We’re excited to announce that our GITV Travel Blog will be undergoing some changes and taking on a whole new style. For the most part, it’s been a running account of our long, strange trip across the Banana Pancake Trail in SE Asia. Due to the sheer number of places we visited and how insanely busy we are at the moment, we decided to change things up around here. We plan on developing pages on each country we’ve traveled in – you can already check out China and Vietnam – but for now we’ll use this space to cover a wide variety of topics and mix things up. The plan is to blend travel stories with those focused on other things that we want this website to be a great resource for, such as: living abroad, teaching ESL, planning a wedding, and of course a bit of live music. We’re starting the new look of the blog by checking out two very unique festivals that you might not have expected to find in China.
A Craft Beer Festival in Shenzhen
China isn’t exactly known for its beer, which is best described as a watered down, tasteless beverage that only slightly resembles beer. Drinking here usually involves heavy consumption of the rocket fuel known as bai jiu, and when beer is involved it’s often room temperature and only 2-3% alcohol – not much for the avid beer drinker to get excited about. Thankfully things have been getting better, thanks mostly to the success of Beijing breweries Great Leap and Slow Boat. Using unique, local ingredients – such as Sichuan peppercorns in the former’s Honey Ma Blonde – these guys brought craft beer to Beijing and even managed to convince locals that it was worth 40-50 RMB a glass (Chinese beer runs 4-5 for a large bottle).
Naturally, the burgeoning craft beer scene has led to a variety of festivals across the country. Both Beijing and Shanghai have been hosting an annual beer festival for the past few years, drawing thousands of thirsty folks looking to wet their whistle with brews that were Made in China. Shenzhen recently joined the party with its first-ever craft beer festival thrown by local joint BionicBrew.
This daylong celebration was full of food, music, and of course some of the best beer from around China. It was also somewhat a crossroads of cultures – foreigners and locals mingled over IPAs and munched on New York pizza while jamming out to an all-girl Chinese rock band. This all happened under a statue of Chairman Mao, while a fisherman paddled his bamboo raft in the shadow of new skyscrapers and a roller coaster. While taking in this scene – admittedly with a slight buzz – I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is what modern China looks like. The traditional remains, but more and more outside influences are being added to the mix. If that means more craft beer popping up around China, I for one am all for it. Check out some highlights from the festival in the video below:
A Psytrance Festival in Kunming
Over the Tomb Sweeping/Easter weekend, a group of 250 revelers descended on a small village outside of Kunming for the inaugural Spirit Tribe festival. Thrown by Beijing’s Goa Productions, this two-day psytrance party attracted a solid mix of locals, expats, and travelers drawn by the idyllic location and intimate vibe. We didn’t sweep any tombs or paint any eggs, but we sure had a good time. With just two stages – Dance and Chill – it was easy to move around and make friends, something that can’t be said of most music festivals around the world these days.
Even though I’m admittedly not the biggest psytrance fan – I’d rather see a band than a DJ – this was one of my most enjoyable festivals in years. It was by far the best I’ve experienced in China for a variety of reasons. The location was perfect, they did a great job decorating and with the sound, and it was for the most part very well run. It was amazing to be at a show in China with no curfew and no police presence – two things every other festival I’ve been to has had. All in all, it was a great weekend of like-minded people coming together to enjoy nature, music, art, and each other. The music scene in China still has a long way to go to satisfy jaded old hippies like us, but events like this are certainly a step in the right direction. See more from Spirit Tribe in the short video below: