Going to the Movies? How to use Your Smart Phone to Buy Discount Movie Tickets

My wife and I have lived in Beijing for several years. Over the years we’ve had many friends venture to the movies theaters to watch the latest hits while we stayed home and enjoyed the savings of 10RMB DVDs. Now certainly there is a worthwhile savings for those who are patient enough to wait for a quality copy to come out to the dwindling number of DVD stores, but we all know that going to the theater is just not the same experience. There’s just something about the big screen, especially in 3D that blows away the home viewing experience.


A few months ago a local friend gave us some free movie tickets. Another friend then told me about an app that would allow a view of all the current movies and where they were playing. I then chose a 3D movie I knew my life would love to see for her birthday, but you guessed it, the free tickets were for 2D movies. I was now finally motivated, I had to have those tickets, but the price! So I asked another friend and they told me about the app. I actually bought the tickets while standing in line at the theater and saved substantially at the counter.


So, if you have an interest in either watching Chinese or Western movies (in their original language) in Beijing, with the original voice soundtrack, and don’t mind or actually would enjoy practicing your Chinese reading by following the Chinese subtitles, then this app is a must. The app is free and is called Mtime, or in pinyin – shiguangwang (时光网). Below is the step-by-step process for downloading and using Mtime.


Note that these directions are specific to making your purchase using a Chinese bankcard.


1)   Download the app and open it.


2)   The Home page is at center bottom and the current movie list is displayed with a customer rating from 1-10 (this post will not go into what the other bottom tabs are for).



3)   Scroll through and pick the movie you’re interested in.


4)   Push the orange purchase ticket (购票) tab.


5)   Here you will have a choice of dates at the top and below a scroll down for movie theaters showing your movie pick. I prefer to narrow the options by tapping the middle green circle tab (地区) so I can choose theaters in my district. If you’re in Chaoyang District you might want to choose the second tab for your nearby (附近) theaters.


6)   Scroll down and select the tab for your choice of theaters.



7)   You will see optional show times and prices for your movie tickets. Touch the tab for your preferred show time.


8)   Reserve your seat(s) by touching the seats you prefer. You can touch and order as many seats as you want from those that have not been reserved. The seats you reserve will appear orange while the rest are blue. The bottom will display the row (排) and seat numbers (座). When you’re finished you can press the orange next (下一步) button.



9)   Enter the cell phone number and password you would like to use (there should be at least one numerical digit).


10)  Now push the light blue register tab (免费注册) (In the future, once you’ve registered, you can tap the log in (登录) tab, that is, assuming it remembers your phone number).



11) Enter your phone number and your preferred password, then push the tab to obtain your verification number (获取验证吗) and you will receive a text with your verification code.


12) Enter the code and push the (提交) tab.



13) You get a pop up window that asks you to confirm that you want to go forward. Touch the definitely (确定) tab if you definitely want the tickets.


14) Now you have two choices, either registering your email address or cell phone. If you want to order tickets only with your phone, then touch the submit (提交) tab (this post only follows the track of using your cell phone).



15) You will get a screen that confirms you order and the amount. If it all looks right tap next (下一步).


16) Now you have a choice of payment options. The simplest is to use the Union Pay online option (使用银联在线付款) which is the second orange tab.



17) Now enter your bankcard number and touch “next”. You will get a second window. Enter your pin# and your registered phone number and then touch the orange SMS tab. You should receive a text with the required SMS number. Enter the number and touch “Start Pay”.


18) When processing is complete, Mtime should hold a record of your ticket purchase. You should also receive a text with the purchase details. You can show either of these at the ticket window to receive your tickets.



Of course I accept no responsibility for the accuracy of this post, or any losses you may incur as a result of following the above instructions.


There you have it. Enjoy your movie!

How to get a Chinese visa with the least amount of money

The other day, I received a friend’s newsletter which shared a very helpful tip about how you can extend your Chinese visa with the least amount of money.  As a Chinese language school in Beijing, we often need to provide visa or extend visa for our students. Just last week, we helped one student extend her visa which cost about 1500 RMB in total for another 3 months visa, it took her about 2-3 hours to finish the visa extension process including traffic time on subway.

If you follow the way mentioned in the newsletter, it would cost about 800 RMB  , however, you will need to take train and spend one night in Erlian.  Below is the tip my friend shared and step by step information how you can get your visa extended.


First, head to the Beijing Railway Station and hop on the K23 to Erlian/Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It leaves at 8AM on Mon/Tues/Wed and arrives in the border town Erlian at about 8:30PM that night. Cost for your hard sleeper: about 148 kuai.

You’ll have to spend the night in Erlian, so head to one of the hotels across from the train station. Rooms range from 80 kuai to 150 kuai per night. For dinner, the “ganguo” (dry pot) at the restaurant near the bus station is pretty good (40 – 80 kuai).

Unless you want to see the sights (there’s a dinosaur museum that is supposed to be interesting), just hop in the cab the next morning and tell the driver that you want to go to the “guomen” (the border). Cost of the ride: 10 kuai.

You have to buy a ticket to cross the border (5 kuai). You then hitch a ride in a dilapidated jeep to drive you from China to Mongolia (50 kuai one way, which is unfortunately the “foreigner price”. Cabs can’t drive you to the border). You’ll get out and go through both customs, get your stamp in Mongolia and then turn around and enter back into China, where you hop in another jeep for another 50 kuai.

Given the limited return options for the train (it leaves for Beijing only late Thurs and Sun nights), most people opt to take the sleeper bus leaving a few times every day (220 kuai).

Total cost of your visa run: less than 800 kuai.


My friend’s newsletter called Expat Package which is a weekly newsletter about life in Beijing. If you are interested in received more tips from him, you can sign up for his free newsletter here:  http://www.expatpackage.com


Tips on How To Prepare For a Beijing Winter

Image from: http://www.snapshotjourneys.com/

As the cold winter weather begins to set in on Beijing, we’d like to give all of you newcomers some tips on how to prepare for and survive the bitter cold weather that we get here. The winter season in Beijing is long and arduous, and temperatures start to drop from the beginning of November, and only begin to warm up towards the end of March. It’s important to be well prepared from the outset of the cold season though, since the heating system doesn’t usually kick-in until the 15th of November in Beijing, but nonetheless temperatures can begin to drop to 0° Celsius in the evenings before heating gets switched on.

The temperature averaged -7° Celsius in December last year, and -9° Celsius in January, but this doesn’t take into account the wind chill factor, which can drop the temperature several more degrees. The weather here is not only cold, but also very dry, and chapped lips and dry itchy skin can also cause those with sensitive skin a lot of irritation, so it’s important to use some moisturizer and chap-stick to alleviate the irritation.

With all that said, here are some tips that will hopefully help you prepare for the winter season in Beijing:

Layering is important.

Wear base-layer thermal underwear, an insulating layer such as a hoodie, or fleece jacket, and then also an outer layer that will help to break the wind. Layering is also important because you can quickly run into situations where you go indoors and if you’re too hot, you can just take off your outer layer, but not expose yourself too much to risk catching a cold.


Drink lots of water, use moisturizer lotion, and also chap-stick.

It’s not only important to use external lotions, but staying hydrated in the dry Beijing winter also helps your skin to stay moisturized.







Neck and head protection.

Getting a scarf or a neck gaiter can not only help to keep the wind out of your jacket, but getting a beanie or hat can help to keep you warmer than you think, as about 20% of heat loss is from your head alone[1]. You can pick up a neck gaiter on TaoBao.






Despite the discomfort that the winter season brings, there’s a lot to do around Beijing during this time, there are skiing and snowboarding resorts not too far from the Beijing city, ice skating on several of Beijing’s lakes, and the Olympic park and water-cube is transformed into a winter snow park. Winter activities and recommendations will be another post though.

If you have any of your own winter preparation tips on how to stay warm in Beijing, please do share them with us!

1. Bookspan, Jolie. Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/blogs/exercise_fitness/2009/03/do-you-lose-most-of-your-heat-through.html


Learning Chinese Through Listening – Stream Chinese TV Dramas Online

Chinese TV Drama Online StreamingThe three mantras that seem to be drilled into any student trying to learn the Chinese language is: “多看, 多说, 多听” (duo4kan4, duo4shuo4, duo4ting1), meaning: “read a lot, speak a lot, and listen a lot”, of Chinese that is.

Moving to China to live or study is one way to practice these three directives, however, probably not an option everyone can take. One other way to help with your Chinese learning is to pick up a Chinese TV drama to follow, and I’ve heard many-a-story of friends learning to speak Chinese, or a dialect of Chinese by watching a Chinese TV series.

Fortunately, there are many options and methods of finding Chinese TV shows to follow online, and which also allow you to stream the shows online for free as well.

Youku, iqiyi, QQ video, Sohu video and Sina video are five popular websites that are solely dedicated to not only  streaming Chinese TV dramas online, but also Chinese movies online .

For more information about those five Chinese video websites, please see my another post here :  http://blog.1on1mandarin.com/chinese-video/


Traveling to Beijing – What to bring on your trip?

Packing for Beijing

I never enjoy packing for a trip overseas- there’s always the constant wonder of: “did I over-pack?”, or “am I forgetting something?” After overhearing some friends talking about the ‘must-have’ items for their trip here to Beijing, I thought it would be good to have a quick post highlighting some things that we were glad to bring over, or wished that we had stuck in our suitcase.


Starting off with keeping your health in check, it’s recommended that you bring a small bag of basic medications such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, NyQuil/DayQuil, band-aids, and Neosporin. It is possible to get most of these drugs (or local forms of them) in Beijing, it’s best to have a small stash ready for when you need to use it. It’s no fun trying to run around Beijing looking for medication when you’re already feeling under the weather.


I want to say that it isn’t a huge issue regarding finding hygiene products here in Beijing, but then again, I’m a guy and I use pretty much anything that I can find, as long as it gets me clean. I have heard that specific western skin products and lotions aren’t available here though, so if you have specific dermatology needs, then it’d be best to bring your lotions from back home.

One thing that does need mentioning though, is that dental floss is somewhat hard to find in the local marts. So unless you are fortunate to have a BHG supermarket or Carrefour close by your apartment in Beijing, it could be hard to come by.

Another seemingly common item for westerners, that (unfortunately) isn’t commonly available here in Beijing are deodarants and anti-perspirants. It’s quite a pity that this isn’t a cultural norm here, since the summer heat brings out the worst odors in the crowded public transportation systems in Beijing.


It’s fine to pack light regarding clothing, since you can always pick up more attire here if needed; you just won’t find your usual Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, etc. stores here- though Beijing does have it’s Gap equivalent called Uniqlo.

The seasons to be aware of in Beijing are summer and  winter. The summers are swelteringly hot and humid, so you’ll want to make sure to pack short and t-shirts; but the winters are frigidly cold, so you’ll want to make sure to pack one set of base layers, and outer layers. You can purchase thermal under-layers almost anywhere here, and if you’re not planning to be in Beijing for many winters, you can also pick up cheap knock-off winter gear at the fake markets (YaShow [雅秀 ya3xiu4] and Silk Street [秀水街 xiu4shui3jie1]) that will last you a year or so. However, if you’re going to need something to last you through several winters, it’s best to pick up a good jacket or outer-layer back at home, since many of the brand name stores here are marked up considerably.

Something that also needs mentioning, however, is that size labeling here doesn’t match up with size labeling in the US, so be sure to try on whatever you’re wanting to purchase. Also, US extra-large sizes and tall-and-long sizes aren’t easy to come by here either. Note that this also applies to large shoe sizes. You have been warned.

Electronics and Internet:

The general rule about electronics is: “all (name-brand) computers and electronics (MP3 payers, cameras, phones etc.) are marked up by at least $100USD [and smaller electronics, marked up by respective amounts]“, so purchase whatever electronics you need from home, though you can also head over to Hong Kong to make any electronics purchases as well if you’re already planning to make a trip there.

If you’re a Facebook and Twitter addict, and must have access to these social networks, getting set up with a VPN is the way to go- you can still purchase your VPN after you arrive in China, though it would be wise to start reading up on some of the services available. Three of the popular VPN services are: Strong VPN, WiTopia, and Invisible Browsing VPN.

Additional Items:

Two books that I would recommend to help you hit the ground running when you arrive, are the Insider’s Guide to Beijing, and the Mandarin Phrasebook.

Also, get plugged in with other Beijing expats at: theBeijinger, Chinese-Forums, and City Weekend Beijing

That’s got most things covered. If you think that we’ve missed anything out, please do share with the rest of us in the comments!

How to Deal With Traveler’s Diarrhea in Beijing

upset-stomach-beijingHopefully this subject won’t be too uncomfortable of a read, but traveler’s diarrhea (拉肚子la1du4zi0) is a real issue that many of our students at 1on1Mandarin have experienced on arrival to China, and it even affects permanent expat residents in China every now and then- though perhaps you might want to save this read for a time when you’re not eating or snacking on something.

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually caused by eating unclean food or water, though normal diarrhea can also be caused by anxiety, stress, allergies, fatigue, and changes in diet- all of which are things that a new visitor to Beijing will encounter as they adjust to this densely populated city, and experience the culture shock of adjusting.


The symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea are four to five loose or watery stools per day, though vomiting can also be a symptom. Traveler’s diarrhea usually lasts 3 or 4 days, and only a few cases does it last longer; in some rare cases, it can last more than 3 months.


pepto-bismolTwo of the popular drugs that many travelers take are bismuth subsalicylate (which is found in Pepto-Bismol), and Imodium. Taking Pepto-Bismol tablets before travel, and during travel, can help to prevent many cases of diarrhea, though some travelers like to carry the liquid form with them and take a dose before a meal (I would recommend that you read the CDC site for Traveler’s Diarrhea on recommended usage though). Imodium can also be taken to provide quick relief by reducing the muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract.

Unfortunately, Pepto-Bismol is not easy to come by in Beijing, and is only sold by some of the international clinics and hospitals in the city. Imodium, however, is more commonly found among the pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. It’s best to prepare well, and bring some from your home country before arriving in Beijing, to avoid having to search around the city when you need it the most.

If you’re really having trouble finding these drugs in the city, you may find some willing and helpful incoming expats on the forums thebeijinger and Chinese-forums.com that are may offer a helping hand to bring some extra in with them, provided you pay them back, of course.

Finally, don’t forget to rehydrate if you’re experiencing traveler’s diarrhea. Dehydration is very common result of the fluid loss, and a useful recipe for fluid replacement is:

Two glasses of fluid: the first glass containing 8 oz. of fruit juice, 1/2 tsp. of honey or corn syrup, and a pinch of salt, and the second glass filled with 8 oz. of purified or carbonated water and 1/4 tsp. of baking soda, and the traveler should drink alternately from each glass until their thirst is quenched.

For additional reading on traveler’s diarrhea:

Wikipedia: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Center for Disease Control: Traveler’s Diarrhea

University of Maryland- Medical Center: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Do you have any tips or advice? Let us know in the comments!