In Chinese custom, 1 month after the end of Chinese New Year is Tomb Sweeping Day. In Taishan though, offerings to ancestors can be made any time during the entire month instead of that single day. This is in part due to the large overseas population who want to return to make offerings but obviously can't all pick a single date. Hence during the entire month, people hike up mountains not only make offerings to their own ancestors but also join in on those of neighbors and friends. You will see the typical decoration of grave sites, burning of paper money, firecrackers and so on. But afterwards, it's a feast of roast meats (most often goose and pork) and cakes. It's a sign of respect when others join in with Taishanese on their offerings and they would feel especially proud if a foreigner "gwi loe" made the trek with them. So if you're in Taishan during this month, make friends with locals and join in.
During the winter months after the soil has dried out, the locals like to head out to farm areas for the equivalent of an outdoors barbeque. They build a tower of dried soil clumps, heat it searing red, place food wrapped in foil underneath and collapse the tower. This is called "gook yull". (I do not believe there is a Mandarin phrase as this a Taishan custom.) The meat turns out especially moist and flavorable -- far better than any baked food I've tasted from a traditional oven. Unfortunately once spring comes around, the fields are filled with water and the soil does not dry out again until December. There is a BBQ/sand oven field along Taihai Rd that is open year around and the staff will build the heated soil towers for ¥60-80. But they do not provide any food so you will need to find locals willing prepare food for a sand oven outing.
For a summer beach vacation, Xiachuan offers a small but modern beach town with prices 1/3rd that of Hainan. You can play on the surf, scuba dive, parasail, jetski and rent 2/3/4 seat bikes. The cost is ¥94 for a roundtrip boat ride, ¥20 for the on-island bus ride and ¥40 for the resort entrance fee. Buying a full package from a travel agent should give you ¥20 discount and save on time in waiting in lines. Hotels there start at ¥150 away from the beach (although at most a few minutes walk) and can go up to ¥800 during peak periods. Food is expensive (for Taishan) at the resort so before entering the resort -- or after leaving it -- hit the local towns for delicious+fresh+cheap seafood.
This is a small bay with sand black from upstream mineral deposits. There is a swimming area with lifeguards where you will have to pay a ¥10 parking fee and a ¥5 shower fee afterwards. During the summer months, the water is warm and pleasant and you can spend hours floating on the surf waves -- with or without a swim ring. At night, the sunsets are pure red due to the nearby coal power plant. Luckily, the black smoke is blown away from the beach -- a place to visit and not to live for sure. Update as of 10/2014 -- admission price has gone up, the crowds are denser, the area is dirtier so I'd recommend either Beidu or Shangcun/Xiacun for beach fun.
You may have seen Chinese BBQ restaurants around the world with pre-roasted meats hanging in the window and they slice off pieces for you when you order. At this restaurant, the roast chicken "sil gai" flattened and half-cooked with a light "char-sil" sauce. When you finally order the chicken, they finish the cooking process by lathering it with boiling oil (not dipped). This leaves the chicken tender, hot, crispy and not greasy when it's brought to your table. I've had Chinese-style roast chicken in several countries now and this is consistently the best I've had. This restaurant also has clay pot porridge "bo jai jook" (see the entry for Wu Shang).
This is the other major shopping mall in Taicheng. On the 2nd level, you will find a supermarket taking up half the floor. The other half will be clothes targeted towards women working in offices -- or OL (office lady) in the Chinese vernacular. On the 3rd level is a jungle gym you can drop your kids off for an hour or two. They will give you a wristband to match up against your kid although they will trust you if your kid runs to you saying "mommy/daddy". If you need some American fast food, there is a KFC on the ground floor while McDonald's is across the street.
A smaller spa but closest to the main city of Taicheng. All the spa areas have some coverage to keep the summer sun from roasting your skin. The larger areas for kid wading, wave pool, etc. have no such protection so keep out until the sun goes down. They also have a heated indoors swimming pool perfect for those who want to do laps instead of soaking. Regular price is ¥93 but if you can buy entry fares at local travel agents for ¥65. During the off-season, price can get as low as ¥35.
Stone Flower Mountain Park is a 5 mile path around the Stone Flower Reservoir right above Stone Flower Square (you probably get the naming structure right?). The path is smooth enough for biking, skating and running. There are various bike rental vendors where you can rent 2-person or 4-person surrey's for 30-35 CNY per hour. Along this path are 2 separate climbs -- one goes to a broken house, the other an active temple. From this park, there is a path that connects to the GD Greenway to Kaiping.
Pedestrian street generally is for tourists and returning overseas Chinese. When locals want to shop for clothes and shoes, they go to this place first. It looks like a converted parking garage with a huge ramp that goes up to the 2nd floor. Inside, everything is old and grey with rusted metal but the prices are downright cheap. Since this place caters to locals, do not expect plus size clothes. There also is no A/C so avoid during summer days -- summer nights are barely passable.
Hot pot (dah bene loe) is a popular method of cooking for the Chinese. Most of the time, hot pot restaurants will have a small stove on a table with a pot of water and you add whatever small items you like. At O.K. Duk, you sit at huge stone tables with integrated charcoal pits that stews gigantic 10lb fish in a slightly spicy broth. And when you're done with the fish, you can add in various side dishes like fresh bean curd, deep-fried bean curd, winter melon, beef meatballs.
At these two locations, you will see a half a dozen middle-age women sitting on stools holding calculators -- these are Taicheng's money changers. They handle mostly U.S., Hong Kong and Canadian dollars. The last time I had to use one, they charged 1% more than getting cash from a China Construction Bank ATM (no fee via global alliance using Bank of America debit card) but this was back in 2009. I do not know if spreads have changed now that the ¥ is semi-floating.
Various shops offering fruit juices, milk tea, iced coffee and an assortment of snacks. Chabel Snacks here has free WIFI and Macau-style custard tarts "poe tot". The Taiwanese flat bread (similar to Malay bread) across the street is worth a try and right next door is noodles for ¥3.50. Farther down the street at Cheng East Rd and N Ring Rd is Young Station Snacks ... also with free WIFI and a similar menu to Chabel but with slightly more expensive prices.
At this shopping mall is a hotel w/ 2 restaurants inside the hotel, western restaurant, McDonald's, KFC-clone, pharmacy, supermarket, video arcade, movie theatre, book store and lots of shops. On the 2nd level near the upstairs McDonald's entrance are shops selling children's clothing. Unlike Dong Men Shi Chang, these clothes are targeted towards returning overseas Chinese and will have many brands/characters familiar to the outside English world.
Do you like spicy foods? Unfortunately, Taishanese do not so the selection of spices and curries for dining are limited. But as an alternative, this hair salon will wash your hair with a ginger shampoo that will set your scalp on fricking fire! It is like eating hot Thai curry but the feeling is on your head and neck instead of in your mouth. The "mint" sensation lasts for 2 hours afterwards. ¥30 for this pleasure (torture?).
Here you will find a picturesque indoor/outdoor restaurant serving Shuibi cuisine. The cooking style is slightly different as they serve frog rice simmered slowly in an iron wok but the taste and texture comes out similar to the eel rice cooked in stone bowls. At times, they will have freshly caught wild boar on the menu. My favorite here lately has been deep fried talapia stewed with dried bean curd "Fook Sull Jut Mun Foo Jook".
At this corner, you will see half a dozen of computer shops at the street level. Upstairs are dozens more. While you will not find anything unique here, you will not get ripped off as this is not like the cross border shopping malls in Shenzhen or Zhuhai looking for gullible foreigners. So if you need replacement parts for a failed laptop or more memory cards for your camera, you will get competitive prices here.
A very large and scenic outdoor hot spring spa. You can also sit in a spa where fish eat the dead skin off your body. The spa and pool areas have no shade so do evening trips during the intense summer months. When surprise summer storms roll through, the water slides and wave pool are closed for safety reasons. Buy entry fare at local travel agents for ¥55-¥75 depending on the 'season'.
This is a brand new shopping center. As it just opened in January 2011, there is not much shopping to do yet but you can get plenty of snacks and drinks. Midway across the length of the center are several open-air bars. During Spring and Autumn nights, the weather will be cool and refreshing for an outdoors drink. Summer nights could be oppressive though and winter nights perhaps too cold.
The cuisine here is Sijiu-style except they also offer "Bo Jai Jook". Instead of the typical rice porridge, it is cooked in a clay pot until it is thick enough to stick upside down from a spoon. This gives it more flavor and texture -- especially the porridge that has stuck to the sides of the clay pot. (You can accidentally make this dish by reheating a big pot of jook over 2-3 days.)
This is a quarter of a mile area closed to car traffic. At one end is the Gaoye Shopping Center. The other end empties out into snack street a block north of the Tian Liang Shopping Center. Along the way are shops, shops and shops spilling out into side streets. While cars are allowed in the side streets, traffic is very light as most drivers know they can't cross Pedestrian Street.
If you have a hankering for an American breakfast, the best place to get it is at Hotel Gaoye's breakfast buffet which runs from 7:30AM to 10:30AM. In addition to coffee/eggs/ham/bacon/sausage, there also are Chinese breakfast foods. The cost is ¥38 plus 10% tip -- hotel guests eat free. Update: buffet is only open on weekends.
A newly opened beach area. It's a good hour drive from Taicheng -- the last part on twisty roads which means the beaches has fewer people and is cleaner. There is an official beach that costs 35CNY for entry. There are also 'private' beaches connected to local villages where guests at the village hotels/restaurants have free access.
You have a hunkering for lasagna? Cross-cut fries? Mashed potatoes? Risotto? Pasta with spaghetti sauce instead of just sweet ketchup? They have it. The menu isn't big and you periodically have to wait for a table (which is out of the ordinary for Taishan) but the food is the most "western-style" within a hundred mile radius.
This is a town 30 minutes drive from Taicheng. You will find many open air stalls selling live seafood. Pick whatever meets your fancy and take it to any of the local restaurants who will then cook to your preference. If you like fresh abalone, you can get it here from ¥5 to ¥15 per abalone depending on size/quality.
This hotel is located at the right-hand side of residential condo complex. You can book a 3 hour room for ¥50. For a full day stay, it costs ¥80-¥110. There are many cheap hotels in Taicheng but this was recently built-out in 2010/11 so for the next few years, the rooms will be in decent condition.
If you need emergency medical treatment, the People's Hospital is the largest medical facility in Taishan. They have departments covering pediatric, ear/nose/throat, diagnostics/xray/ct/ultrasound. Treatments will be cheap (e.g. ¥140 for a CT Scan) but you will need to pay cash before a doctor will see you.
Clay Pot Eel Rice "Wong Seen Fon" is the restaurant's specialty. They also make a tasty fish dish "Lim Yee Mun Fa Sung" that is first deep fried and then stewed with peanuts. Private rooms surround a serene courtyard in the back and sometimes you can see the crocodiles they raise for meat.
Just on the outskirts of Taicheng is Shi Hua Shan -- an accessible and hikeable mountain. Midway up is a small temple. At the base of the mountain is a small lake where you can rent pedal boats to enjoy an hour and the town square with a corner allocated to kid amusement rides.
This hotel is luxurious but several miles from the main city center. If you ask the hotel to call a taxi for you during late evenings, do not wait inside the hotel as guests leaving the restaurant often will flag down and take your taxi as they walk along the side of the road.
This restaurant arguably pulls the best steam noodle rolls in Taishan using the aforementioned cooking cabinets. The batter and egg form thin and discrete layers that remain separate when rolled together. This allows the sweet soy sauce to disperse evenly throughout.
Your best bet for western food supplies is Vanguard shops. If want a slice of pizza, a donut, peanut butter, oatmeal and so on, you can get it here. It's also the only store with fresh refrigerated milk as all other stores only sell room-temperature box carton milk.
This is Taishan's biggest and most modern dental facility. A family of dentists in New York returned to open this dentistry practice. It is as clean, modern and equipped as any in the developed world -- newer than what our dentists had back in San Francisco.
This is a newly remodelled karaoke clubs with a good selection of English songs. Rooms rent out on a food/drink minimum starting at ¥150. What this means is you have to spend at least this amount on food and drinks to meet the room charge.
Beidu has a unique mountain landscape with big boulders everywhere -- sort of like M&Ms ontop of an ice cream scoop. There is a public beach requiring an entrance fee but if you walk 100 meters up the road, the beach area is free (as of 2009).
Gaoye Shopping Center motorcycle parking lot near McDonald's. Pedestrian ST near KFC. Pedestrian St near west end. The later the hours, the larger the selection of street vendors. Many BBQ vendors don't roll their carts out until 9PM.
This hotel overlooks a lake in the middle of the city on opposite from Garden Coffee. During cooler months, a brisk 15 minute walk will bring you to the east end of Pedestrian Street. During the summer months, catch a cab to go places.
After many days of travel, your legs may be weary. Come here and for ¥65, you can get a 70min foot and arm massage. For ¥80, it's 100min foot/arm/back massage. Included is a simple meal of rice, noodles or fruit (your choice).
This is a western-style restaurant in Taishan with a huge menu offering everything from steak to lamb chops to grilled salmon. One of the managers speaks English fairly well and she will take orders from obvious "gwi loes".
At the ground level, there are various food stalls offering small snacks. Right outside the gift shop (N Gee Fong) is a stall with the cheapest Macau-style custard tarts (poe tot). For 10¥, you can get 6 small ones.
The dish of choice here is noodle soup. There is no variation at all -- it comes with a bit of vegetable, fish patty, mushroom and pork. However, the noodles are firm and fresh. And best of all, it only costs ¥3.
This is the place to get your fill of 1930s Chinese architecture. The quintessential 3 story house rings a giant courtyard. Various Hong Kong movies have been filmed here with souvenirs/props left behind for viewing.
Come here for cheap sushi. The rice is a bit soft/mushy but for 10¥ you can get a dish of 6 basic rolls. They also have a wide variety of noodles and rice dishes (slightly Japanese style) for 10-20¥.
If your hair gets a bit long on your travels, ¥30 will get you a haircut. But if you only trust your personal hairstylist, you can still come here to get a relaxing shampoo and light massage for ¥15.
Pulled noodles "lie meen" are amazing as long as they don't get soft/soggy waiting to be delivered to your table. The clay pot rice noodles stewed with beef brisket "bow jai fun" is also good.
Along this street, there are numerous shops selling dried seafood (salted fish, dried oysters, dried scallops, etc.) In the middle of the block is a building with many more tiny shops inside.
For cheaper "Tea Cuisine", Sunbus has a wide selection and decent prices. During the times they offer their specials (off-hour lunch), they have a meal plus drink for 15-20¥.
Formerly known as Chabel. Tea cuisine, blended fruit drinks, Macau-style egg tarts, Macau-style chicken/pork sandwiches. For less than ¥20, you can get a sandwich and drink.
This restaurant specializes in fresh seafood. Especially good when available are the baked squid and hot plate sizzling oyster dishes. Also try the steamed turbot "doh bo".
This restaurant offers Cantonese food most similar to what's available in Hong Kong or Guangzhou. You can also have dim sum here both early in the morning and late evenings.
The Cantonese restaurant here arguably has the best dim sum in Taicheng. Dim sum is served mornings and late evenings -- the hours in between are open for lunch/dinner.
Here you will find Cantonese food and dim sum at modest prices. On average, the same dishes will be half the cost compared to Fu Lin Men (see the below splurge entry).
This hotel is located at one end of Taicheng's pedestrian shopping street so you have walking access to many of Taicheng's restaurants and shops.
Large and scenic outdoor hot spring pa. Free sandwich and fruit snacks. Fares at local travel agents for ¥70.
V8 is the most popular night club in Taishan. Head there for a night of smokey drinks and loud songs.
Taishan City-level County is divided into 20 townships. The mainland townships are Baisha, Beidou, Chixi, Chonglou, Diajiang, Doushan, Duanfen, Duhu, Guanghai, Haiyan, Nafu, Sanba, Sanhe, Shenjing, Shuibu, Sijiu, Taicheng and Wencun. The island townships are Shangchuan and Xiachuan. Sanba was merged into Baisha and Nafu into Shenjing in 2006. Shangchuan and Xiachun on the Chuandao Islands are governed as a single entity. Taicheng, or Toising, is the administrative capital and the largest township by far with the most of the civilized amenities.