China Survival Tips for Tourists

China Survival Tips for Tourists

Toilet tips to get you through your first trip to China

Travelling is all about waiting. You are always waiting for the bus, train or plane at the terminal, stop or station respectively. If you take a year off in between High School and Uni or between Uni and The Real World the best lesson you will get out of travelling is how to wait. Throughout a regular persons’ working life the ability to wait is a great skill. Once you get a “real” job you have to wait for the meeting to start, wait for the minutes to be read, wait for the train, bus, taxi, lights to turn green. Then you’ll wait for the man at the road works to turn the sign to slow so that you can drive 20 yards and then wait for a suitable spot to overtake the grandma in front of you doing 60 in a 100 zone. You’ll also wait for the water to boil for that first cup of heart starter in the morning while you wait for the dryer to finish and the iron to warm up so you have something to wear to work that day.

It goes on and on, however, during the year I spent in the UK I learned what not to wear and how to queue. The Brits are the best queuers in the World, they could queue for England if there was such an event at the Olympics. Coming from a country of badly dressed non-queuers this was a valuable lesson that has served me in good stead for many years. Since I learned how to wait from earlier travelling expeditions I was fully prepared for the endless hours the Brits spend standing in line waiting. When you consider that there is eleventy billion people squashed into a country smaller than Queensland patiently waiting is a good thing.

During my year in the US I learned that a “large” anything is a gallon bucket filled with the order of choice and how to not get caught working illegally after my visa was cancelled after a very minor discrepancy with the INS. Mexicans are the answer to this question! When I was working in the US I’d know when the Feds were about as all the Mexicans would instantly and unanimously go on holiday. I’d change my name, start speaking all southern drawl like and wander about the countryside in my rental going no place a rental has ever gone before. I also learned that loud, bang noises usually meant guns and crazed people were in the same approximate area as me. Eating pavement was the fastest solution to not being on the business end of that gun held by the crazed person.

Being pulled over by the highway patrol was another thing I learned how to do and still have freaked out flashbacks to this day. This was accomplished by winding down my window “real slow” while keeping my other hand on the steering wheel and then placing spare hand out the window until told to do something else with it. By doing this reasonably well your car wasn’t searched and you didn’t end up spreadeagled on the hood of your car being padded down in very embarrassing places by men wearing guns that matched their very large hats.

A little closer to home, I learned that South Australia is a wonderful place if your family is one of the original founding families of this state, like my husbands is. If, when sitting around some nostalgic lighting of some sort (fire, stove, good old fashion witch burning) some reference is made to a relative, for example dear Aunty Myrtle whose tea cakes were famous in antiquarian CWA circles for miles around (and so was the fact that she was married to her first cousin) you may consider yourself officially ‘in’. If there are halls, pools and other necessities around the town named for your forefathers or mothers however the case may be and the honour board in the local RSL is covered with nothing but you and people related to you, life in South Australia is GREAT!

If you make the fundamentally crazy mistake of leaving this land of opportunity for greener pastures or adventures and don’t return for a generation or two a cardinal sin has been committed and your family no matter how historic in origins is cast out forever more. We came here, as Chris was born here, as was his father and so on right back to some of the original settlers of this fair land we attempted to call home. It was to be a journey to the motherland, a place of wonderful memories, beautiful scenery and amazing people and opportunities. I won’t say that we were hit with disappointment straight away but it was a rather gradual slide into decline that kind of crept up on us bit by bit so we didn’t really notice at first. In South Australia I learned that no matter how weird the situation be safe in the knowledge it would only happen here and be happy with that. However, in China I learned the best lessons of all…..I did learn a great deal about Asian culture during this trip and through these experiences I’ve come up with a survival list for China while I was bouncing along on my ass (I thought the mountain ponies were uncomfortable):

1) Bring your own scented soft toilet paper (you'll figure out why scented after you are desperate enough to use the public toilets here)
2) Before ordering off a menu, have a check for livestock in the immediate surrounds.
3) Pigs are everywhere so pork in any form is safe, if you don't see chickens or evidence of fowl of some sort and you order chicken, odds are you've just sated your appetite with "cat, the other white meat". Unless a menu has the word "Yak" written in connection to the beef in your dish and there are lots of puppies running about, odds are you've been playing with the next burger you order. Do not under any circumstances ever order something with the generic term "meat" in it as you are probably eating the last tourist who thought that looked interesting too. If you do happen to make it to the end of the meal you'll be very pleased you have plenty of your own scented soft instead of the standard issue sandpaper they haphazardly supply here.
4) Set your limits as to how low you'll go toilet wise right at the beginning so that you can take bladder explosion precautions during very long bus and train trips. If you’re male always carry a recycleable green tea flavoured something bottle for these little emergencies. If you’ve never had to, you’ll figure out how when the time comes. Rest assured it will be “when” and not “if”.
The toilets come in five categories in China the best and worst of which are miles apart, a listing of which are:

• 5* = Western standard toilet with marble surrounds, flat screen TV at eye level, soft scented toilet paper on tap, running water and hand drying facilities that play music while in use.
• 4* = Western toilet with door (toilet paper optional). Running water also optional.
• 3* = Asian ceramic style toilet with door (again toilet paper optional).
• 2* = Asian gutter style with/without water and door and half walls
• 1* = Asian gutter style without door, water or… actually it’s just a gutter in a large room with 90 other people who don’t necessarily use the gutter. Plastic bags on shoes a good idea to save added expense of buying more shoes after you burn the ones you are wearing as well as paying for the privilege of the gutter experience.

5) If you can't identify it off the packet with pictures that no one can explain what it is with hand gestures....DO NOT EAT IT - IT MAY NOT BE FOOD!
6) You can't phone home here so don't try.
7) Sometimes you can email home so give it a good go.
7) Postcard yourself to death, it's the only way the outside world will know you are alive.
8) When going on a trek make sure that your guide knows the difference between "flat easy walk" and "vertical mountain climbing" it may come in use later in the court case when you take them to court for the guide trying to kill you half way up a mountain for complaining it's too hard and you want to go home
9) Make sure you have PLENTY of Prozac for any type of vehicular transportation. Unless you have been to Nepal previously this will be the most frightening experience of your life and in this case if you're stoned out of your mind at least you'll be happy about the fact that you most probably are going to die.
10) If you survive the accommodation, the food and the transportation have a great time in the wilderness and the people that are china.

Along with the mandatory waiting in line for the 2 billion other people to do what you are attempting to the thing that I learned on this trip is no matter how bizarre the experience or how soul destroying the adventure seems at the time (I will systematically hunt down all those lying bastards who insist the Great Wall is flat and rectify this myth I promise) you will be able to laugh about it later and have a great dinner party yarn for life.

Happy traveling!

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