Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chinese New Year Celebration

The Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday in China. It is a time when family, friends and neighbors gather to celebrate in reunion and exchange gifts. It seems like the equivalent of Christmas and The 4th of July mixed together.

The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. It marks the beginning of spring and occurs between January 30th and February 20th. The festival of lanterns begins 15 days after the New Year. The Chinese people welcome the first full moon.

On New Years, Chinese families thoroughly clean the house to represent cleaning out the old year and bad luck to welcome a New Year and good luck. The families eat dinner together and stay up until midnight playing games and watching TV. At midnight, the sky is lit with fireworks to represent the welcoming of the New Year and saying goodbye to the old year.

In the morning the children receive gifts. They also receive a “lucky”, red envelope known as lisee or laisee and contains money. The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives, neighbors and friends.

Each Chinese year is represented by a repeated cycle of 12 animals: the rat, ox, tiger, hare or rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, goat, dog, and pig. This year, 2009, is the year of the Buffalo.

RAT: You are imaginative, charming, and truly generous to the person you love. However, you have a tendency to be quick-tempered and overly critical. You are also inclined to be somewhat of an opportunist. Born under this sign, you should be happy in sales or as a writer, critic, or publicist. (Born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008.)

BUFFALO: A born leader, you inspire confidence from all around you. You are conservative methodical, and good with your hands. Guard against being chauvinistic and always demanding your own way. The Buffalo would be successful as a skilled surgeon, general, or hairdresser. (Born in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.)

TIGER: You are sensitive, emotional, and capable of great love. However, you have a tendency to get carried away and be stubborn about what you think is right; often seen as a "Hothead" or rebel. Your sign shows you would be excellent as a boss, explorer, race car driver, or matador. (Born in 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010.)

RABBIT: You are the kind of person, that people like to be around affectionate, obliging, always pleasant. You have a tendency, though, to get too sentimental and seem superficial. Being cautious and conservative, you are successful in business but would also make a good lawyer, diplomat, or actor. (Born in 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.)

DRAGON: Full of vitality and enthusiasm, the Dragon is a popular individual even with the reputation of being foolhardy and a "big mouth" at times. You are intelligent, gifted, and a perfectionist but these qualities make you unduly demanding on others. You would be well-suited to be an artist, priest, or politician. (Born in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000.)

SNAKE: Rich in wisdom and charm, you are romantic and deep thinking and your intuition guides you strongly. Avoid procrastination and your stingy attitude towards money. Keep your sense of humor about life. The Snake would be most content as a teacher, philosopher, writer, psychiatrist, and fortune teller. (Born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001.)

HORSE: Your capacity for hard work is amazing. Your are your own person-very independent. While intelligent and friendly, you have a strong streak of selfishness and sharp cunning and should guard against being egotistical. Your sign suggests success as an adventurer, scientist, poet, or politician. (Born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954,1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014.)

GOAT: Except for the knack of always getting off on the wrong foot with people, the Goat can be charming company. Your are elegant and artistic but the first to complain about things. Put aside your pessimism and worry and try to be less dependent on material comforts. You would be best as an actor, gardener, or beachcomber. (Born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015.)

MONKEY: You are a vary intelligent and a very clever wit. Because of your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality, you are always well-liked. The Monkey, however, must guard against being an opportunist and distrustful of other people. Your sign promises success in any field you try. (Born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.)

ROOSTER: The Rooster is a hard worker; shrewd and definite in decision making often speaking his mind. Because of this, you tend to seem boastful to others. You are a dreamer, flashy dresser, and extravagant to an extreme. Born under this sign you should be happy as a restaurant owner, publicist, soldier or world traveler. (Born in 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017.)

DOG: The Dog will never let you down. Born under this sign you are honest, and faithful to those you love. You are plagued by constant worry, a sharp tongue, and a tendency to be a fault finder, however. You would make an excellent businessman, activist, teacher, or secret agent. (Born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018.)

PIG: You are a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. You are sincere, tolerant, and honest but by expecting the same from others, you are incredibly naive. Your quest for material goods could be your downfall. The Pig would be best in the arts as an entertainer, or possibly a lawyer. (Born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019.)

What is your Chinese Zodiac? Does it match your personality?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine Closer to Release

BALTIMORE- 9/29/09- The novel H1N1 virus (Swine Flu Virus) is expected to complicate the 2009/2010 flu season. At this time novel H1N1 vaccine has been approved for release but availability and access is still unknown. Seasonal influenza vaccine (flu shot) is available and the CDC recommends vaccination as flu season peaks over the next few months.
The H1N1 vaccine will most likely start to be released in mid to late October, “but the supply will be limited and only those at highest risk will be able to receive it,” stated Fran Lessans, founder and CEO of Passport Health, the largest private provider of travel medical services and immunizations in the nation. “We still do not know when the general public will be able to receive the H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine. We recommend that everyone get a seasonal flu vaccine.”
Passport Health plans to administer the novel H1N1 vaccine as a community vaccinator and has been attending weekly conference calls held by the CDC who will ultimately determine who receives it and who administers it.
Those at highest risk include:
  • Pregnant women
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age.
  • Healthcare and emergency medical personnel.
  • Those between 6 months and 24 years.
  • People 25 through 64 years with chronic health issues.
“Businesses have to understand the storm that’s coming and take measures to insure their viability since the Swine Flu is highly contagious. They should have a pandemic plan in place which should include a seasonal influenza program and possibly antivirals,” continued Lessans. “There should also be special guidelines to follow if businesses are sending their workers overseas.”
Passport Health is gearing up for what will be undoubtedly be a “challenging” flu season, as described by Lessans. “Our priority is to help immunize the public against the seasonal flu first, and then assist in the administration of novel H1N1”. Lessans also explained that demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has increased significantly and manufacturers are having problems delivering the vaccine. “We have been through shortages before, and it’s challenging, but we have always been able to pull through.” Passport Health conducts on-site flu clinics for corporations nationwide and has an antiviral program in place.
For more information visit To schedule an on-site flu clinic, contact Passport Health at 1-888-499-PASS (7277).
Jorge Castillo

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28 is World Rabies Day!

World Rabies Day is September 28. TODAY!

On this day, begin to take the steps to keep yourself and your family free from rabies.

Rabies is a deadly virus that can kill anyone who gets it. Every year, an estimated 40,000 people in the U.S. receive a series of shots known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to potential exposure to rabies. In addition, the U.S. public health cost associated with rabies is approximately $300 million. Each year around the world, rabies results in an estimated 55,000 deaths – approximately one death every 10 minutes. Most deaths are reported from Africa and Asia with almost 50% of the victims being children under the age of 15. (

Here are some tips to help protect you and your family:

Keep Away From Wildlife and Unfamiliar Animals
More than 90% of all animal rabies cases reported to CDC each year occur in wild animals. The main animals that get rabies include raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Never pick up or touch dead animals. Animals who have died can still give people rabies, especially if they have only been dead for a short time. If you see a dead animal, call animal control to take care of the animal's body.

Take Pets to a Veterinarian for Their Rabies Shot
Make sure to take your pets, such as dogs and cats, to the veterinarian each year. A veterinarian can make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies shot, which can protect them from getting rabies. This is important, since animals that have not received a rabies shot and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined for six months, or put down.

Stay Rabies Free In and Around Your Home
No matter where you live, rabies can threaten your family's health. Fortunately, there are things you can do around the home to help reduce the risk of getting rabies.
  • Keep your pets indoors. When a dog goes outside, make sure an adult is there to watch it and keep it safe.
  • Do not feed or put water for your pets outside and keep garbage securely covered. These items may attract wild animals or stray animals to your yard.
  • Teach children never to handle dead wild animals or unfamiliar domestic animals.
Take these tips to heart to protect yourself, your family and your best friends (your pets) from this deadly disease. If you have more questions, or want to know more here are a few sites to visit.

Infectious Diseases Today
Passport Health Rabies Info Page

Lets all take a stand against Rabies!

Friday, September 25, 2009

China: How to get around

China is a very large country with a lot of big cities and rural areas. Getting around the country and town you are traveling to can actually be relatively easy thanks to the great transportation methods China has available.

Train- Traveling by train is the most secure and reliable way to travel through the country. The rail system in China is very efficient. Traveling by train can be a favorite method as you can catch the train almost anywhere. There are four options for tickets:
  1. Hard Seat- Essentially business class, 4-6 seats in a booth. This option is the cheapest and the most crowded.
  2. Hard Sleep- The business class version of beds in a train, 4-6 beds in a booth.
  3. Soft Seat- More like first class and has comfortable seats and more room.
  4. Soft Sleep- Most expensive, 4 cabs of beds in a booth. First class version of sleeping on the train.

Bus- Traveling through China by bus is a common and less expensive way to travel than by train. Buses usually run through cities and are almost always full. Buying a bus ticket is extremely easy and accessible. The drawback to traveling by bus is the trip tends to be noisy and busses make frequent stops. Traveling through China using this form of transportation is good for short distance. Luxury buses are available in the country for traveling long distances cross country.

Air- Flying is expensive; however, it is an option at all regional capitals and many bigger cities. The train is the most preferred method of travel if flying can be avoided.

Car- Driving a car across China is still banned for foreigners. Foreign residents can rent a vehicle for local use in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hainan Island and Sanya. In order to do this, they must show an international drivers license, proof of residency and place a deposit. So, chances are good that if you planned to rent a car and drive across China, you will need to come up with a new plan.

How did you get around when you traveled to China? Was traveling by Rickshaw an option?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

China: Top 10 Attractions

China is a vast and extraordinary country spanning thousands of miles from the deserts in the west to the ocean on the east. Culturally, China has one of the most rich and textured histories of all civilizations that encompasses over 5,000 years. This is rich stuff for a traveler.

1. The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, or Palace Museum, sits at the center of Beijing, directly north of Tiananmen Square where the famous portrait of Mao Zedong hangs on the palatial crimson wall. It was the imperial seat for Ming and Qing dynasty emperors from 1420 until 1912 when the last emperor, Pu Yi, abdicated. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

2. The Great Wall
The Great Wall winds its way across China covering over 4,000 miles (6,700km). While the latest construction occurred after 1368 during the Ming Dynasty, construction of the Great Wall began over 2,000 years ago. In fact, the Great Wall is actually made up of a number of interconnecting walls spanning China that different dynasties and warlords constructed over the years.

3. The Terracotta Warriors
Discovered in 1974 when a local farmer was digging a well, the terracotta army, buried in 210 BC with the first emporer of the Qin dynasty, is a breathtaking site. The thousands of life-size figures have individually unique faces and hair and armor styles appropriate to their rank. The museum of the Terracotta Army is located in Xi'An, Shanxi province.

4. Karst Mountains in Yangshuo
Illustrating the 20 Renminbi (Chinese currency) note, the karst mountains are famously beautiful in China. Located in the south of China in Guangxi province, they can best be viewed from Yangshuo, a small town outside Guilin, a major city in Guangxi Province.

5. The Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam
Best seen by tour boat down the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Dam is a modern construction marvel. The dam is the world's largest as well as the world's biggest hydroelectric power station. The river itself is the world's third longest and the Three Gorges are the natural highlight of the boat cruise.

6. Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve located in China's Sichuan province. A beautiful example of China's varied landscape, Jiuzhaigou is famous for crystal blue lakes and multi-level waterfalls. It is populated by a number of Tibetan villages so is also a superb place to see and experience Tibetan local culture.

7. Potala Palace, Lhasa
Now a Chinese museum, the Potala Palace was traditionally the seat of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhists' spiritual leader. Famous for its imposing white walls surrounding the inner red palace, the building sits at 3,700 meters or over 12,000 feet. The Potala Palace is located in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

8. The Bund, Shanghai
The Bund, meaning embankment, was historically the seat of Shanghai's most powerful businessmen in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Bund is a fabulous place to see examples of Shanghai's rich architectural history, illustrated by the HSBC Building, built in 1923 and at the time said to be "the most luxurious building between the Suez Canal and the Bering Strait." (Quote source: Wikipedia)

9. Giant Pandas
3 hours outside Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is the Wolong Nature Preserve, the largest panda reserve in China. The center tries to ensure the Giant Panda species can continue to exist. Tourists can observe pandas in their natural habitat and can also help researchers feed and play with these beautiful and threatened animals.

10. Modernity in Hong Kong
See modern China - and Asia - at the cutting edge with a visit to Hong Kong. Walking down the Kowloon side promenade gives the traveler a view of some of the most beautiful modern architecture in China, dominated by the Bank of China Tower designed by I.M. Pei.

What site do you most want to see? Ever been to any of the sites before? Tell us about it!!

Thanks to for the info for this post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

China: Food

The Chinese meals take a lot of preparation which is often why travelers refer to Chinese food as some of the best food they had while traveling.

A typical meal consists of two general components:
The main food which is a type of starch including rice, noodles or buns (depending on which part of China you live in) and accompanying dishes such as a vegetable, fish or meat.

If you were not already aware, the Chinese culture eats with chopsticks as opposed to forks and knives. Spoons are used to eat soup and chop sticks are used to eat solid food. Traditionally, Chinese culture considered using knives and forks at the table barbaric because these utensils are regarded as weapons. It was also considered ungracious to have guests working to cut their own food. This is another reason why the preparation of Chinese food is extensive and why travelers regard the food as being some of the best when traveling; it is prepared ready to eat, literally!

Traditionally there are eight main families of dishes:
* Hui (Anhui)
* Yue (Cantonese)
* Min (Fujian)
* Xiang (Hunan)
* Yang (Jiangsu)
* Lu (Shandong)
* Chuan (Szechuan)
* Zhe (Zhejiang)
Today there are primarily four main styles of food in China, namely the Beijing Style, the Shanghai Style, the Sichuan/Szechuan Style and the Cantonese Style.

The Chinese have long been famous for their tea—if you're a tea drinker, you won't be disappointed.

Also, don't expect to see fortune cookies at the end of your meal; they don't exist in China because they are uniquely American.

Have a look at this video below of some Americans trying out some adventurous foods during their trip to Beijing.

What is the most unusual Chinese dish you have ever had?

Friday, September 18, 2009

China: Language Barriers

Doing business in China comes with both great opportunities and great challenges. If you do not speak Chinese, overcoming the language barrier will be one of the biggest challenges you will face.

For people accustomed only to Western languages, Chinese proves to be an exceptionally difficult language to learn. Even if you believe that you can learn quickly, you should be advised that the Chinese language is very different from English.

The most obvious difference is that Chinese words are not constructed with alphabets and character construction follows a completely different set of rules.

Chinese and English grammar is also very different. For example, if you directly translate the expression "I will go shopping tomorrow" from Chinese to English, you will get something like this: "I tomorrow go shopping." If you want to learn Chinese, find a good Chinese tutor or enroll in a program.

In the mean time, you must find a good interpreter. The problem is that it is very difficult to find really good interpreters in China since there aren't many Chinese nationals who are fluent in English.

China is a country with one office language, Chinese or "Han Yu", but with thousands of local dialects. If you randomly pick 100 people from 100 different parts of China and put them in a room, chances are that many of them will not understand each other's local dialect.

Check out the video below. Even if you cant learn Chinese this will help you be able to buy tea and coffee!

Do you know another language other than your native language? What were the hardest and easiest things to learn? Did you find any resources that were very useful?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

China: Hotels and Hostels

There are so many great cities and towns to visit if you are traveling to China. It was hard to choose only two cities to post about! Below are some excellent hotels that come HIGHLY recommended by traveler reviews, wait until you see why…


St. Regis Shanghai- The St. Regis in Shanghai is no doubt a 5 star hotel for many reasons. The beautiful hotel has excellent and friendly staff, very clean rooms and a location in Pudong that is near some hot spots. It has on-site restaurants; the restaurant on the top floor even has panoramic views! Including wireless internet, a fitness center, indoor pool, spa and tennis, it is easy to feel at home. Large bathtubs were among one of the favorites in traveler’s reviews. The St. Regis also has 24 hour butler service who will pack and unpack your luggage and run your errands! At a very reasonable price for all of its stars, this luxury hotel should be at the top of your hotel list!

The Eton Hotel- Located in the Luijazui financial & trade zone, the Eton Hotel also received rave traveler reviews, especially for having a tremendously reasonable price for a 4 ½ star hotel. Offering a health club, on-site restaurants, internet access and an on-site pool, there is plenty to do to relax at this hotel. Not to mention they offer a turndown service upon request, bathrobe and slippers. They even have a TV and telephone in the bathroom… talk about convenience!

Mingtown Etour International Youth Hostel- Receiving rave reviews by travelers for its comfortable beds and on-site bar, offering internet access and a refrigerator, this hostel is the one to choose when traveling to Shanghai. The Mingtown Etour Hostel includes cable TV with DVDs, 24 hour security, a laundry facility and game room and on-site restaurants, cafes and bar! This hostel is located in the center city of Shanghai. It has hot showers and a bonus courtyard! Tempting?


The Opposite House (pictured right)- A decently priced, 5 star hotel that has SO much to offer its customers. The staff is extremely attentive and friendly, the rooms are comfortable, guests give it two thumbs up and you even get a complementary Toblerone. That’s not even the best it has to offer. The Opposite House even has an iPod docking station in every room and bedside, electronically controlled blinds! It is located in Sanlitun which is full of trendy restaurants and bars. The hotel offers a health club, indoor pool, high speed internet, on-site nightclub and BBQ grills! Massages are available in your room upon request. The Opposite House is obviously quite the opposite of a lousy hotel and everything a 5 star hotel should be!

Hotel G- TERRIFIC price for a 5 star hotel! Reviewers raved the most for this one! The Hotel G is a boutique hotel offering just about everything you could want, especially GREAT service. It has 2 iMac computers in its computer room which are already installed with Skype and offer free internet! The hotel is also very kid friendly. One reviewer said the hotel staff sent a pet fish in a bowl up to the room for the children! Free pets… we’re there!

Downtown Backpackers Hostel- This hostel goes beyond hospitality, the staff offers to book train and plane tickets; make reservations for the opera, for Kung Fu Shows, for acrobatic shows, hiking excursions and Great Wall tours! Located at the center of the ancient capital of the Yuan Dynasty, this hostel is in a great spot. Breakfast is included as are linens but towels are available for hire. There is also an on-site restaurant and internet access.

Does all this information make you want to you buy your plane ticket for a vacation to China? It definitely makes us think about it!! Please remember that many of these hotels and other hotels in China require you to show your passport upon check-in.

What is the best hotel amenity you were ever offered from a hotel? Does it beat having an iPod docking station?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

China: Etiquette

China is a very cultural and historic country. It is very important to keep in mind that China only opened its country to outsiders three decades ago. Below are some tips to help ease the Chinese anxiety about foreigners and hopefully teach them the cultures of other countries.

China is a very modest and shy country. They rest on traditional ideals which is why it is difficult for the older generations to be open minded about different cultures. The Chinese rarely display emotions and feelings in public. Couples do not even hold hands in public. Males can be seen holding hands with males and females can be seen holding hands with other females. This only happens when people are truly close friends. Males and females very rarely hold hands in public.

The Chinese do not greet by hugging or kissing each other on the cheek, rather at the most they shake hands. Sometimes the Chinese will bow as a greeting. Try to follow what the Chinese are doing and you will be okay. As long as you make an effort to conform to their culture, they will be accepting.

The people love humor and have a great sense of humor; however, jokes or subjects related to politics or anything sexual are strictly avoided. This is very different from European countries which are extremely interested in foreigner’s point of view on politics.

Try to “keep face”. This means always keep your temper and never act confrontational, especially in public. This is very important in the Chinese culture.

If you happen to be traveling to more underdeveloped areas of China as opposed to the big cities, be prepared to be stared at. However, try not to take offense to this; the people are just curious. The larger cities in China have been exposed to Western culture through movies and television while the more underdeveloped areas are still learning and accepting other cultures.

Lastly, when sightseeing most people enjoy taking photos as memorabilia. Please remember that the Chinese culture finds it extremely rude to take pictures of people without asking first. Typically, if you have a digital camera and ask a Chinese person to take their picture, show them the picture after as they will be more willing to obey your requests.

When traveling to China, the etiquette is rather simple, just remember you are in a modest and rather shy country. Enjoy!

Have you ever come in contact with someone exhibiting unusual behavior in your own country… later to find this person is foreign? What was your reaction?

Monday, September 14, 2009

China: Stay Healthy on Vacation

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing China from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in China and get vaccinated.

For travel to China, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Yellow Fever- if coming from a country where yellow fever is present
• PPD Test
Japanese Encephalitis

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout China that can seriously affect your health. It is especially important to make sure you get anti-malarial medication and use the proper repellents containing the appropriate amount of DEET as Japanese Encephalitis are both mosquito borne illnesses.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked.. Hepatitis B, Measles, Hand, Foot and Mouth disease and Rabies are all prevalent diseases in China. Bring properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there are another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in China.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in China deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

China: The Endangered Panda Fighting to Grow

Great news in the struggle of the endangered panda. 2 baby pandas are soon to be on show in China. Check out this video. They are so adorable!

What would the world be like if the panda were to become extinct? What about another animal closer to home for those of us Westerners: Cats! What would the world be like without cats... ok, OR dogs? Tell us about it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

China: What to wear?

There is no specific dress code to follow if you are visiting China. The people of China dress similarly to Western culture. The one thing to keep in mind is the time of year you are going and the location to where you are traveling. Some cities in China are warmer/colder depending on the time of year. Check the season list below to help you plan your trip and help you prepare what to pack!

Autumn (September-November)
Winter (December-February)
Spring (March-May)
Summer (June-August)

It is important to remember that summer is the rainy season in China. This is typically when many vacations are taken because this is when people have time off and it is warm over in the U.S. which reminds people of vacationing! Keep this in mind as the weather on your vacation to China is likely to be rainy and may require umbrellas and raincoats if you travel during the summer months!

Check out this site as it has compiled a list of clothing to be packed for every season you visit China!

Additional items to be packed include:
- plenty of sunscreen (although rainy, it is still hot and sunny in the summer!)
- hat (for protection from the sun and also as a fashion statement!)
- sunglasses
- comfortable walking shoes
- a water bottle (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
- universal plug (make sure your electronics are compatible)
- insect repellents
- TISSUES- most bathrooms DO NOT provide toilet paper for you.
- hand sanitizer
- traveler guides/ maps
- a camera

… And don’t forget stop at your Passport Health location to pick up your prescription for preventive malaria medication, a malaria kit which includes appropriate repellents containing DEET, as well as a kit for traveler’s diarrhea including antibiotics and re-hydration powders.

Check out ALL our Specialty Travel Products!

Whats the one thing you never leave home without when traveling?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

China: Documents needed for entry

It's hard enough saving the money and planning a trip overseas without worrying about all the legal entry requirements for China. We have put together some resources for you to make your search a little easier.

First check what documents are necessary to enter China. here
Learn a little more about Chinese Visas. here
Download the visa application form. here

And lastly, for today anyway, enjoy a few chinese phrases that are useful for travelers. here

Have you ever been to China? If so what is the ONE thing you would be sure to tell a friend before they took a trip to China?

Friday, September 4, 2009

China: Top 10 Good Luck Symbols

Here is a look at the top 10 good luck symbols in Chinese.

1.)Fu - Blessing, Good Fortune, Good Luck
Fu is one of the most popular Chinese characters used in Chinese New Year. It is often posted upside down on the front door of a house or an apartment. The upside down fu means good luck came since the character for upside down in Chinese sounds the same as the character for came.

2.) Lu - Prosperity
It used to mean official's salary in feudal China. Fengshui is believed to be the Chinese way to health, wealth and happiness.

3.) Shou - Longevity
Shou also means life, age or birthday.

4.) Xi - Happiness
Double happiness is usually posted everywhere on Chinese weddings.

5.) Cai - wealth, money
Chinese often say money can make a ghost turn a millstone. It is to say money really can do a lot of things.

6.) He - harmonious
'People harmony' is an important part of Chinese culture. When you have harmonious relations with others, things will be a lot easier for you.

7.) Ai - love, affection
Don't need to say any more about this one. Just want to point out ai is often used with 'mianzi' together. Aimianzi means 'be concerned about one's face-saving.'

8.) Mei - beautiful, pretty
The United States of American is called Mei Guo in the short form. Guo means country so Meiguo is a good name.

9.) Ji - lucky, auspicious, propitious
Hope all is well.

10.)De - virtue, moral
De means virtue, moral, heart, mind, and kindness, etc. It is also used in the name for Germany, i.e., De Guo.

What do you think is the most important symbol of the 10 listed above?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

China: Swine Flu!

Those of us in the northern hemisphere are lucky that we had a few months warning about the H1N1 Swine flu. Because we were able to observe the southern hemisphere's battle with the deadly virus that took the world by surprise, various drug companies have hopefully produced an effective vaccine to help us ride out the second wave of the Swine flu pandemic.

Here is a bit of information about what is happening with Swine Flu in China now.

Chinese health authorities have approved a vaccine that they say prevents swine flu with a single dose.

Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac has been given the green light to mass produce the vaccine for the H1N1 flu strain. more

In early results from human tests on one of its swine flu vaccine candidates, Novartis AG said one shot of its vaccine provided enough protection against the virus, as set out by criteria by U.S. and European drug regulators. more

Worldwide the race is on for pharmaceutical firms to produce vaccines against the H1N1 virus before winter arrives in the northern hemisphere, when experts warn the flu could spread further.

Sinovac is among the first companies in the world to start mass producing the vaccine and the company's CEO Yin Weidong said current planned annual production could be increased if necessary.

"We have already expanded capacity to 30 million doses a year. Now we have entered a phase of increased production. But if the needs of the government or other countries increases, we will think of some other methods to increase production," he told reporters.

Sinovac Biotech Ltd said it was the first company worldwide to complete clinical trials for a H1N1 vaccine and expects to begin supplying doses to the Chinese government for priority cases this month.

Looks like China is paving the way for the Swine Flu Vaccine. Though the news might, and most likely will, change tomorrow.

We know all this talk of the H1N1 and pandemic is probably scary for most to hear, but relax!! Even though there is no certainty of the vaccine's effectiveness or supply there are still very simple things you can do to prevent yourself from catching Swine flu:

Wash your hands!

Stay home when you are sick!

Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm (NOT your hand)!


Please share with us your thoughts and fears about the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak. What are you doing to ensure your safety and the safety of those you love?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

China: Know When To Go!!

Before booking any flights or accommodations in China, obviously you have to decide when you are going, right? First, I suggest you take a look at the weather and that will make planning a lot easier!

The seasons in China are the same as other countries in the northern hemisphere, so:

Autumn (September-November)
Normally, the most comfortable season of the year is early autumn (September to early October). During that period, temperatures are reasonable throughout China (about 50-72F) with a limited amount of rain. September for example is the only month in the year when the ancient and valuable paintings of the Beijing Palace Museum are displayed due to proper climate conditions (low humidity and proper temperature).

Spring (March-May)
Spring can also be delightful with the average temperatures roughly the same as in autumn (about 50-72F). The best way to deal with weather unpredictability is to wear layered clothing that will make you comfortable in both chilly and warm weather.

Summer (June-August)
Summer can be extremely hot with temperatures well above 72F, especially in the famous 'four furnaces' of China: Wuhan, Tianjin, Chongqing and Nanchang.
Summer is also a rainy season, so travelers should not forget umbrellas, light raincoats and rubber/plastic shoes.

Winter (December-February)
Winter can be incredibly cold especially in the north. Off season travel can also offer its rewards. For example, the Harbin Winter Ice Lantern Festival is quite charming.

So check out the season that best fits your liking and schedule. Also be sure to keep in mind that the more mild the weather, the more crowds you will have to fight, but luckily, no matter how crowded the area, the sights are still beautiful!

I prefer to travel to a warm climate. It makes packing much easier because I can leave out heavy jackets and sweaters and save that room to bring home souvenirs!! What is your favorite season to travel?

Take a look at the video below of the Harbin Ice Festival. It's amazing what can be done with frozen water!! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Country of the Month: China!

The time has come for us to move on to another exciting country. Join us on our journey of discovery in China!!

Lets start with a few facts to get your interest sparked!!

1- Ice cream was invented in China around 2000BC when the Chinese packed a soft milk and rice mixture in the snow. (I think ice cream may deserve MORE attention in later posts!)

2- China is the fourth largest country in the world. Depending upon the time of year, China is sometimes a day ahead of the United States.

3- The Chinese year is based on the cycles of the moon. This is called a lunar schedule. A complete cycle of the Chinese calendar takes 60 years.

4- Each year is represented by an animal. 2009 is the year of the OX and 2010 will be the year of the TIGER!

5- When a Chinese child loses a baby tooth, it doesn't get tucked under the pillow for the tooth fairy. If the child loses an upper tooth, the child's parents plant the tooth in the ground, so the new tooth will grow in straight and healthy. Parents toss a lost bottom tooth up to the rooftops, so that the new tooth will grow upwards , too.

Bet you didn't know that! And if you did already know that, then you probably know a lot more and you should share your knowledge with us.

Send us your best (and even second and third best) story about your trip to China, or your friends' trip to China, or a movie you saw about China. (you get the point... We want to hear about China and we want YOU to tell us!!)