Here is a picture of my mother wearing her scarf I bought her from the silk factory. If you've read the rest of this trip blog you will find the humour in her peace/victory sign... Made me laugh out loud. The artwork in the background is hers. She is a fantastic artist and probably the reason I find myself in the advertising and design business!
From April 22 to May 2 we went on an adventure, the ChinaPac International 12 day Super China Tour. Going into the trip we had a few concerns, we read a bunch of articles and watched YouTube videos from past travelers. But some things you just have to experience for yourself.
If you find yourself planning a similar trip, here are a few thoughts and observations I can pass along to you to consider.
1. Shots and drugs: We did it all. We updated our regular shots, had the Twinrix Vaccine, and for our stomachs took Dukoral two weeks and one week out. To play it especially safe we also brought along with us a prescription for Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic useful for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections. And we took a container of Tums. So we were ready. And I'm happy to say we had no problems when it came to sickness. I would recommend that you take all precautions.
2. Water: Water in China is not to be consumed unless it is first boiled. So for our trip we lived off bottled water. I brushed my teeth and rinsed using China tap water but Mellissa stuck to her bottled water for it. We were at a KFC and ordered a soft drink. Then we promptly threw the entire drink away when we thought that there is ice made of Chinese water in the cup. Then we were told that North American restaurants boil their water before making ice. But better safe than sorry.
3. Blocked sites in China: You've probably already read somewhere that many of the websites we use every day are blocked in China. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many blog tools are blocked and simply won't work. We used this platform on Weebly and it worked perfectly. We could blog and add pictures and publish. No problems.
4. Internet in hotels: We read a lot of articles online about how hotels in China have cable internet in rooms and not wireless. We didn't find that to be the case in most instances. We brought an Airport Express from Apple with us when there was just cable, plugged it in and voila, we had our own wireless. Worked perfectly.
5. Washrooms and squat toilets: Washrooms in China for the most part are very smelly. The men's bathrooms smelled like pee, it didn't matter if you were in a nice hotel or a tourist attraction. Most of the places we visited had North American toilets and squat toilets so it was never a problem. One big thing is they DO NOT supply toilet paper, or if on the odd time they do you will find it as you enter the bathroom and you take it from there and bring it into the stall. For squat toilets the used toilet paper gets deposited in a garbage can in the stall. Yikes I know... Be sure to bring travel toilet paper with you just in case.
6. Canadian money to Chinese: Don't travel to China with a bunch of Chinese money. The hotels all accept Canadian money and they give you a good rate. I was really impressed that they took Canadian.
7. Safety: We were safe. People are very nice and we felt very welcome. You'll see in an earlier blog post that teenagers in China wanted to get their photos taken with us. I think they are intrigued by North America as much as we are of them.
8. Tour food: Not sure why, but on our trip we ate similar things most lunches and dinners. A lot of food was greasy and deep fried with sweet sauces. That is not what they eat though. They made that for us thinking that is what we wanted.
9. Beer: For all of our ChinaPac tour we drank Chinese beer for lunch and dinner. It is very light, almost water-like and was cheap and plentiful if you wanted to go the 7/11 at night for some. Even Mellissa who doesn't like beer had it every meal. Don;t expect any big flavourful beer here. They all are about the same.
10. Power and plugs: We had the luxury of staying in good hotels. Many of which had North American plugs. And if they didn't we heard you can get the converters from the front desk of hotels. We didn;t have any trouble charging our iPhones, camera batteries and iPads.
A few videos badly slapped together for your enjoyment. And you saw it right. A band was playing Jingle Bells on May 1. Not too surprising since we saw a lot of Santa still up in stores in China. Maybe Chinese Christmas is upon us...
Hello dear reader. Well it is May 2 and we have been up over 30 hours. It started at 3:30 am today Beijing time...
I thought I'd share a few more photos from our trip, and over the next day or so I'll add more photos and videos and an overall synopsis. We had a lot of questions before we went to China, like will we need to use squat toilets, can you exchange Canadian money in hotels, what is safe food to eat, what about drinking tap water, and are there North American restaurants there (you may be surprised to learn that KFC is huge there). I've been putting a few observations of my experience together in words and will be up on the site this weekend.
Now that I am hope I can take the photos off my camera so there will be better pictures this weekend! Here are a few...
Heaven and crickets. A love story.
Temple of Heaven is our first stop. The story behind the building of said temple is complicated and intriguing. An emperor, a sign from god in a dream about 7 stars, and a few untruths created it and it is 4-5 times larger than the forbidden city. What? Anyone who had been to the forbidden city probably hasn't see it all since it never ends. So the temple was crazy! Built in 1530.
Ok we just went up the hutong and it just became my favorite part of the trip. We had a visit with Mr. Liu, a cricket fighting master. He was in fact number one in China and had lots of well worn magazine articles about him to prove it. Look him up on google!
Who knew cricket fighting is so complex and money making since it is gambling. He had a scale (warriors must be if similar weight), a wedding house, caskets for dead ones (Mr. Liu makes crying motion)- crickets only live for 100 days, and the fighting arena. He was amazing and so animated you never knew what was going to happen next. Lots of Mr. Liu in the photos!
Then we had a rickshaw ride through the hutong and finally bought my dear father a Rolex.
Oh my god I think I may have to rethink my favorite place again. The Silk Market was hilarious. Oh my god. Auntie Deb was my mom negotiating a t-shirt purchase and it was so much fun. And everyone buying ray bans knock offs first for about $40, next $30 and mine $20. So much laughing my guts hurt.
The night ended with Peking duck in a private dining room of a restaurant. Lots of speeches and a few tears. Looks like other than our 445 am departure tomorrow the trip is over.
Just iPhone photos again tonight. But once home I will add photos from my camera. I have lots. I mean A LOT!
Thanks to everyone on the tour. It was one of the best trips I've been on (tear).