Wednesday, October 26, 2011


When I was doing my blogs for China, I really tried to only put positive experiences in the individual city portions.  I did try to put all my negative points in the Confessions and Tip section.  I do want everyone to know that I do not regret going to China.  If I had the choice to do it again, I would.  Everyday I was there I found the words, "wow" tumbling out of my mouth.  Twenty percent of my experience was not positive.  Most of my negative experiences were individuals who made a wonderful experience tainted by how they treated me.  I found most people were wonderful, so kind and helpful, and when I had a bad experience it shocked me every time.  I was treated differently when I was by myself as opposed to being with my husband.  I found that people approached me more when I was by myself.  Most of the time these people were very friendly, and often if someone was mistreating me another person would come up and defend me.

I found myself wanting to go back to Beijing when I was blogging about it.  One of my regrets is not taking all of my children with me.  I now am of the opinion that my children can go to China as adults, but part of me wishes they were there with me, experiencing all that I was able to.  I think it is unfortunate the 20% negative experiences affected me so greatly, and yet it did.  I am so grateful for being able to go to China but at the same time I do not apologize for my opinion.  I learned so much about China and America.  I found my appreciation for my freedom increase and so many things our political parties fight about now seem trivial.  It was a nice place to visit, but I don't think I would want to live there.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

China Confessions and tips


First confession, I hid in my hotel the first day my husband had to go to work.  I was scared to go out on the street, I was scared to use the metro, and I was terrified of getting in a taxi again!

This is something I did like, have no idea what it is
Second confessions, when I went to China I saw myself as an open minded person.  I have a minor in Anthropology and my personal belief is that you can learn from any culture.  So despite all that, I didn't like China, I didn't like most of the food.  I thought the first 2 days were awesome, and then I wanted something different.  After day 4, I felt sick, by day 6 I told my husband I wanted to eat at American restaurants, so we started eating at KFC and McDonalds.  I never thought that would would be me.  I think they are really good at making crunchy slimy vegetables, and a lot of the meat seemed to be riddled with bones, cartilage, etc.  We ate at fancy restaurants, restaurants on the street, restaurants in our hotel.  After the third day it all seemed the same to me.  Eating at McDonald's seems pretty safe, but my husband did end up with a hot dog for breakfast when he wanted a sausage egg McMuffin.  I would have a hard time taking my kids to China, based on this alone, because unlike Europe where you can order spaghetti for your kids anywhere you go, it is hard to get something you want to eat, let alone something that you would think your children would want to eat.

Third confessions we got ripped off a few times in China.  We got ripped off at the airport, by someone who talked us into getting a "mini-van taxi" that cost us about 3 times the amount it should have.  I bought a souvenir at the Great Wall, and then saw it somewhere else for 1/3 the price.  We had a rickshaw driver ask us if we wanted a ride for a certain amount and then took us into a Hutong, or alley, and demanded 300 yuan (Chinese currency).  We paid it and walked on.  100 yuan is about $15, so even when we were being ripped off, it was never an amount that we could justify risking our lives for.  I felt like we left China with our integrity in tact, and I try not to worry about the money we lost.

Fourth confession I kind of liked getting mobbed by Chinese people for the first few days.  I always thought I had the most beautiful baby, and now I have the most populated country that agrees with me.  In saying that, I didn't really appreciate still having an audience when I would want to nurse (breastfeed) my baby.  It was kind of creepy having older Chinese men come over and try to see me nursing my baby.  People would actually take pictures of me nursing my baby, or come over and try to get a better view.  They had no sense of personal space.  I also know how to say I have a baby boy in Chinese, and when we would change his diaper in public I could hear from many Chinese people surrounding us, that we had a baby boy.  These things kind of disturbed me, and now I have a sense of what it feels like to be a movie star.  I don't really like it, it is nice to feel loved, but some things should not be for public viewing or criticism!
Little children often had parents who insisted they get pictures with us, these children did not really like getting their pictures taken with us!

And finally, although I have a multi-visit visa, I don't really want to go back when my husband has to.  I may just stay at home that trip.  Although I have a goal to go to all Disneylands around the world, and when the Disneyland is finished in Shanghai in 2016 I will have a good reason to go back!

  1. Think of the yuan like you would an American dollar, sure 100 yuan is only $15 American dollars, but you can almost get the same amount of stuff for $100 yuan as you would in the US for $50-$100 U.S. dollars.  
  2. If someone is trying to steer you away from where you need to go, like the taxis at the airport, or the entrance to the tourist site you were headed for, beware!  Follow the posted English signs!  Unless you have a Chinese speaking person that you trust with you, it is best to follow the signs.  Practice saying, NO to anyone wanting you to go to somewhere off the path of where you are headed.  These can be people who want you to go to a "free" art exhibit, people who want to take you to a "better" deal, just ignore them and walk on.
  3. At super touristy places, like the Silk Market, or the Great Wall, you need to haggle for prices.  I found in Nanjing if I haggled them down to 1/2 the price they originally asked it was a good price, in Beijing at the Silk Markets it was more like 1/5 the price.  Do not feel bad if you talk them down to a really "low" price, they will not sell you something at a loss!   
  4. Beware people who can speak English, this does not go for everyone and really only for people who are trying to sell you something, anything, tour guides, souvenirs, rickshaw rides, taxi rides, etc.  They generally are trying to make you pay too much for something if they speak English.  People will aggressively try to rip you off!  They can seem friendly at first but can become very aggressive.
  5. KFC and McDonalds have picture menus with English on them and you can request these at the cashier but not for breakfast, I found pointing to the menu up above worked best.  
  6.  Go with no expectations.  If you expect to find tourist attractions well maintained, or if you have an idea of what you think will be there, you might be disappointed, you might be pleasantly surprised too.
  7. Your hotel should have a "business card" that they can give you to give to a taxi driver with the hotel's address on it, so you can get back to the hotel.  They should also have a card with different tourist attraction locations written in English and Chinese for you to give to a taxi driver.  
  8. Have a map of the city, taxi drivers can drop you off some distance away, I think they just do whatever is most convenient for them.  My husband was dropped off 3 blocks away from our hotel, I was dropped off in the middle of a street with my baby.  They just tell you to get out, with you wondering, "am I there?"  Even if you are turned around you can point on your map to the location you want to go and I found most Chinese people were very helpful to steer me in the right direction.


Friday, October 21, 2011


Getting to Beijing seemed a little more problematic than I thought possible.  We had purchased a seat for our infant on the plane, we had his car seat and thought it best to just have a seat for him instead of doing infant in arms.  I don't think this is a common practice in China.  They kept telling us we had done it wrong, and we needed to buy a different ticket for him.  It seriously took us at least 1/2 an hour to explain about his car seat and how we wanted him to have his own seat on the plane.  They eventually let us go with our seat assignments, but we still had Chinese people who could speak English come up to us and try to explain that we had bought the "wrong kind of ticket."
Beijing, just outside Tiananmen Square

We hired a car to pick us up at the Beijing airport and to drive us around Beijing our first day.  We used this car to drive out to the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, and to the Silk Markets.  Unlike the taxi drivers that we had experienced earlier, our hired car did not drop us off where it was most convenient for them, but took us right where we needed to go.  I seriously would have been lost without them.  The signs directing you where to go, that were in English, were very misleading.  It was excellent to have someone who could speak Chinese and knew what they were doing.  We had 2 drivers who shared a car, so we had one driver in the morning and a different driver at night.  They did not speak English, but we managed alright with maps, and calling people who my husband worked with who spoke English and Chinese who would translate for us.  

The Great Wall was simply amazing!  It was, in my opinion, the best tourist attraction we went to.  There are many parts of The Great Wall that you can go to, several have cable cars.  We went to the most touristy spot, the Badaling section of The Great Wall.  The cable car that took us to the top was well worth the money we spent.  I had my baby in a Bjorn carrier, and it was hard to trek along the wall, I can't imagine what it would have been like to walk all the way up from the bottom.  I don't think I would have made it.  If I didn't have a baby attached it might have been fun to walk instead of ride.  At the top we did see a mountain coaster, if we would have had our other children we probably would have done this as well, it looked like fun.  

Hero's Slope going up
After going up and down steep hills and almost slipping several times, being cold from the weather and sweating from the physical strain, I was done.  I took a break, nursed my baby, and enjoyed the view.  My husband climbed Hero's Slope, and spent some time just enjoying being someplace he always dreamed about going to.  

Hero's Slope looking down

After going to The Great Wall, we then decided to go to the Ming Tombs.  We went to the underground tomb.  Which is basically a palace that was built underground for the burial of the emperor.  

A replica of the coffins
Outside of the Tomb

A Chinese person dressed up in a costume of  the Emperor's clothes
After the Ming Tombs we went to the Silk Markets.  The Silk Markets is a mall of sorts, many floors of stores where you can find modern name brand clothes, traditional Chinese clothes, red lanterns, parasols, swords, chopsticks, throwing stars, suits, shoes, and of course silk.  Haggling was ridiculous.  The prices that were first told us were about 5 times the amount of the starting price in Nanjing.  It took so much effort to get the same price we got at Confucius's temple, that after an hour we were worn out and I was tired of shopping.

I don't think the Swastika has the same meaning in China
People taking my baby and posing for pictures at the markets
We went to bed early and woke up October 1st ready to get on the metro and go to The Forbidden City.  We did not realize that October 1st was their National day, like the 4th of July in the U.S.A.  Beijing was a crowded city when we went to bed, but when we woke up the city had doubled in people.  They only allow so many people into The Forbidden City on National day, and 1/2 of the tickets sold are sold online, to buy the tickets online you have to be a Chinese citizen.  Fortunately for us my husband's colleague in China bought us our tickets online with his citizen ID.  We got on the metro and the metro did not stop at the stops for The Forbidden City, it passed right by.  I guess the President of China was going to be at Tiananmen Square, roads were closed, the metro station stops were closed, it was crazy.  We got off the metro as soon as we could and actually ended up farther away from The Forbidden City than we had began.  We tried to get a taxi and they yelled at us and drove away, I took that as the Universal, "screw you."  So we started walking.  After 3 hours of trying to get to The Forbidden City, we finally arrived.  It was madness.  So many people!  My husband was worried about losing me, he went to find out how to redeem our online tickets, and a crowd gathered around me and the baby, it was as big as a tour group and although I had not moved, he did indeed lose me.  We finally reunited and entered The Forbidden City.

So many people trying to be our tour guides, we were not in the mood.  We walked right by them!  The Forbidden City was HUGE!  It is indeed a city within a city.  We were told it would take us about 4 hours, I think we stayed for 6.  We enjoyed The Forbidden City, but I was disappointed.  I was expecting a more Westernized version of The Forbidden City.  Rooms that were recreated to look as they did while the Emperor's lived there.  There was a few areas like this, but we were not allowed in these buildings, just allowed to look through the windows.  Even some of these areas were closed, and I think it may be because of the day we were there.  My favorite parts were the throne rooms, the Empress' palace, and the royal gardens.  I thought it was interesting that the building we were allowed in were museums for other things, like pottery, science, astronomy, or clocks.  

One of the alleys

One of the Throne rooms

The rooms the Emperor would occupy after marriage/during honeymoon
My husband was too tall for a lot of doorways

In the royal garden

Just outside of The Forbidden City
We walked back to our hotel, packed, went to bed, woke up early and headed to the airport.  The airport was interesting.  We had to go through several checkpoints, security screenings. When we were checking in we ended up standing at our check in counter and the person helping us disappeared.  In fact there were 2 other service counters next to us where the people who were checking people in disappeared.  I don't know where they went, if they had a lunch break or were changing shifts, they just walked away in the middle of checking us in.  The people standing next to us looked at us, we looked at them, and we all asked each other, "where did they go?"  Our luggage was sitting on the conveyor belt, not yet conveyed and my husband asked, "Are we done?  Do we go to our gate?  Is our luggage going to get on the plane?"  We decided to play it safe and wait till our luggage was safely on its way before we left.  About 5-10 minutes later someone else came and finished checking us in, as well as the other confused passengers.  

The plane ride home was pretty uneventful, but I did notice that in the middle of the flight several of the Chinese passengers were lining up in the back and coming back to their seats with "cup-of-noodles."  I still don't know if they brought their own and just were asking for hot water, or if the airline provided the noodles. But is does give me an idea for a snack food for future flights.   

This is definitely a trip I will never forget!  I am so glad I was able to go and experience so many things.  Beijing was definitely my favorite, if you are going to mainland China and can only choose one city, I would choose Beijing.  
The baby that created quite the stir!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nanjing Continued

On the second day I decided to go to the Tower Gate Castle.  There is a well preserved Castle on the wall of the city.  So I took the metro to the Zhonghua gate stop, and followed the metro line back where we had just come from until I found the wall, and then I walked toward the red lanterns.  It took me about 15 minutes, I had my baby in a Baby Bjorn, which worked so much better than the sling.  I was glad that I had him in a carrier instead of a stroller, because this tourist attraction was not stroller friendly!  I really liked this "castle" there were caves in the structure that now contain various information.  One cave talks about the castle directly, one that talks about Nanjing, one that has legends of frogs?  I think I lost a lot in translation.

This is the view of the castle from the side
This is one of the caves with a museum of sorts inside of it
This is one of the caves built into the castle

This is in one of the courtyards of the castle
This is in one of the caves
There is steps all over the castle, 3 different layers.  I went on a day where there was hardly anyone was there, I actually had to wake up someone to buy some souvenirs.  There were also plenty of places to sit and rest, so by the end of my visit I felt recovered enough to walk back to the Metro station.
This is what the castle would have looked like back in its time

When I got back to my hotel, I took a nap.  When my husband came home we went to Confucius's temple, we took the metro this time, we got off at the Sanshanjie stop.  It was supposed to be a 5 minute walk, East, how is a foreigner supposed to know which way is East?  I needed a compass, we didn't have one, so we asked someone for directions.  It was definitely a longer walk than 5 minutes!  We found it, and we actually found the temple this time!  It was night time, so beautiful, they light up so much of the area, it was picture perfect.  We left the area around 10pm, and some shops had closed, but a surprising amount of places were still open.

This is not the temple, but it is a museum

 While we were shopping, we walked into a store, all I heard was a couple of girls shriek in excitement and then a crowd of girls ran toward me, my husband said, "you distract them with the baby and I will go see if they have anything we want."

 The river right by the temple was so beautiful at night!  I really think the Fuzimiao area is most spectacular at night!  It was so pretty.  We stayed for longer than we should have, it was our last night in Nanjing.  We got back to the hotel around 10:30pm, called for room service and then went to bed.  We were planning on going to other places in Nanjing the next day, but we woke up just in time to pack up our stuff and get a taxi for the airport and we left for Beijing.  Just a side note, Nanjing was the capital of China up until the late 30's when Japan invaded and destroyed a lot of this city.  The Chinese people re-grouped and moved their capital to Beijing.  They do have a memorial for this tragedy, many Chinese people, women and children included were massacred by the Japanese.  I did not go to the memorial and in the tourist information I had it said that if you have children it may be too graphic for them.  Up until I visited Nanjing I had no idea that Beijing has been their capital for less than 100 years.

Also Nanjing is hot, it felt like we were in Phoenix Arizona, only more humid, when packing keep that in mind!  We never saw the sun there, the sky was always gray, like a Seattle, Washington gray sky.  For being so hot, it always looked like it should be cooler.  I did not get sunburned there, even with the hot temperatures, and I was outside a lot without sun screen.  It was a very different climate than I am used to.

Friday, October 7, 2011


The taxi drivers in Shanghai were very safe drivers in comparison to what I experienced in Nanjing!  In one taxi ride the driver crossed the double yellow line and headed into oncoming traffic TWICE, and drove on the sidewalk, not the bike lane, the SIDEWALK, and honked his horn to tell everyone to get out of his way.  These near death experiences scared me so much I investigated how to use public transportation to find my way to the tourist sites.

Your typical taxi they have that plastic between them and their passengers so they don't get mugged.  I personally think it is so you don't take over their driving.

Xuanwu lake Gate
The first day I ventured out to Xuanwu Lake.  I took the metro to XuanwuMen stop on Line 1.  When I got off the Metro (subway) I could see the entrance to the Hunan Road, walking 5 minutes in the opposite direction I came to Xuanwu Lake.  This lake was beautiful, the park was massive.  I should have brought my stroller, but had decided to bring the sling instead, and my baby did pretty good at first and then he got really tired of being in the sling, and I ended up carrying him.  The walk back to the metro seemed a LOT longer than the one to the park.
Geese bushes

At this place I asked a Chinese person to take my photo, and then I ended up in a line getting photos with a bunch of people, I didn't think about taking a picture of the whole thing, because it seemed so surreal to me.

Sun Dial, time is a precious gift
I was trying to get a photo of the red ribbons hanging from the trees
Some people I met at the Lake who wanted my picture so I had them take a picture with me as well.

I was tired after the lake so I took a taxi, I know it was a taxi, but I felt like living on the edge, to Confucius temple.  Which is also called Fuzimiao.  I brought my stroller with me, the driver took me to a road and told me to get out.  I had no idea where I was, but found my way.  It turns out that the Fuzimiao area is HUGE!  And I never did see Confucius' temple that day, I did find it with my husband later, but I did find SHOPPING!  Also this is where crowds really gathered around my baby, I couldn't even push my stroller through.  
This is the first large group of people that gathered around my baby

Parasols hanging upside down
This is the second group, they wouldn't let me walk through the markets.
Fuzimiao is full of these store stalls, haggle away!