How Does an Influencer’s Follower Count Affect Engagement Rate?

Which of the following influencers is perfect for your next brand marketing campaign: Nano, Micro, Mid, Macro, or Mega Macro?
Although logic would say that bigger is always better, this is not always the case.
According to Later x Fohr’s Influencer Marketing Report, the lower an influencer’s Instagram follower count, the higher their average engagement rate.
But how does this affect your influencer marketing strategy?

What Is the Distinction Between Nano, Micro, Mid, Macro, and Mega Macro Influencers?

Influencers are generally classified into five tiers in the influencer marketing industry based on their Instagram follower count.

  • 0K – 10K nano:
  • 10K-100K micro:
  • 100K – 500K in the center
  • 500K – 1M Macro
  • 1M+ Mega Macro

Each influencer tier has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so determining which one is best for your next brand campaign can be complicated.
Macro and Mega Macro influencers, for example, have massive audiences, making them an excellent choice for promotions requiring widespread awareness. Their near-celebrity status has the potential to change a brand’s image simply through association.

How Influencer Engagement Rate Is Affected by Follower Count

Engagement rates indicate how much of an influencer’s audience is actively interacting with their content (via likes or comments).

This is a useful measure of interest and can be used to determine an influencer’s conversion ability.

For example, if an influencer has 100K followers and a 5% engagement rate, 5K people would like or comment on each of their Instagram posts.

Obviously, not every person who likes or comments on a featured product will go on to buy it, but this measure can be used to make a rough approximation.

So, how does the number of followers and Instagram blue badge of an influencer affect interaction rates?

According to the Later x Fohr study, as an influencer’s follower count grows, the average interaction rate decreases.

Nano influencers with less than 10,000 followers have the highest average engagement rate of 4% across all feed posts and supported posts.

Which Influencer Is the Most Effective for Brand Marketing?

As previously said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to influencer marketing.

Data shows that nano influencers usually perform best in terms of interaction, reach, save, and video view rates — but raising mass brand awareness can be difficult due to their small audience size.

Working with multiple Nano influencers, on the other hand, can be a very successful strategy if you’re on a tight budget and trying to tap into tiny, hyper-niche audiences.

Coordination with hundreds of Nano influencers, on the other hand, can be logistically difficult for many brands, which is where Micro and Mid influencers come in.

Micro and mid-level influencers are large enough to have a measurable effect, but not so large that their interaction and reach rates have been reduced.

Furthermore, their fees are usually much smaller than those of Macro or Mega Macro influencers.


How to Learn About Reality behind Every Profession

It’s all roses and sunshine when you see from the outside. You realize the reality after you have become a part of that system, and it gets too late for you to get out. Whether it’s exotic dancing, journalism, or army, every profession has its dark side. Here I have discussed how you can unveil that dark side before becoming its part.

Visit Trusted Anonymous Blogs

There are websites like The Doe that allows people to share all kinds of experiences and knowledge. They also verify each story before publishing it. You can read their anonymous blogs related to your profession to see its worst before stepping into it. For example, there is a story of a stripper who shared her experience. You will also find other topics on civil discourse.

Talk to a Senior of the Profession

If you know someone who is a senior in your profession, who would be honest with you, don’t forget to talk to him before making any decision. They have seen what it’s like working in that profession and all its good and bad sides. You will find experience-based information from them that will make up or change your mind.

Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario

If you are uncertain, imagine the worst output of a situation and start digging if it could be possible. For example, some might say businessmen use national armies for their benefits. If you don’t want to become a puppet, do thorough research to see if that’s the case in your country.


Wuhan: A Punk Rock Metropolis Along the Yangtze

China is a gargantuan nation where even the smallest municipalities can have larger populations than many a European or American city. With so much space to cover and so many stories to tell, it’s all too easy to just focus on the next big adventure and trying to discover the “real China,” but sometimes the real China is what’s right in front of you, down the alley where you might head out to buy water and toilet paper every other day, and not on that 12-hour hard seat trip through the jungles of Guangxi.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, is a city of 10 million spanning the Yangzte River like the web of a vast gray metal spider.Wuhan, a rail and road hub at the center of China, is the name given to three separate cities that have spilled over the river into one others’ territory—the ancient river town ofHankou and the relatively new kids on the block, Wuchang and Hanyang. You may never have heard of Wuhan. There aren’t many flashy firms or major tourist attractions here to draw attention. The city, hot and muggy in the summer and sprawling in concrete waves across the banks of the Yangtze, is known for such unglamorous industries as coal, iron and steel. And it’s a great city to listen to rock ‘n’ roll (or build a car!).

For more information about what Wuhan is like, check out our Wuhan travel guide!

Wuhan: The Forge of Modern China

Perhaps we should start with a little history to flesh out Wuhan’s character. We’ll leave ancient history to rest for now and begin about 100 years ago when the backwards-looking Qing Dynasty was crumbling, though few Chinese really wanted to admit it. Wuhan was blessed with a wise governor who went about modernizing the city as much as possible in preparation for a future that he knew would leave the mandarins and eunuchs and long-finger-nailed nobility of the Qing choking in the dust. That man, Zhang Zhidong, introduced heavy industry to Hanyang, founded universities centered in Wuchang, and promoted free trade in Hankou.​​​​

His efforts helped form the foundation that the rest of China would follow after the inevitable fall of the Qing. That fall began in Chengdu, when citizens protested the awarding of a a Wuhan-Chengdu railroad construction contract was awarded to an English company instead of a Sichuanese one.

After the uprising toppled the local authorities, anti-Qing rebels in Wuchang (as it was known then, the name Wuhan came into being after the establishment of the Republic later, in 1927) decided the time was right for an all-out assault on the local Qing government. They fought their way into power and abolished Qing rule, but within a few months, loyalists under Yuan Shikai (who would become one of the famous warlords who ruled during the civil wars that followed) marched on Wuchang and began slowly retaking the city.

When the rebels were forced across the river, Yuan decided to parlay instead of force a final stand which might break both armies and destroy the city. In a key sense, modern China exists because of the Wuchang Uprising and Zhang Zhidong’s reforms.

Brainy and Brawny

After the wars of the first half of the 20th century, Wuhan emerged with a strong industrial base (despite firebombings by the US to dislodge Japanese holdouts) and some of China’s most modern universities. The city’s intellectual bent was really nothing new–ever since the poet Yellow Crane Tower poem that brought fame to his name and his poetic subject, Chinese have considered the region to be a hotbed for poets, intellectuals and eccentric thinkers and tinkers of all stripes.

The modernization set in motion in the late 1880s by Zhang Zhidong gave birth to giants such as the Hanyang Steelworks, Daye Ironworks, the Pingxiang Coal Mine and the Hubei Arsenal—which are all still churning out metal and smog today. The presence of a heavy manufacturing and the location of the city in the middle of China made it the obvious choice for China’s first bridge across the Yangzte, as well as a primary node in the country’s rail lines, a massive automobile manufacturing center and later, the third largest building in Asia.

And of course, when you combine this intellectual legacy with the revolutionary history of the city and then add a dash of industrial gloom you get… PUNK ROCK!

Voice of the Youth

​Rock and punk rock in Wuhan go back to the early 1990s with a band called the VOX Bar and Playhouse achieved must-play status for any China rock tour. The China music scene is either “a lush playground for the new wave of genius that will sweep the world” or “a vapid example of selling out at its best,” depending on who is talking and how drunk that person is. One thing that I have noticed though, over the years, is that when people speak of “staying true to the scene” and not selling out, Wuhan crops up in the conversation every time. It’s one of those scenes that churns out realness like a belching foundry, while hot prospects move to Bejing and Shanghai, sell themselves and and become cliches.

What to See and Do in Wuhan

Wuhan will never be a bonafide tourist destination because the grit of the city will not be going away anytime soon—in the midst of a building spree to accommodate the billions in foreign and domestic investment (primarily in heavy industry), Wuhan has no time for hippies and their “clean air” sensibilities. But beyond its grimy veneer, there are things to do that take in Wuhan’s poetic legacy, revolutionary spirit, industrial majesty and seething underground rock scene. So as well as the usual Wuhan attractions, why not check out our

Top 10 Things to Do in Wuhan:

  1. Climb Yellow Crane Tower (with a copy of Cui Hao’s poem, not to mention Li Bai’s) and read it aloud as you gaze through the fog out over the Yangtze River into a sea of construction projects.
  2. Descend (slowly) down Guiyuan Shan (Turtle Hill) and stop at the Memorial Hall for the Wuchang Uprising and imagine what it was like to finally topple the Man.
  3. Cross the bridge into Wuchang and wander through the maze of universities and small cafes, pubs and rock bars and engage at least 15 young people in a conversation.
  4. Go to Ximen Night Market for vittles and snacks and then head out to Jinqi Lu for some rowdy after-eating dancing, drinking and flirting.
  5. See a show at the Vox.
  6. Take a stroll around East Lake, the largest urban lake in China.
  7. Get a picture of you flashing a Chinese girl peace sign in front of one of the tallest buildings in the world, the Wuhan Greenland Center. (ETC: 2017).
  8. Eat rè gān miàn (热干面), one of the five most popular noodles dishes, and a breakfast staple in Wuhan. The delicious sesame paste brings some variety to the noodle experience, with pickled vegetables, chili oil, and chives; it’s definitely a must-try dish while in Wuhan.
  9. Take a cruise along the river and take in the city as you drift along.
  10. Arrive by train over that bridge and leave by boat bound for nearby Yichang, the departure point for an upstream Three Gorges river cruise.
  11. Climb Yellow Crane Tower (with a copy of Cui Hao’s poem, not to mention Li Bai’s) and read it aloud as you gaze through the fog out over the Yangtze River into a sea of construction projects.

Tibet travel update from Losang in the Land of Snows

Foreign tourist until July 25, 2011 Recent events in northern Sichuan’s Aba Prefecture, and reverberations from the past events of March 2008 are currently hampering foreign (Western) travel to several areas of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan regions of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. Many counties are closed to foreigners and some people have reported being turned back at “gateway” towns such as Kangding.It is unclear how long these restrictions on travel will last and how rigorously they are being enforced. For more information on the matter, we turn to Tibet travel expert Losang, the man behind the excellent Tibet blogs, Land of Snows and Kekexili.

China Travel: Which regions are closed and which are open in TAR and Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai Provinces? Land of Snows: In the TAR all 11 counties of Chamdo prefecture are closed. In Shigatse prefecture, (home of Mt. Everest) the countie of Yadong, Gyirong, Gamba,Dinggye and Khangmar are closed (all the counties with exception of Tingri and Nyalam that border Bhutan, India and Nepal). In Yunnan, all Tibetan counties (there are only 3 very small counties) are open. These 3 counties rarely close to foreign travelers. In Sichuan, currently all counties in Ganzi (Garze) prefecture are open. However, most counties with high percentages of Tibetans in Aba (Ngawa)prefecture are closed including Ma’erkang (Barkham), Hongyuan (Kakhog), Heishui (Nagchu), and Ruo’ergai (Zoige).

In Qinghai, currently all counties are open except for Delingha(a major nuclear testing area), Qilian and Menyuan. These three counties have been closed for over 30 years. In addition to nuclear testing, these counties also are home to many “laogai” or prison reform camps. Being caught in these areas could see you charged with espionage… not a crime you want to have against you in China. Prefectures in Qinghai with high percentages of Tibetan people (i.e. more than 90%) can frequently close due to protests, riots and violence. Though currently all areas are open, the prefectures of Guoluo (Golog), Yushu and Huangnan (Malho) frequently close due to Tibetan protests.

China Travel: Can you guess how long these places will be closed?Land of Snows: It is impossible to say how long closed Tibetan areas will remain closed. After the riots in 2008, Lhasa opened up 4 months later while the Amdo regions in southwest Gansu were closed for 15 months.China Travel: Do you have any contact with people in the closed regions and do you know how they are reacting to it, if at all?Land of Snows: I have friends and colleagues in all areas of Tibet and frequently hear from all of them. In 95% of Tibet (including the Amdo and Kham areas), everything is stable and life is normal. It is just a very small portion of Tibet that is currently having issues. China Travel: Have you personally experienced or seen police forcing people to return/leave?

Land of Snows: This season I have been okay and have not come across any police checkpoints where I have been made to turn around. In the past I definitely have, but have often been able to negotiate my way around it. Owning and driving my own 4WD vehicle helps. I do know of many others, especially students and expats from Chengdu, who were denied entrance to certain counties of Aba and Ganzi during the last week of April and first week of May. These expats were hoping to get out of the city for a week during May Holiday, but were forced to return to Chengdu.

China Travel: How does this affect your business if at all?Land of Snows: Yes, business has been affected some. We were expecting to be a lot fuller during the May Holiday, but I think that since many people think the region is still closed, they didn’t attempt to come out. They did not want to risk getting turned around. Business the past week seems to have returned to normal. Hopefully everything remains stable in Kham so that we will have a good business year, but having lived in Tibet for many years, we know that the whole region could close again tomorrow.


Why You Should Definitely Invest in a Luxury Thai Massage on Your Next Visit

If there’s one thing Thailand is known for all around the world, it’s their amazing massages. The Thai people have a deep respect for the body and what needs to be done to keep it in the best possible condition day in and day out. Professionals will help get you back to where you need to be to really enjoy life to the fullest every moment you step out of your door. Additionally, years of dedication and practice have led what used to be a very traditional experience in a wide range of different directions, ensuring that you’ll have any and all aches and pains addressed quickly. Here are just some of the reasons why you should invest in a world-class massage on your next visit.

Health Benefits

Did you know that getting a massage can be more about your health than your enjoyment? In fact, a quality Thai massage in Asoke can help relieve you of chronic stomach pains, headaches, muscle pains, soft tissue strains, and much more. Even anxiety and depression can be helped with these world-renowned techniques. When you visit a high-quality spa, you can rest assured knowing that their team of experts will be able to help find you the perfect solution for whatever has been bothering you, allowing you to feel better than you’ve felt in years in almost no time at all.

Experienced Team

Another reason why you’ll want to invest in a quality massage in this beautiful country will be because of the experience that each and every team member will have. These are professionals who take serious pride in the work that they do, and who train for years to learn all the techniques and movements that they need to have a profound and enjoyable impact on the body. By visiting a respected spa, you can rest assured knowing that your massage will help put you right again before you know it.

Wide Range of Options

Every person comes with a different idea of what’s acceptable and what they’re comfortable with in terms of a massage, and these professionals will be able to easily find a solution within the packages they have to offer. Whether you’re looking for something intense that can really work out all the knots and kinks you’ve ended up with over the years or would prefer something a little more relaxing such as a nice bath with a medium pressure massage after, these spa’s will be able to give you everything you need and more.

Whenever you decide to visit Thailand, taking part in one of their most traditional practices should certainly be on your list of things to do. These massages will be able to help get you feeling like your old self again in no time. Keep these benefits in mind and find a team of professionals whose skills you trust today.


China Travel Photo of the Day: Love is in the Air

This one’s for all you lovers out there! It’s Valentine’s Day so this photo entitled “Romance” really ought to get the attention it deserves. A beautiful shot by photographer Vincent Tandijo Saputro of Beijing’s Summer Palace… the lake, the hazy light, the couple walking hand in hand along the water. It’s enough to make a girl swoon.

Vincent’s photo came to us as an entry to the Ctrip China Travel Photo Contest and you can see his other entries on our Flickr China Travel photostream.


How to Improve the Performance of Solar System through Solar Power Installation

The performance of installation depends largely on the power of the solar panels and the overall voltage of the system; however, there are also aspects to take into account that will have a large impact on its result. Using the correct section cable, keeping the panels clean, maintaining the battery level, and disconnecting the inverter in periods of non-use are just some of the details that will allow you to obtain an extra performance in your Solar Power Installation.

Use appropriate size cable

It is very important to use a wiring of sufficient thickness in the sections of the installation in direct current. That is, the sections from the panels to the regulator, from the regulator to batteries, and from batteries to the inverter. In direct current, there is the drawback that significant voltage drops occur in the long sections, with the consequent loss of energy. To avoid this, it is necessary to put cable of the appropriate size according to the meters of distance and the amount of energy that has to circulate inside it. Many solar installations fail or underperform due to insufficient cable cross-sections. Mainly between the battery and the inverter

To verify that your solar power installation complies with the minimum recommended cable section in each section, we recommend that you use this application: calculate cable section.

Correctly orient and tilt the panels

To obtain the best energy collection efficiency, solar panels in Spain must always be oriented exactly south (azimuth 0 °).

In addition, if this is not possible due to the situation of the building or the roof, priority will be given to a southeast inclination as close as possible to the south.

The degree of inclination of the solar panels will depend on the season of the use of the installation. For year-round use, an incline that favors obtaining energy should be used in the worst month of the year, December. Normally this value will coincide with the latitude of the place. While for use in summer or weekends, priority will be given to tilting the plates at 30 degrees, since the sun will be at a higher altitude.

Keep solar panels clean

Photovoltaic panels are responsible for generating electricity from the solar installation. For this reason, it is important, if possible, to periodically clean the glass surface of the panel. Mainly when there have been long periods without rain in which dust and dirt have accumulated, or after mud showers.

Keep the liquid level of the batteries constant

Open acid solar batteries are monoblock solar and OPZS and TOPZS stationary. These models require maintenance and periodic refilling of the distilled water inside. The liquid level must be kept between the minimum and the maximum marked on each battery. If the battery is below the minimum, sulfating will occur and its energy storage capacity will be reduced.

Disconnect the inverter in periods or days without use

The power inverter is the device that is required to transform direct current into alternating current and to operate the electrical devices that are connected in the home. In order to reduce your stress and lengthen your operating time, it is recommended to disconnect it during those periods of time in which the installation will not be used. This action will not affect energy capture at all since the regulator will continue to operate autonomously and independently.

It should not be forgotten that carrying out a well-sized solar installation at the start solves many problems and will allow it to maximize its good performance and its useful life. Aspects such as the lack of power in plates will mean little accumulated energy and consequently intensive wear of the battery with constant discharge cycles which will reduce the life of that solar battery.

For all these reasons, it is important to always trust qualified technicians who explain the reasons for each element. If a certain solar kit needs 6 plates to function, bad luck of the one that promises you the same with just using 3 plates. The energy produced by the sun is the same for everyone, therefore you must do everything possible to make the most of it and be happy with the proper functioning of your solar power installation.


Everest Base Camp: 19 Days Trekking Through the Himalayas

The 20 weeks of preparation (read: fear) leading up to our Everest trek finally dwindled down toward “game time”. We (over)packed—everything from emergency blankets and whistles to about 25 Snickers bars—and were off to Nepal. Everest Base Camp was a milestone to mark the big 30 and it did just that! We took a flight from Shanghai to Kunming and started our journey in Kathmandu, an untamed city inhabited by more than a million people and a fraction of that in goats, monkeys and stray, three-legged dogs. Kathmandu is kind of an India-lite, a diet India with a side of lime. Kids fly kites and walk to school. People are friendly. The bakeries are a dream with fresh Black Forest cake, apple pie and cinnamon rolls and thanks to the western hippies of yesteryear there are cafes serving grilled cheese sandwiches and shisha pipes—the perfect ‘carrot’ to use as a bribe when one is hiking straight up a mountain for two hours.

My boyfriend, my friend and myself are all lovers of travel and enjoy wandering and getting lost before eventually finding ourselves. But none of us knew much about the Himalayas or trekking in high altitude, so we thought it a good idea to join a group for this one. And because of the unpredictable situation in Tibet, and the fact that British citizens are not allowed in to Tibet at the moment (my boyfriend is British), the only way for us to visit visit Everest Base Camp was through Nepal.

Day 1: Getting to know you

Our group gathered the evening before we began trekking to meet each other and dine over a traditional Nepalese meal. It’s a nice way to ease into a 15 person dynamic. You want to make the right impression since you’ll be spending the next 18 days (in who knows what kind of conditions) with the same people. Team Goyko Lakes and Everest Base Camp consisted of 10 Aussies, three British, one Polish, one American, four Nepalese guides and a team of 12 incredibly strong porters (to whom I tip my hat!). And now for the play by play….

Day 2: The adventure begins…

I’d had no sleep because of an annoying tickly cough that began just in time for our first day. We departed at 5am for Kathmandu Airport with hopes that the place would be somewhat orderly (unlike its description in the guidebook). After a minor one-hour delay, we were on our way to Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport (aka the most dangerous airport in the world according to the History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports).

The short, 45-minute flight into the mountains was awe-inspiring and our pilot landed our twin engine 16 passenger plane with ease—I saw because I was practically sitting on his lap! The runway, built in the 1960’s by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, is situated on the side of a cliff, runs uphill and is short, just 460 m (1,500 ft for those of us Americans), with the town of Lukla (2,860 m or 9,383 ft) at the end of it. No big deal!

The stewardess climbed over our carry-on luggage to offer us candies and we landed softly in Lukla in time for breakfast. We quickly learned that the menus were a dieter’s nightmare, full of carbs, carbs and more carbs… and deep fried Mars bars and “Sneakers Pie” (a kind of Snicker’s Cornish pasty).

After some guilty culinary pleasures, we sorted through our 15 kg duffel bags (provided by the trekking company) one more time and handed them off to our porters, who loaded two at time into the baskets on their backs and took off. With full stomachs, our day packs and walking poles, we headed off on a three hour hike toward Mt. Everest (known as Qomolangma in Tibetan, meaning “Holy Mother”).

We passed Lukla’s very own Starbucks; real or not, it was luxury compared to where we were going. Climbing is no joke, but after a few days you (and your heart rate) get used to it. Along the way you see many a man (and woman) older than you carrying much heavier loads (91 kg of kerosene vs. your measly 4kg of Snickers bars), and you buck up. As we descended into the valley, we crossed a suspension bridge over a glacial river, shared the trail with yaks and broke our first sweat.

Soon after passing through the small village of Ghat, we reached our lodge in Phakding(2,610 m or 8,563 ft). Our first night sleeping in a teahouse was moderately comfortable, complete with twin rooms, foam beds, blankets and a friendly, matronly woman in charge of the place. Bathrooms varied from a relatively clean squatty potty to a makeshift western toilet held together by means of packing tape and wood. Our adventure was well underway!

Day 3: Breathtaking views & Namche Bazaar

We were woken up at 6am by our guides informing us our “washing water” was available. This was a good incentive to get out of bed while the water was still warm. On this day we had to slowly ascend over 800 m (2,625 ft) in order to acclimatize properly. Our destination was Namche Bazaar (3,440 m or 11,286 ft). It was on our way there that we got great views of two huge mountains: Kusum Kanguru (6,369 m or 20,898 ft) and Thamserku (6,623 m or 21,729 ft)—it was breathtaking. We also entered Khumba National Park where Tashi, our guide, handed in our permits to be checked. We lunched in Monjo(2,835 m or 9,301 ft), saw our first mountain goats on the side of a cliff and finally made it, about eight hours later, to the village of Namche Bazaar.

I spoke with a local shop owner, a Tibetan refugee, who informed me that the town has a population of about 1,400 people and the high school is about an hour away. Mind you, there are no roads in or around this village, so when the high-schoolers tell their story to future generations, they probably really did walk up hill both ways to school in the snow. The village is in a horse-shoe shape on the side of a hill with magnificent scenery all around. We were happy to be finished for the day and celebrated with a filter coffee and a piece of apple crumble from the “German Bakery”. The best I’ve ever tasted.

Luckily, no one in the group really experienced altitude sickness (until later in the trek when I thought I was having a heart attack, but more on that later). It also may have helped that another group of 50-somethings were hot on our trail. We couldn’t let people almost twice our age beat us! I’ll fill you in on the rest of the trip next week. Thanks for reading and I hope someday you too will visit Everest; it’s worth every blister. Until next time. Happy travels!

Amber’s journey continues to the glacial lakes of Everest.


A weekend in Xiamen with the boys

The islands and coastline that make up the city of Xiamen, once known as Amoy, make for a more relaxed and cleaner escape from China’s bigger cities. While there’s plenty to do in and around the city to fill in a week-long-or-more holiday in Xiamen, with just a two hour-and-45-minute weekend trip. So during the last long May Day weekend, my friend Scott and I left Shanghai to visit our friend Ben who was studying business in Xiamen for three days of beaches, historic architecture and mechanical bull rides. Here’s how I enjoyed my weekend in Xiamen, and how you can enjoy yours, too….

The winding alleys and charming hostels of Zeng Cuo An

The main reason for my trip south was to catch up with my friend, but when I asked him his recommendation about where to stay not far from his campus, he told me one place: Zeng Cuo An. Full of cheap hostels and conveniently located, Zeng Cuo An also had a number of bars and restaurants. During holidays, rooms book up quick, so it’s good to secure a place quickly on arrival. In my case, despite a late arrival, I was able to secure a room for the night. Even if you don’t stay in Zeng Cuo An, it’s worth exploring. The narrow roads are mostly closed to cars and local entreprenuers have opened up a number of cafés, restaurants and bars in addition to the plentiful hostels. One standout is the Temple Café, built in an old temple (or at least in the style of an old temple), which offers a solid Western menu, from breakfast to burgers along with beer and other drinks. Zeng Cuo An is also just across from the beach. On my first night in Xiamen, I joined the guy who ran my hostel and his friends for a few night beers on the beach. (Article continues after gallery below.) [showtime]

Xiamen U’s art tunnel

Our first day in Xiamen, Scott and I went to meet Ben at the Xiamen University campus where he was studying. Having seen a number of Chinese univeristies, I was suprised just how nice the campus was. The center of the campus is a park with a large pond in the middle and big green hills behind it. We met Ben on a palm-lined walkway leading up from the park and started our tour of the campus. He took us on a rambling path through the older buildings of the university (founded in 1921) and back to the east side of the campus to the Furong Tunnel. The more than 1,000 meter-long (1,094 yd) tunnel was filled with detailed murals and paintings and we took 20-30 minutes to stroll through and look at them all.

Dining, drinks and amusement

Our first night out in Xiamen, Ben and his girlfriend took us to his favorite local restaurant, Oyster House at 244 Xiahe Lu . The four of us ordered a bit of finger food and several big oysters each, cooked up together with a selection of different ingredients (options included cheese, garlic and black pepper). While my request for a garlic and cheese oyster was turned down, I was most definitely not disapointed by the seperate cheese and garlic oysters. After we sauntered out with our full and satisfied bellies, we were off to drinks at Haiwan Park on the western side of Xiamen Island. Several Western-style bars stand in a line beside the water on the southwest side of the park, with great garage-door-like sides open to the outside with big stages for live music. When we arrived at J.J.’s Bar and Grill, the Chinese holiday crowd was out in full force, sharing beer towers and listening to the Filippino cover band. But what caught our attention was the mechanical bull.

It wasn’t being used when we arrived, but passively challenged us like a bouncy ball in a china shop, so we finished our beers, spoke to the wait staff and got ready to ride. Neither Ben nor I made it to eight minutes, but we had the crowd on our side of the restaurant cheering and sending up brave souls to take their turn on the bull. When we had our fill, Ben took us to a small amusement park north a short walk from the bars where we faced off in the bumper cars (RMB 10) before the staff politely asked us to leave so that they could close for the night.

Gulangyu: Xiamen’s biggest attraction

Before we left Xiamen, we decided we needed to see a few of its top sights. And for most people heading to Xiamen, the main draw is Gulangyu. The island, reachable by regular ferry, was part of Xiamen’s foreign concession. Many of the remaining historic buildings, along with newer ones constructed in their like, house guesthouses, cafés, tea shops, Fujianese seafood sellers and more. Being there during a holiday weekend, the main arteries through Gulangyu were packed, just as the ferry ride over had been, but with a little bit of wandering, we were able to leave the bulk of the crowd behind. Signs along the roads pointed out numerous Xiamen attractions: the Piano Museum, Koxinga Memorial Hall and Shuzhuang Gardens, among others. Our half-hearted attempts to follow the signs, debating between one spot and another, took us close to Underwater World Xiamen and our desire to get out of the heat and into some air conditioning pulled us in to the lair of the giant bronze octopus to spend an hour or so fish gazing before our trip to the airport.

Plenty more to see and do in Xiamen

  • Do some shopping on Zhongshan Lu
  • Nanputuo Temple — First built in the Tang Dynasty, this Buddhist temple sits near the Xiamen University campus.
  • Strange Slope — Roll uphill (or at least look like it).
  • Huli Shan Fortress — This massive compound built to defend the port city has secret tunnels, barracks, high walls and towers as well as a huge cannon.
  • Hit the water for some kitesurfing
  • Take a boat to Jinmen Island — If your visa allows for multiple entries to China, head to this island that belongs to Taiwan.
  • Visit the Hakka tulou — Found in several places in Fujian outside of Xiamen, these round buildings were added as a UNESCO heritage site in 2008.

Photo: Winter at the Summer Palace

What’s that you say? Why is the photo of the week one of wintry characteristics during a summer of sunshine and lollipops? Well, I think they generally call it wishful thinking. This week in Shanghai, the temperature is—technically speaking—hotter than an angry goat’s hoof in the noonday Tennessee sun. You might be wondering what I look like after walking up six flights of steps to get to my desk in the morning, and I’m glad you asked, because I will tell you what I look like: a six-foot tall cat sulking in a post-bath funk—harried, miserable and pissed at the world. And though the air conditioning in the office blows with the force of a vengeful Shanghai sunshine, I imagine that I am skiing through a snow-covered Huang Shan forest or sliding in a speedo down the ice slide at the Harbin Ice Festival or some other such thing. It is glorious to dream. Which brings us to Summer Palace in the wake of a winter dusting and makes me think of cooler times when I didn’t perspire like a recent college graduate interviewing for the position of Cerberus’ keeper. On days like today, in weeks like these, during a season like this, I would gladly—Nay! Enthusiastically!—take a voluntary polar bear plunge (panda bear plunge?). We can always dream.