China is one of the major countries most people think of when they think of asia. I recently spent my Chuseok (Korean Full Moon/ Harvest Festival) holiday in Beijing. I don't like to be negative with my posts, but I'm not going to lie, Beijing put a bad taste in my mouth for China. I did not have as great a time as I have had in other countries.
According to our one tour guide we planned our trip at a good time. China was hosting talks with South Africa at the time and it was also their full moon/ harvest festival. This ment that there was less pollution than normal. While we were there everything was really nice and clean. Compared to Seoul, there were more trees and almost no garbage on the streets.
I was really disappointed in the lack of tourist assistance. My friend and I were only in Beijing for 4 days, so we decided to not get a sim card for our phones. Our plan was to use maps and figure things out as we went along, occasionally asking for directions at big tourist spots. While most signs were marked in Chinese and Eglish, unfortunetly, the maps didn't help a lot as and when we did have to ask someone a question we had to rely on the employee's translation app.
This was the very fusterating. I undersatnd that not everyone knows English, and I don't expect everyone to (my friend and I also tried using Korean, Japenese, and Spanish). I guess I was hoping that peope, espcially tourist site employees, to be more helpful. It honestly just felt like they would just try to brush us away.
The most conversation I had with any local there, was a 5 year old girl who sat next to me on the subway. She didn't quite understand that I didn't know Chinese, but she still wanted to talk to me the whole time. She was very interested in my nose ring. She kept wanting me to take it out and put it back in. She was so sweet, she even shared her cookie with me.
We actually found that the subway is the easiest way to get around. It is very cheap and most major sites have a subway stop very close to them. You just have to go through security each time you go into a station.
When we were trying to get into the Forbidden City, we couldn't find the entrance ticket booth. We found two different employees in a booth selling tickets through WeChat, and all they said (through their app) was "Go to the Small House". It took us about an hour, and mistakingly knocking on the police house once or twice, to find the ticket booth (below).
WeChat was another issue. Since most of Beijing's tourists are from other parts of China many places used WeChat for most purchases. My friend was even denied toilet paper in one of the public bathrooms because she didn't have WeChat. Whenever we went somewhere, there would be a seperate WeChat line and we would have to find the cash or international line. This added a little extra fusration to everything we did.
There is a park right across from the Forbidden City. If you climb to the top of the mountain inside, there is a great arial view of the Forbidden City. While at the top, there is a place where you could try on a traditional Chinese dress and get your picture taken. It was one of my favorite things. Of course most people loved it, a few people in line wanted a picture with me.
I have lived in Korea for about 2 years now. I am used to being watched and attracting attention. I tend to stick out (I'm tall, blonde, and people tell me I "look very American"), I just try to ignore the staring. It was a whole different level in China. My friend and I would just be walking around taking pictures or enjoying the sights, and someone would come up and stick their camera or phone in my face trying to take a picture. Or we would be sitting on a bench somewhere and look up to see someone taking our picture.
We were walking back to our hotel one evening and we saw a bunch of photographers standing on a pedestrian bridge. We realized they had an amazing view of the setting sun. We decided to go up and get some pictures, too. While taking the pictures we realized that everyone on the bridge had stopped taking pictures of the sunset and had turned and started taking pictures of us.
Being in Beijing was definitly a new experience. I was so happy to be able to cross so many beautiful places off my bucket list. The food was delicious. My friend is vegiterian and we were able to find a few good vegitarian friendly restaurants to eat in. Of course we couldn't go to China and not enjoy some tea in a tea house.
I have heard from other travelers that Shanghi is more friendly for tourists. I'm not ready to let one rough experience ruin a whole country for me forever. I hope to one day go to Shanghi to see if I can improve my experience.
Thank you for sticking with me this far.
I know this has been a fairly negtive post. I apologize, but I'd rather be truthful than just act like everything is perfect. I like to share my experiences good or bad.
Don't worry my other posts from China are less word-y and more positive.
Make sure you check them out by clicking on the links below!