeast of Beijing. These impressive brick and earth structures date from the Ming dynasty, when the wall was fortified against Mongol forces to the north. The Ming wall is about 26 feet tall and 23 feet wide at the base, and could accommodate up to six horsemen riding abreast. Watch towers were built on high points every 200-300 meters or so with small garrison forces that could communicate with fire signals or fireworks. These stretches of the wall are part of a system that extends from the Shanhaiguan fortress on the Bohai Gulf in the east to the Jiayuguan fortress in the west, altogether some 6000 km (3700 mi). (More China vacations information at Travel 2 China Info Dot COM) The Ming sections of the wall are only a late stage in a long history, much of which has little to do with the present structures.?The wall is most often associated with the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huangdi, reigned 221-210 BC), who after unifying China by conquest undertook to link up previously existing sections of walls belonging to conquered states, but on a course far to the north of the present wall. The First Emperor mobilized massive conscripted labor forces, including convicts and prisoners, by some accounts up to a million strong, to conduct this building campaign. While the Great Wall in its various versions had real military defensive functions, it also served symbolic purposes. For long periods Chinese populations lived north of the wall and nomads or semi-nomads lived south of it. The wall served as a symbolic reminder of dynastic authority and also of cultural distinction between settled agrarian culture and cities on the Chinese side and pastoral horsemen on the other. It continues today to serve as a marker of cultural and national identity. Where Can I Find 24-hour Stores in Beijing? Many people feel summer evenings are much more agreeable than daytime. It’s cooler and the neon lights create a glittering skyline. So to enjoy the evening, some prefer to have fun and stay up until late at night. In case that they may need some snacks, drinks or things urgently to have fun, Beijing has many convenience stores operating around the clock to serve their needs at any hour.(More China vacations information at Travel 2 China Info Dot COM) Seven-Eleven Seven-Eleven has lots of food on hand, like instant noodles, biscuits, potato chips, chewing gum, as well as magazines, newspapers, hair care products, batteries, cigars, beer and even Chinese Maotai wine, which is a must for a formal Chinese banquet. Seven-Eleven features fresh -made food as well as fresh local food, such as deep-fried dough sticks, soybean milk, hot rice porridge, and various breads. Location: No.5 Dongzhimei Neidajie, Dongcheng District Tel: 010-84060189 Beijing Green Tree Market Green Tree Market features Korean goods ranging from food to things for daily use. Here ice cream lovers can find original Korean ice cream which are reasonably priced, about 10 yuan each.

Green Tree Market also has a counter dedicated to Korean skin care product line The Face Shop, which aren’t too expensive. Shoppers who are hungry late at night can also find fresh sushi here, which are made by chefs on the spot. Location: No.18 Wangzhuanglu, Wudaokou, Haidian District Tel: 010-62318113 Hi-24 This is the favorite spot of middle school students who come here for lunch. Hi-24 stores are usually not big and things here are priced a bit higher than most other convenient stores. Yet here shoppers can always find the latest snacks and drinks. Besides, at Hi-24 stores shopper can also recharge their IC bus transportation card here. Location: No.178 Di’anmen Waidajie, Xicheng District Tel: 010-64045257 Xu Yong’s Photo Tour of Beijing’s “hutongs”.

Hutong Exploration Cycle around the interesting old hutong, listen to the guide elaborate the beauty of Beijing’s history, hutong life, customs, and architecture. Visit a 100-year-old whorehouse before moving on for a 15-minute sojourn around an antique market nearby. The last stop is at Houhai for a tea or beer break before cycling back to the hotel. Price: 100 yuan (US$12) including bicycle rental and English speaking guide. 70 yuan (US$8.4) for those with their own bike. Time/date: 1 to 4:30 PM, October 23 Meeting place: the entrance of Beijing International Hotel, 9 Jianguomennei Dajie, Dongcheng District, Cycle China staff will carry a flag with Cycle China logo. Reservations are required at reserve@cyclechina.com. Poems and Music Come to appreciate Chinese classical music and hear about the stories of the related poems. Understand how Chinese people connect the two to create a specific image to express their feelings and cultivate their minds. Price: 50 yuan (US$6) Time/date: 7:30 to 9 PM, October 27 Place: Inside the Kent Centre, northeast of Lufthansa Center, Anjialou and Liangma Lu, Chaoyang District Tel: 86-10-6432-9341

Xinjiang Dance Learn about Xinjiang dance, one of China’s most typical folk dances, with professional dancers and national first-class dance teachers. Price: 60 yuan (US$7.2) Time/date: 7 to 8:30 PM, October 24, 31 Place: Peking Opera Photography House, inside Kent Center northeast of Luftansa Centre, Anjialou, Chaoyang District Reservation at 86-10-6432-9341

SOURCE: chinatour.com

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Chongqing-Yichang Cruise Line

Chongqing–Yichang:­ 4 Days and 3 Nights Downstream Cruise Route

The itinerary is the highlight of Yangtze River…

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What credit cards do I have to bring with me?

Take your credit cards like Visa, Master Card and American Express.

Make sure they are actually credit cards and not just debit cards with the logo of the credit card company on them. Many places require a credit card and debit cards are accepted, so it may be of limited use in its path.

Leave all the premises of their credit cards from the store in a safe place at home, no need to take with you.

Why should I contact my credit card companies before leaving?

You want to notify them of your trip. You may be a delay if they do not realize you are traveling. The unusual spending patterns to make you suspect that your card is being used fraudulently and delay your approval.

They will be able to explain many of the services they can offer while traveling.

How can my credit card company help me prepare for my trip?

You can make arrangements to pay the bills that are due while you are away.

They are aware that you will be making charges in another country.

They can give you an idea of how acceptable is your credit card in that country.

They can verify their acceptance in certain overseas locations.

They 抣 l be able to see if your PIN number works in the countries you are visiting. You can also issue another PIN number if your current PIN is unacceptable to the banking system 抯 foreign.

Can you explain cash advance, ATM, foreign purchase and foreign policies and exchange rates.

Can you explain the services they offer, such as additional insurance for your rental car, luggage or shopping. Make sure the coverage offered is extended outside the United States and will be valid in all countries where the travel 抣. Also, be sure to note any exception.

They may need to take another telephone number to call if you need to reach them. The 800 number listed on the back of your card can not work from different locations abroad.

You can find out if they charge a currency conversion fee, so you can find the cheapest card on which to place their purchases abroad.

Should I use my ATM card while traveling?

Yes,  I have access to cash during your trip so that you will have much money with you and your ATM card can also be a good way to get cash abroad.

The ATM will issue money in local currency.

You must change in the Bank 抯 kind of wholesale change. You may still want to shop around to different banks, as some will charge a fee of intensive use their ATMs. Although ATM transactions may be high even less than others charge for currency exchanges.

Do not wait until it is no money to go to an ATM, the machines can run out of money or break.

What should I know about using travelers checks?

If the particular brand of traveler’s checks are accepted in the country of visit.

How are widely accepted in countries  visit.

The fees for the purchase and use of traveler’s checks.

The lost traveler’s checks 抯 society, replacement and refund policies.

How I can protect my travelers checks during the trip?

Take the same precautions you to protect your cash. Be sure to learn and follow the required procedures, if you lose your traveler’s checks. You 抣 l also need to make copies of your travelers checks before you go and stay out of them the following information.

The serial numbers of travelers checks.

The name of the traveler’s checks.

The date and place of purchase.

The phone number to call to report missing persons.

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