Q&A with Rosie Zhao, owner and operator of Ming's Dynasty Hostel
How long have you been living in China?
I first came to China in February 2005 to teach English with CIEE. CIEE arranged a position for me at Chengde's No. 1 Middle School teaching oral English to 15-17 year old students. I was only planning on staying for one semester, but then I met Ming, my husband!
How did you meet your husband?
First off, I didn't expect to find love in China. My cousin predicted that I would fall in love here, but I didn't believe it. After living in Chengde two months, I met Ming at the local gym. He approached me, while I was red-faced and sweating profusely, and asked me out on a date. His English was horrible and my Chinese was even worse, but through his persistence and kindness he won me over. We got married in my hometown; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; in December of 2007.
What is your experience with hosteling?
As far as hosteling goes, I have a lot of experience as a customer. I think it is important as a business owner to understand what it's like to be standing on the other side of the check-in counter. I have stayed almost exclusively in hostels and guest houses in more than 20 countries.
While I don't have any experience working in the hospitality industry, Ming has worked as a manager in three different hotels in Chengde. With our experiences put together, I know we have what it takes to run a comfortable and friendly hostel in China.
What makes a good hostel?
I think the answer to this question varies a lot from person to person and even depends on the country a person is traveling in. What I expect out of a hostel in China is different from what I expect out of one in, say, Europe. Here, I really value friendliness. I also appreciate when staff can speak English well and have an understanding of foreigners. Furthermore, I think it's important to have a place where guests can relax and meet new people. These are all aspects we make a priority at Ming's Dynasty Hostel.
What made you open Ming's Dynasty?
I've long wanted to open a hostel in Chengde for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, there are no other hostels in Chengde! Not only that, local guest houses don't have the licensing to accept foreign guests so most foreign travelers in Chengde must stay in midrange to high end hotels. I wanted to create accommodation that caters to backpackers, budget travelers, and those looking for a foreigner-friendly and warm environment.
Moreover, I love helping people and traveling is my passion. Running a hostel allows me to combine the two and I must say it's a dream come true.
Why choose Ming's Dynasty Hostel?
We are currently the first and only choice for hostels in Chengde, but that's not why you should choose us. Ming's Dynasty will offer you a more intimate view of Chengde and China. Here you can ask questions, swap travel stories, and make friends. It's our goal to make you feel comfortable and at home. If you have any troubles, questions, or ideas, we are hear to help and listen.
Why come to Chengde?
Chengde has a lot to offer, especially for those looking to get out of the big city. The temples here are stunning and come in a variety of architectural styles. My personal favorite is Putuozongcheng Temple (known locally as "The Little Potala"), which is a mini facsimile of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the former residence of the Dalai Lama. The statue of Guanyin in Puning Temple (known locally as "Big Buddha Temple") is also impressive.
For those travelers who are "templed out," many other activities are possible. Visiting the Summer Mountain Resort can fill up most of a day. I suggest packing a picnic and having lunch there. You can also rent a paddle boat and cruise around the lake. Later, take a hike up into the northern most area of the park along the wall to see a spectacular view of the nearby temples. There is also a nice pagoda to visit inside the resort near Huijidi Gate.
Riding bikes in and around Chengde is one of my favorite activities. I love riding along Wulie River and out to the countryside by the temples. Walking around the city can also prove interesting. You might attract some attention from time to time, but they great thing about Chengde is no touts will bother you. You can just relax, people watch, and get a glimpse into normal Chinese life.
From left to right: Ming and me with his family on Chinese New Year; our dog, Fei Fei; Ming's daughter, Ping, and his mom