China – What Is Good to Know
I was much more smarter on my second turn in China. And before my first stay in China I had heard many advice by my class mates. “Try not to use handkerchiefs often.” “Don’t stick your chopsticks into the food”.
I had found many other facts which surprised me because I travelled to někoho, kdo byl v China for the first time. I knew the four and fourteen are unlucky numbers. If you read the number four in the third tone instead of the fourth it means “death, die”. I would never guess how much it means for them. There often were missing rooms of the number and sometimes even floors that would be otherwise of the unlucky number. It means that you have the fifth floor button right after the third floor in an elevator. Thirteenth floor was followed by fifteenth and so on. Many people don’t even dare to have a phone number containing a four. Some of my friends even told me they managed to get for free a number which had couple of fours in it.
„Now you shouldn’t...“ Many other advices followed this beginning phrase like: “Now you shouldn’t eat mutton. People don’t eat it in this season.” “Now you shouldn’t drink cool water. It is not healthy for you.” “Now you shouldn’t wear just a T-shirt!” These are often advices based on Chinese medicine and its understanding of human body in different seasons of the year. Later I learned it is better not to oppose these advices. Many really are, in some respects, helpful. Green tea cools body down. I am not sure about the claim that dog meat warms up. I rather did not try it out...
I have also learned that you sometimes don’t find what you look for (in a country where you can buy almost anything). For instance, it is very difficult to come by deodorants. Yes, you right. And when you find such it is usually vey expensive. It may also happen they wont let you in the subway. You go through airport-level security checks when entering the subway. Once staff discovers you carry a thing with a picture of a flame on it then consider it gone (in case you are capable of hiding it somewhere on your body). Some other things for hygiene are also hard to come by. Ladies must know the only razors available are for men. And you need to examine creams you buy.
I o jiné věci může být tlačenice – kupříkladu o lístky na vlak. Pokud budete chtít jet rychlovlakem, nejspíš vás žádné větší problémy nečekají, ale většinu lístků je nutné kupovat včas, tedy několik dní dopředu. Zvykla jsem si, že na nádraží procházíte mnoha kontrolami a bez lístku zakoupeného jen a jen na vaše jméno a pas vás tam nepustí vůbec.
There are many things that would be a pleasant surprise for you. Rice is so delicious you even wouldn’t mind to eat it every time. And you will even miss it when back home. The same goes for noodles. Everyone chooses the one he likes. Fruits is everywhere and at every corner there is a stand where they make something yummy for you. Online shopping works also great. Often it takes only hours for your order to reach you. As for eating outside – there are restaurants where you can eat for as few as forty crowns. Everywhere they give you hot water for free. You still can have something warm to drink and all you need to do is to take a mug and couple of tealeaves with.
Everyone would be surprised or shocked over different things. I just hope there would be only pleasant surprises waiting for you in China. And that you will enjoy your journey!
Text and photo: Hana Bašová
It was only couple of minutes before the departure. T and P were about to fly back to the Czech Republic. Me and B were ready to travel to Vietnam for another adventure. There was much to remember. T and P looked pretty tired. It is no easy thing to travel across China in one month. Many say they haven’t experienced cultural shock but still China is much different from Europe.
When me and B were thinking at the airport about all prejudices our Czech friends have, we realized even our Chinese friends’ idea about our culture is not much accurate.
The day had finally come. The day of T’s and P’s departure. The girls were preparing for the departure. Me and B had still some time before we left China. The best moments of our one year stay in China were running in our minds and we also give a thought on T and P. They would surely face many questions regarding China.
Even though it seems that the fate wants a boulder to fall on us along the road, the driver managed to deliver us safe and sound. We even managed to take couple pictures as if it was the only chance. During couple of following days we realized that it is impossible to get enough of this place…
The day of our departure from the mountain paradise had come. Luckily, we had whole afternoon at our hands. Therefore, we set off for the last trip. We intended to explore only the nearby area.
In a small family hostel near the Leaping Tiger Gorge (Hutiao xia虎跳峡) we had some good night sleep. After our arrival we headed straight to see the wild Jinsha River 金沙. At its narrowest point, a tiger allegedly leapt over it. We were completely exhausted by a walk in fresh air. However, we woke up soon next day morning to enjoy raising sun at our terrace.
We felt like waking up to mornings in mountains veiled in pleasant haze is hardly something we would get enough of. We had already spent couple of nights at our hostel. At breakfasts we wondered if the locals are still so impressed with the mountains.
Our small trip to waterfall became a nightmare. Ponies that stood across narrow pathway and deep precipice under seemed harmless. Once I got across these obstacles my landlord appeared. With great enthusiasm he instructed us to other waterfalls. As there was only one road heading to our hostel I had to mentally prepare myself to another and another waterfall.
Surprisingly we survived the journey from the Leaping Tiger Gorge to Lijiang 丽江. We were in the town for the second time and nobody was looking forward to it. We got enough of it when we were there couple of days ago. Thanks to my ingenuity we were accommodated next to Lashihai 拉市海. But it was far from spectacular. Partially, the reason was in the fact we hadn’t even seen the historical center of Lijiang. The reason, on the other hand, for tourists to come in the city.
We stepped out of the silent temple in one of Lijiang’s streets and found ourselves immediately among tourist crowds mostly consisting of Chinese. They threw themselves on all delicacies around – from sugar hawthorn to huge baked bones.
Last time I have already started talking about Lashihai lake 拉市海. We intended to see it. The lake is to be found at the foothill of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong xueshan 玉龙雪山) at the altitude of over 2400 meters. The lake’s area is around 5330 hectares. Long time ago, an old horse tea road lead through here. Pu'er tea普洱was very important export commodity. Today, over 60 bird species nest on the lake. More than thirty thousand birds fly here in winter. The best time for observation is December, they say.
Lijiang 丽江, a small town in Yunnan 云南 province is known as a land of clear sky, clean air, and beautiful landscape. Lijiang truly meets this. And it has even something more to it. It is a tourist paradise. When you pay 80 yuan admission to enter the city center only annoying vendors prevent you from exploring the area.
We survived the trip on the Great Wall of China. We liked it but ahead would be waiting pre-departure preparations. We were busy packing, me and B. As it turned out, packing one year worth of life in China to one coffer is far from easy and takes much more than just one afternoon. Therefore, I took T and P to their guest house and left them to take care of themselves.
Our great journey was about to end. But at that moment it still seemed we would travel for couple of more weeks. Imagine a group of four ragged students waiting for a bus while sitting on cobble stone. We were hoping for it to come any minute… Yeah, any minute…
After several weeks on the road we were about to return to Beijing. What a strange feeling it was. B and I felt like we were coming back home even though we lived there only half a year. We took a train from Lijiang 丽江 Kunming 昆明, the capital of Yunnan province 云南. We stayed there for couple of days. Eventually we were even glad we managed to buy flight tickets because it was a last minute buy as we had been waiting for them to become cheaper.
It was easy to count hours before the departure of the girls (and our as well). Still, we intended to utilize them as much as possible regardless the unbearable heat in Beijing.
We managed climbing up the hill very well. We walked through a small village. Some watched us, some obviously had met tourists efore and waved at us. Once we reached a crossroad we suddenly saw its contours. And we also recognized contours of a small shop at the crossroads. It wasn’t overpriced. Surprisingly. We refilled our water and sugar supplies (popsicles). If there exists something like an addiction on popsicles, I was an addict in China.
We gladly left Lijiang 丽江, a small and among tourist popular town in south China. We worried a bit that we would need to return to our hostel on our way back. However, we forget our worries and looked forward to the new adventure.
To conclude the great journey we did with T and P we intended to see two place. We had seen those with B already yet they were still interesting enough for us to see them again. First, it was the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan颐和园), a romantic place we idyllically remembered for its winter atmosphere. In summer, however, the atmosphere was much worse. The second place in our trip would be the Forbidden City, Gugong in Chinese. It means “the Old Palace”.
I am of those people who cannot enjoy shopping. Mostly I have this feeling that the time spent finding something could we spent much more efficiently. When I decide to go somewhere shopping I need time.
In Chengdu 成都 , we visited places mentioned in previous articles. I enjoyed nostalgia, other members of our journey enjoyed great weather – mostly it was raining gently. So it wasn’t hot as it usually is in Chengdu this time of the year.
It was getting closer to our departure from Xian 西安. With our backpacks we had to move by city bus to a train station. It was pretty easy till then...
It is true that I base my articles on my experiences and remarks of my friends, yet I have this feeling that everyone gets to the point when he needs to leave the big noisy city for fresh air in the countryside.
We were returning quite disgruntled from the village of Longjing 龙井. The intrusive lady reminded us again that we are still tourists in China – and given my face, I still will be one.
Upon our difficult arrival at Hangzhou 杭州 we had crammed schedule ahead. Right in the morning, we went to explore how to get to our other goal the village of Longjing 龙井 that is famous for its tea plantations.
Days in Beijing passed by merrily. School in the morning, studying, chats with friends… Everyday routine was diversified with weekend trips. Summer Beijing was not very magical, to be honest.
Certainly there are lists of the most used words in any language. We learn what words we use the most in our mother tongue. We do not wonder as those are mostly words that are logically the most common as well.
When you are studying in China and you want to learn more than you would at classic lessons you can ask about optional classes. There are usually many as such at universities. You can choose everything from sports, literature, or trivia to calligraphy or local dialects.
I know the old proverb starts bit differently, yet I hold to the opinion that this tweak has some truth to it. At some places I think about this proverb more often. At some places even every day. Perhaps you already realized that by the latter I mean China.
„To terminus? What will you do there? There is nothing! “
First, I have to say that I come from a small town. Arrival in Prague was a large shock for me. When I was then hustling in Prague in darky morning trying to find the right address, I had no idea such an experience was not my last time. Next time it would be more intense.
For as long as I had travelled in China, my main reason was studying the Chinese language. As more and more people ask me how learning Chinese in China is going I am going to spend some time explaining how it is.
Beijing, the city of our year-long study stay, did not greet the girls pleasantly. Yet despite all obstacles we faced, we didn’t let it to spoil our mood. We decided to see all the sights, we hadn’t manage to visit during the first couple of days, before our flight back. We counted with some problems in our grandiose travel plan anyway.
I have written about one of Chinese minorities, the people of Hui (回族) in one of my previous articles. I praised their cuisine and their kindness and knowledge about the place of my origin.
Even though we tried, we didn’t manage to get nice weather. Smog, that impervious pot lid, held tiring heat above Beijing. But we were determined to prevail.
„You study Chinese? So you can read scattered tea?“
„Chinese? Ping Pong?“ „Do you have skew eyes from eating all those rice already?“
... is that joyful? Already in one of my past articles I quoted the first sentence from Analects by Confucius. To be honest I thought of it very often. Prior my departure to China almost every other person asked me: „When may I arrive? You know I wouldn’t need a guide when you are there...“
Spring was coming soon which lured us to the nature outside Beijing. “Why don’t you go to the Sidu river 十渡?“ one teacher–friend told us. The description suggested it is beautiful there: allegedly „Guilin桂林 of the north“. It is a vast karst area covering 300 km² in north China. This area was formed by the Tu-ma river. Sidu literally means “ten fords”. Today the fords are replaced with modern bridges yet they say the place has still some magic in it.
„This is something you have to see!“
„It’s sure worth it!“
„It is world’s wonder.“
The Temple of Eight Immortals (Ba xian an八仙庵) is the largest Tao temple in Xi'an 西安. When we were deciding on what sight to see as the first, the temple was pretty clear choice.
We had last day to spend in Xian. We had tickets not to the opera but for the evening train which would get us to my beloved Chengdu 成都.
Terracotta army in Xian 西安 was truly interesting yet it wasn’t the only thing we saw there. We were, perhaps, bit disappointed from all those people we had met there. Whether they were tourists looking for something exciting, or vendors trying to make profits, and I don’t even mention high admission… We even hadn’t seen any good place to have lunch in. We ate only some snack, got on the bus to get back to the city.
Before I traveled to China, I had noticed weird mostly roundish buildings on various ad posters. I didn’t understand why would anyone build something like this.
Our stay in Yunyongyao云永谣 commenced with a funeral, not particularly traditional way to begin one’s trip. Most of the locals took part in it. Some right in the procession, others just watched from afar. Soon, however, cracking and music ended. Only streets covered with red papers could tell the story.
After while, during our search for tulou 土楼 we went off the tourist-luring village with never ending music. Chinese tourists took pictures of each other wearing traditional and nontraditional clothes rented for horrible money. All of a sudden, everything went quiet around us. We were approaching local hills on a narrow road.
Our trip to see the famous tulou 土楼 was great. A strange van appeared and it was not strange after all. Chinese tourists stepped in and we stepped in as well because they said that the last bus had just left and the van driver would give us better price.
When we peaked out to the street in the morning, it was truly alive. The digger was demolishing houses, and people were engaged in their work. I sought to protect my breakfast against omnipresent dust. It was clear now what we would do on that day. We had to get as far as possible.
Perhaps everyone who has visited Beijing and had little spare time paid his visit to famous Summer Palace (Yiheyuan 颐和园), northwestern Beijing. Less tourists, however, know, that near the “new” Summer Palace is also Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan圆明园).
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