A lot of people say a lot of things about China. This is how we experienced China.
First of all. Arriving in China in the airport of Beijing is I.M.P.R.E.S.S.I.V.E. Beijing seen from the air is huge. Beijing seen from the ground is huge as well. The 36h of travelling made us sleepy and woozy. And to be honest I wasn’t sure if I was ready to handle China.
In Beijing people where rude and absolutely never thought about helping us. Especially official people like police people or security are the worst. Don’t consider talking to them. Not even in bullet points language. They’ll just scream back: NO ENGLISH. Once we left Beijing we discovered the real China. People are really friendly, warm and welcoming. In the more rural areas it didn’t even matter that we couldn’t speak Chinese or that they didn’t speak English. There’s always a way to make yourself clear. Or how to practise your acting skills on holiday. People really wanted to help us, even if we didn’t ask for it. One man even did close to 10 phonecalls to figure out how we could get to our hostel.
Yes. People, especially older men, spit all the time. But you know what? It couldn’t bother me. Ok it’s not the most pleasant sound to hear everywhere around you, even on busses of several hours. But let them spit the night away. If that’s what makes them happy.
People can be loud. And if they have a chance to talk to you through a microphone they will. For us it was mostly weird looking and funny.
China is dirty. There’s no way of ignoring that. Chinese cities literally takes ones breath away.
When it comes to toilets, Chinese got their inspiration from the French. Hurktoiletten. A very simple hole in the ground and a flush. Nothing more. China has a lot of public restrooms. It must have something to do with people doing their thing in the streets some time ago. In Beijing there was 9 times out of 10 in the back a regular toilet. So I always felt very lucky when I discovered the lonely, unused and clean toilet in the back. Since we left Beijing there are only French toilets. French toilets are not my thing. These days I’m very lucky if 1. There are toilets 2. I didn’t forgot my own toiletpaper 3. The toilet has a door 4. The door has a lock. Women in China can’t be bothered to close or lock the door. This can be rather inconvenient. Imagining that you are peeing and suddenly somebody pushes the door you were actually holding onto. I’ve never seen grosser toilets in my life than in some places -definitely not everywhere!!- in China. And for that I must pay my respect to Chinese women. I saw women all dressed up in killer heels going in, I saw mothers with babies on their back going in. They all came out as gracefull as they went in. I have no idea how they did it. But they did. So respect for that.
A lot of beautiful places in China are -in our eyes- spoiled by mass tourism. It’s not that we saw a lot of other foreigners. Chinese mass tourism. For ex. in the Zhangjiajie National Park all walking routes are paved, they have elevators and cable cars to get you up and down and along the way you run into -at least every 500m- a souvenir and food shops. It sometimes felt a bit like we were in Disneyland. The same for Feng Huang. Absolutely stunning town. But unfortunately not really as authentic as we thought it would be. For them it’s just about making China accessible for all Chinese.
Chinese people still hold on to a lot of their ancient traditions, wether they live in a big city or a small village. It’s really nice if you’re lucky to witness one if these rituals. When we left for ex. our hostel very early morning in Yangshuo we ran into a funeral. The dead person had a beautiful decorated coffin and was carried up the mountain by his closest family. In front there where men throwing little -but very loud- bombs. We researched it a bit and this means it was an old person’s funeral. Young people are carried in complete silence. The women walked in the back.
We also saw a traditional puppet theatre in a park. The athmosphere was really nice. It was real Chinese life, without tourism involved. Everytime a person gave a coin, the dressed up woman started singing. After some time the singing became more of a lamentation and another person had to give a coin. Everything to spare our ears. 😉
Offcourse there are many many other examples. But those are two examples we experienced.
For us the most important thing was: NATURE IS STUNNING. Once out there all these small cultural differences fade away. Chinese nature is something you’ve never seen before and probably will never see again. It’s big, mostly untouched, impressive.
So: do you recommend us going to China? YES. Isn’t it difficult sometimes? Yes and no. It just takes some time to figure out how you can travel the easiest. For ex. next to the regular bus network there are a lot of private companies offering long distance busses. There is no central website, so these are not always easy to find. But once you get it, it’s actually easy and convenient. It’s so satisfying if you can discover the country on your own and actually land where you need to be. If you’re staying in hostels, hotels, homestays or whatever people will definitely be willing to Bing 😉 some things for you. Just make sure you write some things down in Chinese as well and you’ll be fine. Do we ever want to come back? Definitely a big YES.
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