China – The Inside View of an Indian traveler

Posted: February 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

2 weeks trip it was and I was soaking in the imagination that I will get to experience the traditional side of China which is old architecture, temples, local food and so on….  Somewhere, I had this thought in mind that China would be like India as both are suffering from population explosion and it’s a growing economy so there would be a lot of similarity in terms of the hustle bustle on the streets and cities.

Dear readers, please take a pause. Visualize – how you imagine China in your mind….. that will make the reading more indulging and interesting.

Now go on with the reading >

About me: (It’s important to know me a bit as this would help you understand my perspective & challenges better)

  • Location: I was born in Odisha and grew up in Patna. I studied in Pune, then worked in Delhi for almost 8 years and now settled in Bangalore. So, I have lived across India and I am quite adaptable.
  • Food habits: I am a pure Indian non-vegetarian 🙂 I eat egg, fish, chicken and mutton.
  • Travel Preferences: I prefer travelling with family or group. But even if I am alone, I soak in the pleasures of travel.
  • Habits: Web surfing, tweeting, exploring good non-veg foods, dancing, interacting with new people.
  • Profession: Digital marketer
  • Love: Life, music, fun, food, family, laughter, observing what’s happening around and capturing moments

Well….. I have shared enough about myself, now let’s get back to the streets of China >>

When one thinks of China, primarily one thinks of Beijing and Shanghai. But I was excited about the fact that I would get to see 10 cities! This means I will get to see the real China beyond the two glamorized cities. My imagination was running with the view of traditional houses, temples, monks, farmers, hawkers……………….  I was all geared up for the journey starting from Beijing to Tianjin, Xuzhou, Suzhou, Jiangsu, Wujiang, Tongzhou, Shanghai…. The excitement fueled with the thought that I will commute to these places through flight, bus and train, and this will give me an opportunity to pass by many more cities and villages of China.

The magic began when I landed in Beijing on Sunday. The airport was buzzing with energy & confusion, immigration lines were quite unorganized…. Though the airport was huge, grand and beautiful! We had to take a metro to reach to our luggage pick-up area. As we came out from the Airport waiting for our bus, it started to rain and the city looked beautiful. But……errrrr…….what’s this smell?? I felt heavy smoke all around. I spoke to my friends from China and Singapore who were part of this trip and they said “Shreya, it’s not cigarette smoke. It’s smog that you can smell!” I didn’t believe them as I come from a country which is highly polluted and I have never smelled such dense smog.

Picture1

We got into the bus and I grabbed the window seat. All my fellow passengers went off to sleep as the journey to our hotel was an hour long but how could I go to sleep 🙂 With inquisitive eyes, I was looking out of the window. Hello Beijing!! There was heavy traffic and we reached hotel at snail’s pace. Though I was thinking, the more delayed it is, the better it is  🙂

I step inside my posh hotel room and what?? I could still smell the smoke!! So, if you are travelling to China, I recommend you to carry a mask. Also, you can find pollution level at www.aqicn.org and accordingly take decision for yourself.

Then the desire to share the photos on social media arose, but I soon recollected the limitations that Google & Google products like Gmail, YouTube are all blocked. Facebook – blocked. Twitter – blocked.

Here’s the list of websites banned in China for your reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Websites_blocked_in_mainland_China

Guess what???? Thank God that WhatsApp works in China!

I quickly shifted my gear to Bing search though the number one search engine in China is Baidu. Well the Bing experience was pretty nice as the search results were almost similar as that of Google in India expect that Bing results also throw the blocked sites in search results.

But, as you know, when in Rome, be like a Roman. So find the way out, adapt to the circumstances, accept the limitations and enjoy whatever you have!! So, here I am, sharing my experiences with you all through this blog 🙂

Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner ~ my expedition with the Chinese food was really very interesting, enlightening and sometime horrifying. I was still lucky as I had some friends with me who could help with the translation.

Here’s what a typical foody day menu would look like:

Starters: Warm water and Green tea

Main Course: Soup, veggies (A minimum of 2 or 3 vegetable items are a must), non-veg items. So, you would have an array of food items on your table.

Drinks: Local Beer, Rice Wine, Juices (atypical – Corn, Sugarcane) etc.

Desserts: Sticky rice and whatever else you order.

Note: If you want to eat rice, you will have to tell the hotel staff to serve rice early and not towards the end of the meal.

The traditional dish of China is Peiking duck. It’s said that if you don’t have this dish your trip to Beijing will remain incomplete. So, in order to live the visit experience fully, I decided to eat the duck for the first time in my life.

Of all the dinners, my worst experience was when I saw the visual of some of the weirdest food of my life!

When you think of Scorpios what would you think you?? Venom, fear, death etc. But here it is served as a delicacy!! After looking at the below two food items in the menu, I couldn’t get over with the visuals that night and had troubled sleep for next couple of days

Warning: If you are picky about food or you are a vegetarian, you might want to skip the below four visuals ~

Picture 5

I challenge you to guess what’s on the menu!

Soon it was the time to hit the roads. As we boarded the bus, I quickly occupied the broad view window and was all set to enter the dragon 🙂

I kept looking out of the train window but to my surprise everything looked the same! I mean, everywhere there were similar looking apartments, high rise construction works, canal system flowing in and out of cities, organized societies, broad roads with flower bed in the corners, ring roads, empty roads, streamlined traffic….. Infact the farming lands were also well distributed and the farmers were in boots, western dresses and hats. Every pond in the passing village had a motor device which was probably helped in circulating the water across fields. Everything looked exactly the same!!!! You can only differentiate by the Chinese characters on the walls and around. I got to know that they send their students to Singapore to study architecture etc. and then they come back home and contribute towards modernizing China.

Picture 6Picture7Picture8Picture9

After speaking to couple of countrymen, I sensed that they really like India because of our democratic governance setup. Well, after looking at their developed economy and hearing their emotional side, as a traveler, I can only say that everything has it’s own plus and minus.

Coming from India where there is so much diversity in terms of house constructions, farm distribution, people’s clothing, hawker’s visibility etc. I just was taken by huge surprise to see China, a country with 1.3BN population so well organized and robotic. I must say that as a curious traveler, I was expecting to see the cultural heritage of China but I could only see it’s modernized version expect while visiting the Palace & monuments….. Nevertheless there is a lot to learn from them and make our infrastructure world class as well. Atleast, now I know that being overtly populated is no limitation if the planning and execution is perfect.

I was eager to visit the railway station as I was very sure that a place like railway station cannot be so organized but yet again, I was disappointed. Well, it was very crowded but I must say, it was very well organized too. But, guess what?? The visit to the wash room startled me!! I could not believe that people were using the toilet with the gates wide open… I spoke to couple of women about it and found that since the travelers have to keep a watch on the luggage they keep the door open…. After this experience, I could make sense of these messages inside the toilet room walls!!

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My excitement quickly changed the gear as I got the ticket for bullet train with my passport number printed on it! There came the beauty and vanished in few seconds – It was a Bullet train. I could see other tourist competing to capture the beauty in their camera. To navigate on the station is very easy as our platforms are numbered well and carries the coach number for your train. There are lady attendants who usually stand on the gate to receive to assist passengers.

The inside view of the bullet train was also amazing! I felt like I was sitting inside a low frill airline. The seats were reclining with tray table. Very soon, a lady attendant served beverages. I could spot fashion show running on the TV inside the train. I decided to quickly pick up a chat with my English speaking neighbor and took his view on multiple aspects….. He shared that China is divided in 4 zones of food flavors. Beijing which is in central consumes more spicy food whereas Shanghai which is in east is more skewed towards sweet and spicy food flavors. After two stations, he was asked to change his seat, then I realized that even in China people get onto train without ticket confirmation 🙂

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Picture12Picture13Picture14Well, during this trip, our PMO, Mr. Narendra Modi joined us in China; I could see him on all news channels and local newspapers. Glad to see his impact as I could see all eyes were glued on TV the moment he was shown on the screen. Some of them did mention that “your PMO is a visionary”. It felt really proud to hear about my own country from Chinese people. Thank you Modi ji for making the positive impact across borders.

For all the shopaholics – Shopping in China has two faces; one is for the spendthrifts and another is for the value bargainers. If you have plenty of money to shell off and love the real branded stuff, you must visit the shopping malls. The prices of all the items were super expensive which is in contrast as Chinese products are positioned as cheap products. Well, all shopping in China is not cheap shopping. If you are a value bargainer, you must visit the local market and do street shopping. A local person suggested me, if the shopper starts with 1000RMB then you must say 50RMB and then the deal can be closed at 100RMB. We went on a tour to visit Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Silk Market in Beijing. Our tour guide suggested the guys in the group to be little cautious as the women sales rep can give you a hug and don’t leave you till the time you agree to buy!! Though, I did not get to see such moment of sales extremity myself.

If you are in Beijing, then don’t miss out the golden opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China and Forbidden City. Make sure that you have a guide or a travel book so that you can read the relevance of the monuments.

The visit to Great Wall of China was very refreshing experience. The steps of Wall were really steep and one must be very well prepared for the hike.

Here’s a blog link which you should read before planning the trip.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china_great_wall/travel.htm

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/china/the-great-wall/travel-tips-and-articles/660

There were wish locks tied to the walls and I slowly whispered couple of my wishes too 🙂

wall 1.jpgwall 2wall 3

wall 6wall 7

I decided to look around, observe and soak in the local feel…… I spotted an elderly Uncle, who was accompanied probably with his son, and was trying hard to reach the top. Climbing was so tough for young blood like us, but he has a spirit of young blood too. He was climbing couple of steps and then taking long pauses. I captured his image and sharing here with you all. Let’s salute to his spirit!

wall 8

At this spot, there are many outlets, washrooms, rest areas at the starting point.  I also saw a road going in parallel to the wall which was much easier to climb. I spoke to few hawkers about this road and they said that “what’s the fun on taking that road when you are here to climb the wall??” Well, I still went out and suggested this route to few old parents who were sitting quietly in the rest area, gazing at the beauty of wall as their kids were climbing the wall. As I could not see a single woman or man in local dress yet, I decided to wear the local dress myself and get clicked 🙂 As this famous Chinese saying goes ‘He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man’, and I opted for the “hero certificate” and got rewarded with the Olympic medal by the group 😀

Me 1.jpg

We moved towards the Forbidden City and I finally got to see the old structures and glimpses of Chinese history. And to my surprise, I spotted our Bollywood star – The Aamir Khan, roaming around the palace as a common man. I waved at him and he greeted me back. Later, I though it’s a good opportunity to get myself clicked with the actor. He was really warm and I got successful in capturing this moment in my camera 😉

Shanghai was the city of glamor which was buzzing with tourist, fashion, lights……. It’s a beauty!

One day, I wish to get more of China as now I am wondering is the entire China a look alike………

All in all, it was a thought provoking trip for me. If they can do it even our country can do it. We have certain blessings which we take for granted like the choice of – having kids, owning land, owning flats etc. Yes, we have the liberty to exercise these choices.

Pic 40

pic 41

Old view:

Just a brief Overview – those who are familiar with Shanghai may recognize the Peace Hotel, or the HSBC building – certainly no Pearly Tower or IFC or bottle opener building!!!  This is only 25 years ago.

Old view

Present view:

To Pudong today – just find this an amazing comparison.

New view

Quick notes for the travelers:

Food:

  1. Carry your own small sachets of salt and pepper
  2. Carry your spoon and fork (plastic versions should be good enough). You will get only chop sticks for eating the food and it might be tough to explain your requirements to restaurant staffs in English. 
  3. Don’t experiment a lot with local food. Don’t be too adventurous as this can lead to diarrhea and your entire trip can go for a toss.
  4. Carry some snacks, energy bars and water bottle in your back pack
  5. You can find MacDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s Pizza and Subway easily

Medicine:

  1. Apart from your regular medicine for diarrhea, stomach upset, a puke bag can be carried along
  2. Carry a glucose pouch

Mask:

  1. To avoid pollution
  2. In some cities, some flowers or cotton particles are in the air

Hygiene:

  1. Carry hand sanitizer and make most use of it
  2. Carry tissue paper
  3. Toilet – You will primarily find the squat toilet (also known as Indian toilet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squat_toilet )

Transport:

  1. There are two types of taxi. Always be patient enough to wait for a legal taxi
  2. Carry for hotel address map as the drivers might not know English language

Battery Bank: Read the details here else it will be confiscated at the airport. If it exceeds 160wh you will not be allowed to carry it in flights

http://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_HK/travel-information/baggage/restricted-items/batteries.html

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/civil-aviation/

Important words

  1. I found a good list of words which should be practiced well in advance
  2. Keep a language translator app in your smartphone

Here’s a quick list:

Yes – shì

No – bú shì

Thank you – xìe xìe

Thank you very much – feicháng

gàn xìe / henv gàn xìe

You’re welcome – bu yong xie

Please – qíng

Excuse me – qivng ràng, dui bu qi

Hello –  Ni hao

Goodbye – zài jiàn

So long – zài jiàn

Good morning – zaov an.

Good afternoon – wuv an.

Good evening – wanv shàng haov.

Good night – wanv an.

I do not understand – wov bù míng bái / wov bù dovng

How do you say this in [English]? – zhe yòng [hàn yuv] zen me jiavng?

Do you speak … – niv hùi jiavng … ma?

English – ying

yuv.

French fá yuv.

German dé yuv.

Spanish xibán

yá yuv.

Chinese puv tong

hùa / hàn yuv.

I wov.

We wov mén

You (singular, familiar) niv.

You (singular, formal) nín

You (plural) niv mén

They tamén

What is your name? niv jiào shen me míng zi?

Nice to meet you. henv gaoxìng

yù jiàn niv.

How are you? niv haov ma?

Good haov.

Bad bù haov.

So so hái haov.

Wife qiziv.

Husband zhàng fu.

Daughter nüv er

Son ér zi

Mother mama

Father baba

Friend péng youv.

Where is the bathroom? Where is the toilet? xiv shouv jianzaina

li?

zero líng

one yi.

two èr

three san.

four sì

five wuv.

six lìu

seven qi.

eight ba.

nine jiuv.

ten shí

eleven shí yi.

twelve shí èr

thirteen shí san.

fourteen shí sì

fifteen shí wuv.

sixteen shí liù

seventeen shí qi.

eighteen shí bav.

nineteen shí jiuv.

twenty èr shí

twenty one èr shí yi.

thirty sanshí

forty sì shí

fifty wuv shí

sixty liù shí

seventy qishí

eighty bashí

ninety jiuv shí

one hundred yì baiv.

one thousand yì qianv.

one million yì baiv wàn

How much does this cost? zhe duoshaov

qián?

What is this? zhe shi shen me?

I’ll buy it. wov maiv.

I would like to buy … wov yào maiv …

Do you have … ni youv méi youv …

Do you accept credit cards? ni jieshòu

xìn yòng kav ma?

Open kai.

Closed guan.

Postcard míng xìn piàn

Stamps yóu piào

A little yi dian(r) er

A lot henv duo.

All quán bù

Breakfast zaov can.

Lunch wuv can.

Dinner wanv can.

Vegetarian sù shí zhev.

Kosher yóu tài hé fav shí wù

Cheers! gan bei

Please bring the bill. qingv jíe zhàng.

Bread miàn bao.

Beverage yinv liào

Coffee kafei.

Tea chá

Juice guov zhi.

Water shuiv.

Beer pí jiuv.

Wine jiuv.

Salt yán

Pepper hú jiao.

Meat roù

Beef niú roù

Pork zhuroù

Fish yú

Poultry jiaqinv.

Vegetable cài

Fruit shuiv guov.

Potato mav líng shuv.

Salad salà

Dessert tián pinv.

Ice cream bingqilín/ xuev gào

Where is …? … zaiv na liv?

How much is the fare? chefèiduo shaov?

Ticket piao

One ticket to …, please. yì zhangqù … de piào.

Where are you going? niv qù na liv?

Where do you live? niv zhù zài na liv?

Train huov che.

Bus gonggòng qì che/gongche.

Subway, Underground dì tiev.

Airport feijichangv.

Train station huov chezhàn

Bus station gonggòng qì chezhàn / gongchezhàn

Subway station, Underground station dì tiev zhàn

Departure chujìng

Arrival rù jìng

Car rental agency chuzuqì

chè zhang.

Parking tíng chechangv.

Hotel lü’ guanv.

Room kè fáng

Reservation yù dìng

Are there any vacancies for tonight? Jinwanv youv méi youv kongfáng?

No vacancies kè manv / méi youv kongfáng

Passport hù zhào

Left zuov.

Right yòu

Straight zhí

Up shàng

Down xià

Far yuanv.

Near jìn

Long cháng

Short duanv.

Map dì tù

Tourist Information liuv yóu wèn xún chù

Post office yóu jú

Museum bó wú guanv.

Bank yín háng

Police station jingv chá jú

Hospital yiyuàn

Pharmacy, Chemists yào fáng

Store, Shop diàn

Restaurant jiuv lóu

School xúe xiáo

Church jiào táng

Restrooms xiv shouv jian.

Street jie.

Valley shanguv.

Ocean haiv, yang

Lake hú

River hé

Swimming Pool yóu yongv chí

Tower tav.

Bridge qiáo

What time is it? jí dianv zhòng le sì shí wuv fen.

Day rì / tian.

Week xingqi.

Month yùe.

Year nián.

Monday xingqiyi.

Tuesday xingqièr

Wednesday xingqisan.

Thursday xingqisì

Friday xingqiwuv.

Saturday xingqiliù

Sunday xingqirì / xingqitiàn

Today jintian.

Yesterday zúo tian.

Tomorrow míng tian.

Thank you in English and xìe xìe in Chinese for joining me virtually on this travel blog 🙂

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