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I find that people who want to submit guest blogs fall into two groups. These are bloggers who want to promote their own blogs and commercial organizations that wish to have backlinks.
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Chengdu - Picture courtesy of Wikipedia user ASDFGH
A cursory glance at the streets of Chengdu makes it difficult to believe that my adopted country was once known as the Kingdom of Bicycles. In the last decade the car has become indispensable amongst China's new urban elite: a shop-shiny model is now a badge of status on par with the ubiquitous bejewelled iPhone and manicured poodle, and few city-dwellers earning the required amount to own one would be seen dead on a two wheels. This is not to say that the bicycle has disappeared from China's streets – indeed, the widening rich-poor divide ensures this. However, for most they remain a cheap method of getting from A to B with narry a thought paid to aesthetics. Hence the prevalence of elderly cigar-puffing gents cruising down People's Road on pink, basketed, third-hand affairs.
Keen cyclists need not fret, however. Arriving on a last minute flight into the city, I had little time to check out the scene before I arrived : I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that Chengdu plays host to a movement of two-wheeled enthusiasts intent on making the most of a city which, being almost completely flat, fulfils a key cyclability criterion. Small local shop Natooke does a steady trade in colourful fixed-gear bikes of the sort more commonly straddled by hipster denizens of East London. The Rules for cycling in China remain markedly different from those of E1, however. Therefore, readers are advised to proceed with caution and pay close attention to the following:
1. The bike lane is strictly for bikes only. Including electric scooters, obviously. And tuk-tuks (they're basically a bike, right?). Also taxis, because sometimes they need to get their passengers to a destination very quickly and all the other lanes are too busy. And cars if they really feel like it. Oh, and cement lorries, because by this time they feel left out.
2. Ride in the same direction as the traffic. Except when you want to go the other way.
3. Helmets are for wimps. Ditto lights (especially if you're on a tuk-tuk or electric scooter – those things drain the battery).
4. Pollution is an issue at the forefront of today's China. Therefore be mindful of wasting energy and load your bike with as much as you can feasibly carry before setting off. Transportable items include but are by no means limited to: water barrels, curtain rails, animals (domestic and livestock), the contents of your portable fruit shop, the contents of your portable mobile phone shop, and your Nan.5. Given the absence of lights and the fluidity of directional regulations, shout and/or ring your bell loudly at all times to let everyone know you are coming. Try your best to be heard above everyone else who is doing exactly the same thing.
Cycling in a large Chinese city has brought with it its fair share of japes, scrapes and near misses - my favourite being the man who knocked me off my bike, took me to get patched up, and initiated an awkward conversation about the relative morality of British and Chinese women. Meanwhile, a doctor who would not have looked out of place next to Michael Palin in Terry Gilliam's Brazil loomed over me wielding the iodine. I would wholeheartedly urge any and all to attempt it, however - as long as you are prepared to play by The Rules (if nothing else, you'll dine out on the anecdotes for years).
Lucy McCormick lives in Chengdu, Sichuan province. When not writing or teaching, she spends
her time climbing mountains, sipping bai cha in backstreet tea houses and dodging traffic – with
limited success – on her bicycle.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 22 May 2013 16:47)
Discover the History of Edinburgh Over a Long May Bank Holiday Weekend
Regarded worldwide as one of the most popular short break cities in the British Isles, Edinburgh’s abundance of history and culture continues to draw in large crowds every year, making it a popular choice for May Bank Holiday breaks. With Edinburgh Castle at the centre of the city and the imposing Arthur’s Seat on the outskirts, you’re never far away from an important landmark as you explore the attractions. To this day, many of the city’s historical sites continue to impact on its success as a leading short break destination, and with such beautiful views it’s easy to see why.
Dating back to the 9th century, Edinburgh Castle has been a dominant force in the development of Scotland through the years. Battles and sieges were fought over it, monarchs lived and died within it and it has now become the country’s leading tourist attraction. Located on its mountainous platform and surrounded by restaurants and public houses, the Castle towers over the rest of the city offering spectacular views across the nearby Pentland Hills. If you’re looking for the ideal photo opportunity, it doesn’t get any better than the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
Another great place to visit during an Edinburgh short break is The Palace of Holyrood house. Whether you enjoy discovering royal memorabilia or simply appreciate period décor and architecture, Holyrood house is a breath taking reminder of Scotland’s rich history. Coming up in August, visitors can enjoy an even closer look what’s it’s like to live in the palace as they open the doors to the West Drawing Room – a room used by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her visits. As the official Scottish residence of Queen Elizabeth II, guests can also explore fourteen of its state apartments and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, offering you a true taste of life as a royal.
There’s also a fantastic array of shops and restaurants dotted around the cobbled streets that are perfect for relaxing and taking in the magnificent surroundings.
As far as destinations for a May Bank Holiday break go, Edinburgh ticks every box. Not only is it one of the most exciting cities in the UK for food, music and arts, but its detailed history and cultural highlights make for the perfect balance of having fun and discovering new things. Great rail connections also make visiting the city incredibly easy, as it’s only 2.5 hours from the likes of York and Manchester and around 4 hours from London. So whether you’re escaping the everyday routine for a relaxing weekend or are looking for an exciting break full of exploring, Edinburgh is a must visit this May Bank Holiday.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 07 May 2013 18:42)
Our arrival in Berlin was a bit flat as our flight had been delayed, so we only had time to dump our bags at Generator on Oranienburger Straße before heading out for the evening. The guy at the desk recommended Ashpalt as a good place to do some serious clubbing and shake off our frustrations. So we jumped on the U-Bahn and he was right. We had a great night out and felt much better after a few hours of dancing and there was even a restaurant where we could grab a snack later on to keep us going.
We had booked in advance to have lunch at the top of the Fernsehturm TV Tower in Alexander Platz. So turning up early was a good idea as it meant we could take our time getting a good look out across the city. You can see the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the Olympic Stadium from here and enjoy a drink at the bar too, which is exactly what we did! And the best bit was that showing our entrance ticket got us a third off the bill!
After the stunning views across the city we felt like a bit of art history and went on a trek to find the famous East Side Gallery. It doesn’t really look like much; just a wall covered in graffiti but you can really feel the history, it is a shame the city keep trying to knock bits of it down! Nearby we got a fantastic coffee and cake at Kaffeeladen on Simon-Dach strasse. Then we went right across the city by S-Bahn to a restaurant/club that we had heard was worth a visit.
Zwiebelfisch was welcoming and a bit more like a relaxed pub than a club but still the food was great, local fare. There were loads of locals in there and the evening just flew as we chatted and downed a few beers.
On Sunday morning we got up early and stopped off for breakfast at a little deli on Sophienstrasse called Barcomi. A couple of bagels and cups of amazing, freshly ground coffee woke us up and we felt prepared for the day ahead so we went off down the road to Museum Island. My friend had particularly wanted to see the Pergamon Museum there.
After we had soaked up some culture for a couple of hours (and we could have stayed for much longer, had we the stamina!) we decided to head to a cafe for lunch. And as the sun was shining this was the perfect opportunity to take a wander down Unter Den Linden which was lovely with the trees just coming into their spring wear. We found a busy little place called Cafe Einstein which we liked the sound of. The café was a little spot of pre-war Germany and had loads of art deco stuff on the walls – it was like going into a tiny museum (with food!)
Refreshed and feeling full we headed on towards the Brandenburg Gate, one of the places that you just have to see in Berlin and it did not disappoint. We took a few arty pics and then went on towards the Tiergarten. As we only had a couple hours left we just strolled along the leafy paths and took a few lungfuls of fresh German air before heading back to Generator and then home.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 April 2013 18:15)
Alpine charity cycle rides for all abilities
A fantastic way to raise money and see some intensely beautiful sights is to cycle for charity through the Alpines. It sounds a little daunting at first but there are routes that even low-fitness people can cycle in the Alpine region on the basis that they take it easy.
Many companies offer different rides for different abilities including easy riders and woman only so you can ensure that you don’t end up in a group of people whose ability far outweighs your own.
Cycling in the Alps is a beautiful experience, where you can see sights of sheer incredibility including La Grande Dixence, which is the biggest of the many alpine dams in the Valais region of Switzerland. This enormous dam collects water from 35 different glaciers and is the third highest dam in the world; a fantastic sight to see – not one for those scared of heights!
For those looking for an easy straight forward route and a glimpse of Mont Banc you may want to try the Tour du Mont Orchez likewise Le Tour du Roc d'Enfer offers a pleasant and relatively easy ride.
Top Tips to get the most of out your charity cycle ride include:
Take your own bike:
It sounds like a faff to load your own bike on the plane but it is usually relatively pain free. The easiest way to transport a bike is to get a cardboard box (cheaper than a bespoke bike bag), try your local cycle store to see if they have any going spare. Be aware that the airline will still charge for your bike as baggage so check everything out before you arrive at the airport.
Don’t forget the camera:
The Alps are home to some serious beauty don’t forget to bring the camera whilst remembering to bring goggles, full face helmet, hydration kits, body armour and gloves....
Biking in the Winter:
Watch out for skiers! In all seriousness, if you are embarking for a cycle ride in the Alps in the winter make sure you come prepare for snow and ice, at this time of year cycling in a group is wiser and ensure you have more layers than a Rainbow Cake. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have checked the weather. Inexperienced riders should tackle the Alps in sunnier climates before attempting the snow.
Service your bike:
Just like before you embark on a long journey in the car you make sure everything is running smoothly ensure you offer the same treatment to your bike and get it serviced before jumping on the plane.
On a similar note, you wouldn’t run a marathon in brand new trainers so don’t give a new bike its first outing on an Alpine ridge, it is an invitation for disaster which can easily spell injury.
Author: Jane Blackmore is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger.
6 tips when staying in a hostel
Hostels are often the preferred choice of accommodation for travellers. It can be inexpensive and offers the opportunity to meet new faces and make friends whilst travelling. Hostels can offer two forms of boarding; shared accommodation or a private room. The private room can be perfect for a group of travellers, but if you’re seeing the world alone, shared accommodation can be a lot more attractive. If you will be travelling solo and are hoping to make new friends on the way, you may want to take note of our six tips when staying in a hostel.
1. Don’t watch the film
Released in 2005, Hostel made sure gore fans were kept happy after the disappointment of Cabin Fever. However, this torture film is not one to watch if you’re about to embark on an adventure and will be staying in hostels.
2. Wear ear plugs
No matter where you go, hostels are noisy places. There is always a party or two to go to every night. If you intend to have at least one good night’s sleep during your stay, we suggest you take some sleep ear plugs with you.
3. Take bathroom essentials
This includes a towel, shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, make-up, toothpaste, toothbrush, you get the idea. Many hostels either don’t provide these items or will ask for a fee in return.
4. Choose the bottom bunk
After a heavy night out with your new friends the last thing you need is to combat a ladder to get into bed. If you have first dibs on where to sleep, the bottom bunk would be our recommendation.
5. Get chatting
A lot of people who stay in hostels want to find friends that they can explore new places and share stories with. Whether they are sitting in the common room typing on a computer or enjoying a coffee, get chatting to them. You will be amazed at how many tips you will pick up and how many friends you can make.
6. Take your own securityMany hostels provide lockers for their customers. However, it is always best to bring your own padlock just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
With these tips you’re sure to have the best time travelling the world. The most important thing for you to bear in mind is to have fun and to chat to everyone in the hostel. Everyone there is in the same shoes as you and is sure to want some company.
Six tips when staying in a hostel has been written by Ear Plug Shop, one of the UK’s leading travel ear plug retailers who stock a great range of sleep ear plugs.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 22 January 2013 18:11)