Sunday, October 14, 2012

China - its a wrap

Our China trip is complete! Check out our Top 40 photos from China below.

Itinerary recap:
  • Shanghai (3n/3d) - basic international metropolis, just enough time
  • Dazhai (1n/1d) - zen little hill village, could have stayed a couple more days
  • Yangshuo (4n/5d) - great outdoor activity spot & backpacker mecca, just enough time
  • Chengdu (3n/3d) - sprawling city, surprisingly busy, could have done one less day
  • Xian (1n/1d) - don't visit just to see the warriors, seemed like a nice city
  • Beijing (4n/5d) - see Beijing hutongs before they dissappear!, just enough time


Book reviews
Pearl of China - thumbs way up from both Juli and Todd
River Town - thumbs way up from both Juli and Todd
Red Azalea - thumbs up from Juli
China's Wings - thumbs up from Todd
Wolf Totem - thumbs down from Juli

Reflections on China:
  • The China we expected to see was long gone probably 10 years ago, at least in the cities we visited. Modern infrastructure was pretty much everywhere, getting around was much easier than expected, even with the occasional taxi driver who didn't quite know where things were, or with whom we had a hard time communicating. We didn't notice any more of a poor/rich divide than we see in most cities in the United States, if anything there were fewer homeless and destitute people (then again living in San Francisco we probably see more than most!).
  • It does seem like many Chinese still don't see western tourists all that much...the constant photobombing, whether surreptitious, blatant, or even politely requested, was a consistent part of our experience in nearly every city outside of Shanghai and Beijing. For the most part we enjoyed it, and wish we had the opportunity for more conversation with our paparazzi fans. But typically it was a quick photo, sometimes with a small child or baby, and then they were gone. another possibility is that there is a foreigner blog in China where people compete to post photos of non-Chinese, and we were just helping people get a bunch of badges and points.
  • We traveled during China's National Holiday, when most people have a whole week of vacation...fortunately ahead of our trip we had been scared into making reservations for places to stay and transport ahead of time; we did meet travelers who were struggling to find a roof at the peak of the holiday (one of our hostels allowed them to stay in the DVD lounge for the night); our attempts at daytrips around the holiday that required train or bus travel were big fails.
  • Chinese beer typically comes in at about 3% ABV (plus or minus), that is probably less potent than Michelob Ultra. Instead of getting drunk you just end up peeing a lot!
  • The Great Firewall prevents communication with facebook, blogger, twitter, and other tools of the modern era (unless you have a workaround). It was interesting to be in a place where those channels are blocked...even on our phone when we searched for 'Tianenmen Square massacre' we could see the search results, but could not click on any of them. Amazing to think how much control the government has over what people can see and read.
  • We had also expected total chaos in any lines/queues based on what others have read or said about visiting China, but thankfully our experience was for the most part the opposite.
We also posted a trip report on the Lonely Planet message boards that has prices and ogistical the time of our trip the exchange was about 6RMB to the dollar.

All in all it was another great trip that exceeded our expectations, and was much easier to travel around than we had expected. It will be interesting to visit China in 20 years and see how much it has changed. Until then, we're in search of our next destination...

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