you're still thinking about it? really?
Before i start, i feel the need to introduce myself a little more seriously. my name is Noga (that would be Venus in hebrew. don't ask), i'm 22 and i live in Israel. i finished my service in the Israeli army a year ago, and, as some of you veteran travelers probably know about israelis, felt the need to go explore.
China was hardly my first trip, but it was definitely the most serious one- four months. alone. truth be told, it was supposed to be only one month. and then it became two. and by the time i hit Sichuan there was no question about it- i'm staying here until the flight company forces me on a plain.
This blog will contain funny stories next to useful tips, and places unknown to most tourists. i hope all the information i gathered would be of use to you, since it is surprisingly hard to find updated information about china.
Please forgive me for my english mistakes- i spent two years in the USA, but english remains my second language. consoled in the fact that my chinese is worst.
the trip started on the 25 of may, 2010. it ended on the 9th of september, leaving this the most up to date information you are going to encounter on China.
==so why china?==
Whether you have already decided that China is your next destination, or whether you're reading this to examine your options, this is important to you. For some reason, China is almost never the first chosen destination. go to India or Thailand, and you'll find thousands of young tourists, making their debut in the travelling world. go to China, you find mostly people that have finished all of Asia, and China was their grand finale. and that's where it gets good- China is actually not "touristy" at all. most people think that China, with its great wall and forbitten city, has many tourists. in fact, there are so little western tourists in china that the Chinese are genuinely surprised to see a white person. That plays a great deal to the western tourist's hand- china has very little "tourist traps", and you are not likely to get the "one in a billion" feeling you will get in Thailand, for example. on the other hand, there is a great deal of inner tourism in china, which promises one of the best hostel networks in the world.
Another thing is the language. i found this to be the number one cause of people not traveling to china, so this is important to say: yes, there is no english in china, but still- the language barrier is not as bad as you may think. here are a few simple methods to insure your survival in a world of no-english:
1. carry the Lonely Plant with you, as it has all the tourist information written in Mandarin. ask people around you for help- the chinese are extremely nice.
2. the young chinese people working in Hostels always have basic english and up. ask them to write you the name of the place you're going to. heck, ask them which bus to take and have them write everything down for you.
3. learn some basic chinese characters. no need to learn all of them (it takes a good ten years), but knowing how "bus" or "entry" looks like will surely make it easier.
4.chinese people learn english at school, and therefor you can actually find young people with basic english to help you out as you go along. many of the young chinese are shy, or afraid to use their english in case they make a fool of themselves. but many of them will gladly help, and even start a conversation with you out of interest.
5. when you go on a bus, always ask the driver if he's going to the place you want, even if you're sure he does. the minute you do, he will tell you where to go off and how to get there, even if you didn't ask him to.
All of this might sound energy consuming, but remember this- i was traveling there alone for four months, in places that Mandarin was the second language, let alone english. in four months i haven't had one moment of panic, i never lost my way and nobody took advantage of my lack of chinese. so don't worry.
let us continue. I am sure you don't need me to tell you that China has the most interesting history in the world. but did you know that the history still lives on? with the communist government next to the slow opening of China to the west, there is no better place to examine the past next the future . where else can you see old people training in samurai swords and tai-chi in the park, next to children singing lady gaga? trust me- if you think talking to a fellow traveler is interesting, try having a conversation with a chinese college boy or girl about life, gender, sex and yes- even politics. the chinese are very sweet and humble, but also extremely friendly and honest. many times they will come to you and just start talking to you- they are as wildly interested in your culture as you are in theirs. aside from politics (it is still a sensitive subject to some)- nothing is off line.
not many know, but China has one of the most beautiful scenery in the world. don't believe me? go to Sichuan. go to Tibet. go to Yangshou. or just check my photos. don't forget that China borders all the countries known for their scenery- Vietnam, India. Nepal and many more. unlike them, she is not wildly tourist, at least not yet, and in many places you will be the only white person around. you can't beat that. can you?
So... why China? stay tuned to get a million more reasons.