China cannot be described in a nutshell…the country was too vast, the cultures and languages too widespread – we had no chance of really knowing the ‘real China’. However, what we experienced in two months was interesting and we were glad we got to go to the places we did and see what we saw.
Our China highlights
Every city and town had some kind of charm that drew us in. Beijing for the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiannemen Square, Xi’an for it’s rich history and the Terracotta Army, Chengdu was a bustling metropolis (and of course THE PANDA SANCTUARY!), Shanghai was a shiny rich man’s playground, Suzhou had beautiful gardens and canals, but our absolute favourite place was Yangshuo for the Karst mountains, adventure sports and stunning countryside.
The food on the whole was tasty, we sampled a lot of street food (no scorpions and other strange things though!) Whatever tasty local cuisine we could get hold of we would try it (obviously not the weird stuff)! We really loved the mind-blowing and hot chilli Sichuan cuisine as well as the milder flavours found in South China.
We were lucky enough to couchsurf with a wonderful Chinese family in Beijing, whose generosity knew no bounds, and showed us that there were people in China who were not entirely brainwashed by their government and were very worldly and forthcoming to different cultures. A huge thank you to Peter and his family!
Our China lowlights
Being scammed in Shanghai was definitely one of our worst experiences in China, though we got away very lightly in the end. Please read our Hobo-scam on China for more details. We didn’t let it effect the rest of our trip though, nor did we let ourselves get paranoid that around every corner there was someone out to get us!
Life in the cities were fast-paced and did tend to bring out the very worst characteristics in everyone. We found in the big cities we visited – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that people were constantly spitting in the street, people hated queuing for anything and would use physical and aggressive behaviour, there were some unfriendliness towards tourists and many vendors would hike prices up to ridiculous proportions on their goods to see what they could get away with.
We survived by just enjoying ‘being in the thick of it’, after all this was China! We just took the good, the bad and the ugly and got stuck in.