We are hours away from leaving China for Australia and thinking back on our experience here in Beijing. First, we were very fortunate to have lucked into a private tour with our own guide (Candy) AND driver (Jhu). Booking the trip we anticipated feeling uncomfortable with very unique food, language, and writing. It was part of the appeal too, immersing ourselves in something completely different. Candy and Jhu were fabulous buffers/filters/interpreters/guides making China accessible to us while letting us experience some pretty amazing things without feeling uncomfortable. Tremendously thankful for their guidance and support.
Alicia and I thought about how you get used to the sights and sounds around you – the lilt of Chinese speech, look of the shop signs, and smells of the food. Occurred to us this morning that we’d be landing in Australia with different sights, sounds, and smells. Not to mention that the forecast for today is +41c while back home is -30c. Vancouver and Beijing were nice transition points with temperatures somewhere in the middle.
Here are some observations for travelers to China:
- Get a guide – like I said above, they are invaluable for navigating the streets, the culture, and the interactions with others around us
- Don’t expect to carry on your regular social media participation: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube and 2600 other sites are banned under state censorship; Many popular blogging sites are also blocked including WordPress.com. I use WordPress for this blog but it is hosted on my own domain so it cleared Chinese internet filters. Additionally, most of the productivity resources I use like Dropbox, GoogleDocs, and Google Hangout are also blocked, so it’s hard to carry on your usual business unless you have your files with you.
- Carry lots of small denomination bills – 5¥ or 10¥ for tips or shopping; with our tour there were only a couple of occasions we had to tip, but it’s also handy for purchasing the small chochkies/nick-nacks/kitch you might want.