08/23/14

See me on Chinese TV show Hello中国!

My first appearance on the Chinese TV is finally here! It was shown on GDTV late Thursday night this week and yesterday a friend of mine already found it online. Last month I wrote about how its was like to shoot the show, now it’s time to watch it.

I have to admit I haven’t watched it yet! Watching my self on a TV show like this makes me very nervous, almost more nervous than doing the quiz show. Perhaps it’s the same “logic” when you feel strange listening a recording of your own voice, it just sounds different. I’m gonna watch it soon together with my husband who also makes an appearance with my mother-in-law.

Speaking of my popo (MIL) she of course watched the whole show on TV and called all family members and friends to watch it too. Many of my friends and teachers have also sheared it on WeChat. Thank you everyone for the encouragement!

I really hope that you all enjoy the show! Please let me know if it’s too slow to watch outside of China and I will do my best to get it to Youtube.

08/19/14

Wuzhen Water Town

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Wuzhen Water Town is a famous and popular travel destination near Hangzhou. Wuzhen has a history of 1300-years and ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal flows through the town. As a representative of the ancient water town architecture and culture, it has become a huge tourist spot for Chinese and foreigners alike.

I visited Wuzhen on 8th of August this year, having just arrived to Hangzhou on the very same morning after midnight. My flight from Guangzhou was delayed several hours, but even with sleepy eyes, I managed to make to most of my visit to Wuzhen.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen includes two areas that are close-by each other, the West Scenic Zone and the East Scenic Zone. Ticket to the west are 120RMB, to the east 100RMB and for both 150RMB. If you have a full day or are staying the night, it’s best to get the combined ticket.

Wuzhen Water Town

While searching for information about Wuzhen, I find out that the West Zone is mostly designed for tourists with tea houses, restaurants and shops. Because of time limits and being able to visit Wuzhen during the week, I decided to brave the crowds and head to the West Zone. The village had many tourists wondering along, but I was possible to find more quieter alleys as well.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

The West Zone alone is quite big and you can spend a full day there walking around, taking photos and spending time with local delicacies. The Chinese tourist seemed to be able to buy something new to eat on every stall.

Wuzhen Water Town

When walking along the numerous streets and alleys, I noticed it’s easy to get a bit lost in Wuzhen. The maps they have in many crossroads are sometimes from East to West and sometimes from West to East, making navigation harder. At the same time getting lost is always part of the experience in all ancient villages, just take your time and let your feet lead the way.

Wuzhen Water Town

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I didn’t have time to visit the East Zone, but that’s said to be more quiet, less tourists and the place where actual locals reside. Of course those same locals also offer hostels and hotels there, but most of the commercialism seems to be gathered at the West Zone. If you have a full time, I recommend visiting the East first and then continuing to West with the shuttle bus.

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Wuzhen Water Town

Because of the popularity, avoid public holidays and even weekends if possible when visiting Wuzhen. In my opinion Wuzhen is not a place to explore the daily life of locals, it’s best to be seen as a picturesque village ideal for great photography and relaxation.

Wuzhen Water Town

If you decide to stay for a night, take a good book with you and find a nice spot in a tea house along the river. Watch the sun set and see another beautiful side of the water village. I bet the evening view with lanterns lit is amazing!

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If you are going to Wuzhen from Hangzhou, take a bus at the couch terminal (客运中心站), easily reachable by the one and only metro line at the moment. The bus tickets is 30RMB and it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Wuzhen. From the Wuzhen bus station you can take a local bus K350 to both of the Scenic Zones, costing only 3RMB. At the bus station you can buy your return ticket too when you arrive, that way you don’t need to worry about not getting a ticket during the busy season.

For more information on how to get to Wuzhen check their own website.

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I recommend Wuzhen for everyone who is interested in ancient Chinese water towns South of Yangtze river, but isn’t looking for finding a quiet and tourist empty place out of the beaten path. Wuzhen is a nice and easy village to visit, which makes it great for day trips from Hangzhou or Shanghai.

Wuzhen Water Town

Plan your trip away from national holidays or Summer vacation weekends, and you will have a pleasant time wondering the streets and canals of Wuzhen. I had about six hours in the West Scenic Zone, walking slowly and stopping often to admire the view. I found Wuzhen to be a great place to visit with my camera, something totally different than I see daily in Guangzhou.

If you have any questions about visiting Wuzhen, just leave me a comment! More posts about my week-long visit to Hangzhou and Suzhou are on their way too.

08/17/14

Travel posts on the way

Wuzhen Zhejiang Travel

During my four and a half years in China I’ve been traveling quite a lot from Beijing to Hainan island in the South. You can find all my published travel stories on Travel in China page. This year it was time to finally visit two famous and popular cities in China, Hangzhou and Suzhou.

For the next two weeks there will be quite a many posts about my week-long trip,  including:

  • Hostel reviews
  • Introducing two water towns: Wuzhen and Tongli
  • Photo essays from beautiful Suzhou gardens
  • Story of walking along the West Lake with Jocelyn from Speaking of China
  • Having local snacks and exploring the night market with Marta from Marta Lives in China
  • Even a visit to a cat cafe!

Right now I’m going over all of my 790 photos I took, writing the blog posts and going back to those fun days on the road just by my self. If you don’t want to miss any of the coming posts, subscribe to my blog on my about page.

And if you haven’t yet, check out my updates on Facebook where I shared every step of my travels!

 

08/1/14

Planning a trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou

Map of China

After I graduated in December 2013 I have been doing a little freelance copy-writing, some teaching and wedding planning of course. But staying at home for these past months have been very hard for me. I don’t have classmates to talk to, I don’t have to leave my house in order to do my job. Then finally last night I had a talk with my husband and he encouraged me to make this one week trip before my graduate studies start.

It’s been four years since I traveled alone and I had almost forgotten the freedom and the excitement on being on the road. From the map above you can see all the provinces I’ve visited before, this time I will be doing short trips to both Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

If everything goes according to the plan, I will be staying in Hangzhou from 8th to 11th August, then I will head to my second destination Suzhou, where I will be staying until it’s time to take the train back on the 14th.

Now it’s time to ask for your recommendations of what are the must see places in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Where would you go if you had about three days in each of the cities? Which water villages or gardens would you explore?

Please leave a comment with your tips, recommendations or wishes for a good journey, thank you!

 

07/28/14

Improving Listening Skills In Chinese

ChineseListeningSkills

“Didn’t you understand or are you being disobedient?”

When I was an elementary level Chinese learner I felt that listening was perhaps the most difficult skill in Chinese. I could write a few hundred characters already, the grammar wasn’t that hard yet and I thought I was ready for conversations with the locals. But then I noticed how hard it was to understand what everyone was saying around me!

Recently I received an email from a reader asking for help on how to improve his listening skills in Chinese. That gave me an idea to go over what different methods and tools I’ve used during the years that have resulted listening being my best skill of all four (listening, speaking, reading and writing).

 

How I improved my listening skills on different levels

Elementary

One of the first Chinese learning tools I discovered back in the day was ChinesePod. Funny and super useful podcasts on all the possible topics imaginable. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts to my mp3 player and listened to them whenever I had extra time. These days there are lots of podcasts available besides ChinesePod, like my affiliate partner ChineseClass101.

I’ve always taken Chinese classes, starting from 2008, but with listening skills you need to do a lot of work outside the formal classes in order to improve. My next discovery in Summer 2011 was Happy Chinese TV show that features an American Susan living in China, aiming to teach Chinese to beginners and elementary learners. I watched tens of episodes during those months.

Intermediate

I also wanted to try some real Chinese TV, shows that are meant for the natives and locals. I found out, that dating shows are usually on the easy side when it comes to vocabulary and topics. After all, it all revolves around love, marriage, daily life and dating. Shows that I watched weekly include the most famous 非诚勿扰.

Later when I got my two feet steadily into the intermediate phase, I started to watch even more TV shows. Recommended drama series include 夫妻那些事, 裸婚时代 and 爱的蜜方. Unfortunately I find it hard to find Chinese shows that I enjoy, but at the same time it’s been very crucial when improving my listening skills in an entertaining and easy way. I never took notes or stopped the video for checking my dictionary, even though that of course would speed up my learning. For recommendations on specific TV series, check out Chinese-Forums’ topic.

Advanced

Now on the advanced level I can watch Chinese drama without headaches, it’s not necessary to understand 100% to enjoy a show. If you live in China, Youku is your best friend in finding both easy and advanced videos in Chinese. This year I’ve found 飞碟说 (also on Youtube!) short videos, that offer a huge challenge in form of vocabulary and super fast speech.

Another thing that I’ve tried recently is listen to podcasts in Chinese on different topics. With my iPhone I can easily find listening material, like CRI 成长你我他 which features podcasts about education. By clicking the name of the show you can find these podcasts online with transcripts.

 

One piece of advice on how to improve listening skills in Chinese

How I have learned my listening skills in Chinese is probably far from perfect and far from the ideal route. I can’t concentrate on hours on something that doesn’t interest me and I can’t make my self to check the dictionary during the plot twists of a TV drama.

We all have to find out best way to learn. If you are a diligent student, perhaps you enjoy checking unfamiliar words and characters more often than I. Maybe you even make notes of the podcasts you listen and input the new words to a flash card software. You can find lots of amazing articles on how to learn listening on Hacking Chinese, the best blog out there to tell you how to learn Chinese.

In order not to overwhelm you, I give you only one tip and that’s the most important of them all.

Listen as much as you can.

Listen material that is one level above you, that you can follow but also offers you a challenge. Listen to podcasts, radio shows, TV and movies you love and enjoy. Notice how you can understand words and phrases you have learned from your textbooks or from your formal classes. Fill your smart phone or mp3 player with Chinese listening material to be listened when commuting, exercising or cooking.

 

This is how I have improved my listening over the years. Now I would like to hear what tools and methods you are using. Please leave a comment with your story!

If you have any questions about learning Chinese, I’m more than happy to answer those in the comments as well.