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Reasons not to go to China

Leif, God of Thunder

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. I already know that China is unique and has a lot to offer, but I’ve been reading about China for a while (books/blogs/articles) and it seems as if the good experiences versus the terrible experiences ratio is hovering at about 1:35.

Reasons not to go:

· Bureaucracy being the stuff of absurdist comedies
· Natives (rude, loud, spit too much)
· Transportation horribly bad (big deal as China is nearly as large as the US)
· Random hassling of foreigners by police
· What little organized tourism exists is frighteningly bad
· All-around filthy and polluted
· Etc

So, should I make time/energy/effort for China or will it ultimately sabotage the rest of my SE Asia experience? I have about six months total for SE Asia. Will I piss away too much time dealing with Chinese related delays and bureaucracy?

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JJMVT

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
I was in SE Asia about 2 months ago and China was my least favorite out of VIetnam, THailand, Cambodia, and Hong Kong. I didnt really experience much hasseling by authorities but the locals just were worse then those in any other country, by far. I spent about 8 days there mainly in and around beijing and im glad i saw what i did but there would be a very little chance of me wanting to go back again soon.

PhotoChick

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
China is massively worth it. All of your reasons for skipping it are highly misguided. I've been there several times and 90% of my experiences were positive.

quote:
· Bureaucracy being the stuff of absurdist comedies


It's no different than any Asian country or even any western country. In reality, what sort of bureacracy issues are you going to have besides getting a visa and getting a travel permit if you want to get to Tibet?
quote:
Natives (rude, loud, spit too much)


In a country of 1.3 billion people, don't you think it's a bit necessary to be loud so someone hears you? As for rude, they are very self centered, this is true. In lines/queues you will have to push and elbow with the rest of them but this is no different than in Indonesia/India/etc. The spitting thing really isn't a big deal. Yes, it's off-putting, but not a reason to avoid an amazing country.

quote:
Transportation horribly bad (big deal as China is nearly as large as the US)


I had the easiest time getting around China. The trains are kickass, the long distance buses are often decent. I'd recommend the train even over long distances (rides of 24hrs+) because if you get a hard sleeper bunk, it's actually clean and nice. Chinese are HUGE travellers within their own country and there is transportation (be it bus,train or plane) to most places you will want to go.

quote:
Random hassling of foreigners by police
Absolutely not. As a foreigner, they will barely give you a second glance. Perhaps 10+ years ago this might have been true. Other than the occasional rural cop who is trying to suppliment his measly salary with a "road tax" (which are always negotiable to some meaningless amount and worth the it for the experience in itself), I doubt the authorities will even notice you.

quote:
What little organized tourism exists is frighteningly bad

Asians are into tours- they love them. So, yes, perhaps English tours are not as common, but this is often a good thing because you can explore on your own.

quote:
All-around filthy and polluted
Well, then I guess you won't be visiting Bangkok, Mexico City, Cairo, London, New York, LA, etc, ever either. It's not that bad. Beijing has been cleaned up massively for the 2008 Olympics- I barely recognized it after 2 years. As for other cities, the worst for sanitation and cleanliness was Lhasa in Tibet, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Go. China's crazy, its fun, it's unique. It's in your face and subtle, both at the same time. Where else can you experience one of the oldest and THE most populous and diverse country in the world?

PC

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Leif, God of Thunder

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
Yes, I keep reading how every two years China is unrecognizable from what it once was. That’s freaky, disturbing and encouraging.

I don’t mind a little elbowing, especially when I’m going to be one of the biggest people there. I think I’ll get a kick out of being only 5’-9” and being the “tall one” on the streets. I experienced something similar in Morocco and I loved it.

This train information of yours goes totally against what I’ve heard. Yes, some of it was out of a book from the late 80s, early 90s (eons ago in Chinese terms), but there were several stories about waiting in line for hours and hours, day after day just to get a chance to get on a train. And your chances really depended on the whims and sobriety of the guy at the ticket window. It sounded like hell. And the potential time frittered away engaging in this exercise was kind of scaring me if only pissing away a bunch of time being stranded due to lack of seats. I’m already over-extended time-wise.

I mis-spoke about the tours. I want nothing to do with a tour group. I’m just talking about things like, available information, reliably open attractions, tourist information reps that can/will actually help you, etc.

I can’t believe you just put Mexico City and London in the same sentence, but yes, point taken. Big cities = filth. I like NY, but am usually content with only five days before grime, crowd loathing and my empty wallet force me to get the hell out. London is a bit more tolerable and I’ll be the judge of Cairo and Bangkok when/if I ever get there. L.A. sucks ass on so many levels that the filth level issue doesn’t even make the top 10 in my book. But you have to concede that London is cleaner than MC, if only because once ever other day the rain sort of rinses the place off.

Well Claudia, I’m much closer to doing this now. But if it sucks, I know your email address and I’m not afraid to spam it (with pictures of me being miserable).

Leif

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borderland

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
Worked in China one year and can recommend it. The good, the bad and the ugly are all there but like everywhere else will offer you new experiences, sights, people (hopefully friends) and more.
And the people I met were incredibly interested in foreigners. I got taken to clubs, restaurants and family homes just by meeting someone out and about who started up a conversation.

I hate to see you go,
but I love to watch you leave.
'I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.'
J. Handey

Leif, God of Thunder

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  • Added on: August 8th, 2004
Let's see,

I want a Swedish massage and I want it bare-ass naked. And I've got attitude to beat the band.

OK, i'm sold! China's on the itinerary. So, is an extra few days in Hong Kong to get the visa!

Thanks guys!

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"Buy the ticket, take the ride." - Hunter S. Thompson

If you have about 25 hours of spare reading time, check out my full, raw, uncut Western Europe Travelogue
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My full travelogue.
My personally researched guide to Romania and Moldova.

PhotoChick

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  • Added on: August 9th, 2004
Leif,

If you don't want to deal with the ticket line people, there are always TONS of agencies and guesthouses that will book you a ticket for a usually small charge.

As for things not always being open or accessible, yes this is true if it's a remote site, but I wouldn't worry about it.

PC

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Latest Adventure: Una Moto en Argentina
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Leif, God of Thunder

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  • Added on: August 9th, 2004
quote:
Originally posted by PhotoChick:
Leif,

If you don't want to deal with the ticket line people, there are always TONS of agencies and guesthouses that will book you a ticket for a usually small charge.


Eh, I'll probably give the lines a try at least once. Gotta immerse myself in the culture after all.

Leif

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skobb

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  • Added on: August 11th, 2004
Hey Leif,

I'd suggest doing China as well even though it has been the hardest and least pleasant of the places we've been so far. That said, we still had plenty of good times and it was certainly eye opening. China is quite likely going to be the powerhouse of the century, and although I find that very frightening to think about, it doesn't hurt to get an insider's view.

If you read any of our China blog entries it may sound pretty negative, but we had some good times there. I just don't know that I would suggest it as the beginning of a big trip for relative inexperienced folks (like we were.) Check out our entry on the China Post for a humorous take on Chinese bureaucracy.

Have fun!

_____________________________

Follow our travels through Asia at Travelling with Shawn and Jennifer

Leif, God of Thunder

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  • Added on: August 11th, 2004
Thanks Shawn/Jennifer! I have bookmarked your blog and will probably read it from beginning to end before November. I have shifted from trepidation to genuine excitement on the China front. Thanks for your help!

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"Buy the ticket, take the ride." - Hunter S. Thompson

If you have about 25 hours of spare reading time, check out my full, raw, uncut Western Europe Travelogue
-----------------------

Killing Batteries My battery-powered rise to the zenith of travel writing rapture
My full travelogue.
My personally researched guide to Romania and Moldova.

Daniel Wallace

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  • Added on: August 11th, 2004
Hi Leif GOT,
I would agree with PhotoChick completely on the trains, bureaucracy and police - not a problem. I had no problems getting around, well, certainly no more than in other countries. China's sleeper trains help you sleep through the absurd distances.
Pollution: I travelled mainly in west china (Yunnan, Sichuan and Gansu). So it wasn't a problem.

China is, however, a difficult place to be a traveller in, compared to say Thailand or Malaysia. The way some of the Chinese people acted towards me were at times almost impossible to bear. Had I been armed with sufficient weaponry, there might now only be 1.2bn Chinese instead of 1.3. It is a great pleasure now to read blogs of people arriving in China and see them go through the same disbelief and disgust with the way they get treated. I can pretty much guarantee you will have days of feeling miserable.

That said, there are some amazing, incredible things about China. China is so isolated, simply so different from everything I've seen before or since, it is a travelling experience that compares (I imagine) with only a couple of other places in the world. People's beliefs and view of the world are so strange to our eyes, and they have full confidence that we are the weird, unclean ones. Also in China I experienced incredible generosity from many people, so many unexpected encounters, and ate lots of great food. What is strangest about China is the way some people acted like I was scum, others like I was a superstar demigod.

I think deliberating whether to go to a place like China is at heart a question of what you want from your travelling experience. If you want to have a pleasant, enjoyable time - China is probably not the best place. But if you travel to experience a way of life you would never see at home, to challenge preconceptions, to challenge yourself - China is beyond everywhere I've seen in SE Asia. I think three months in China has had the greatest impact on me from my whole RTW trip - I credit it with making me a much stronger person.

I have some theories on navigating the Chinese way of thinking, but not sure they are suitable for posting - if you'd like to hear my ramblings, send me an email at noplaceashome@yahoo.co.uk

Cheers,

Daniel

Riz

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  • Added on: August 13th, 2004
Aaah, you buggers!

I am a few weeks into my RTW and am in Thailand. Was gonna visit China but am having some serious second-thoughts! I've already been put right off Cambodia by what I've read recently (the likes of Joe E's rantings) and so won't be headed there.

Those of you who have been to China - was it amazingly difficult at times? I am a first-time (and solo) traveller who maybe lacks the confidence and defintely lacks experience. I'm not sure I can handle it. Are there many other travellers you bump into? And exactly how rude are the people?

I would be disgusted with myself if, during the only time I've left Europe, I don't see at least some part of China. It's a country that has interested me throughout my life, as much as any other I could name you. But, that said, I don't think I could handle really rude people or 'guaranteed days of feeling miserable'.

No thanks!

Would love to hear as many opinions as possible that anyone has....good or bad.


Riz

My rantings from my ongoing RTW trip - www.rizwell.com

PhotoChick

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  • Added on: August 13th, 2004
Travel in China really isn't a big deal if you have two things:

- A sense of humor
- Patience

When I left last year I had the first but not the second. I've come back a much more patient person. Your western sense of rational thinking at times completely conflicts with Chinese thinking.

I can't say I've ever had one of those miserable days in China due to rude people. That can happen anywhere- people are rude in Paris, they are rude in Australia, they are rude in the States. When a foreign traveler come to the States, do we bend over backwards to help? Not likely.

If you think China is taxing, try India (which I really enjoyed) or Mongolia (which I was mediocre on). It's really not that hard of a country to travel in.

Oh, one word of advise. Should you ever need to get in a taxi- get your destination written down in Chinese script. It will save you boat loads of hassle of driving in circles.

As for Cambodia- I disagree with Joe E completely- sorry Joe. I thought it was a really dynamic place to visit. Even if you see nothing other than Angkor Wat, it's worth it.

PC
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Daniel Wallace

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  • Added on: August 14th, 2004
Well, perhaps "guaranteed misery" was over the top - I think all I meant was that some days will be tricky - like anywhere though. I do think it's a bit harder than say SE Asia, but getting around, finding somewhere to stay buying meals etc certainly isn't as tough as is sometimes made out. With good humour and patience, it shouldn't be an issue.

Yunnan province, and its capital Kunming in particular, are I think easier than some of the other regions and a good introduction to China. The province is quite backpacker friendly, especially the popular places like Dali, Li Jiang. And once you're there and feeling adjusted, easy to get out and go to less well known places.

If you've always wanted to go, you know you should go.

Photochick: I'm heading to India in a couple of weeks - excited, but I've long noticed that whenever "difficult travel" comes up, India is always seen as the big one. Looking forward (nervously) to the experience.

Daniel

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  • Added on: August 16th, 2004
It seems that three weeks is the make it or break it point. If you can get through your first three weeks and get used to people in your face all the time, the rest is simple and often relaxing.

Fret not.

PC
Latest Adventure: Una Moto en Argentina
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