10 Lessons Learned in China

1. Don’t start a travel blog just before going to China as one of your first destinations. Internet censorship means no access to WordPress = no uploading of photos and/ or sharing whatsoever. Not the best start to getting a continuous blog going…

2. It is possible to get off the well beaten tourist path in China. Check out towns not listed in the guidebooks for a real Chinese village experience and don’t be afraid to wander down the “closed”/ unmapped trails in parks for magnificent views all to yourself.

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A private view of “The Worlds #1 Highest Natural Bridge” in Zhanjiajie National Park

3. Navigation of public toilets and smoggy tuktuks requires the development of special breathing techniques… get your oxygen while inhaling as little as possible.

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Some tuk-tuk smog on the highway between Gangia and Tongrin

4. People will stareblatantly, and for long periods of time- at you, even as you do the most mundane of tasks (e.g. eating supper), especially in rural areas. You must get over this.

Quite the crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the Beijing Hash Group...you know it is a good hash when you get the locals looking...
Quite the crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the Beijing Hash Harriers Group…you know it is a good hash when you get this many spectators…

5. If you want to go anywhere by any mode of transportation, have your destination written in Chinese characters; trying to speak the name of the destination will often result in confused looks on account of bad pronunciation.

6. You’ll find the best and the cheapest food spots by following the locals; find the busiest ‘hole in the wall’ (this can be literal) restaurant and just order one of whatever looks the best from the dishes the locals are chowing down on. Better yet, dine in or out with locals who will make/order things you wouldn’t think of trying.

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A Mooncake Festival Feast hosted by Albert, Jinming, and family in Tonghai

7. To survive China, especially touristy spots, a new level of patience and acceptance towards crowds, selfies, and selfie-sticks must be acquired; there is no avoiding them.

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A fine example of China’s obsession with photos. After winning game of “photograph the westerners (us)” this gang got busy with selfies and poses. Against the odds, no selfie sticks are present here.

8. The food in China is amazing, though you cannot be 100% vegetarian. Also, get a voice recording of a native Chinese speaker explaining your dietary requirements so you can order properly at restaurants. (Funny story here: my mom, who has been living as a semi vegetarian in China for the past 4 years told us to say “bu rou” (literally not meat), which we used with mixed success for our first month in China. It wasn’t until our fifth week that an English-speaking local informed us that the way we pronounce “bu rou” probably sounds a lot like “jou rou” to the locals, which means “pork”. Oops. He proceeded to help us out by recording a request for vegetarian food on our phone).

A tasty (meat free?) noodle stir fry for Jenn, as Steve was full from the plate of not-meatless spring rolls previously purchased (Muslim Quarter, Xi’an).

9. When booking transportation, use the English ctrip app and book early to avoid confusion at the the ticket booth and ensure you don’t get stranded. Ticket sellers rarely speak English and trains fill up weeks in advance. This app is a life saver! More info on the different modes of transportation in China in blogs to come.

Top bunk on a hard sleeper train. Luxury!
Top bunk on a hard sleeper train. Luxury!

10. Lastly, China is a huge country with so much to see for every type of traveler. From mega-cities to roadside villages, temples of all religions, food that I never knew existed, and a unique, quickly changing population, there is so much to do and see here. We were lucky enough to have 6 weeks and got to see a lot of the country, but there is so much more left to explore. China wasn’t originally on my bucket list of top countries I would like to visit, but I am so glad I gave it a chance because it really was an amazing and unique country to travel.

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Tibetan Monks in Xiahe
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Hiking the hills around Xiahe
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North peak of Hua Shan
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Visiting the Terracotta Warriors
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Our very own sunset view over Zhanjiajie National Park

3 thoughts on “10 Lessons Learned in China

  1. Wow! We , your Mum, Aunt Tricia and I just enjoyed your recent blog. “Amazing!” says Aunt Tricia, Wow, says Me, and your Mum is speechless. (Unusual, I know, but she was/is very impressed!
    Safe travels.
    Love from


  2. Totally awesome pictures 🙂 It’s so cool you got to see those Terracota Warriors !
    Looks like you’re having a fantastic trip . So happy for you guys . Keep safe until we see you again !


  3. Yayyyyy!!! Love your post! I love the photo of the park over looking the highest natural bridge. So amazing!! Happy you guys are having a good time. Can’t wait to hear more about your travels!! Love Adri


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