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My current trip report about things to know

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My current trip report about things to know

In Beijing now and will fill you guys in on what we have learned so far. This place is much different than I imagined and seemed quite intimidating. When we first got here we were actually wondering what we have gotten ourselves into. But not to worry because here are a few things you may want to be mindful of.

- The language barrier has been the most difficult with locals, but I have found that most places either have a person there that speaks enough English to work with you or that they can understand simple jestures. Every shop seems to understand in English, "How much" and numbers. And a simple, "No thank you" in English is sufficient when not wanting to talk with people trying to sell you things. Also, saying Hello and Thank you in Mandarin seems to help.

- The subway system. Everything is in English and easy to understand. The trains also have an electronic map onboard showing you where the train is at each stop, as well as mentioning the stop in English.

- Be prepared to see parents allowing their children to pee in public. And I mean in front of everyone they will pull their childs pants down and have them pee in a bottle, cup or nearby tree. Also, young children many times have pants on with a slit in their butt area exposing their whole backside.

- A taxi from the airport to your hotel is the best way to get into town. It is very convenient and having your hotel written in Chinese along with a map of where the hotel is located is all you need. Be prepared for the driver to drop you off CLOSE to your hotel (at the street it is on) and not necessarily AT your hotel.

- Cash is king in Beijing. A US credit card (and possibly European) is virtually not accepted anywhere. Even westernized restaurants won't accept them. Only place we found was a shop inside the Summer Palace.

- Our passports were never asked for at any of the sites we visited. Of course you are "supposed" to have it in case you are asked but just food for thought. We have not needed it yet.

- Barter prices when you can. We got two identical nice looking red dragon souvenirs for half the price they originall wanted for only one of them.

- A foreign student ID gets you nothing special here. Only Chinese students get the discounts. We have had to pay full price on all admission fees.

- Hacking and spitting is very common. Also, people seem to be very pushy in lines but they also can be polite about it at times. Also, people are very friendly here. We were walking the wrong way to the Summer Palace this morning and one of the trash collectors pointed us to the right direction without us even asking. We also had a person help us find our hotel without asking him.

- Men tend to hike their shirts over their bellies at times while walking around. Not sure why though yet. And it is common to find women walking around in their PJs in the morning going to the public bathroom.

- Also, the sewer smell wrecks even in store shops. Just be mindful of sewer drains as the wind will blow the smell right to your nose.

Again, these are just a few observations that you may want to be mindful of. Beijing is a great place to visit with a ton of walking around each site and great, helpful people. It may seem intimidating at first but give it a day or so and you will feel very comfortable getting around.

Edited: 17 September 2011, 14:50
New York City, New...
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1. Re: My current trip report about things to know

Hi Jdanh! My credit card did complain to me that the debit card saw more use that he did! I actually got to use it in a pizza hut restaurant in xian. Awaiting your further report!

Manila, Philippines
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2. Re: My current trip report about things to know

And it is common to find women walking around in their PJs in the morning going to the public bathroom.

------They probably live in houses that don't have sewage/drainage which is common for the hutong houses. I always wondered why there were so many public restrooms in residential areas.

Welcome to China. It's really a culture shock for those coming from the western world. If for Asians it's already different, what more for you guys.

Mainland Chinese aren't used to credit cards. They still haven't accepted the 'credit card phenomena'. They are the exact opposite of Americans where everything is paid using a credit card. I was able to talk to a local about this. He said they didn't want to spend money they still don't have. It's more of a spending (and investments) philosophy.

As for the PJs with open slits, it makes taking a dump easier for the kids. Yes the kids urinate in public A LOT.

Edited: 17 September 2011, 15:20
Sherbrooke, Canada
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3. Re: My current trip report about things to know

About the credit cards, it depends where you go. Most western restaurants accept it but still, cash is king.

When you see people in their pj going to public restroom it is simply that in most hutong, people do not have a bathroom at home.

The taxi should drop you at your hotel not on the street unless it is hard to access.

Manila, Philippines
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4. Re: My current trip report about things to know

@JPDem

Do you agree about the sewer smell being the smell of Beijing? I always wondered what it was. LOL.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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5. Re: My current trip report about things to know

Don't know. I never really notice it. Maybe i am used to it or live in a more modern part of town.

Beijing, China
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6. Re: My current trip report about things to know

LOL, Men tend to hike their shirts over their bellies at times because they are hot but tend to still keep to be polite. Its common in China.

San Francisco
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7. Re: My current trip report about things to know

VISA reported visa card charges in China in the past 5 years at US$20.8 billion, US$4.7 billion charges in China in 2010, 23% growth, Americans charged $741 million, Japanese chraged US$615 million, followed by HKG tourists. Chinese VISA card holders charged US$3.6 billion outside China, No.1 location is USA with $1.1 billion, $283 million in HKG, $229 million in Canada.

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8. Re: My current trip report about things to know

It's not just investment philosophy. It's easier to avoid paying taxes when things are paid in cash.

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9. Re: My current trip report about things to know

Locals standard suggestion is counter offer 10% of whatever asking prices. However, for us, it does not always work and can be counter-productive to kill the deal on the spot. 10% counter has worked for me a few times, generally I used it on things I was not too anxious to buy, worked on a 2' tall budha on a horse and a big 20'x4' Chinese painting and a few other things. For me counter offers are generally 20%-30%, final prices below 50% but usually much lower.

A few times I bought somethings at 20-50% prices, only to walk 2 minutes futher to find same item asking/posted price lower than prices I paid.

Don't take it too seriously, always remember on their best day, they make less money than you do in one hour. Don't get angry at the sellers in shops or on the streets, they are only working hard to make a meager living, their best month income is less than what a street begger or welfare recipients get at your home country. If only we can make welfare recipients to work as hard these sellers, imagine what our economies can be.

So if you paid a little too much or someone cheated you a few dollars, forget it and move on. The poorest foreign students have more money than 99% of the people they encounter in China, seem reasonable not to extend student discounts to foreign students.

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10. Re: My current trip report about things to know

A few more things I have found:

- These sites take a long time to view. You can do the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City in one day but not much else. Also, it took us 7 hours to walk around the Summer Palace. Since we spent so much time there we were not able to hit the Lama Temple afterwards. If you can, have an extra day in Beijing where you don't have much planned. So if you miss something in one day you can still hit it later.

- Have your money out ready to buy your tickets before you get up to the window. I went searching for my money in my pocket and there were 2 people almost pushing me away from the window to pay for their ticket.

- Lastly, the schoolbus is a great way to get to the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall. It cost only 120 Yuan per person round trip and open only on Saturdays or Sundays. You meet them at Kapinski Hotel (not far from the subway station) and they take you straight there at 9am and return at 6pm. They took us in a Mercedes Benz Van but apparently it is not every week that they have a van.

Edited: 17 September 2011, 23:39