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Datong - 大同 E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Leyla Lopos
I just got back from Datong, Shanxi. My school organized this trip, so this time I was traveling with all my classmates and two teachers. The trip wasn’t that fun, it was like joining a tour group, I had to follow the big group all the time, and our travel schedule was occupied with visiting historical spots which I wasn't that interested in.

After having done many backpacking trips, I got bored a lot this time, and I missed home. I'd never missed Hangzhou when I was traveling, but this time I couldn't wait to get out of Datong. One big reason-- pollution. Datong is one of the worst polluted cities in China. There're many coal mines in that city, and people there rely on coal a lot (cooking, heating...). Chimneys are everywhere, the air quality is really bad (air smells horrible!). It hardly rains in that area, most rivers have been dried up. And in spring they also suffer sandstorm every now and then... I've been to some dry areas, but it's my first time to see a dry place with so many environmental problems.

My trip to Xi'an E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Local Ren
If Beijing is the political heart of China, then Xi'an is its historical center. An ancient philosopher once mused that all those seeking the truth should go to China. A contemporary philosopher added that no visit to China is complete without a journey to Xi'an. This reflects the important position Xi'an holds as a famed historical and cultural city and one of China's six major ancient capitals.

Many people take the city as the Mecca in their mind. But my business trip there years ago tells a different story. Xianyang Airport sat in the middle of an enormous archeological excavation site and rows of ancient tombs could be identified along highways leading to Xi'an. These were supposed to be the entrance of an invisible "time tunnel", that quickly sent me back to the remote past, being the Qin, Han or Tang dynasties.

Xiamen E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Local Ren
Xiamen is actually an island linked to the mainland by a long causeway of road and railway. Sightseeing by riding on the Island Ring Road and a long bridge along the seaside is wonderful. Though the city is also called Egret Island, we saw no egret this time. Numerous parks, hills, waters, temples and gardens comprise a grand beautiful picture, making the city a great vacation site.

Fortunately, hotspots are conveniently concentrated for visitors to experience the area's hype and magic. You are deeply impressed with the evidence of an international settlement in the surviving colonial architecture of parts of its skyline. Previously, Xiamen had an excellent record of public safety and was tranquil and graceful, free from the hustle and bustle, traffic jams and stale air typical of big cities. But a Golden Week just gave a different picture of Xiamen.

Xi’an-China: An overrated tourist destination E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Loey
Xi’an is pouring rain. It has been raining here since the moment we landed, and is still downpouring. We hate Xi’an. It’s the first time on our trip that we really have wanted to go home or anywhere else and can’t, and it’s been an exercise in frustration. Most people come to Xi’an to see the terracotta warriors.

They were discovered in 1974 by some poor farmer digging a well and since 1979 tourists, western and Chinese alike, have been flocking here at the rate of a million a year. Of all the sights in China that we’ve seen, the terracotta warriors have been the most anticlimactic. Maybe it was the presentation, maybe it was the 8-hour tour that we went on, or maybe it was because we felt more like cattle than ever, herded through the site with thousands of other tourists, but after experiencing the relative peace and awe that struck us at the Great Wall, this hardly seemed worth the effort and money to visit.

Yan'an Mini Review E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Metano
I took a trip to Yan'an (延安), the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Revolution and the ultimate destination of the famed "Long March." It's in the north of Shaanxi Province (陕西), which is the same province I'm teaching in. It was about an 8 hour bus ride over tremendously bumpy roads, but well worth the trouble. Where else, for example, could you explore the building in which Mao Zedong was officially proclaimed Chairman of the CCP?

I stayed for only one day and a night, 20 yuan for the night and without having to worry about scruples like showing them our passports. The people in this city are incredibly friendly. Entrance fees for half the places we visited were waived. If there's anyone out there who really wants to get lost in a faraway corner of China to learn the language, this place would be ideal. There are a even a few universities in town. Not once were I gawked at and not once did someone yell out "HELLO!" in my face as I walked by. It's a bit of an oasis (not literally- the river running through the city was completely dried out) in the sense that everyone spoke only Chinese to me. There were no annoying repetitive quizzes or questions about what the best things in China are.

Travel Journal: 西安 (Xi'an) E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Patrick
Coming in from the airport after a flight from Hangzhou, I couldn't help but notice how much emptier and arid the countryside appeared. The moisture sucked out of it, the scenery consisted mainly of dust, ramshackle mudbrick homes and distant power plants smothered in haze of their own creation.

Also quite noticeable was the change in colour: pastels and sun-baked earth tones dominated the scene. The bright landscape, however, did little to hide the poverty. Travelling inland from the east coast cities is a good reminder as to why China is still considered a poor country. The airport highway cut through miles of destitute housing, communist-era brown brick apartment complexes and the crumbling world of state-owned enterprise. The disregard for traffic rules that places like Hangzhou try so hard to fight is left to its own devices here: multi-wheeled chaos with nary a lane in sight.

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