Most people travel to China on a tour, which obviously takes the hassle out of, but I love a challenge, particularly when it comes to itineraries, transport and sightseeing. Independent travel is our preference and even in China it is possible, it just takes a little more planning. The thought of a prearranged “follow the flag” tour is our living hell on holidays. Travelling through China is perceived as a challenge, but is mainly due to the language barrier.
Some rules or what we’ve learnt so far…..
China and Google aren’t very good friends – multiple VPN’s are a must – if one is down, the other generally works. Wifi is intermittent – a major point of angst for the kids.
No smiling – everyone has been friendly and polite so far, apart from the woman who threw my credit card at me, as if it was on fire, when it didn’t go through the first time! But that still doesn’t mean you get a smile!
Don’t expect a “sorry”, “excuse me or “thanks”. In crowded areas, such as on the subway or getting onto an escalator , just stand your ground with elbows out! It’s every man for himself here, and pushing and shoving will happen. It’s not personal it just is. Rules of engagement kids – stick elbows out and shuffle around defensively to keep people from stepping in front of you, if necessary look menacing!
Queuing – A general mulling of people is what constitutes a queue here, being next in line means nothing, someone will try to cut in. The problem is, a big gap, or anything wider than your body being pressed on the person in front, will be perceived as the end of the line, effectively just asking someone to slip in, it seems.
Why is everyone yelling? They talk loudly here, REALLY LOUDLY, especially when they are on mobile phones, or 2, as most of the population seems to be – at once. They’re not angry or fighting, just conversing apparently. On the point of mobiles, I have phone envy! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has the latest and biggest phones, or 2. They use them for everything. QR codes are ubiquitous, and it’s a constant juggle, as people push past to get to the golden egg – the QR code!
Celebrity status – If you’re a foreigner, you will be stared at, people pull out their mobile phone to snap photos with you, but what I find amusing is the locals don’t even try to be discrete about it. They stand a few feet in front of you, or pull you into their photo, without asking.
Beware of the trough toilet – While hotels and fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have Western-style toilets, this is certainly not the case everywhere you go. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find toilet paper, and soap/ hand sanitiser is non existent, so carry your own. There are dividers but these don’t offer much privacy as they are only about a metre high, and not all stalls have doors……which can be a little confronting.
Beijing apparently has a thriving coffee scene – we haven’t found it and believe me it’s not for lack of trying!