October 30, 2006
And now is the time to re-cap my thoughts and observations while I was in China...
- They might have ‘western’ toilets here at hotels and restaurants but they have yet to have ‘western’ plumbing. What does this mean? To
put it the best way possible, anything that you wipe with doesn’t go into the toilet – it goes into the garbage can next to the toilet.
Definitely not the easiest thing to get used to.
- Beijing was clean. Sparkling clean. Eerily clean.
- ‘The Friendlies’ are out in full force in Beijing. Who are ‘The Friendlies’? Well, here’s a hint: they consist of JingJing (the black one),
YingYing (the yellow one), HuanHuan (the red one), BeiBei (the blue one) and NiNi (the green one). Any idea? They are the Olympics
mascots for the 2008 games. My fave is JingJing – he is the panda bear.
- Ahhh…I am taken back to memories of being in China Town in San Francisco when listening to all of the hacking and spitting of phlegm.
Of course these memories were ones that I would have been more than happy to erase.
- The smells of food are absolutely amazing.
- People pick their noses a lot out here. They just dig away in broad daylight. Gross.
- Ah, the hacking and spitting of phlegm. It seems as if I hear this from behind me a few times each minute. First there is the hack and I
know that the spit is just around the corner. After a few days I have stopped cringing upon hearing this and I only pray that I don’t feel a
little thud on my back. I have come to realize that the sound of the hack sounds exactly like being at the dentist when the water is being
sprayed into your mouth and suctioned out simultaneously.
- There are city workers that don’t only control car traffic but also control pedestrian traffic. There are places where they make sure that
people only walk in one direction on one side of the street and in the other direction on the other side of the street. They use blow-horns
while doing this.
- Beijing’s streets were sooo much quieter and peaceful than I ever thought imaginable. Nothing is chaotic here like I thought it would be.
- BEWARE!!! There are major ‘art student’ and ‘tea ceremony’ scams in the major cities. These girls seem so innocent as if there is no way
they could be taking you for a fool. But they are!!!
- I was here during the mid-autumn festival which is one their biggest holidays to be spent with the family (which also creates difficulty
with getting train tickets, etc.). The tradition is to eat mooncake. You will find mooncakes galore in most stores. We had one and it was
sweet with a paste inside that had a slight sesame flavor and a mixture of nuts. It is very heavy so it is near impossible to eat one by
- Beijing is completely ‘Olympics’ed out! It is great seeing a place that is so pumped up. I have absolutely no doubt that the games with go
off wonderfully. The little mascots (aka ‘The Friendlies) are really cute. I just saw a commercial with them and the one representing the
‘black’ part of the rings seems like a little rascal (and he’s a panda!). Hehe.
- Before coming to Beijing, the idea of the Olympics being here did nothing to excite me. In fact, I was even wondering why they picked this
city. How ignorant was I!? This city has everything to offer – culture, tradition, beauty, modernization. Many sites here are in the middle
of renovation projects to get them at their peak by the time 2008 rolls around.
- I wasn’t going to repeat this story (due to sounding like an idiot) but I feel I should to get the point across about the haziness/smog out
here. I was at a temple on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday. This revolves around the full moon (thus there was going to be a
full moon that night). It was no longer light out and I kept snapping my camera away at the full moon. I kept trying to capture it since I
felt it was kind of symbolic as to the actual holiday that day. After about eight pictures, I realized something. I was actually not taking
pictures of the moon…but of the sun. Due to the haziness, it was near impossible to tell the difference (except for the little fact that it kept
dropping lower over time).
- The Chinese like to say that different cities are ‘foggy’. Yeah, right. I’m thinking nobody has taught them the word ‘smog’ yet.
- After reading the China Daily newspaper, I found out that the two main concerns for the Olympics are communication problems and
congestion. That sounds about right.
- It is imperative to carry business cards of your hotel if you plan to take a taxi. Just about nobody speaks or reads English. That being
said, also always have your hotel write down where you need to go in Chinese. This is also useful even if you are just walking to a place in
case you are lost. You can show the piece of paper to a local and they will point you in the right direction.
- It is next to impossible to communicate out here. It is funny because so many parts feel so western that you sometimes forget how
difficult it is going to be (this was at least the case in Beijing).
- Every airport I have been to (Beijing, Guilin, Xi’an, Chengdu, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hong Kong) has been very nice. I know that sounds
like a lot of airports. I gravitated towards the philosophy of ‘Why take a train when you can fly in far less time?’ It is only dollars more to
fly around China than to take sleeper trains and you gain so much more time in cities versus just sitting on a train.
- All of the names of cities are actually two words in Chinese as opposed to the one word that we right them as. Examples: Bei Jing, Shang
Hai, Cheng Du, Gui Lin, Xi An, etc. I never knew that.
- Pedestrians have no right-of-way on the streets. None at all. Even when there’s a crosswalk with a green light. The cars will honk at you
and insist on speeding right past you. It’s important to always watch around you when crossing the street. No daydreaming while walking
the streets out here!
- The metro system in Beijing and Shanghai is extremely straight-forward and easy.
- The bathrooms were better than I expected. Most are squatters but nothing too shocking to the system. Just make sure you always carry
your own tissue or toilet paper with you.
- You forget about the ‘one child per family’ law until all of a sudden it dawns on you that no children that you are seeing have siblings. It is
just them and their parent(s).
- The sheer force that the Chinese put into hack. If it wasn’t so disgusting, it would almost seem like a talent.
- Little babies wear things called ‘split pants’. It’s like a onesie with a slit down the butt and you see the baby’s butt through the slit. My
friend informed me that Chinese don’t use diapers on babies and parents put the babies over toilets at ‘peak times’ that someone would
need to go to the bathroom. They use a combination of sounds and patience to get the baby to go. This also helps to have the children be
potty-trained at an early age.
- The center of Yangshuo could fool a person into believing that they are not really in China. It was good for a day or so but there is no
point to spending too much time there. Well, unless you have no desire to really see ‘China’.
- I have to say that I only had to go to a large Chinese market once to know that I would never go again. I even discouraged some friends I
was with from going. I know we make jokes at home about the Chinese eating dog. But I saw this first-hand and it was enough to make me
ill. In fact, I still get a queasy feeling when I pass by dogs on the street because it triggers back the memories of what I saw.
- Don’t buy domestic tickets before arriving in China. Travel agencies here can find heavily discounted tickets. And this includes tickets
for flights that are within one or two days from the booking. They can even be less than taking the loooong train ride!
- People squat on the street to eat. They squat to talk to one another. The squat just to hang out.
- I have no idea why, but Chinese men feel it necessary to pull up their shirts and walk around with their stomach hanging out. Not
attractive. Not attractive at all.
- There was a Chinese girl (Amy) leading me around the market in Yangshuo. She was talking about different parts of China and brought up
people looking ‘different’ in western China. Here was the conversation:
Me: How do they look different?
Girl: Do you know Ali Baba?
Girl: They all look Ali Baba over there.
- The subway system in Beijing needs more trains before Olympics. People have to wait way too long in between trains. Just my opinion.
- Don’t bring up the subject of ‘Taiwan’ to Chinese people. Very taboo.
- While Hong Kong is technically part of China, don't be fooled. It has a completely different culture and feels almost as if you are a world
away from China.