Prepare yourself for a million trillion bajillion photos. These are my most favoritest travel pictures ever taken. I know I just said that about Ecuador, but China tops even those.
This trip is really fourth down in the list in chronological order of what I have to blog, but I’m so excited about it that I decided to go out of order to show you guys.
So yeah. China.
I LOVED IT. Hands down this was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.
Leading up to China, I knew that nobody there was going to speak any English. I knew that the culture was going to be completely different. I knew that people were going to think I was a weird foreigner. I didn’t know how hard it would be to get around with such an utter and complete language barrier. I was worried about being there by myself.
All those fears turned out to be so silly.
Coming out of the airport, I was so nervous to go try and take a taxi by myself, that I didn’t want to leave. All the websites I’d read, warned about how taxis are constantly ripping people off so I was freaked out.
So I did what I do when I’m in need of familiarity — I went to the airport Starbucks. No shame people, no shame.
And what I saw there was good preparation for what was to come. In every Starbucks I’ve ever been to around the globe, the employees usually speak pretty good English. At the airport Starbucks in Beijing, the employee could take my order and give me my change but when I tried to ask her a question that varied from the script, there was nothing but silence.
But I eventually found the official taxi area and while the taxi driver and I couldn’t communicate at all, I handed him the paper I’d printed out with the name of my hostel and the words, “Can you please take me to this address:” written out in Chinese.
Driving into the city of Beijing is so strange! It almost looks like there are forests on each side of the highway, you’d never imagine that there’s a ginormous city of 20 million people hidden back behind the trees! I was expecting the road in from the airport to the city to be like any road in from any airport to any city — dirty and ugly and urban.
Then we started passing by parks and there were little old men and women doing tai chi all over the place! I seriously thought they’d been put there by the government to impress the arriving tourists. It wasn’t until later on in my visit that I realized people in China do tai-chi all the time. It’s just a thing.
The ride into Beijing passed quickly, even though I was sick and exhausted. I’d actually had to push my trip back a day because I was so sick in Tallinn that I couldn’t even imagine flying out when I was supposed to. But arriving in China was so thrilling that I forgot I’d ever felt bad! I looked out the window and couldn’t believe my eyes. Everything looked like a real China Town! I’d always assumed that China Towns in most cities are unauthentic and look nothing like actually China, but I was wrong.
My hostel was located in a typical Hutong neighborhood of Beijing. I think Hutong means alley, but they are these very traditional neighborhoods where the walls are close together so not many cars can pass through, and the houses are quite large. Now many of the houses have been converted into hostels and other businesses because they’re so huge they’re not really single family dwellings for people of this era.
The hostel was beautiful, set in a traditional courtyard house. I highly recommend it to anyone going to Beijing! It’s called the Fly By Knight Hostel and it’s great. The staff was so cool. They were these very energetic Chinese girls, who looked like they were about twelve and giggled with me about anything and everything. They would bring in strange Chinese candy every day and offer it to all the hostel dwellers so we could try some different foods. I tried a salty and sweet sucker that I did not like and a vanilla ice cream in a round flour bun that was odd but so yummy!
I couldn’t say anything beyond “Hi,” and “Thank you,” but whenever I took somebody’s photo or interacted I would “Ni hao” away and then we’d mostly just grin idiotically at each other or communicate in hand signals and laugh hysterically. The Chinese and I had a good time together, I have to say. We chuckled at each other a lot. I enjoyed it. It made even going to the grocery store a wild experience.
And yes, this is the grocery store. The Wu Mart. Gotta love the name.
I’d say I wandered around in there for a solid hour looking at all the food. So different from grocery store in Chile or the U.S. or Europe. And there were no vegetables or fruit! I think the Chinese must buy all their produce at markets slaaaaaash they don’t actually eat any produce because all their food is fried and delicious.
This country was a whole new level of foreignness to me — even the Lay’s chips were crazy flavors that I’d never seen before. I did try Cucumber flavored and even though that sounds kind of disgusting, I’m not going to lie, if they imported those into Chile, I’d be a happy camper.
This was my first afternoon in the country and as you can see I didn’t really “do” anything. I could’ve ran over to get to The Forbidden City or done something touristy but I didn’t feel like running around like a chicken with my head cut off, when simply walking around the city being intrigued by these people was more than fascinating to me!