• Wed25October 2017
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  • 10 Surprising things about China

    If you’ve been on my Instagram page lately (@becsinter), you’ll have spotted a current theme. My recent trip to China. Yes, it was a fantastic experience and, yes, we will be returning to this huge country but it does take some getting used to. Here are 10 surprising things to consider if you’re planning a holiday to this wonderful part of the world.

    Temple

    Temple

    1. Expect queues

      From the queue at immigration to queues for the subway, trains, buses, tickets… You name it and they’ll be a queue. And people don’t stand in line, they can be quite shifty and push in-front of you. Granted, we were in two of the world’s largest cities – Beijing and Shanghai – but you’ll get used to having to play the game the Chinese way.

    2. And bundle on

      The first day we arrived in Beijing, we expected the people on the subway to make room for us. Uh-uh, we had to bundle our way onto the carriage while people alighted the platform. Then when we wanted to get off ourselves, there was a lot of argy-bargy going on.

    3. Scrutinise the paperwork

      Your documents must be in order, especially if you want to travel by train (one of the best ways to get around China). As we found out, when we went to collect our train tickets. Unfortunately, my name on my train ticket was spelt wrong, which meant we had to cancel it and buy another one. Straightforward you may think. Nope. We had to cancel the ticket at one booth, get a refund, and then re-purchase another ticket. Your passport number and name must match on your train ticket or you will not be let onto the train. It was certainly a steep learning curve.

    4. Download a map before you go

      The Bund, Shanghai

      The Bund, Shanghai

      Unless you know Chinese, you will struggle. Every street name is written in Chinese. Google does not work in China and Wi-Fi is hit and miss because most places require you to enter a Chinese phone number. We found map.me, which proved to be an utter godsend, especially when we arrived at Pingyao train station. Not knowing how to get from the train station to the town, we jumped on the only bus at the train station and followed its route on the map.

    5. Get used to being offline

      Forget about social media, WhatsApp and even email if you happen to use gmail. It doesn’t work in China. You can access the internet via Bing but you will not be able to keep in contact easily.

    6. And seeing officials everywhere

      It’s just a part of the culture out there. You will see soldiers everywhere. When we were on the train from Xi’an to Pingyao, a train conductor walked up the carriage openly recording everyone on a Go-pro-style camcorder. It was just part and parcel of the Chinese culture.

    7. Mobile is king

      From taking Selfies and sending images via the equivalent of Snapchat to making payments, the Chinese are certainly forward-thinking when it comes to mobile technology. WeChat has replaced the contactless card as the way to buy everything from McDonalds to shoes, especially among the young people.

    8. Carry cash

      You will need it. Besides hotels, there were few places where we could use our credit cards. Even the places you expected to accept credit cards (McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, etc) only took Yuan.

    9. Be ready for the unexpected

      From Starbucks, McDonalds and Burger King outside the Terracotta Army to hidden bars in Shanghai, you never know what will come next in China. We thought we’d bought tickets to see the ancient city of Pingyao and ended up walking around this bizarre mis-match of a museum.

    10. It’s buzzing

      You can almost taste the opportunity in China, especially in Beijing and Shanghai. There are so many young people and so much to discover, you know that something is happening that will impact globally sometime soon.

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