Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tips in China

In the winter of 2005, I went to China. Two cities in particular Beijing and Shanghai were my destinations. China is fabulous but here are some tips that you might be interested in:

1. Take a Children's Dictionary that has pictures. Chinese people don't speak english. Shopkeepers, taxi drivers, etc... they don't speak english in Beijing and in most parts of Shanghai right now. Maybe after the 2008 Olympics, things might change. Gestures are not even the same. So if you motion for a drink, they may think you want alcohol. If you direct your hands like to turn left, they may think you're trying to get their attention instead of turn left. With a dictionary you can point to images of things that you are looking for. It makes things easier. You can also take a pad and pen to help you draw things.

2. Know how to say:
Hello - Neehow
Thank You - Shie shie

That's all they know how to say in English - "Hello" and "Thank you very much" (how kind). It's amazing how much you can say with those 2 phrases.

3. Get a flu shot before you go.

4. Take handi-wipes to clean your hands often. People spit all over the place and do snot rockets so it's a good idea to wipe your hands before you ever eat.

5. Great Wall of China - before you commit to a 4 hour hike - understand that the Great Wall is not straight or levelled. I took a 4 hour /10 km hike and I thought it was going to be a breeze - boy, was I in for a surprise. Most of the steps that go up are steep and tall so prepare for a workout. Go to Si Ma Thai (yes, what Pooty Tang always says) - this is a part of the wall that has renovations and also original sections that have not been rebuilt. It is REMOTE - way out there. It takes about 2 hours to get out there. If you have a chance to go to the wall, take money as you will cross into Mongolia and back to China (each time having to pay).

6. The best time to go is during October - the weather is most pleasant.

7. Always have Chinese breakfast - Western food sucks in China. They don't know how to make it. If they want to make a Western sandwich, they put sliced hard-boiled eggs in it. That to them makes it Western. Chinese food rocks. It's different than what they have over here so be adventurous. Most of the stuff is noodles, dumplings and a broth.

8. Bring an extra bag (rolled up) in your suitcase to carry extra stuff that you will buy. Careful what you buy as many things are single-stitched and using different measurements than what we use.

9. Don't rent a car. Use the Subway - it's awesome - ontime and cheap. Find someone in your hotel that speaks English and give them a list of places you want to go with the addresses in mind. Ask them to translate and write it for you on a sheet of paper as you will give this to your taxi driver to take you there. Try looking up the places online before you go and see if they have the Chinese Characters already in a GIF or JPG for you.

10. Hit these spots:

Great Wall - Si Ma Thai
Yong Gegong Lama Temple (2nd biggest Buddhist temple in that region of China)
Tianammen Square
The Forbidden City
Shopping on Wangfujing Street
Take Line 11 and go to the College District (you'll find awesome shops and restaurants there in addition to students who speak english)
Go to an Acrobatics show

Pudong Tower
Shanghai Museum
Tourist Tunnel under the Bund
Pearl Market (buy everyone you know pearls - black, red, white, pink, blue, whatever color you can think of)
Shopping on NanJing Road (this is THE place to shop)
Windows Too (bar)

11. Try staying in a Hotel that has a Massage Parlour - that way, every day before you go to sleep, you can go there and get a foot massage for $11. Yes.....$11. It's 1 hour, knocks you out and your feet will thank you for it from all the walking you are doing.

12. Lastly, try not to get any tickets to anything here - get it there. It'll be cheaper. Hotels have trips to all the attractions and you'll get them cheaper there than paying for it online.

Places to stay
Beijing - Fu Hao Hotel
Shanghai - YMCA

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