Archives For preparing for travel to china

So, you are going to China and you are wondering about where you will encounter squatty potties and where western-style toilets will be available.  You may be glad to know that at the Beijing Capital Airport you will have a choice!  Without opening a door and looking inside, the easiest way I know to tell which toilet option is behind the door is to look at the picture on the outside of the stall door.  The first picture below is what is on the door for a squatty potty, and the second picture is for a western style toilet.  It is very easy to see the difference!




I must say that the restrooms are quite large and very clean.  I think there is always an attendant in the restrooms working to keep the facility clean and supplied.  They even have flowers on the counters and at the entrance sometimes.




Speaking entrances, they are very well marked for the ladies, men, and families.  Usually there is a large hall and, at the end of the hall, you see a picture indicating where you should go.  Also, the family restroom is usually a well-marked door within the hallway.  Additionally, you may find an another doorway within the hall marked as being wheelchair accessible.




In my opinion, the people planning the airport have done a great job of locating the restrooms. You never seem to have to go too far to find the facilities and the employees keep them very clean!


Once you arrive at the airport, if you need any assistance with your movement from gate to gate, or gate to luggage collection area, you have options.  I have seen many people take advantage of some of the offerings the airport provides.  If there is a single person, they may prefer to take the common wheel chair.  These are provided at the gate if needed, and an employee will wheel you to where you need to go.  They know the locations within the airport, so you won’t get lost having them helping you.  As you can see from the picture below, the wheelchairs are nothing fancy, but they get the job done, and from what I have seen, the workers are very cautious and courteous.


Another option available to you is the golf cart.  These golf carts provide you with space for your luggage and, if you have people traveling with you, there is additional room for them as well.  Your airline will provide the carts and the driver as needed.  As with the people pushing the wheelchairs, the drivers know exactly where to take you within the airport.  The golf carts run on batteries, so they don’t have any exhaust to make the air unpleasant within the airport.  Also, the floors are very clean at the airport, so when the rubber tires turn on the squeaky clean tile floor, they make a noise that sound s like a child making a new pair of athletic shoes squeak on a floor.


Within the airport, there are also trains that take you from the arrival gates to the main terminal or the reverse of that, depending if you are departing or arriving.  These trains run regularly, so you never have to wait long for a train!  At times they may be crowed, but usually not too bad!  Don’t worry, the announcements about where to get off the train are made in Chinese and English, and the signs on the train are in Chinese and English as well!




There are so many little, yet unique, things that make Shanghai such an interesting city to visit.  In the picture below, you see a VERY interesting aquarium, which is actually built like a support column.  I must admit, when it initially caught my eye, I wasn’t sure if it was a real aquarium. Upon further inspection, however, I can assure you the fish are real!  When I originally entered this store, I didn’t even notice the aquarium, but it was a nice surprise to the day!


The picture below was on a ceiling tile in a store in Shanghai.  I was very impressed by the colors and expression of the dragon.  This dragon has four toes, so that means it was designed for a Noble.  If the dragon had five toes, then it would have been designed for royalty.


In the next picture you can see how you enter a store protected by golden dragons!  How exciting it must be for a young child to walk under the dragons.


Continuing with the use of colors, check out this picture.  I love the use of bright, contrasting colors are used. This photo also shows a popular lantern, commonly visible all year long in China.


The final pictures for today are of the most photographed tea house in all of China.  It is built over a small pond and the architectural style makes it very photogenic.  There are so many windows in this tea house that you may need your sun glasses inside!


When I was at this famous tea house, I met several photography students photographing the structure.  They were very nice and didn’t mind at all sharing the same object to photograph.  In fact, we all had to laugh a little at ourselves for taking the same pictures.



Did you know Beijing had another airport besides the famous Beijing Capital International Airport? It is called Nanyuan and it serves smaller cities, which is a huge help for local travelers. When I first used this airport, I had many very interesting impressions. One thing I noticed was that there were military airplanes in multiple areas of the airport. Some of them looked very old, so I thought maybe the aircraft were there to be mothballed. Regardless, that was something you don’t get to see every day.

As we taxied to the terminal, I noticed how much smaller the terminal was than the one at the International Airport for Beijing. In fact, there were no jet bridges coming out to reach the plane’s door for us to exit the plane and guide us into the terminal, so we used a ramp. Then, I noticed how the workers were loading the luggage and cargo on a trailer behind a farm tractor. I watched as the tractor pulled the luggage to a large shed. Everyone from my flight was walking toward the shed, so I followed the crowd. Once you entered the shed, the tractor and trailer pulled in, and people would get their luggage. It worked very efficiently, and I was able to retrieve my luggage must faster than at a large modern airport, so I was impressed.


When you exited the shed, your luggage tags were checked, and you were directed into the terminal. The terminal itself was small and you could see the exit not too far away. When you exited the terminal, there was a group of taxi drivers there to provide the transportation. Luckily for me, all of the drivers were in a playful mood and were willing to show me some grace, because I didn’t speak their language very well at all. We joked around a lot about the price and my bald head. I wasn’t comfortable with the best price I found, so I just started walking toward the street thinking that someone would meet my price. As I got near the end of a parking lot, one taxi driver did stop me and told me that it was a long way to walk to the main road. I didn’t believe him, but as I looked around, I changed my mind. We negotiated a price and away I went.

Nanyuan has been remodeled and it is much larger now. It is the oldest airport in China; it opened in 1910 as a military airport. Although this airport can now handle many more flights and passengers, I regret the loss of the special uniqueness it had as the old tiny airport not many people knew to use. Another charm that is no longer there is the taxi drivers are now lined up waiting on the fares, just like at the big airports and train stations. You just walk up to the next free taxi in line—and there is no negotiating for the price.



China’s Flag

May 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

China Flag_Beau Sides_Lessons from China


During each of my trips to China, I am reminded of how proud the Chinese are of their flag because it is displayed so often. Many of the cranes at construction sites will display the flag on top so that it waves in the breeze, and everyone can see it. I’ve often seen China’s flag displayed on office desks in pen and pencil holders. The pen holder’s flat base will have holes in the top of the base to place pens and pencils, and standing out from the writing utensils will be a small Chinese flag on a short stick.


The History of China’s Flag


The history of China’s flag is very interesting, to say the least. It is often referenced as the Five-star Red Flag or wu xing hong qi. The Five-star Red Flag has one large star in the upper left corner and 4 smaller stars to the right of the large star set in an arching formation. The red represents the communist revolution. The 5 stars and their placement represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.


Zeng Liansong designed China’s flag in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. Liansong’s Five-star Red Flag was first raised by the People’s Liberation Army on October 1, 1949 over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Although Chinese government regulations do not allow cities and provinces to have their own flags, Hong Kong and Macau do, but only because they are Special Administrative Regions.


China Flag_Beau Sides_Tiananmen Sq


Symbolism of the Flag


Many people think the 5 stars represent the 5 largest ethnic groups: Han, Manchus, Mongols, Hui, and Tibetans. The truth is, the largest star represents the Communist Party, and the 4 smaller stars symbolize the 4 classes of people in China in 1949: the working class, the peasants, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie.


China Flag_Beau Sides_Five stars


Wikipedia was a big help with this information!


To learn more about China, check out Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!


How to Get Lessons from China


Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education now available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook!


You can buy Lessons from China on, (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life),, and in Barnes and Noble stores and a variety of other bookstores and online booksellers.


Note: If you don’t see the book on the shelf at your local bookstore, just ask the sales clerk to order it for you. The booksellers are eager to accommodate you, whenever possible. Independent bookstores can order the book through Bookmasters.


Card Games in China_photo

I love watching a group of Chinese guys sitting around playing cards! This can go on for hours, and they truly seem to enjoy their time. Often the card game will draw in others to socialize with everyone else, so it becomes an even larger event. It’s unfortunate for me that I don’t know how to play, yet.

The guys seem to enjoy throwing down their playing cards with much more gusto than I am accustomed to seeing in the states. The card will be thrown down with so much force that you can hear the card hit the playing surface, if there isn’t too much other noise around.

This game time is also a time for the guys to enjoy their cigarettes, talk about current events, and maybe enjoy their favorite beverage.


Learn more in my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education

As in everything, preparation is the key to a glitch-free experience. Having the necessary legal documents and preparing your total self to experience a new culture should be a priority on your “going to China to-do list.” I believe that the following three things are probably the most important things you can do to insure an enjoyable, healthy, less-stressed international travel experience.