Demystifying Food in China: An Introduction

When we talk to people about our travels in China, we sense their fear.

No, not political or economic fear:

Didn’t you have trouble with the language? How about the food? Chinese food in China is terrible, isn’t it? Don’t they eat a lot of dog?”

All fair questions and sentiments, particularly if you've never been to China. We have a real story to tell about food in China. Armed with frighteningly limited Mandarin language skills and a sincere disinterest in dining on dog or innards, we managed to eat like kings on a pauper’s pence during the three months we traveled across China.

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Why Pandas Need Air Conditioning

Panda Eats Bamboo
Pandas munching on bamboo at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center.

In zoos all over the world, crowds battle to catch a peek of one of the world’s most recognizable and rarest animals, the giant panda. During our visit to the Chendgu Panda Breeding Research Center, tourists were so few that the pandas actually invited us to join them and granted us an interview. Here’s what Jing-Jing, their spokesperson, had to say:

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Chendgu: China Begins Here

Friendly people, delicious food, green parks, active temples – even pandas. Why Chendgu doesn’t get more coverage in the tourist press, we don’t know. It quickly became our favorite big city (population over 10 million) in China.

Although Chengdu is not stocked with high-profile tourist sights like Beijing and Xi’an, to quote another tourist: “There’s something that just feels right about the place.

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China: So Many Little Emperors

Some instincts are universal. That virtually all parents want a better life for their children is one of them. Our journey continually bears this out irrespective of the cultural and socioeconomic context of the regions we visit.

But in China, something extraordinary has happened. Two decades of economic growth, an exceptional cultural emphasis on family, and the one-child policy have all conspired to yield a generation of only children accustomed to the full focus of their family's emotional and financial resources.

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A New Breed of Dog?

Tiger Striped Dogs in China

Dogs with tiger stripes?

Tiger Striped Dogs in China
Tiger striped dogs in Urumqi, China. A new breed of dog?

Is it the next new Chinese dog breed coming your way? An experiment in genetic modification that escaped from the lab with the help of an ambitious entrepreneur?

Or do the stripes wash off after the first bath?

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Factory 798: Beijing’s Breath of Uncensored Air

Graffiti at Factory 798 - Beijing
Street art at Factory 798 in Beijing.

If you are looking to escape the eyes of censorship and catch some edgy art exhibits in Beijing, go no further than a converted weapons factory on the outskirts of town.

Once part of an industrial park developed in the vein of 1950s East German-Chinese Communist brotherhood, Factory 798 (a.k.a. 798 Dashanzi Art District) serves up a dose of fresh, creative and surprisingly uncensored air in a space now devoted to modern art workshops and galleries.

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Hitching a Ride with the Chinese Olympic Spitting Team

We were on another long-distance bus in the middle of nowhere, this time in heart of China’s Yunnan province. Heavy, sporadic rains danced on rice terraces whose luxuriant greens complemented the surrounding hills of red clay. It was just another iconic, beautiful moment on our journey through China.

Broken Down Bus - Yunnan
All aboard!! Bus travels in Yunnan, China.

Then came the symphony of throat-clearing and phlegm-dredging; pools of mucous-laden saliva slowly crept along the metal crevices in the aisle.

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