Monday, December 11, 2017

China: Travel nice to knows

With any international trip, one thing you need to know and plan for is logisitics. The other things that might be helpful is what should I plan for beyond the itinerary. Since I just got back from China and jet lag is still keeping me wide awake. What better way to use the time to document a few nice to knows before you travel to China

 For China, check with the consulate for their latest on visa requirements for your country and status. But they are very efficient and very organised, so it was a quick 5 day for us to secure our visas!

Ensure you have at least 6 months validity on your passports, I had to renew 50% of my family passports prior to the trip

We used phison pro for VPN and WeChat and translate downloaded on our phones! I highly recommend WeChat for this trip, it translates any conversation with the tour guides. Other thing that helped us was downloading English Maps for the cities, having DiDi (Uber in China). Getting a local SIM is advisable, I pretty much hogged my brothers phone for any calls. Please carry battery packs!!

Food: We were 7 vegetarians and 7 non vegetarians in this trip. I will of course write this from a vegetarian point of view.
Please carry food, ready to eat packages, oat meals, cereal bars, biscuits, snacks. Yes you will get vegetarian food, but will be really tough to ensure it is perfect. For us, when in doubt, we didn't eat.
Having said that, our tour company had pre-arranged some meals and having warm rice with boiled vegetables and some flavor was a life saver.
All our hotels had breakfast and it was lavish. We pretty much spend an hour hour daily to ensure we were well fed for the day. For most of our trips, we like a heavy breakfast, since then we can be out and about more.
You will find Pizza Hut, Sub ways in bigger cities and trust me, the Pizza Hut in China was AMAZING.....
Plus fruits, oh man the fruits! You will find all the fruits including dragon fruit and rambutan!
As a vegetarian I say, China is not about a culinary experience but more about ensuring you have food and energy in your system!

Clothes: We traveled in end of November, so was fairly cold. However we got really lucky with the weather. But as any cold trip, jackets, layering, definitely hats and gloves. The winter here was very dry, so we moisturized heavily and chapped our lips consistently!

Shopping: If you go to any of the local markets like Silk Market in Beijing or the AP market in Pudong, be prepared to haggle, walk out and definitely be prepared for very aggressive sales staff. We were accosted, told off and also pressured! It probably deserves its own blog with the stories, however its fun as well. I mean its China, they really have mastered the mass production and the quality!

Transportation: Due to the tour, we were very connected from cities to cities with the bus, however we did explore on our own in Beijing and Shanghai.
Beijing and Shanghai: The city is well connected with trains and very easy to maneuver. And yes, the trains do get crowded. The cabs are pretty affordable, but please based on recommendations of millions traveled before me, dont take the unmarked cabs! My brother and Sumit took a few local trains (at 300 km/h) and were amazed at the country's infrastructure
The food in local flights is well nothing to write home about!

Kids: We traveled with a lot of kids with us. People are really kind and polite, we were given seats on crowded trains. Strangers stopped by to entertain a crying kid, they played with them and above all they were really amazed at us 'foreigners' so they kept asking to take pictures with the kids. The kids loved the attention and happily obliged. Any tourist attraction is crowded so needless to say, please be attentive. Miss V made a lot of fun of me, since every now and then I'd panic and she would be right behind me to 'scare me'. Not cool!

Language: Yes, this is definitely a big one. It is hard to find English speaking locals. But hey you are travelling to experience this. So please dont be an ass. When you call someone, first say:"English Please" and they will try to get someone to help out! People are very polite and will really try to help out, or use translate to help! I was ordering a fresh noodle salad at one local store and I had 10 shoppers (none spoke English) who stopped by and really helped to ensure my food was vegetarian as the salad lady mixed ingredient only after making me sniff it

Water & Tea: Nope, you are not going to iced water easily here. Most of the places served warm water like the pizza hut even. We loved it and saw locals carrying their tea in hot cups and just refilling with hot water wherever they went. The tea culture was really interesting and it really explains their clear skin!
Hope you travel to China sometime!!! Sometime soon!

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