Tips for Vegetarian food in China

Vegetarian? Traveling to China? Then you must be worried about what you are going to eat there. Most people eat non veg there. Almost all the restaurants serve only non veg food. Then how are you going to survive? People who have never been to China will tell you similar things. Worry not, here are some tips which might turn out to be useful for the vegetarians.

First, the hotel you decide to book is very important. Check the details, see reviews and pics online. Make sure that there is a nice buffet breakfast. Make sure there is sufficient time to have a nice and heavy breakfast. I used to have milk and cornflakes, boiled eggs or omelet, waffle or pancake, some fruits and juice, baked vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes and any other vegetarian dish that might be served. Also if possible keep some fruits and pieces of cake in your bag to munch later. And after such heavy I was ready to start my day.

I had brought sufficient stock of some ready to eat Indian dishes. MTR has a lot of options of such items. I just needed to add some boiling water and the dish was ready in 5 mins. There are options of poha, upma and suji halwa. Poha was my favorite. I also had cup noodles and haldiram’s bhelpuri as a change. Before leaving the hotel I used to keep one of these ready to eat dishes in my bag to eat just in case I don’t find anything to eat during the day. In China, at most places one can get hot water.

Adjust. Even with some veg options you can make good things to eat. For example I used buns applied butter added a few slices of cheese added some veggies and my veg burger was ready! I ate a lot of desserts and fruits. Try to eat something out of whatever is available.

Experiment. Try out other veg options which might be available in restaurants. Check with the chefs that it contains no meat or fish. With recent vegetarian and vegan trends all over the world, there are some Chinese vegetarian restaurants. Also i heard that some Buddhist temples and the places nearby serve vegetarian food, although i didn’t get to visit such places.

Indian restaurants! Atleast in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing there are many Indian restaurants. Plan and go there in the evening. I went to Kebabs on the grill in Cool Docks in Shanghai and it was my favorite place in China. They were so nice as they created a special veg combo meal for me as I was traveling solo. I searched for Indian restaurants and went to the ones which were easily accessible. And I had some of the yummiest Indian meals!

Ignore the people who say that there will be nothing vegetarian to eat in China. Let me know if these tips were useful and add more tips to get tasty vegetarian food in China.

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Bullet trains of China

You know what is one of the coolest thing in China. Their lightning fast bullet trains. I traveled in Maglev and Fuxing bullet train and I will share my experience of these two trains of China.

Maglev in Shanghai 

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Maglev runs between the Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road station. If you are traveling light then you can easily mange to travel in Maglev. I was traveling with a suitcase, a handbag and a backpack still I managed well. Get out of the airport and ignore all the people shouting for a taxi. Look for directions of Maglev. They are lots of boards pointing in the direction. You can take your baggage trolley till the ticketing point. Single trip costs 50 CNY and if you show the same day’s flight ticket it is 40 CNY. Wait for the train at the platform, and get in the train when it arrives. You can choose any seat that is vacant. Usually there is not much rush as many people take the metro instead of Maglev as it is cheaper. Choose a window seat from where you can look out and also see the LED display of the current time and speed. Maglev starts at the exact time it is scheduled. Observe the gradual increase in speed. The maximum speed varies based on the time of the day. I experienced the maximum speed of 300 km/hr! Enjoy each and every moment as the ride is very short and i reached the destination in exactly 8 minutes! Exact to 00 seconds! The speed is really fast and the experience is totally worth it. On reaching the Longyang station, i got out of the exit and from there took the subway towards my hotel. I took a three day subway pass for 45 CNY as i had to travel a lot and also it is easier instead of taking a ticket for each trip individually. This was my first trip to Shanghai and China, i don’t know Chinese and most people there don’t know English, still overall my experience was smooth. There were directions in English and there is very less chance of getting lost. Overall I had an amazing Maglev experience!

Fuxing Bullet Train between Shanghai and Beijing

I decided to travel between Shanghai and Beijing using the bullet train. I booked the return train from Beijing to China online using Travel China Guide. I wanted to book a specific train and it was around the China holiday season. So i didn’t want to take the risk of waiting to book the ticket in person, as sometimes the tickets get sold out. The online booking experience was good. There is some extra service fee to be paid but it is worth it if you have a specific train to book. You need to select the train and send them the passport copy. They will confirm the tickets which you can collect after reaching China. I requested them to book a window seat and they booked a nice window seat in the first row for me!

I booked the to ticket from Shanghai to Beijing in person after reaching China. I went to the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. It is huge and crowded. Followed the directions and reached the ticketing counter. The person at the desk didn’t know English, but there was a display showing the details of the ticket to be booked. I signaled him to choose the date and train of my choice. It was not at all difficult. He checked my passport and gave me the ticket. I also collected my Beijing to Shanghai ticket which i had booked online by showing him the receipt. And yipee i had to and from tickets of the Bullet train. I had selected both the trains of the G series as it is the fastest 😀

 Shanghai to Beijing train

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I reached the station again. Followed the directions and people to the third floor which were heading to the waiting area. Shanghai station is huge. Keep sufficient time in hand if it is your first time. After getting my bags scanned i checked my ticket for the platform number on the top right. There are well numbered platforms of both sides. I headed to my platform. There, my train was listed in the upcoming trains. I waited in the area. There are shops and restaurants all around just like an airport. It was clean and well maintained. There were huge blue LED displays of schedule of upcoming trains. And guess what ALL the trains were ON SCHEDULE. Not even a single train was delayed even by a single minute! Keep an eye on the time. Boarding started half an hour before the boarding time. The tickets are scanned and checked. Then i took the escalator to head down to the platform to board the train. And there it was, the bullet train! 🙂 There are LED displays at both the ends of each coach. It displays the train number and coach number. I entered my coach and went towards my seat. Kept my bags on the luggage carriers above and sat down my seat. It was an aisle seat 😦 Two more girls were my co passengers. And very soon the train was full and ready to leave for Beijing.

One minute before, there was a announcement that the doors are closing and bam the doors closed. People don’t run here on the platform to catch the train in motion 😀 And finally the train started. I was really cool! It attained the maximum speed of 350 km/hr. Things just zoomed past! Cars and other vehicles were left far behind. It was nice to see the smaller cities, farms, forests, rivers and landscape of China. Also there were some tunnels in between. On the train, they serve food and snacks which is chargeable. However it did not have any veg options. I took breaks and walked around. Stood at the door though it was closed 😀 Enjoyed the views from the door’s window. The girl at the window seat offered to exchange her window seat with me so that i could i enjoy the views from the window. She was a Chinese but her English was good. She guided me towards the taxi stand and also suggested few places to visit in Beijing. In 5 hours i covered a distance of 1200 kms in the bullet train!

Beijing to Shanghai train

I was looking forward my bullet train ride back to Shanghai. Although i was also a bit sad as it was almost the end of my China trip. My train was G5 at 7 AM and i reached the Beijing station at around 5:30 AM. I had a lot of time in hand. After the security check the waiting area is also at the same level. Again i headed to my gate mentioned on my ticket. Even this station is huge but smaller that the Shanghai one. I took a seat and checked my train number on the display at the gate. Chatted with a girl who knew some English. And half an hour before the departure, boarding started. I scanned my tickets and they checked my passport. Headed towards my coach and got to my seat. This time i had a window seat! 🙂 This was the latest model of the train called the Fuxing bullet train. It had charging points and free WiFi. This train was faster and mostly had the speed of 330+ km/hr. Maximum speed was 350 km/hr. My co passenger was a guy working at Microsoft Bing. His English was good and we chatted about China and India and shared snacks. I had a great time in the bullet train and took breaks and walked around in between. The train has two stops in between and it stopped just enough so that people could get down and enter the train in around 3 mins. The train was completely full. I reached Shanghai in exactly 4 hours 34 minutes!

Overall bullet train is something not to be missed in China. Take the Maglev to and from airport. And take the bullet to other cities instead of fight. These bullet trains are more comfortable that flight. It has more leg room. And the stations are located in the center of the city. I had blazing experience on the bullet train rides! This is the fastest i have been on land in my life so far 🙂 I will surely take a bullet train again when i revisit China. Hopefully it will be much more faster then 😀

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Bullet trains are awesome! Hopefully India will also have bullet trains soon. It will be convenient to travel long distances in such trains. We can have a network of bullet trains connecting major cities like all the state capitals. And from these major stations, there can be other options like trains and buses to connect other cities and towns. I’m sure it will create more employment opportunities for our people and will be an affordable transportation alternative. And while we demand for all these facilities, it is our duty and responsibility to take care of public properties. We should consider it as our own property, after all we have paid taxes for all these facilities. People should not damage the things installed in the train. The platforms and stations should be kept clean. Things are changing in India now, however we need to go a long way. It is very easy to ask for multiple things and facilities to the government but at the same time, it is the moral responsibility of the people to take care of the public property by considering it our own! I look forward to the day when there will be a network of fast and affordable bullet trains in India! 🙂

Visit to Mutianyu Great Wall of China

Mutianyu

Visiting the Great wall of China was the top most item on my places to visit list of my recent China trip. I specially planned to go to Beijing to visit it. After all who will miss visiting one of the seven wonders of the world!

I visited Beijing in September 2017 end. The weather a cloudy and i didn’t want to go to the wall on a rainy day as it might be slippery. I was in Beijing for three days out of which one full day was to visit the wall. The first two days were cloudy with prediction of rain so i skipped going to the wall. On the third day i decided come what may, i am going to the wall today! And i tell you, it would have been my biggest regret if i would not have visited to the wall…

So i got up early and decided to start early. I wanted to withdraw cash from an ATM and there were some issues with my forex card so i used my credit card to withdraw some cash. And in all this i got a bit delayed. (Tip : Keep multiple credit cards and forex cards to handle things in case of such glitches).

I had done a lot of research online about which part of the wall to visit. I had seen the crowded pics of Badaling. And thus decided to visit the Mutianyu part of the wall. It is also the highest rated place on TripAdvisor.

Also, I wanted it to be an adventure, so i decided to go to the Mutianyu great wall using public transport. That way, i had more freedom to walk on the wall as per my wish and take breaks when i wanted. Also it was a lot cheaper (and far more adventurous!).

So the first step was to take the subway line 2 and reach the Dongzhimen station. At this point i will recommend that you by a transport card if you don’t have one. It can be used further on the bus and it will save some money.
There i took Exit C and followed the directions which led to the transport center. It is a few hundred meters away. Reached the boarding point of 916 express bus. The 916 bus is slower with more stops, so take the 916 express bus.
After about an hour or so i reached Huairou. There i got down at Beidajie stop. There you will see a building with greenish glass and a China mobile shop across the road.
Just cross the road and you will find a bus stop. Now based on some YouTube videos i waited at this stop for half an hour and finally took the H23 to Mutianyu wall, however after some time i found that it was not going towards Mutianyu wall. So i suggest do not take the bus.
At this bus stop there will be many people n vans to take you to the wall. Bargain and decide to go for 5 CNY per head. Wait for some more people to join. At this point i met 3 people from different parts of the world and they became my wall buddies to walk on the wall. So we waited and took the bus. One of us noticed that the bus is going on a different route. So we got down at a stop midway. From that point it would have taken us 2 hours to reach the wall walking!!! But the lady who was pestering us to take her van to the wall followed us! She said she would take the four of us to the wall! Some of us were skeptical but then we had no choice. We got in her van and she took us to the wall near a stone bridge. And i felt so relieved and happy after seeing the entrance. I had finally made it! 🙂

Based on my research i had decided to go up using chairlift and to come down using a toboggan. So i took an all inclusive ticket for 180 CNY which included the shuttle to and fro to the wall, the entry ticket, the chairlift ticket and the toboggan ticket. There are restaurants and a lot of souvenir shops. But i suggest visit the souvenir shops on the way back. The wall buddies i met split into two groups at this point, a guy and me decided to immediately go to the wall while the other two decided to take a break and then go up.

We reached the point to get to the chairlift. It seems a bit dangerous but actually it is okay and safe. You need to quickly get in and they put the handle and lock on top. It goes up slowly and there are awesome views all around. Enjoy the ride. You can see the toboggan track below. It will take around 5 minutes. When you reach the top of the wall, they click your photo. You can buy it for 30 CNY. I didn’t buy it and i regret it now. So i suggest buy it if you can.

And yipee i was on top of the wall! It was just AWESOME! Amazing views in all the directions. The lush green peaks, the endless stretch of the great wall up and down the mountains, the chirping of birds and nice cloudy weather. It was simply AWESOME!

We decided to walk towards watchtower 5 on the left. Initially there was descend and then steep ascend. This part of the wall is difficult for people with joint / knee problems. Some parts of the wall are easy and some are really hard. In some parts which are very steep, they have put hand railings. Climb the stairs very carefully. I took multiple breaks in between. Climbed up the watchtowers and enjoyed the views. Took a few snack breaks. Carry a few things to eat and drink. Things are available in some parts, but the choice is limited and the prices are high. Clicked a lot of pictures and selfies 🙂 Didn’t go to the highest tower as we were tired and also we didn’t want to miss the bus back to Beijing. So took a break at the highest watchtower we climbed and just soaked in the views. Recharged our batteries by eating some more snacks. Met people from all over the world panting and climbing the wall. Met some fellow Indians too. Did a video call and showed the live view from the great wall to family and friends 🙂

And then it was time to head back towards the starting point. And the descent was riskier. I was very careful and got down the steps with a great care. We were back to the starting point and from here the highest watchtower which we went to seemed so far! Again took a final photography break and then it was time to go down.

And this is the coolest part of the Mutianyu wall visit. Ride the toboggan of slide down! If you are healthy and fit then chose it over other options like chairlift or cablecar and believe me it is totally worth it. They have built a metal slide. And there are individual plastic tray seats to sit. There is a lever to increase or decrease the speed. Push the lever forward and it moves fast, pull it back and it slows. It works just using gravity! Tip : Allow sufficient distance between the person in front of you and then start the ride. The faster you go, the more thrilling it is. Slow down a bit on the turns. Overall the slide is very long, i guess atleast a kilometer long. Twice i thought that it ended but it went on.. Enjoy the slide to the fullest. Again when you reach down they will take your picture. Buy it if you can for 30 CNY.

Took the shuttle back to the entrance gate. There are a lot of souvenir shops. I bought some magnets for 5 CNY per piece. There are other small things which you can bargain and buy.

And guess what? our savior, the van lady was waiting for us here to take us back. She charged 10 CNY to take us back and we didn’t bargain with her as she had saved us that day. We waited for our other two wall buddies to be back and finally we waved goodbye to the Mutianyu great wall!

The van lady dropped us back at the bus stop and we took the 916 express bus back to Beijing. In the evening the traffic was more and it took 2 hours to reach back. But the aching legs required the much needed break after so much of climbing up and down the wall. Bid goodbye to the wall buddies hoping to meet them suddenly in some other parts of the world.

And thus ended my adventure of visiting the Great Wall of China. I made the right decision of vising the Mutianyu section. It was not very crowded and sometimes i could get a part of the wall to myself to click nice pics and selfies. I would recommend going as early in the day as possible so one can spend more time on top of the wall. If only i had another day in Beijing, i would have revisited the wall! I was the coolest solo experience of my life so far and i will cherish it forever!

“Newer us” meets “Older us”

Sometimes we leave behind some places and move on,
To find new lands and to learn different things,
But we don’t leave like the person we came,
We have been transformed,
By the people, the place and the experiences.

A part of us, decides to stay back…
And, everytime when we go back,
The newer us meets the older us,
And both of them, talk with each other,
As there are a lot of things to catch up on…
The newer us shares the news of the outside world,
As well as the newer lessons learnt and experiences gained,
And the older us turns nostalgic and reminisces of the old times,
It also tells how the place has transformed since the time we left,

And after this discussion, the combined us,
Starts to think if the newer us is better or the older us?
But the truth is that neither is better in itself,
It is the combined us with the combined knowledge and experiences,
Which turns out to be wiser…

And then when the time comes to leave that place again,
The older us decides to stay back, a bit wiser
And the newer us thinks back of the good old days…
Both will be back from where they came and where the belong,
But both have transformed a lot in the process,

And the place where it all happened, feels like home…
And its people, like family…
And the knowledge gained, priceless…

Quest of HappYness

The quest of happYness will take you far and wide,
Make you do all sort of crazy things to bring out funny side.

The quest of happYness will shake you & won’t let you sleep,
Even in your dreams new ideas to seek fulfilment will creep.

The quest of happYness will always keep you on the go,
Motivate you to move further ahead, even when you feel low.

The quest of happYness might be long and tiring.
However, on every milestone, the results are rewarding.

The quest of happYness is like an infinite loop,
Just keep moving, looking for the upcoming fruit.

The quest of happYness will never probably end,
As permanent lasting happYness is just a pretend.

The quest of happYness teaches of joy even when things may not be perfect,
Just like the ‘Y’ in happYness instead of the usual ‘I’ which you expect.

The quest of happYness shows that sum of parts is more than whole,
The journey is more rewarding than the pleasure of reaching the goal.

The quest of happYness shows that everything is temporary,
As the current source of ecstasy won’t last till eternity.

The quest of happYness also has a deeper and higher motive,
To make a well-experienced individual, wise as well as emotive.

The quest of happYness is so alluring and mystique,
Paths may be different but happYness is the aim we all seek.

If a tree falls in a forest…

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Initially it may seem a trivial question, however on second thought its a philosophical question. It all depends on the definition of sound. The meaning of sound is “vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.” Thus as per the scientific definition, vibration is sound only if its perceived by the auditory glands of an animal or human. Without the receptor its just vibration and not sound. However philosophically it questions whether the state of an object depends on how it is perceived by a subject. Does something which cannot be perceived by anyone actually exist? And as one can say its not a yes / no answer.

“Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, “The flag moves.” The other said, “The wind moves.” They argued back and forth but could not agree.
The Sixth Ancestor said, “Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.” The two monks were struck with awe.”
– The Mumonkan Case 29, translation by Robert Aitken

I just briefly explained this because of the title and the introductory question. However this post mainly asks questions on similar lines based on how people behave on social networks these days…

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If you met your friends and didn’t check in online, did you actually meet them?

If you visited a new city or country and didn’t update your FB, WhatsApp, Twitter etc DPs did you actually visit?

If you had dinner at a restaurant and didn’t check in on Zomato, did you actually have dinner?

If you got married or had a baby and you didn’t update your ‘status’ on social networks, did it actually happen?

If you changed your job and didn’t immediately update on LinkedIn, did you actually change the job?

If you went on your honeymoon to an exotic location and didn’t post the pics, did you actually go?

If you bought a new house or car and didn’t post a pic on the same day, did you actually buy it?

If you didn’t write a R.I.P. when someone passed away, didn’t they actually rest in peace?

If you saw a sunrise or sunset and didn’t take a selfie (with your back facing the sun), did you actually see a sunrise or sunset?

If you didn’t change the display picture for a cause, do you actually support it?

I can go on and on. My point is simple, lets enjoy the moments of life. Nothing is wrong or bad about posting updates on social networks. Only that it should not be the first thing we think or do. At the end of day, once in a while its ok to post updates about our life. However doing that EVERYDAY for every single thing that happens in the life surely sounds like a bad idea. Believe me, no one actually cares about the constant updates about our life on social networks. Its more like an information source for others. So why not spread some useful, thought provoking, inspiring, interesting or funny information? It might actually be useful for someone. And if the intent of regular online updates is to maintain a log of the happening of our life then the best idea is to maintain a journal (either in a book or online form). And it can be shared (if you wish) with a few people who actually care about you.

Even i am not perfect. Sometimes even i feel to click a pic or post an update. However, mostly i stop myself until the event has completed and i have thoroughly lived it. Then i rethink whether it should be posted online. Will it be useful for anyone? If the answer is yes, then it its updated, otherwise not. So stop taking a selfie or posting an update instantly. Lets learn to live in the moment. I know it can be hard, as the whole world (or the majority) is doing things the usual way. However its not mandatory that everyone should follow the crowd. Lets enjoy the moments of our life as they come. Lets try to live in the present. Lets push back the thought of immediately posting updates of the happening of our life to sometime later after the event has happened and we have fully experienced it.

Cheers! 🙂

Life as an N-ary Tree

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Our life is like an n-ary tree.

Each node of n-ary tree can have n or fewer child nodes. In case of our life, every decision point is a node and all possible options or choices which can be made at that decision point are its child nodes. For example: a career choice is a node, which may have various child nodes or options like engineering, medicine, journalism, law etc. Similarly, it can also have minor day to day decision nodes like restaurants to have dinner at and in this case various possible restaurants will be it’s child nodes. Thus this design can handle all types of decisions and its choices as it’s children.

Also if a same decision is to be made at multiple times in one’s life, then in each case it will be a new instance with same or different choices as children. For example one may wish to make a career change multiple times in life and each time there will be a new decision point with new children.

Thus there are no back-links or backtracking possible in our n-ary tree of life. “Life is a one way and forward is the way to go!” After a choice has been made about a decision, it’s a line in stone, which can never be changed. We can always learn from the choices made in past but we can never undo or delete our choices. NEVER. One has to live with the decisions made in the past. It’s good to learn lessons and make better decisions in future.

Next, lets have a look at the traversal strategy of the n-ary tree of life. Only Depth First Search (DFS) is available. It means that we need to make a decision from all the choices. Breadth First Search (BFS) in which case all the options are explored to the paths they lead and then making an informed decision is not available. For example: It would have been great if we could try multiple career choices for a while and then make a final decision. But it is not so. Every decision is final in the n-ary tree of life and it also has its consequences on the choices available and the decisions which can be made in future. In this case “wisdom” is to make the best possible decision from all available choices based on our limited knowledge of choices and it’s repercussions.

Every choice has a pay-off or value associated with it. It is not known to us but again we can make a guess about it based on our “wisdom”. The basic strategy is to choose the path of life which has the maximum pay-off. However given that life offers only Depth First Search and that too without backtracking, it’s really difficult although not impossible to find it. Some of the paths may be close to best, some worst and some mediocre.

Also as in case of n-ary trees, greedy strategy may not be the best possible strategy. Firstly it’s not possible to find the best choice out of all available choices. And secondly even if the best choice is made, the current best choice may not necessarily be on the best or good paths of life. Similarly, sometimes even a low-paying current choice may actually lie of the better paths of life. Thus we should not to get disheartened by the current low pay-off choice as it may possibly lie on on of the better paths. Always have hope of making better choices in future which lead to better paths.

So actually, our life is not about the road not taken, it’s about the decisions made at every decision point in our life. We are the controllers of our n-ary trees of life. It’s always in our hands to make a decision out of all available choices. Let’s be brave to accept and face the decisions we have taken in past. More importantly, let’s gain the wisdom, to take the right decisions in our lives which maximizes the overall pay-off and leads to the best possible path in life.

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