Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this short, I know, I know, I tend to dribble on a bit in the daily blogs, and all I can put it down to is either I’m too tired and dreaming after a long day travelling, or I’ve drunk too much, or a combination of both.
After a few weeks back home in Dub Vegas its time for a little reflection on China.
What Impressed Me
- The Infrastructure in China is fantastic and getting better very quickly
- Xi’an – a beautiful looking city (where the Terracotta Warriors are) its a long way out but worth the visit to Xi’an
- The food – the food was pretty good, loved sweat & sour pork, Peking Duck (don’t ask for Beijing Duck!), I didn’t eat grasshoppers or scorpions though. Food also gets a mention in what didn’t impress me
- The beer – Tsing Tao and the local Beijing brews were very easy to consume and formed part of my fluids management regime for the trip.
- Snake wine – firewater with a snake fermenting in it – I didn’t try it – but others did and I liked that.
- We did a cheap and cheerful Trip A Deal trip but our group was fantastic, we really enjoyed the company and made some new friends
- The trains, especially the bullet trains were efficient, fast and very well fitted out – 2nd Class was fine, but I reckon 1st Class would be very nice. Seats are allocated but make sure you do a little research and get to the station well ahead of time for security and check-in and find out which gate and platform to get to your carriage (Yes – your passport and luggage will go through a security check like an airport to get inside the station). Once inside there are lots of shops and food outlets and there is plenty to occupy you. A must do is the 430km/hour Maglev magnet train in Shanghai, 30km in 7 minutes – blistering speed.
- Our guides were really helpful. China is a difficult place to travel on your own without language and knowing the nuances, the cities are so big – so travelling on an organised tour is the way to go – certainly first time anyway
- Xi’an – this city was the nicest we visited, only for a short time but it was somewhere that I’d like to come back to see more of.
- There is no graffiti ( that I saw anyway), and hardly any beggars. There are lots of poor people but you don’t get hit up a lot to buy trinkets, around tourist spots some of the poorer people are trying to sell fans, flutes etc.
- Trip A Deal – the guides were great, they were organised with pretty good English and we were also blessed with excellent bus drivers.
What Didn’t Impress me
- A couple of the hotels were a bit average and one location was a bit average, but it was a cheap and cheerful trip so I think to myself – suck it up Paul. On the flip side some of the hotels were beautiful.
- There isn’t a lot of English spoken in China, not surprising really and my problem not theirs – so make sure you have an off line translation app Chinese -> English on a mobile
- Most toilets are squat toilets, even in modern facilities like train stations, but there are a lot of sit down toilets as well, you have to go and hunt them down. For people with dickie knee’s – be patient and hunt down the 4-5 star toilets.
- There really is no access to Google and Facebook and some other App’s and programs – UNLESS – you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as Nord which you can up to about 6 devices off – but there is a small cost.
- Some food – in Zhengzhou Mark (The Mechanic) had what he thought was going to be lamb chops from a hotel menu – it turned out to be raw meat spinkled with pepper, chili and other spices – it was gross and I think an attempt at a western style meal – better to stick with Chinese food that you like. There are plenty of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, McDonalds in most cities – but when in China where possible you should eat Chinese, in my opinion.
- They don’t know much about “black tea” – or as they call it fermented tea – in China green tea is the go and the expensive types such as Dragons Well tea are more expensive than beer in most places. Hint – get to like green tea before you go.
- Not much didn’t impress me – really !
TIP’S FOR TRAVELLING IN CHINA – From a first timer
- If you are taking a mobile phone or ipad
- There is plenty of free wi-fi in hotels
- Get a VPN (eg Nord) if you want to access Google, GMail, Facebook etc
- WeeChat is the Facebook of China – apparently everyone uses it
- Local Sim for data via China Mobile or China Telecom is good – you get a local number but Google Maps only work if you have a VPN
- Travelling with a Group Tour, especially first time, is way better with the language and scale of things in China.
- Like we were told, be careful mentioning the 4 “T’s” – especially around local officials and guides, they will be limited in what they can say – so don’t embarrass them
- Don’t miss the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an – if you have the opportunity don’t miss it.
- Take lots of Chinese Yuan (RMB ) with you, credit cards are note as widely used as other countries. Take a little conversion grid ready reckoner with you at the current exchange rate to carry in your wallet or pocket – current rate is about 4.5 yuan to $1 AUD.
- Bargain for most things, especially in markets, some shops have fixed prices but a lot/most have negotiable prices. When you start, start with something small to get practice and to get through the guilt that you are doing the locals out of money – a guide;
- Ask how much? Only start negotiations if you intend to go through to the buying stage
- If they say 200 yuan, shake your head and say “no, no” , offer 50 with the end game to be around 100 yuan, move up to 80 and then 100, if they don’t agree at 100, walk away (the old closed book trick car salespeople use), they will probably chase you and agree, at worst buy for 120 yuan tops. then its a win win. Don’t be embarrassed to haggle, they expect it, the locals do it, but be gracious.
- Be adventurous with the food – I didn’t eat grilled scorpions or grasshoopers but the sweat and sour pork, the Peking Duck, the wontons, the dumplings were all delicious, sometimes a little spicy but not as hot or spicy as I thought (mostly anyway)
- Travel on the trains – the Bullet Trains run at 300 kph, so 1500 km goes pretty quickly.
- Summer is pretty warm – you won’t need many clothes, shorts and t shirts are acceptable everywhere, wash the necessaries in the bathroom and dry near an air con outlet.
- Do yourself a favour and check a trip to China out.
Cheers, Ciao, Sayonara
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