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