My Chinese Experience...
Highs: Hiking the Great Wall; Yonghe Lamasery; the food; being 'celebrities' in their eyes because
we are Westerners and being asked to be in their photographs; having straight hair; Yangshuo;
cooking class; painting and calligraphy lesson; the views from Jingshan Park in Beijing; the pandas at
the Wolong Nature Reserve; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Shanghai; Shanghai skyline; Hangzhou.
Lows: My last five minutes of my tea experience; being an easy target for 'art students' and coming
out of the situation as a total sucker; becoming jaded against people who approach me; going to a
Chinese market and seeing dogs; having the confines of being on a 'tour' during my panda bear trip;
Best Moment: Playing with a bunch of kiddie panda bears.
Smells: Different aromas of food that fill the air; incense at the Lamasery; different teas; urine (sad
but true in many places).
Sounds: Hacking and spitting of phlegm; thunder and rain on the night of the mid-autumn festival;
a flutist that kept playing 'Happy Birthday' outside of my hotel room in Xi'an.
Sights: Forbidden City (60 yuan); Tiananmen Square; Yonghe Lamasery (25 yuan); Great Wall (75
yuan); the little mascots for the Beijing 2008 Olympic games; sparkling clean streets in Beijing; small
doggies everywhere; people talking, eating, waiting, smoking - while squatting within an inch of the
ground; Beihai Park (20 yuan); the town of Yangshuo (outside of Guilin); boat ride down Li River;
Terracotta Warriors (90 yuan); Muslim section of Xi'an; City Walls of Xi'an (40 yuan); smog; views of
the rooftops of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park (2 yuan); people playing cards and dominoes
on the street; people doing aerobic exercises on street 'machines'; Chengdu; Wolong Nature Reserve;
night boat ride along the Bund (68 yuan); Yu Yuan Gardens (40 yuan); Shanghai Museum (5 yuan -
student rate); Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibit Hall (20 yuan).
Tastes: Peking duck (specialty of Beijing); chicken buns; pork buns; sauteed taro and pumpkin;
Starbuck's lattes; 'sugar apples' (the fruit that I adored in Seychelles!); mooncake; veggie and egg bun
(as opposed to the 'pork bun'); stir-fried pumpkin; dried fruit; tea; steamed buns with spinach.
Things I've Gotten a Kick Out Of: The Mao watch where he is waving; the massage place
called 'Massage by the Blind'; my instant-celebrity status as everybody seems to want their picture
Cultural Things???: People squatting (instead of standing and hanging out, they squat and hang
out); spitting; throwing toilet paper in a trash can instead of in the toilet (due to plumbing); chopstick
Taboo Topics: Taiwan.
Different Animals I Have Seen on Menus: Snakes, dogs, rats, squirrels; beatles.
Activities: Calligraphy lesson ($5); painting lesson ($5); cooking class ($12).
Purchases: Does getting my hair cut and chemically-straightened count?; a small Chinese
painting; a Chinese t-shirt; a black jacket; a few purses; a Chinese painting set; table mats and
chopsticks; sunglasses; a watch; notebooks; ipod 'ear buds' (since mine broke).
Funny Food Finds: McDonald's - green bean pie, taro pie.
Western Companies Out Here: McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Sizzler, TCBY, Dairy
Queen/Orange Julius (when was the last time you saw one of those!?), Starbuck's, Baskin Robbins;
Haagen Dazs; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Shanghai); Burger King; Subway; every designer store
Other General Info...
Visa needed? Yes. I got a six-month, double-entry one in San Francisco before I left.
Transportation: The Beijing metro is extremely easy to figure out (words are written in English).
The Beijing domestic airport is very nice (I used it to fly from Beijing to Guilin).
Type of currency? Chinese yuan. One U.S. dollar is the equivalent of about 8 yuan.
Things China Is Known For: Cheap shopping; Beijing 2008 Olympics; the Great Wall;
communism; crazy things that people eat; Mao Tse Tung; panda bears.
Scams: 'Art students' wanting you to go to their gallery; out-of-towners inviting you to come to tea
with them so they can practice their English.
Main Items to Buy Here: Electronics; clothes; knock-off designer stuff, tea, paintings.
Costs: Around $900