Jun 072007
 

Wuhu has a Chinese language school called “Aston Language Center”. It has a very familial atmosphere. Most of the students there are English teachers employed by the school to teach in schools in the surrounding area, or Chery Automobile, a fast growing domestic auto company. They are given free Chinese lessons as part of their work package.

There are foreign students going there just to Mandarin, but they are in the minority. When a friend of mine was there, only three such students were there, including one Polish and one American. So there was just one group class for beginners. If you are not at the beginner level and want to join a group class, this school may not suit you.

The teachers are “very nice, clever and ambitious but lack experience”, my friend said. Most of the teachers are very young, 18 or 19, still studying in the university. Some of them come from the countryside, who make a living as a teacher for 1000RMB per month only.

Generally speaking, my friend said, the teaching method and material is far from satisfactory. But he said he was quite happy with the school. He was taking one-on-one lessons and could have say in what and how he wanted to learn. Therefore, teachers’ experience did not matter that much. Since different teachers took turn to give him lessons, some of the teachers were actually quite good, he said. He was unhappy with the first teacher the School assigned, and he made a complaint. The School assigned other teachers to him afterward.

My friend planned to enroll in the school for a week and he ended up studying there for two weeks. He paid 60RMB per hour for one-on-one lessons. The School was wonderful and offered him opportunity to join the beginner group class for free.

The School was run by a female director who speaks excellent English.  It occupies a whole floor on 5/F in a building without an elevator (yeah, can see that Wuhu is not a modern and rich city). You have to climb 100 steps to reach the school. On the same floor, there are classrooms, facilities and reception area at one end, and student apartments at the other.

Near the school, there is a lake and a park. When my friend was there, some teachers lived in the student apartment with students. They went out together for Tai Chi in the park before class.

I will talk more about accommodation and living in Wuhu soon.

 Posted by at 4:20 pm
May 222007
 

If you stay in Nanjing, a budget hotel is recommended, which is:

http://www.elong.net/hotels/details.aspx?m=&hotelid=21101011

It is at a prime site – in the Confucius Temple area. 168RMB per room. The room is clean and with fast internet connection. I chose the hotel for a friend based on hotel users’ positive review. My friend’s comment after using it? Positive, of course.

Opposite this budget hotel is a five-star “Mandarin Garden Hotel” where you can buy train tickets to anywhere in China for a service charge of 5RMB. Very convenient.

 Posted by at 10:55 pm
May 052007
 

The old Hong Kong Star Ferry Pier in Central was demolished, after the authoritarian HK Government frowned on public protest and anger and went ahead as planned.

I used the new Star Ferry Pier last week, carrying my 3-year-old niece with me. It was a hell. The way from the bus station on the main road of Central to the pier is SO LONG.. With the baby in my arms, it was an uphill battle to walk the minimum 15-min passage to the pier. Anger fired up inside me. What the hell is this demolition for? Not to mention keeping history and collective memory, the simple fact is, the demolition is not in the interest of the residents of the city. The new pier in Central is so hard to reach.

With a nice location, historic value and collective memory, the old pier just disappeared like that, and a fake-Victoria style building as the new pier, stands somewhere, out of touch with people. Just like the government of this city.

 Posted by at 3:23 pm
May 042007
 

A foreigner wanting to buy a train ticket in China, who cannot speak or read Chinese, will find it very frustrating. It is hard, very hard. The common experience is, you take your chance to queue at one of the long lines, and when you finally get to the front, you are told it is wrong line, or “mei you mei you” (not available).

The tip is, you go to the five-star hotels, if any, and try your luck. In these luxury hotels, they usually have ticketing service and the staff can speak English. You can get your train or bus tickets for a handling fee of 5-20rmb.

You can also try four-star hotels where ticketing service can be available.

You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to use the service.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
May 012007
 

Another China hotel booking website I would like to recommend is Sinohotel. I’ve used their service, which is satisfactory to me.

Their English page has more user comment than elong, and for some hotels, they conduct checks and write their own comment. This is one great advantage over elong – more review in English. The price they offer and the range of the hotels they have are no different from those at elong, though.

As elong, once you fill out the online booking form, they will email you to acknowledge your booking and then email again to confirm the booking. Credit card is usually not needed for keeping the booking. You make payment when you arrive at the hotel.

However, you have to take note that China hotels request guests to pay deposit for their stay and the deposit will be returned when they check out. The deposit can be paid in the form of cash or credit card, usually a few hundred RMB.

 Posted by at 9:29 pm