China Fun Fact – The world’s first paper money was created in China 1,400 years ago.
I have so much to say about China, so it will be over four posts. The first post will deal with my general overall feel of China with quite a few pictures, and the other three posts will deal with Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an, hope you enjoy the journey with me.
I was pretty nervous about going to China on my own; I didn’t know if I was going to stand out or feel uncomfortable being so far away from home on my own. The furthest I had travelled on my own was New York, and that doesn’t count as its home away from home. This was a flight which was about 12 hours direct, no layover and going to a country where I could not speak a word of the language. Therefore I had to do a lot of research about China and to make myself as safe as possible but still be able to enjoy my trip. I found Virgin Holidays which was a bit pricey but I am a sucker for Virgin Atlantic, so I went ahead with the booking and had to pay the dreaded single person supplement. Reflecting now I am glad I went with Virgin the tour guides were lovely and I met some wonderful people, one of which I still speak to today.
I have to admit I stood out like a sore thumb, in the beginning, I was OK with it, but after a while, I could not tolerate it anymore. The issue I had was being black, plain and simple. I did not see it as racism when I was regularly stared out, or locals tried to take pictures of me without asking. My personal favourite was turning to my left and seeing someone standing just behind me while someone else in front tries to take a picture. The other one is standing as a group with my tour group and random people taking pictures of us without our permission. I guess if I charged for every photo taken I would have made my holiday back. To be frank, it was just plain rude, and at times ignorant, we are not novelties but human beings as well. I appreciate at times some of the locals visiting mainland China were from the outskirts and probably never seen a black person apart from on TV were ‘giddy’ at seeing myself and others, but it was still not a pleasant experience. At one point I did become paranoid that someone was trying to take my picture and when I did, I was right, someone was trying to take my picture, and I would have to turn around so quickly. I would say only about three people bothered to ask to take a picture and one tried to stroke my face, and that freaked me out big time.
One of the things which shocked me was walking and hearing people gobbing on the floor especially when they are literally behind me, and it was nasty. I could not wrap my head around it at first and was disgusted every time I heard or saw it. However, within two days I automatically knew it was about to happen and made sure I was not in the firing line. I started to understand why some people did it and it was the pollution even I wanted to clear my throat, but I wouldn’t dear do it, do not care where I am, I am not shaming my dad in public!
The most significant shock was open crotch pants, ‘kaidangku’ also known as toilet training trousers. These are worn by toddlers as the name puts it, being potty trained, it allows the child to squat the trousers split open and will enable them to ease themselves in the politest way I can put it. I was walking in a beautiful park and see this child squat and poop, the look my face was OMG, and I turned to the tour guide and asked her what just happened. She explained to me the concept of open crotched pants, and I queried her, what if they fell on their bum from running and hurt themselves, why would someone allow their child to defecate in the middle of the street. I couldn’t apprehend it, and I didn’t understand why!
Toilets. Toilets. Coming from such a western society, I am used to an actual toilet and not a hole in the ground. At the time I didn’t know how I was going to use the toilet because I just did not want to squat over a hole in the ground and felt it was nasty but it was not. You are not sitting on a toilet seat or hovering over a seat, praying you don’t touch the seat even if there is tissue there. I did get used to it and preferred it, but you do need a sturdy pair of legs. I was internally grateful I carried hand sanitiser, and tissue so was always prepared.
I think I can sum this in one sentence. People like to get close to another; there is no concept of personal space.
One tip I did learn while I was out there is crossing the road. Our tour guide told us when crossing the street look the driver right in the eye and let them know you are not afraid otherwise you will never cross the road. She showed us how to do it, and it worked, drivers would slow down and allow people to pass, the first time I did it I was scared, so halfway crossing I ran. Eventually, my confidence grew, and I was able to look the person in the eye, to let them know I can see them and they should not hit me.
Despite all of this I loved my time in China and will aim to now go off the beaten track. Regardless of all the people staring at me, I did encounter charming people, and these were people who wanted to show what was dear to them. I experienced eating in local restaurants, spending an evening in someone’s home to taking public transport. I found a majority of the local people I encountered to be accommodating and friendly and eager to impress. I found China to be culturally rich and very respectful of their local heritage which made me love the country even more.
The Big Questions
Would I go back? Yes
Why? China is 9.597 million km² there is so much more I can see and do