I may be slightly biased, but I personally am so excited to share this week’s ask a…tourist because… *drum roll*… it’s with my mom, Gloria!
So, I’ll pretend I don’t know…but what brings you to China?
This particular time I am coming to China to my daughter’s (your!) graduation. She is finishing up her master’s in International Relations from UIBE. However, my friend Julie and I are also going to visit Shanghai and Beijing guided by our new graduate.
Well, knowing this isn’t your first time to China, where else in China have you been?
Previously I have visited Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing, toured the Yangtze River, Chengdu, Chongqing, Bayuquan, and Xitang.
Lots of cool places! Of those, what’s your favorite place you’ve been in China?
It is really hard to decide. They are so many impressive sites: the Great Wall is amazing, the modern architecture in Shanghai is impressive and then you turn around to any other city and see the majestic ancient sites and architecture as well. There’s Xi’an with the terracotta soldiers and then there is so much in nature. I just don’t know how to pick one.
I think that’s a totally fair answer! What’s the most surprising part about being a tourist in China?
Personally, I didn’t realize how modern people are here. How they like the high-end, big-level brands. I was surprised how clean the subway is for being as busy as it is. Also the contrast in the rural areas—how out in the countryside it seems like time has stopped. This is probably true for any country, but people are very nice and friendly. I also find interesting to observe the admiration they have for tall, blonde, blue-eyed people.
Even with those surprises, you keep coming back. What’s your favorite part about being a tourist in China?
All the sites. Seeing ancient history come alive. People are very friendly. Shopping is fun, even with all the bargaining. You can get lots of nice things at great prices if you look carefully. But truly, the very best part is spending time with my daughter and my friend. Also seeing that the church is alive here. People from around the globe come to China and find Christ, not necessarily seeking Him.
Aw thanks! It is cool to see and meet so many different people here. On the flip side of that question, what’s the most difficult part about being a tourist in China?
I would say most definitely the language barrier.
Yeah, I have heard about the difficulties of the language barrier from a few different people. Would you recommend that visitors have a tour guide in China?
I say yes for China. If you don’t speak the language, it is nearly impossible to communicate. Now, if you have a friend that lives here it can help. It is not impossible to do the tourist sites on your own, however there are some places that you do need a guide. Or send your daughter/son to get a master’s in China, then come and visit her/him.
Ha! That’s the way to go! Is there anything you wish you had been told before coming to China for the first time?
I wish I had been told that not every city in China has coffee. Having grown up with coffee and pastries every morning, that was hard. I need my coffee fix. This time around I am prepared. Got my coffee and protein bars—ready to conquer the Wall.
Yeah, many of the bigger places have plenty of Starbucks, but we’ve been to ample off-the-beaten-path places that have yet to be Starbucks-ified. What are some must-brings to China, then? Coffee?
Definitely coffee for me and yes protein bars to give me strength for all the walking. I like Chinese food, but not three times a day. Also bring your meds and feminine needs, you don’t want to be trying to explain to a pharmacist what you need. Extra walking shoes. If you are tall it will be hard to find shoes and clothing, not impossible, just hard. Cash, many places don’t take credit cards.
Coming to the end of this conversation and the continuation of our trip, do you have any funny tourist stories to share?
Funny stories…I am Hispanic, so I know that we are pretty straightforward and blunt at times, however China takes that to another level. When I met my daughter’s boss in the town where she was working in China, she said “you will not feel offended if I tell you that your daughter is pretty, but you are not.” I honestly smiled and said, “I am glad you think that my daughter is pretty.” I still smile about it…it is not something you will hear in the US. The truth is that I didn’t feel offended. Another thing is names. Before coming to China I met a man who named himself Peter Pan and lived on Dai Fat Street.
Do you have any final suggestions for someone considering taking a trip to come to the Middle Kingdom?
Come with an open mind and with lots of patience. Pack toilette paper and hand sanitizer. Get excited, there is so much to see. Shanghai and Beijing have a lot of great restaurants to chose from, plenty of western ones as well. And have a blessed trip.
Well, thanks so much for taking time to have this conversation (and you know…for raising me)! I hope lots of Middle Kingdom citizens get the opportunity to be a tourist on their own, with friends, or with family. Enjoy the trip, mom!
Do you have questions about being a tourist in China? Post in the comments below and we’d love to get back to you!
Check out our next Ask a… post and if you have someone you want to be interviewed, send a note to blog@themiddlekingdom.
Come with an open mind and with lots of patience.