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.
3. Navigation of public toilets and smoggy tuktuks requires the development of special breathing techniques… get your oxygen while inhaling as little as possible.
4. People will stare – blatantly, 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.