The wedding of a friend precipitated a two week visit to wild and beautiful China recently, and after the wedding I had a week or so to explore a little and experience a sample of the landscape and culture of this vast and diverse country. First, my trip as described by the (approximate) numbers:
16,000 air miles round trip
500 road miles survived
100 “hallos” exchanged
16 thieving monkeys encountered
13 Pandas viewed
12 hotel nights stayed
8 airports employed
4 provinces visited
3 National Forest Parks enjoyed
2 cable car rides endured
1 spectacular wedding attended (congratulations Brian and Jenny!)
Along the way, I managed to cross the highest mountain pass I’ve ever been on, view the highest mountain I’ve ever seen, immerse myself in the cuisine and culture of ancient peoples, and gain a new and renewed appreciation for this home of ours which is, of course, my favorite planet. Photo sample of my trip…..
First Time Flyer Tips
(or: things I wish I had done differently on the trip now that I’ve done it wrong.)
- Take your own coffee. Yes, there is some coffee in China in the form of instant (in the grocery stores) or lattes in some form or another (in hotels) but I found that obtaining my necessary morning cup of caffeine when I wanted it to be difficult although hot water was easy to obtain. I did find one coffee shop that opened at 10 (too late to be of any use) and another that was closed down. Next time, I’m taking high quality instant packs.
- ATM’s. I found that ATM machines were few and far between; next time, I’ll pack more cash before I leave the country and pick up more at the airport ATM. They’re not on every corner.
- No WIFI. Yes, your hotel will offer you (slow, inconsistent) wifi, but once you’re out of range of your room you’re also out of luck. There won’t be a McDonalds or Starbucks that you can hook up with while you roam the streets, making access to things like maps and translate apps hard (impossible) to use. I heard something about wifi hotspots that you can rent so maybe I’ll try that next time. VPN’s are commonly employed and work well but you first need Internet access to make them work. Strangely, I received phone calls from the States under seemingly random conditions, but I couldn’t make a call out. Same with text messages. I had good luck using a friends burner phone that was set up to work on China’s telecom system, but it wasn’t a smartphone and was only good for in-country calls and texts. I didn’t try using a Chinese sim card in my iphone but that might prove to be a better solution to the comms problems I had.
- Taxi by the meter. I found that the only time I got ripped off using a cab was when the cab wasn’t using the meter but instead negotiated a price before we got in. What was I thinking. Metered cabs are reasonably priced and abundant.
China offers challenges to ‘foreign devils’ who don’t speak the language, but
I found friendly people everywhere I went, strange and delicious foods on every corner, and landscapes that were other worldly, iconic, and beautiful. Yes, there is alot of air pollution in (near) the cities, traffic is bad enough to be comical, and there is scaffolding everywhere but it is a land which begs to be explored, appreciated and experienced by anyone with a taste for travel, adventure, photography. I had the luxury of traveling with a tour guide and driver which is a great way to go. Meriwether Lewis said this:
“As we passed on, it seemed those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end.”
I had days and days of feeling the same way about China.