my first trip to China
my first trip to China Reviews
My first trip to China - Be Sure to Plan Ahead Nov 24, 2011
I do not use tours generally. I have been on three tours to Africa and each one I had a hand in something related to the tour planning process. The first tour I allowed my phone number to be used as a relay for tourist leaving from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to Egypt. The person would call and leave a message. I would then call the person back and give them a phone number of a person currently at that phone number, so that the tourist could get information need for the tour. I did not set up that arrangement myself another family member did it for me. They knew somebody that knew somebody. You know how the story goes. I ended up getting my round trip flight New York to Cairo, room and board, three meals a day and ground tours from Cairo to Abul Simbel and back for free (two weeks of research vacation FREE). I paid $200.00 round trip between San Francisco and New York. In Egypt we were up and showered at 6:00 – 6:30 AM each morning at breakfast by 7:00AM, on the bus by 8:00 AM and rolling at 8:30 AM. It did not stop there. We were generally back at the hotels between 4:30 and 5:30 PM. Dinner started around 7:00 PM and the evening lectures and plans for the next day were delivered to us during a meeting starting at 8:30 PM. That is an excellent way to tour as far as I am concerned and I would gladly do it again. I can see most of you shaking your heads no. “That is not for me”. No problem.
My reason for traveling and methods may be different, but there are a few things that both do. Do not hesitate to ask questions or leave a note if I say something you do not understand.
MY FIRST TRIP TO CHINA -
Learn as much about the country that you want to visit before you go there. The knowledge you gain will give you leveraging power.
I do not do what other people think I should do. I do what I do. My parents were that way. Don’t say that I did not warn you.
I went to China to get married and take scenic color pictures that would print large and sell for good prices back in the states. Those two items would consume all of my time. Be sure to make the reason for your trip simple.
What I just described was a business trip, get married and take pictures. There is nothing complicated about that.
We are only going to discuss the first item on my agenda because to discuss both would take too long. The discussion will be about people, not cameras.
I will not describe how events got started. It would take too long to tell. I am going to cut corners. There will be plenty of information missing so please fill free to ask questions. My earliest correspondence begins in 2001 with a business woman in Beijing who since then owns an art gallery in Maine. She spoke English and Japanese fluently so she did not need a translator to translate her E-mail. Though we had each others phone numbers we have never used them. We write using E-mail only and occasional text chat. She was aware of the trip and what I was attempting to do. I bought one wedding present from her – (finished).
WRITE TO MANY PEOPLE IN THE PLACE YOU INTEND TO GO
Next I began my correspondence with ladies in Asia - China, Philippines, and Thailand in 2008. I was writing about 60 women at one time, yes 60. About 56 of them were in China. Most of the women in China chose to meet me. I didn’t choose them. My photograph and very short bio was what caught their attention – (finished).
I chose only one lady in China. She was a building developer owning 2 constriction companies and an interior design company. There were seven siblings and several of them were in business together. None of the women in China spoke English. They all used translators to translate their E-mail. (That part is finished). I did not marry that lady unexpected things happened to a member of her family near the close of 2009. She and another lady in Changsha China helped me with most of the planning. Everyone was a total stranger, including the woman living in Maine.
LEARN HOW TO PLAN CONTINGENCIES
It was a two week trip and originally the entire two weeks was to be spent in a place named Guangxi Beihai. Guangxi was the name of the province and Beihai the name of the town that I went to. In the late 1960’s Guangxi was apart of a prophecy I was to full-fill. An ex-convict over heard me in a spontaneous debate about African history with another brother. I was getting best of the conversation and whipping my opponent’s head and tail with facts. The commotion caused a crowd to gather. When the debate was over the ex-convict said “When you go to Guanchee Province in China see what you can find out about what happened to Africans that went there many centuries ago”. The key to the prophecy was the word “when” not “if” and the other portion of the prophecy occurred when the man was shot to death a few weeks later which meant that “My Fate is Sealed”. Where as I had dismissed the man’s comment for the following reasons location of province, spelling of the name and time the voyage occurred were unknown; now I had to pay attention.
I only looked at names of towns; cities, photographs and read bios of the 56 women in China. I had to do an elimination process to come up with only three places and three women to visit. First I started looking at provinces there were only two provinces that contain 2 women each. The rest of the provinces contained only one each accept one province. That province was spelled “Guangxi” (pronounced Guangzee) and not “Guanchee”. There were 4 women in that province including the one woman I had chosen – (finished).
I would enter and leave China by the same town and province which was Guangxi Beihai – (finished). On the morning December 3rd 2009 I left my house and walked 9 to 8 blocks and caught the Bay Area Rapid Transit to San Francisco Airport. The BART goes right off into the international terminal. If you have a carryon then head straight to your carrier counter to pick up a boarding pass, go through home land security check then head to your gate. If you want to know what my luggage looks like then go to http://www.travbuddy.com/One-Carry-on-Take-Luggage-With-You-v463434. Additional reviews will take it apart piece by piece. It is a complicated gear. I have never had anyone open that gear and search. They always have me do it (nice). The people I come into contact with over the years have never seen anything like it. You can wear it like a back pack, roll it on wheels or carry it like a suitcase.
It was an Air China to and from Peoples Republic of China. We flew near the arctic circle then dropped down the tip of Siberia, then Korea before entering North China airspace. Our Flight landed at Terminal 3 in Beijing. Thermal Three is where the Western International flights come in and out. Custom check is there as well. The signs posted are in short character Chinese and Roman Alphabet English. If you can read either one of those two languages you will not have any problems. The Chinese have woven the fabrics of Western Civilization and Chinese Civilization together. They celebrate Chinese New Year, but use the Gregorian calendar instead of their own for business use. Chinese calendar system is way older than Gregorian by over 2,000 years, but it is too complicated. Chinese civilization is actually over 6,000 years old, but the calendar did not start until 2,000 later. You ask Chinese citizens what year it is by Chinese calendar most of them can’t tell you the year, but they can tell when all of the Chinese holidays are by Gregorian for that year, but they don’t know the next year. Each year the month and dates change. Chinese New year always takes place in the months of January or February. This year 2011 the Chinese New Year celebration will start February 3rd . Expert mathematicians figure out the Gregorian dates for New Years and Chinese holidays. China has a standard time for all of China. There is only one time zone in China. They use the same Indian nine character numbering system and the zero that European and Western Civilizations use.
For flights to cities in China I flew China Southern. The country to country flight round trip I scheduled my self which also include the China Southern flight to and from Beihai. All other domestic flights were scheduled by a Chinese travel agent in the East Bay.
I asked at the information desk were to go to check hotel services. When I got there people from all over the world were waiting for directions and I immediately asked for a three star hotel. I noticed when it was time to leave the Caucasian travelers and a few Africans were directed to go one way and the Chinese and I were sent in a different direction. I was the only outsider in that group. From that point on I would rarely see any outsider until I returned to fly home. When we got to the hotel desk the first question I asked was “How much do you tip hotel service in China” and there was a loud command from a middle aged Chinese tourist “NO TIPS!!!” The man never faced me I only saw him from the back, but I could tell from his shoes and suit that he had spent time in the U.S. and he probably was an executive of some kind. The back was a message to me that we were not to engage in conversation so I didn’t, but I had the two words, the inflection of the man’s voice and his back on which to figure out what the man’s character and full meaning of the statement. In my hotel room I finally realized what he was telling me – “NO TIPS IN CHINA PERIOD!!!!” My next assignment was to figure out why. Fortunately I did not deed any help with the question. China has 2,000,000,000 people and there is only one country on the planet that has had first hand experience serving that many people. That country is China. They attempt to crack down on corruption and they have plenty of it.
If you do not understand what “NO TIPS IN CHINA PERIOD!!!!” means then come back to this section and read the proverbs that I place here.
I wrote the first that relate to the statement above a few weeks ago. These are current and not about the past. These instructions you should be able to do without getting yourself or anyone else in trouble, but make sure you fully understand the proverbs before you try any of them.
“If you buy a meal from a vendor and give it to a beggar you only feed that beggar for one day, but the vendor is fed a life time. Dec. 21, 2010
I f you buy a beggar a meal be sure to watch him eat it, for if you don’t he may sell it to someone else. Dec. 21, 2010”
As you have gathered by now I have a life mission and a path to follow. My problem is never what to do next, but when to do it. I know that certain events are supposed to happen decades before the event occurs. When I was age 3 to age 10 I would not eat my meals. I looked malnourished. My ribs and spinal column always showed. At age 10 when the family moved to California in 1955 an uncle on my mother’s side took us to a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles. I asked my uncle if I could have the sticks after the meal. My little sister wanted a pair of sticks too. From that moment on I rarely ate with a knife and fork. My mother seeing that I was a very determine fellow began changing the family meals. Over the years American meals gradually disappeared off the table and Asian and African meals became a standard – (finished).
There has been very little in my life that occurred by accident. Most things happen by design. I received plenty of warning in advance. I just didn’t know when the event was going to happen. And because my life works that way I just plan decades ahead often not knowing what I am planning for. I have never questioned the mission. I just do as I am told.
DO NOT TRY TO MAKE ALL OF THE PLANS BY YOUR SELF
The three ladies that helped me plan each day of my stay knew what I was there for. One lady came up with the idea if I should get stranded I should have phone numbers of Chinese English speakers to call to give directions to taxi drivers. Before I left California I had Sprint put me on Chinese Sprint, so that I could dial phone numbers with out using the country code.
The following are excerpts taken from a long letter I sent one of the three ladies that helped plan the trip. –
“You did way better than expected. By chance you hooked me up with the right person and she set the pace. I will be forever grateful to Yuki for that. That one week was the second best of the whole trip, but it might surprise you to know it wasn’t the women I sought after it was the uniqueness and extreme beauty of Changsha HuNan that held me spellbound. Changsha and I had a deep love affair at first site that can not easily be matched. I will come back to see her often. The 3 human ladies tried their best to compete with her with little success. I will post pictures where you can see them on the Internet so that you can see what those poor ladies were up against………
CHINESE MOTEL MEMBERSHIP CARD
Next my traslator Ivy took me to Motel168. It looked like a hotel. She pointed to a price list on the wall. The prices ranged from several hundred yuan to two figure yuan. I stayed in the three figures and chose $208.00 yuan. Ivy said not to purchase the room yet, but go up and see first. The room looked like 3 star room, with the same accommodations with slightly smaller room space. When I rented the room she suggested in a nice way to purchase the VIP card as well. After some hesitation I finally did what she told me to do. She informed me that I would find this same motel chain all over China. The Marriage agency interpreter fee was $400.00 yuan a day. The same amount would have gone to that hotel I passed up. Now I was spending just over $608.00 yuan a day. Ivy had figured how to have me pay for her services for a full seven days without putting her hand in my pocket. She and my wallet became very good friends after that. She narrowed my meals down to two meals a day which I had been trying to do in Beihai. The interpreter for some reason needed 3 meals a day but I didn’t. There was always food left, but when Ivy and I ate there was never any food left to throw away. I never had to take snacks to my hotel room to munch on because I was always full. Ivy further cut expenses by staying out of taxis. If the distance was two miles or less we walked and the time passed quickly because there was much to see and talk about along the way. She made the other ladies walk too. No one seamed to mind. When we road a taxi I sometimes gave Ivy the fare of what I thought it would cost and she would pay the driver. If she returned change I tried to make her keep it………..
PHONE INSTRUCTIONS & DRESS REHEARSALS
Before I left for Zhuhai the woman I was to meet informed me by Express-EMF Mail that there had been a change of plans. She said that she would not show up in a taxi like she had promised, but she gave me the phone number of her translator and told me to have the taxi driver speak to the translator on the phone to get directions to the hotel. She had reserved a room for $200.00 yuan a day. The bus arrived in Zhuhai at seven o’clock in the morning. I went to a taxi and tried to dial the number and got no answer so I waved the taxi on and went inside the bus station to wait for more signs life outside.
I walked out of the station spotted a taxi and went straight towards the driver’s side. Before I arrived the translator picked up and I told her who I was and exchanged greetings then handed the driver my phone. While he was on the phone he opened the boot of the car and motioned for me to go around to the passenger’s side to get in. When he finished on the phone he gave it back and we drove off. I have done this before countless times, but each time I try it is different. In New York City some people of color refuse to ride taxis and I am one of them. We found out that New York City taxis would not stop or pick up in poor neighborhoods so we went Gypsy. When I leave the baggage claim I look for a car that has passengers who are engaged in reading newspapers then I spot one with the boot open. I look to see if there are any lights in the trunk then hand the driver my bags. Without saying anything I open the car door and get in. Once inside I engage in reading as well. If caught the Gypsy Cab owner could lose his car and spend a several months in jail. We only talk after the car is out of the airport.
When you travel in other countries without a tour guide you use what we call “street smarts”. You observe the world around you. This is something you can not learn from reading a book in a classroom. This information is obtained from the book of life. Before I boarded the bus to go to Zhuhai my translator told me that there was a toilet on the bus. The bus would travel all night without making any stops, so what do you do? You lay quiet on your bunk and case the place. No one on the bus wore shoes we took them off and put them in plastic bags. The lights are off and visibility on the bus is almost pitch-black. When people get up to go somewhere you watch every move they make. There was a stairwell at the one side of the bus near the back.
Everyone that went to that stairwell sat down on the top step and reached down on the right-hand side to pick up something down below. Then they bent over further as though to touch their feet. Next they stood up straight and descended the stairs. You saw a bright light then what appeared to be a door closed off the light. When the person came out they sat on that top step again, reached down near their feet then put something back on their right side. You make sure you watch the dress rehearsal several times and then it is your turn. I guarantee if you were focused and paid attention you will get it right the first time.”
In Egypt I did not go to banks to exchange traveler’s checks. I always did the exchange with a street money exchanger inside 5 or 4 star hotels and I would ask at the front desk if that person was known to them and if it was OK to exchange money inside their hotel lobby. In one hotel I motioned to the exchanger to look at the current exchange index inside the hotel bank indicating that I wanted him to beat the low exchange price of the bank. We did the exchange at a table right in font the hotel bank. Do not do that in China always go to a bank to exchange your money.
Do not send money orders or cashiers checks to people living in China unless they live near Beijing or Shanghai. You send money through Western Union or wire the money through banks. Both methods are expensive. I believe there is a cheaper method but I haven’t had a crack at it yet.
Only the big Chinese International banks will let you withdraw from your United States bank accounts using Chinese Automatic Teller Machines or ATMs. Some of the big U.S. Banks like Wells Fargo make it difficult for you to use your debit credit card with Chinese Banks, so make sure you have money with a U.S. credit union or smaller bank. You do not have to have an account with a bank in China to use there ATMs. Only the Chinese International Banks can offer that service in small towns and cities. If you plan to make withdrawals from an ATM make sure the towns you go to have at least one International Bank.
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Mar 01, 2007
It depends on what part(s) of China you will be visiting, but the most general advice I can give to anyone is, “Learn Chinese!” It’s really hard to get by in most parts of the country without speaking their language (or having a local friend to translate for you).
Using Skype (an internationally popular instant messenger program) is a great way to make new Chinese friends before you get there. In case you’re concerned at all about hygiene, I’ll warn you that bathrooms in China almost never have toilet paper, soap, or paper towels, so it’s a good idea to bring enough from home to hold you over until you can get to a store. In general, always carry tissues & soap if you care to wipe & wash.
Smokers light up EVERYWHERE, including on public transportation and in restaurants. It is against the rules on busses and trains, but they do it anyway and none of the natives complain – they just sit quietly suffering. I managed to enforce the no smoking rule on one 4-hour bus ride and also in some train cars, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise other tourists to do the same.
Between November and March, you will want to bring plenty of warm clothing (unless you’ll be in southern China) because it might be hard to find clothing your size in stores and the Chinese typically do not use heat. If it’s cold outside, it will be cold inside too – in homes, apartments, stores, schools, and restaurants alike.
It’s a good idea to get maps from home to bring because it’s not always easy to find them in China and even less likely to find them printed in English there. You can find some for free in the Chinese Consulate where you’ll get your visa and you can buy others at bookstores. AAA doesn’t carry any maps for Asia – bummer!
People’s Bank (and I’m sure others) has a checking account with 3 free foreign-bank-ATM transactions per month, so you might check the policy with your banks or open an account at People’s to ensure you’ll be able to access your money while abroad. And of course take note of your card’s logos so you can spot them by the ATMs in China. Credit cards are not accepted in all areas, so cash is necessary. Besides, credit card companies will invariably charge a few % for $/RMB exchange.
Lastly... Water is always served hot in China unless requested otherwise, so be careful taking that first sip. I’ve been to Beijing, Xi’an, Wuhan, Wangqiao, & ShenZhen and might be able to provide additional info or suggestions for visiting those places upon request. Happy travels!
Part of the My travel suggestions for westerners heading to China travel blog