Carlos Melia – Exploring the Many Layers of Beijing

Author: , July 13th, 2015

Beijing - Carlos Melia

A complete log in photos and text of my full day exploring the many layers of Beijing to include a morning at the Lama Temple + Hutongs + Tea Ceremony at the Bell Tower. Lunch at Zijin Mansion restaurant at the new Waldorf Astoria Beijing. Afternoon at the Beihai Park + Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Afternoon Tea back at my hotel Raffles Beijing. Later visit to the Temple of Heaven.

Traditional dinner and Pekin Duck experience at Cantonese restaurant Huang Ting at the Peninsula Beijing. And finally some non-traditional snacks at the pedestrian night street market and bazaar of Wangfujing, before calling the day back at my suite at the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy my last cup of tea and off to bed, happy knowing that I have managed to experience and see the many layers of Beijing.

Early morning began right after breakfast at my hotel – the Gran Dame of Beijing – the Raffles Beijing. My private guide picked me up and my day began.

First stop of the morning, was a private half day tour of the surroundings of the Forbidden City, hosted by Abercrombie & Kent China. The tour included stops and visits to the Lama Temple, Hutongs and the Bell Tower with a private tea ceremony.

Beijing - Carlos MeliaNext, we moved to the iconic Hutongs. A side of Beijing you must explore. Hutongs are a type of narrow alleys or streets, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities. most prominently Beijing. Alleys formed by lines of siheyuan – traditional courtyard residences. Nowadays almost 25% of Beijing’s population reside in them. Beijing is divided in 6-rings, surrounding it epicenter, the Royal Forbidden City. Hutongs are mainly located in the second ring. A mix of middle/low class love there. Some areas are becoming rather trendy and modern, and I would not be surprise to find on my next visit a sort of Hutong SOHO district.

At the very end of the road from the hutong in Dongcheng District, we run into our next destination and landmark, the Bell Tower, were a lovely surprise was awaiting for me. They were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. Playing an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. The surprise, was my own private tea ceremony and degustation, which lasted approximately 30 to 45 minutes, with a very lovely and funny local host. This was my second Tea Ceremony while in China – first was in Shanghai at the Confucius Temple. The tea ceremony at the Bell Tower, despite being very entertaining, felt a but touristy and geared towards selling the merchandise at the very end of the ceremony. Just so you are prepare and don’t feel as uncomfortable as I felt at the very end.

After this, my morning tour by Abercrombie & Kent came to an end, and my guide took me to the main gates of the Forbidden City to finish his guide.

Since I have visited already the Forbidden City, I decided to just explore the surroundings, walking by the parks, following the walls. I started to get a bit peckish … ha ha ha … so it was the perfect time for lunch, specially since I had already made fabulous plans for it.

For lunch I was hosted and invited by the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, in Wangfujing, to come for a walk-around the property follower by lunch at their signature Chinese restaurant Zijin Mansion. I must say that this property caught my full attention, and I would rank it as my TOP 03 favorite Beijing city hotels. It is the only hotel in the city to offer a proper Hutong courtyard experience, with two villas located just across the main building. As for the lunch, was a degustation menu prepared specially for us.

Time to hit the road again. There is so much to see and Beijing is such a massive city. Next stop was the Beihai Park.

At the Beihai Park, you will find the so known White Pagoda. Beihai – meaning Northern Sea – Park was an imperial garden and now a public park located to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing. First built in the 11th century, it is among the largest of all Chinese gardens and contains numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples. At the center of the park is an island called Jade Flower Island – highest point is 32 meters, where the White Pagoda seats. Kublai Khan received Marco Polo. At the suggestion of a famous Tibetan lama, Emperor Shunzhi, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty agreed to build a Tibetan pagoda to show his belief in Buddhism and his desire for the unification of Chinese ethnic groups.

Beijing - Carlos MeliaNext on my itinerary was the Opera of Beijing, or better known as the National Center of Performing Arts. Located over the main Chang’an Avenue and steps away from Tiananmen Square. It literally looks like an UFO has landed over a mirror of water over the epicenter of Beijing. Local people also refer to this building at the giant egg. And after that along the same avenue, is Tiananmen Square and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong and the National Museum of China.

At 3 O’Clock Sharp, I walked back to my hotel the Raffles Beijing, for a very special event. I was hosting to friends from New York, who happened to be in Beijing at the same time as me, for one of my favorite experiences ” High Tea”. And where better to do so, that in China and at a Raffles Hotel, right ?

A brief break plus wardrobe change and off I went again to burn all the calories of my High Tea. This time, my next destination for the afternoon was the Temple of Heaven. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Daoist temple. The surrounding park is quite extensive, consisting of playgrounds, exercise and game areas. These facilities are well used by adults, particularly in the morning, for choral shows, ethnic dances, and other presentations.

Time for dinner. This time hosted by the Peninsula Hotel Beijing. Began with a short walk-around the property, which was indeed quite short, since the entire hotel is under, a well deserved, full renovation, which will be completed by early 2017 (note that the hotel remains open, while the renovation takes place). I was lucky to see the mockup rooms, but unfortunately no photos were allowed.

All I can say is that the look and feel, will be pretty similar to their sister property the Peninsula Hotel Paris. After my site inspection, I was hosted to my first Peking Duck gourmet experience, at their signature Cantonese style restaurant Huang Ting, among many other local delights, ordered to the table. I mean, Chinese people do know well how to create a lovely spread. As for the Pekin Duck, it was so delicious and it melted in my mouth. Mind I am not a duck eater, but this was quite on my liking.

After a lovely dinner at the Peninsula Hotel Beijing, I decided to walk back to my hotel, and make a quick stop at the buzzing pedestrian street Night Bazaar and Food Market of Wangfujing. This wasn’t that quiet nor traditional. And YES !!!! I did try the scorpions and water beetles on skewers, and I must say, they were quite tasteful and very crunchy. BTW these two were the safest options, among seahorses, centipedes, sheep’s various body parts, snakes and a whole selection of insects on a stick to your liking.

After traditional dinner, followed by a non (so) traditional one, and a long and amazing day exploring the many layers of Beijing, I headed back to my hotel, the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy a nice cup of Puer Tea and off to bed.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Globetrotter Girls – Hong Kong The Second Time Around

Author: , July 6th, 2015

Hong Kong - Globetrotter Girls

As some of you might remember, my first visit to Hong Kong didn’t go as planned. Even though I was wowed by the city and loved my time there, I felt like I had failed as a traveler. I had made poor choices about where to stay, I gave into my jet lag instead of fighting it, and I was too exhausted after a busy month of travel to feel the urge to truly explore the city.

But back then, I also knew that I’d be back in Hong Kong a few months later, and this time around, I’d rectify all the mistakes I had made on my first visit.

I arrived energized after a short flight from Bangkok, and when I checked into my cozy room at the OZO Wesley Hotel a little bit later, looking out of the window over Hong Kong Island, I couldn’t wait to head out and take on the city – I didn’t waste any time and went right out to wander the streets of Wan Chai, the neighborhood I was staying in. When I left the city six days later, (even though I was nowhere near ready to leave Hong Kong!), I did so with a smile on my face, knowing I’d made the most out of my visit. Read on for my tips on how to have a splendid time in Hong Kong, plus my favorite eateries, coffee shops and bars.

By Dany – Full Story at Globetrotter Girls | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – High Speed Train Beijing to Shanghai and Back

Author: , July 4th, 2015

Carlos MeliaIf there is a great way to travel within China is by their super comfortable High-Speed Trains by CRH – China Railway High-Speed. We connected three destinations Beijing – Shanghai – West Lake/Hangzhou using both their Business and Economy Class. 300 Kilometers and hour to move across China in full comfort and smoothly. One suggestion, buy your tickets online time before your trip. If you need help with reliable ways to do this, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Our journey began at Beijing Nan South Train Station, which not only was immaculate clean, but also huge. So please allow time to arrive, get yourself familiar with the gates, and DO NOT FORGET, you need to collect your tickets, and than takes at least 10 to 15 minutes. In 4 hours and 48 minutes, after an ultra comfortable ride, we arrived to Shanghai Hongqiao Train Station.

Here you can see all my photos on our experience in Business Class. The configuration from Beijing to Shanghai was totally different from the one back. But on both cases, we had a full flat bed cocoon seat. The downsides are: no internet on board. Despite they do have personal TVs, there was no entertainment available.

During the ride you will get snacks, drinks and a full meal (which you might or not like). The formation has a Cafeteria car, but be careful, you might not like what they have to offer. Our choice was beer and nori, literally. On my way back I decided to buy my own snack at the train station.

On our ride from Shanghai to/from the West Lake/Hangzhou, since this is a one hour and 20 minutes ride, they only offer Economy Class, which was totally fine and comfortable too, with a fine seat and pitch.

Without a doubt, I will chose the High-Speed train over flights anytime. If possible, if you take the trains arriving to Beijing or Shanghai after 11PM, book your car transfer in advance and have someone waiting for you at the train station. Otherwise you might cue for two hours to get a taxi out.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – AMAN Summer Palace

Author: , June 25th, 2015

Carlos Melia

Explore the other Beijing. A Royal residential, spiritual, and recreational experience within a landscape of lakes and mountains, in accordance with the Chinese philosophy of balancing the works of man with nature. A luxury resort, surrounded by a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces conceived by the Qing emperor Qianlong. I must admit, I am a huge fan of the AMAN Resorts collection. I have stayed and experience them at Amantaka (Luang Prabang, Laos), Aman Canal Grande (Venice, Italy) and Amapuri (Phuket, Thailand), but I must say that Aman Summer Palace, ranked top as the perfect China experience. Just steps from the East Gate of the Summer Palace grounds. Allows you to have your own Royal experience embracing traditional Chinese architecture.

Carlos MeliaIt is on me !!! Because you deserve it, book the Aman Summer Palace with me and enjoy the following extra VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests + One complimentary Chinese Set Lunch Menu for two persons + Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability.

We spent 2-nigts at one of their lovely Deluxe Suites. It was such a relaxing experience and the perfect location to explore the Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China – Mutianyu Gate. Other than that we didn’t do much else, since Aman Summer Palace is itself a destination, and since we have already spent a few days in central Beijing, and we were coming back at the end of our journey, we decided to just relax, and enjoy the resort. If you are familiar to Aman Resorts, you will well know that usually they are located in secluded unique locations. In this case Aman Summer Palace, is located 35-45 minutes away from central Beijing. Some say it is not an option for first timers to Beijing. I say, that if you plan your itinerary correctly, you would be able to enjoy, as we did, a few days away from the city center, enjoying this oasis of calm.

Adjacent to the East Gate of the Summer Palace grounds Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing, housed in a series of dwellings, most of which date back over one hundred years. Some of the original dwellings were used by guests of the Summer Palace awaiting an audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi at the turn of the twentieth century. Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing is a peaceful retreat from which to explore the many exciting faces of China’s capital.

Aman Summer Palace, offers a variety of accommodation which pays homage to the traditional architecture of the Summer Palace, celebrating its courtyard architectural style. Suites surround an internal courtyard featuring an intricate latticework of pathways, separating formal gardens and trees. I spent most of my time there, walking and exploring the grounds. The aesthetic references draw upon traditional materials and the architecture and design of the Ming Dynasty period. Floors are finished in Jin clay tiles which have been polished to achieve a deep lustre. The ceilings are mostly open to exposed wooden roof beams and structural columns.

During our 2-nights visit, we stayed at one of their lovely Deluxe Suites. Showcasing furniture inspired by the Ming Dynasty, and while some have a combined bedroom and living area, others have separate bedrooms. All feature king-size beds, daybeds, reading chairs and writing desks. Bathrooms are spacious, with twin vanities and free-standing island bathtubs. Adjacent to the bathing area is a dressing room that is furnished with two large Ming-style wardrobes.

Waking up early was a joy more than a sacrifice. Enjoy the quietness an silence, while zipping through a few cups of Tea checking my emails. The all ready to head off to the gym and and a quick dip into their indoor pool.

Aman Spa and Fitness areas are located beneath the resort in a unique 5,000-square metre, double level, underground recreational facility. The Spa features a tranquil reception, nine self-contained double treatment rooms and a dedicated Pilates and yoga studio which is naturally lit through an extensive panel of skylights. The Pilates studio is fully-equipped with reformers and private classes can be arranged. The Spa menu features a wide range of health, well-being and beauty treatments. Other facilities include a 25 metre indoor lap pool, a 300-square metre sky-lit Gym with Technogym equipment (including Kinesis), two squash courts and a juice bar serving healthy fruit and vegetable drinks. Fitness consultants are on hand to offer personal training and squash partners at all times.

After my morning working, I was ready to enjoy breakfast. This was such an experience itself. Every morning we would seat outdoors, next to the pond and enjoy a local traditional Chinese breakfast. All I would do is look at the Koi Fish swim in the pond and relax.

For those of you, like me, that enjoy a traditional afternoon Tea, where else better than China to do it. The Reflection Pavilion features a peaceful terrace over-looking a lotus pond. The adjacent Music Pavilion is host to performances and private dining.

Evenings would go very quiet. We enjoyed dinner at their exquisite Chinese Restaurant. Decorated with classic, Ming Dynasty-inspired furniture, the Chinese Restaurant features Peking duck and several imperial dishes, along with traditional Cantonese cuisine for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant consists of nine different rooms including six intimate spaces for gatherings.

As I mentioned before, Aman Summer Palace is a destination. Once there, you have plenty of activities to do, some of them educational, like the Chinese Calligraphy Class by a skilled master of this ancient art. This classes take place at the Library Room, which includes a wide selection of material on various subjects in several languages, from rare books on the Summer Palace to historic and photographic works on China and the Asian region.

One of the highlights of staying at the Aman Summer Palace, is the private access to the Summer Palace and Kunming Lake. Explore this landmarks at your own pace and after-hours once all tourist head back to the center of Beijing. This is to me, the true definition of the word LUXURY. A private passage will allow you to enter the Summer Palace incognito. The resort will provide you with a backpack with maps, water, and a mobile phone. Once you are finished exploring the Summer Palace, you just need to call, and someone will come to open the gates to access back to the resort.

The Summer Palace in Beijing – first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 – is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. The Summer Palace in Beijing integrates numerous traditional halls and pavilions into the Imperial Garden conceived by the Qing emperor Qianlong between 1750 and 1764 as the Garden of Clear Ripples. Using Kunming Lake, the former reservoir of the Yuan dynasty’s capital and Longevity Hill as the basic framework, the Summer Palace combined political and administrative, residential, spiritual, and recreational functions within a landscape of lakes and mountains, in accordance with the Chinese philosophy of balancing the works of man with nature.

Such a romantic and relaxing experience. We were so happy seeing this other side of Beijing, and it was the perfect base from where to explore the area of Summer Palace and The Great Wall.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – My Two Latest Favorite Lunch Options in Hong Kong

Author: , June 17th, 2015

Hong Kong - Carlos Melia

I have been to Hong Kong a few times, and I am very outspoken about the fact, that it is one of my top five favorite cities in the world. Every time I visit I discover new options, and of course repeat over and over my favorites. During this visit, I truly enjoyed two gourmet experiences, introduced to us by local expert Food and Lifestyle Consultant Geoffrey Wu with The Forks and Spoons. Oddly enough, none of them are Chinese, but trust me we covered that during our time there, for our dinners. Both restaurants are totally different and both true hidden gems. Both restaurants can be booked online prior your arrival to Hong Kong, and I strongly advise it.

Hing Kong - Carlos MeliaThe first one was Fofo by el Willy – Traditional and Contemporary Spanish Cuisine with the menu designed by the award-winning Chef of “el Willy” and executed by Catalan Chef Alex Martinez Fargas.(see photo below with the Chef). Including the from the traditional tapas, rice and Iberian Ham, to new innovative dishes like Scallops Ceviche, and some off the menu item that the Chef premiered with us before including them to the new summer menu.

Fofo, comes from the Spanish “fat” or “Flabby”, hence why the decoration is full of penguins with big bellies and pigs. And I think that after our lunch experience, I was pretty much looking and walking like one of them… ” I meant the Penguins, of course…”

Having tried many restaurants in Hong Kong, one of the things I truly appreciated from Fofo, was the view. Most of the times in Hong Kong, you will face to the water, in this case, they feature quite an understated face of Hong Kong, facing to the mountains, and that was quite a lovely surprise and a side of Hong Kong to discover. To be matched by a creative interior design and tranquil atmosphere.

Our degustation consisted on: Oyster Chilli Granita – HK$105 for 3 pcs. Salmon Explosive Air Bag – HK$30 per pc. Scallop Ceviche – HK$98. Spanish Crystal Bread with Tomato – HK$45. Spring French Sea Bream with Green Pea Puree & Spanish Red Prawn – HK$288. Lobster Mollette – HK$144 for 3 pcs. Spanish Coca with Anchovies – HK$30 per pc. Chipriones – HK$110. And we also tried a new dish off the current many. New Summer Menu RAF Tomato Salad – HK$155 ( which was together with the Oysters, the highlight of my lunch). As for desserts, Chef Alex Martinez Fargas chose for us: FoFo Apple Tart – HK$78 and of course… Churros – HK$75. During our degustation, we went through several pitches of refreshing and tasteful Sangria.

Prices at FoFo are certainly not cheap, but trust me whatever your bill costs, it’s definitely worth it. Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong, are quite popular, but Fofo is indeed one of the best.

Fofo by el Willy, is located in Central Hong Kong. It took us a while to find, since it is located on the rooftop (20/F) of the LKF building, which just offers a hidden corridor to the lift and has a small badge of FoFo’s name downstairs. So do not give up, it is worth each minute of your time.

Youka was our second experience. This time in Wan Chai, and from its exterior, you would never guess what you would find inside. A very intimate, simple yet sophisticated true Japanese Washoku restaurant experience, on Johnston Road open both for lunch and dinner. The most fresh ingredients, flown daily from Japan. The name “YOUKA” translates to the 8th day. A famous Japanese writer once wrote about a cicada that lived for eight days. Cicadas usually only live for seven days but the writer imagined the world as it would be witnessed one day after, free from the noise and hustle of all the other cicadas. Another interpretation of its name can be through the story of Genesis where God created the world with the basic elements in seven days, at YOUKA, we believe the other beautiful elements like arts, culture and a taste of cuisine were subsequently developed by mankind – on the eighth day.

Washoku, is a social practice based on a set of skills, knowledge, practice and traditions related to the production, processing, preparation and consumption of food. It is associated with an essential spirit of respect for nature that is closely related to the sustainable use of natural resources. The basic knowledge and skills related to Washoku, such as the proper seasoning of home cooking, are passed down in the home at shared mealtimes. Transmitted from generation to generation, Washoku plays an important role in strengthening social cohesion among the Japanese people while providing them a sense of identity and belonging.

Our degustation consisted of only the most authentic Japanese dishes expertly prepared by Chef Ito Katsuhiro, one of Hong Kong’s most seasoned veteran Japanese Chefs: Tuna Intestines with Cream Cheese & Crackers – HK$90. (Seasonal) FireFly Squid with Special Mustard Sauce – HK$90. Deluxe Sashimi Platter (Chu Toro, Japanese Half Beak, Giant Scallop, SeaBream, Spanish Mackerel – seasonal price). Sake Steamed Big Clams – HK$210. Sakura Shrimp (Aji) Tempura – H120. Grilled Japanese Chicken – HK$160. Grilled Miso Eggplant with Prawns – HK$120.

YOUKA’s interior design takes inspiration from Hokkaido’s coastal location with maritime motifs and ocean accents. The intimate setting is sophisticated but comfortable with an open atmosphere for diners to witness Chef Ito Katsuhiro in action.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – Following the Emperor’s Steps at The Forbidden City

Author: , June 15th, 2015

Carlos Melia - Forbidden City

Carlos Melia - Forbidden CityOne of the main highlights of my recent trip to China, was other than visiting The Great Wall of China, spending a full morning following the Emperor’s steps at The Forbidden City in Beijing. This was a Half-Day Private walking morning tour, which also included Tiananmen Square. We were picked up at our hotel, Rosewood Beijing, and driven to main gates of The Forbidden City or also known as Imperial Palace.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. It is located in the center of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. The Forbidden City was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south lies the Outer City.The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 ha (180 acres). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1987,and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

The capital of Imperial China was off-limits from its completion in 1420, until the fall of the Last Emperor in 1911, hence its name ‘The Forbidden City’. It was home to the Emperor and his family along with thousands of imperial staff, had unique traditions, customs and rituals all designed to glorify the Emperor as ‘The Son of Heaven’. (photo above is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the center of the Forbidden City).

The Palace is effectively split into three areas – the first being where Imperial business was conducted, such as the Emperor holding court with his officials. The second and more intimate part are the Imperial living quarters and around the edges, under the high walls, the servant’s quarters.

Walking through The Forbidden City is an unique experience, the stunning architecture and if you find a quiet corner you can easily conjure up visions of life in the days of Imperial China. Watching the film, ‘The Last Emperor’, prior your arrival, will obviously help to your visit.

This is the way we visited. We walked into The Forbidden City via the Meridian Gate, to the Gate of Supreme Harmony and from there to the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

From there you will enter the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It is the largest of the three halls of the Inner Court. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence of the Emperor. The large space was divided into nine rooms on two levels, with twenty-seven beds. The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the second major gate encountered when entering the Forbidden City from the south.

The Palace was looted in 1949, by the retreating Kuomintang and much of the Imperial Collection is now on display at The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

You may also visit the section of the Imperial Gardens among several other rooms.

At the end of our visit, we came out of the Gate of Divine Might, with views of the Jingshan Park (from where after a nice climb, you will get areal views of the Forbidden City).

This private half day tour, offered by East West Planners included also Tianamen Square, but I will blog about that separately. Above you can see a photo of us, with are funky and charming guide Fiona.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – The Great Wall of China

Author: , June 14th, 2015

Great Wall of China - Carlos Melia

After several weeks of being away traveling across China and then France, today I resume my postings and blogging. So much to catch up. I’ve recently spent over 20 days traveling in China and Hong Kong. My first post is about one of the absolute highlights of our trip, The Great Wall of China.

The Wall snakes its way up and down mountains and stretches, in total, for 5,400 miles. Built in numerous sections, work on the Wall started as early as BC 500 though it was only in about BC 215, when China became the country that we know today, did various sections start getting linked and the Wall take on its current form. Meant as a defence against the invading Mongols it was never a success, as the Mongol Invasion in 1211 proved. The Ming Dynasty Emperors once again set about rebuilding the Wall though it was never again used as a defence mechanism, instead slowly eroding and in parts, completely crumbling away.

Great Wall of China - Carlos MeliaA number of Wall sections have been restored and the most interesting, yet accessible, is at Mutianyu. After some careful research, and listening to the advice of local expert partners, I decided that we would visit the Mutianyu Gate section of The Great Wall of China. The reason for this is, because despite being further away from central Beijing, this gate is not so frequented by tourists, therefore the driving time, counting traffic is shorter. In approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, we went door-to-door from our hotel in central Beijing to the Mutianyu Gate. And I must say, that the drive was quite lovely. The solitude of tourists, made it look even more impressive.

Mutianyu offers great views as well as the chance to walk (read: climb) along a stretch of the Wall, exploring the battlements and guard towers. For those with more energy we highly recommend a visit to the Wall at Jinshanling as this more remote section is much less visited and allow what we call “The Wild Wall” experience. Perhaps even consider a 4- 5 hour trek along the Wall.

Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a better day for our Half Day Private Tour of The Great Wall. We had unusual clear blue, smog-free skies, which made a great difference, from what we expected. And I must say, that overall our stay in China, we only had a few days of heavy smog. Upon arrival to Mutianyu we took the cable cars to the top, which took approx. 10 minutes. Once at the top, well… better show you that write about it right. See the video below of the mighty Great Wall of China.

We spent the entire morning walking along, up and down, enjoying the spectacular views and the mighty presence and extension of the wall over the lush green landscape. I have to say, that during all my travel I have been lucky to experience and visit some of the most relevant sites, and without a doubt this was one of those unique moments. The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Chinese historical marvel. One of the most common myths about the Great Wall is that the wall is continuous: one long stone dragon designed to protect China from northern invaders. While the Great Wall is indeed thousands of kilometers long, its distance is a result of several sections added together, using different materials, that include more than just stone.

Upon the end of our visit , our charming guide, had a surprise for us. She said… ” How are we going to get down back to ground level…”. Mutianyu Gate has a system of toboggans that will take you down in full adrenaline and enjoyment in approximately 10 minutes (mind the speed you reach… ).

After our visit to the Mutianyu Gate, we drove for over 10 minutes, to enjoy a light lunch at the Schoolhouse Restaurant which was the former school building of Mutianyu village. And after that, back to Beijing to complete our tour.

I have many more posts coming your way on my exploratory one month trip to China and Hong Kong. To include reviews on tours, attractions, experiences, restaurants, airlines and hotels. Stay Tuned.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Globetrotter Girls: 12 Surprising Things About Hong Kong

Author: , May 30th, 2015

Hong Kong - Dany

Even though I didn’t have many expectations when I visited Hong Kong for the first time this year, I have to admit that not only did the city blow me away completely, but it also surprised me in many ways.

I noticed these things during my first visit earlier this year, and when I returned to Hong Kong last month, I wanted to see if I still felt about them the same way, especially #8, which I found mind-boggling! And yes, I was still just as surprised about the following things as I had been back in January – so here they are, twelve things that surprised me about Hong Kong:

1. Hong Kong is busy: Arriving in Hong Kong from Stockholm, which had felt eerily empty during my visit, was absolutely overwhelming. There were crowds everywhere, and I hadn’t experienced large numbers of people in this way since leaving New York last November. Especially in the Kowloon neighborhood, where I was staying in the beginning, the streets were always packed with people. The subway was just as busy as the tube in London at rush hour, and most streets felt as busy as the streets around Times Square in Manhattan. It took me a few days to get used to how crowded Hong Kong felt.

By Dany – Full Story at Globetrotter Girls | China Gay Travel Resources

China’s Most Gay Friendly Provinces

Author: , May 9th, 2015

China MapEconomically developed cities and China’s southeastern coastal provinces are the most gay friendly, a new survey has found.

A WeChat user conducted the poll on attitudes towards homosexuality in different Chinese provinces on the mobile messaging.

Marvel Studios on 24 April posted a heat map of the results that showed places such as Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian and Hong Kong were the most gay friendly, while northwestern and inland provinces were more conservative.

By Darren Wee – Full Story at Gay Star News | China Gay Travel Resources

Traveling While Transgender – A Nightmare in Hong Kong

Author: , September 6th, 2014

Transgender FlagCrossing borders as a transgender woman is always a challenge. There are many reasons immigration authorities reject you, but sometimes it’s simply because they don’t seem to understand who we are.

My name is Eliana Rubashkyn and I was born in Bogota, Colombia. I’m a trained pharmacist and speak five languages fluently, and until recently, I was studying for an MBA in Health Administration in Taiwan on a government scholarship. I also used to be a man.

Last year, I was forced to travel to Hong Kong to renew my passport because of my altered gender. Hong Kong — a one-hour flight away — is the nearest Colombian consulate from Taiwan. The trip was also necessary to allow me to apply for the second year of my graduate degree.

Little did I know my life would be turned upside down when I boarded that plane.

By Eliana Rubashkyn – Full Story at WPTZ | China Gay Travel Resources