  Chapter 

Where to sleep?

  • There’s a plethora of accommodation options in China, from cheap and cheerful homesteads including a hot meal and dorm rooms in youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels, and anything in between.
  • Camping is quite popular in China so there are lot of places you can pitch your tent. Don’t expect campsites with lots of amenities though, camping in China is truly back to basics. Wild camping is common but the laws around this are sketchy and enforcement can differ from place to place.
  • For that out of the ordinary experience, you can also stay in a monastery or temple.

What to eat and drink?

Food

  • Chinese cuisine is second to none and much more than the standard Chinatown fare known in the West so do step away from your trusty takeaway staple and explore the unknown corners of the menu.
  • Given the size of the country, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the cuisine on offer is tremendously diverse. Every region has its own specialities and it’s impossible to speak of Chinese cuisine as a whole. It simply varies too much. A common theme however are rice based, wok prepared and spicy dishes and a nothing goes to waste mentality. So be prepared to savour pig’s trotters, chicken feet and every bit of offal under the sun.

Specialities

  • Peking Duck, a dish local to Beijing. The honey and sherry marinated duck is traditionally air cured for days and then slow roasted ‘till the skin is crisp and golden brown. Usually served whole and sliced at the table.
  • Dumplings: small meat parcels with varied fillings of meat, fish and vegetables. Served steamed or fried.
  • Baozi: small steamed (sometimes fried or bakes) rolls with many types of fillings. Only eaten for breakfast or lunch.
  • Douhua or doufuhua: a traditional Chinese pudding made of very soft tofu. Also referred to as tofu or soybean pudding.

Remarkable dishes

  • Drunken shrimps: a cruel dish perhaps, drunken shrimps are served alive. The alcohol in the rice wine they are served in does however numb them before you put them in your mouth.
  • The Chinese nothing goes to waste philosophy is perfectly exemplified in the traditional pig’s head dish. It’s an acquired taste so you won’t find it on all menu’s. Do ask for it if you feel adventurous as it’s considered a delicacy. Traditionally you give the eyes to someone you respect, an older person or your partner. Pig’s ears are another treat commonly enjoyed in China.
  • Jelly fish is another remarkable dish. It is served warm with sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.

Drinks

  • Beer brands are too many to mention but the most popular are Qingdao and Liquan. Beer is called pijiu in Chinese.
  • The Chinese prefer spirits (jiu). Try a Maotai, a liquor made from sorghum and wheat.
  • Baiju is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, even though it’s hard to find outside of China. It’s a spirit with 60% alcohol, a pungent aftertaste and a faint whiff of petrol in its bouquet.
  • Those who do not particularly like the hard stuff can try Nuomijiu, a glutinous, fermented rice wine (16% vol). It’s usually consumed lukewarm.
  • Tea is a very popular choice in China and the Chinese were the first to grow it. Green tea is the most common option.

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