Hiking in Hebei – Cangyan Mount 苍岩山

Shijiazhuang (石家庄) is the capital of Hebei province, a province neighboring Beijing city & a large contributer to the influx of migrants into the city. A second – tier city,  at present there isn’t a whole lot to do which would attract a foreign visitor to stay for a week, however if you’re in Beijing, this is a nice offering for a day trip of hiking in one of the Buddhist holy mountains.

Cangyan Mountain 苍岩山

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This 1039.6 meter mountain, takes about 2 hours to ascend and has been featured in director Lee Ann’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (WoHu CanLong 卧虎藏龙), and the Karate Kid. If not able to climb, a lift is available but the beginning point of the lift is about 20 minutes further up the road from where the tour bus will drop you off. Hiking is recommended. It’s not a very steep mountain and you will miss most of the sites if you take the lift up.

Known for its three Buddhist temples, with the most famous being Fortune Celebration Temple (福庆寺) because it’s situated in the direct center of the mountain, this is definitely a place worth taking a day for.

How to get there:

Tour bus leaves from Shijiazhuang XiWang Bus Station (石家庄 西王 客运站 shijiazhuang xiwang keyun zhan)

The bus station is quite far from the Shijiazhuang West Station (the station coming from Beijing), so my friend and I took Bus 1 then transferred to bus 314 (can also take 9). Get off at XiWang Zhan (西王站)。Cross the street and locate the red sign of bus station, next to ICBC.
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At the station, you can purchase both a Round-trip bus ticket for 48 元, and a cangyan  mountain entrance ticket for an additional 65 元, saving you 5 元 off the gate’s on-site purchase entry fee.

At this point, you can board the bus (Departures: starting from 8:40am every 30 minutes until 5:30pm. Returns: last bus leaves at 7pm – check with bus attendant. Times are also dependent on number of passengers ). Check your ticket and match it to the bus number. About a 2 hour ride.

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The bus attendant will ask you for a phone number for contact, and will also inform you of your assigned departure time. If you have a chinese phone number, be aware that China Unicom does not have good reception in the mountains.

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Enjoy!

Find me on Instagram @jaycreatesalpha

How to get your money outta China!

[Disclaimer: speaking as an American citizen legally employed in Mainland China. Amounts of money allowed to convert/send overseas may vary by citizenship.]

5 + 1 ways of getting your money out of Mainland China. I’ve tried them all except #5, but many associates of mine have used that method.

OVERSEAS WIRE BANK TRANSFER – IN BANK

Costs: 150 RMB – 230 RMB total [varies by bank, I use ICBC]

  1. Add’l costs: Wire Receipt Fee from home bank. [Bank of America charges $15 USD]

Materials: Wire Transfer Form, Passport, Local Bank Card

Info needed:

  1. Full name, local address (I just put my district & Beijing city), passport info
  2. Amount in USD that you want to send,
  • Overseas receiving bank name & SWIFT code (some banks, such as local credit unions do not have SWIFT codes)
  1. Overseas receiving bank’s address (choose any address in your home state)
  2. Your account number at overseas bank

Steps

  1. Go to bank, and tell them you want to send a transfer outside the country.
  2. Fill out form (they have an example form at the counter)
    1. You are the Sender & the Recipient
  3. Wait in line. 30 minutes to 3 hours. Chinese banks are EXTREMELY, GLACIALLY slow. They fill out, and you sign, A LOT of papers.
  4. Wait 24 hours.

Additional, but important notes:

  1. Although you can send up to $10,000 USD at one time… you can only CONVERT $500 USD per day. Which means you can…
    1. Go to the bank many times – something I do often bc I’m lazy.
    2. Go to the local tax office to ascertain a certificate proving you pay taxes through your company/place of employment. Also have some proof of current employment. At this point, you can convert as much as you want at one time

 

OVERSEAS WIRE TRANSFER – ONLINE BANKING

Costs: Less than 100 RMB [Varies by bank]

Add’l costs: Wire Receipt Fee from home bank

Info needed: Same as step 1

Steps:

  1. First have already converted money inside your bank account’s Forex. Because you are a foreigner, you must physically go to the brick-and-mortar bank building to convert money. Ridiculous, I know.
  2. Plug online banking USB into your computer (needs a one-time setup process).
  3. Log into online banking.
  1. Go to “transfers”. Then “transfers to overseas bank”.
  2. Fill out the information as prompted. Your “reason” for conversion can be any of the options – doesn’t matter.
  3. Confirm, then double-confirm on your USB. Wait 24 working hours.

Additional, but important notes:

  1. Saves money. ICBC online transfers only cost 40 RMB plus the receiving fee your overseas bank charges.

 

PAYPAL TO PAYPAL

Costs: varies by amount

Materials: Same as steps 1-2, except SWIFT code

Info Needed: Same as all info before

Steps:

  1. Create a Chinese PayPal account on Paypal.cn.
    1. As far as I know it’s mostly in Chinese, but perhaps I just failed to find the English option.
  2. Link your Chinese bank account to it.
  • Using a VPN set to a server in your home country, create an overseas PayPal (for me, an USA PayPal account).
  1. Log off VPN, so you’re back on Chinese server, log into Chinese PayPal, withdraw from your bank at a service fee of about 4-6%. If you choose USD, it will convert for you.
  2. Send to your home PayPal address just as a person sending to another person.

Additional, but important notes:

  1. Total costs are nearly equivalent to an at-the-counter bank wire but a little more convenient.
  2. Not sure on limits; I’ve only tried $500 – 1000 at a time.
  • Might need to be able to read Chinese characters.

 

WESTERN UNION

 

  1. Costs: can vary, but usually about 100 – 230 RMB
    1. Add’l costs: Your time finding a bank that definitely offers WU [the signs sometimes lie]. And time is money.
    2. Also need to pay $15 USD in cash to send.
  2. Materials: Passport, Cash, Info (especially ID info for extra safety) of receiver
  3. Steps:
    1. Fill out form.
    2. Wait in line. This is a Chinese bank.
  • Make sure to double-check your info.
  1. Add’l info:
    1. Also be sure to have them circle, highlight, etc. the number your recipient needs in order to pick up your money
    2. Common places: China Post Office or China Agricultural Bank

 

SAME ACCOUNT, TWO DEBIT CARDS. [ONE IN CHINA, ONE OVERSEAS]

 

Costs: 5-15 RMB for a duplicate Chinese bank debit card. Postage to mail your debit card. Or ticket for a flight home to give it to a trusted friend/family member.

Materials: Passport and original Chinese bank debit card.

Steps:

  1. Go to the bank.
  2. Request a duplicate. Tell them just because you want one (they’re so nosy).
  • Give it to your friend/family member back home.
  1. They can withdraw the money in your home currency for a small fee.

Additional, but important info:

  1. Your country must take Union Pay at their ATMs. I know that America, Australia, S. Korea and Malaysia do.
  2. Fee varies by ATM, but it seems to be significantly cheaper than bank wires.
  • Mailing your card has a high risk of it being stolen. This is China.

 

HUIPIAO 汇票 [TEMPORARILY/INDEFINITELY SUSPENDED

 

  1. I’ll post more details if this comes back, but essentially they would write a physical check. You could then use your banking app, such as the Bank of America app to take a photo & thereby deposit the check. It was only 15 RMB. So mad it’s gone!!!! cries a river

No Chinese in China? Resources to self-learn (actively & passively)

  1. Do you speak Chinese fluently now? Nope.
  2. Why not? Don’t you live in China? Yep. And I work for a company that has a strict  no-Chinese policy on site… and I spend my days off inside my house recovering from a grueling week (watching Netflix),  OR doing homework, because I’m also a part-time post-grad student.
  3. So that means…? I only speak Chinese to order food, to order taxis, argue with police officers (my favorite use of 中文), do banking & to chat with my colleagues in the office when the door is closed.

My formal collegiate and secondary-school academic studies in Chinese are what carry me here in China because I don’t have much social time to spend with locals or attend language classes. Unfortunately, I completed my Chinese language examination in May 2012, never touched the language again until I moved to China, so I forgot 95% of it. Recovered about 20% of it (and my Spanish) my first 6 months here.

My progress since being in China.

Speaking: Beginner –>  high-elementary/low-intermediate.

Reading: Upper-intermediate.Was always pretty solid in recognizing grammar patterns. Vocabulary is my problem.

Listening: Beginner –> Intermediate.

Writing: higher-almost-upper intermediate. Same as reading. Handicapped by a lack of vocabulary.

After meeting many other people in China, I realize, I’m not the only one with this problem (and who doesn’t want to hire a private tutor because we’re paying student loans back), so I’m just gonna quickly share some of the sites & resources I & others have used actively & passively to improve on our own!

And I’d love for you to share yours!


 

Jay (me):

Understanding basic grammar patterns, high-frequency vocabulary and the oral tones in Mandarin, watching movies with “pinyin” subtitles are really helpful for developing your listening. Especially if you’re not around Mandarin speakers very often. In addition, contextual use of words can introduce you to new vocabulary.

YouTube channel LearnChineseFromMovies – 汉语/pinyin/English subtitles

–> “Shower”, Full Movie (broken into separate parts & re-subtitled) – YouTube

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YouTube Channel Off the Great Wall

–> Cantonese vs Mandarin 


 

Nikki:

How long? less than 4 months…

Can do? She’s able to make simple requests, find information, take directions, and order food. No conversations yet.

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ChineseSkill – Speak Survival Kit

 

 

Black Life Beijing – Game Night (Group)

**This post is updated regularly with upcoming events**

Two years ago when I accepted my job offer in China, I remember Googling “black people in China”, “chinese black people”, “african americans china”, “africans in china”, and the search results were sadly sparse.

Since then, Tony Reyes, an American Fullbright scholar created the “Black Life China” wechat group as part of his study, which later birthed the “black life beijing” group, “black life shanghai”, “black life guangzhou”, and so forth. Since then, Black Life Beijing remains the most active group, and we’ve got an related “game night” group. Here’s a recap of some of our latest events! The last photo contains the QR code to scan in order to join the group Black Life Beijing.

Disclaimer: Real person identity is personally verified for membership, and then we’ll invite you into the game night group. No trolls/bots allowed. Non-blacks friends are welcome to join our events.😛

 

Check the wechat group for updates!

 

  1. Paintball #KillThenChill (Upcoming):  Sunday, April 10th. 3-6pm. BBQ dinner 6-7pm.
    1. Cost: 128 RMB + (700 RMB transportation cost to be split between attendees)
    2. Location: Contact us personally. My WeChat: Shandianxia28
  2. KTV (Karaoke)
    1. We’ve had many of these — pictures coming soon!
  3. Bowling Night 宝林秋- East Gate Plaza, Tower A (Dongzhimen) 北京市 东城区 东环广场 A座 (东直门)- Saturday, March 5th 周六 5号3月

Tacos, drinks & funnel cakes to end the night!

Find me on wechat微信: shandianxia28

South of Siberia: Harbin’s International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival 哈尔滨国际冰雪节

It was so cold… I couldn’t be bothered to sing my personal rendition of Vanilla Ice’s hit, “Ice Ice Baby”. It’d have been so appropriate.

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Harbin in one night & one day.

 

Beginning of the night… Central Street中央大街

[Russian shops, glazed fruit sticks & harbin sausage 红肠 are good things to find here]

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Middle of the night… Ice & Snow World国际冰雪节

 

 

[290 RMB entry]

The low temperatures will kill your phone battery after about 2 minutes, so either bring a real camera or take advantage of the photographers that will hassle you for a  30 minute photo shoot. [We bargained our photos down to 50rmb for 10 — they’re print copies, btw]

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There are actually 3 parks for the festival:

  1. Ice & Snow World – see at night
  2. Ice Lantern Park – see at night
  3. Sun Island – see in day

 

Late night… Russian disco club俄罗斯酒吧

Dance-off against the students I met at HeiLong University 黑龙大学. Pretty much the spot for foreigners to dance at — good variety of music — hiphop starts around 1am

 

Early morning… Saint Sophia Cathedral 生索菲亞教堂

[20 RMB entry]

All of the writings inside the cathedral are written in Chinese, so unless you can read Chinese, you’re better off taking photos in the main area & admiring beneath the “Last Supper” painting.

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Afternoon… Siberian Tiger Park 东北虎林园🐯

The African lions were in snow. And yes, I know it snows in North Africa, but I feel like these particular lions weren’t from that part. They looked kinda cold. Maybe it was just me.😦

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And then… Bye bye Harbin! Off to Guilin in Yunan Province, China — mountain climbing — beautiful scenery!

 

 

 

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