Top Five China apps

Best apps for traveling China (photo courtesy mobilescoop)

Taking your iGadget to China with you? Here are five must-have apps that work offline.

1. Pleco Dictionary (free)

Although having a Chinese-English dictionary on your phone does not seem like it would be much use for non-Mandarin speakers, trust me, this thing is amazing. In Beijing or Shanghai you can get by using only English, but once you’re off in the provinces making pointless hand gestures every five seconds, that’s when Pleco will come in handy. Look up words in English, pinyin (Mandarin transliteration) or by stroke order (I’ve yet to come across a character it doesn’t recognise). For an extra USD14.99 ($11.99 for students) you can get the full-screen handwriting add-on, which can identify and define characters written on the screen. If you’ve ever had a Chinese person try to communicate with you by tracing invisible characters on the palm of his or her hand, you will know just how useful this feature is.

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Hiking China’s Sunshine Coast

Imagine a four-kilometer section of hiking trail that’s built into a sheer rock face and looks out onto a forest of strange granite spires and a gorgeous canopy sprinkled with white rhododendron blooms. This is only one of the inspiring walks you can do at Sanqing Mountain (三清山), perhaps one of the most underrated national parks in eastern China. It’s underrated not just because of the unique scenery, but also because it is relatively unknown and less crowded than other Chinese mountains.

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Sanqing Shan

A taste of Sanqing Shan, in eastern Jiangxi, China. There’s a definite similarity with Huang Shan, although there are far fewer visitors (especially considering that I was there over the weekend), and it has a Taoist legacy. It’s not in the previous Lonely Planet China guide, but I can assure you it will be in the next one!

Lost: The Original Station

The Secret Lushan Station

Did the Dharma Initiative have a station that no one knew about in China? That Taoist logo had to have come from somewhere! I passed by this place today while hiking around Lushan…thought I felt some funny electromagnetic activity in the air. Or maybe I’ve just had too much tree-ear fungus in the past couple days.