My self-imposed last night in China is upon me, as tomorrow morning I will be boarding a bus bound for Luang Nam Tha in Laos (which will be an odd feat of de ja vu, as I spent several days in Luang Nam Tha 3.5 years ago). I’ve been meaning to make this short hop for the past two days but I’ve been grounded by a stomach ailment. But come hell or high water, I will be in Laos tomorrow evening.
So what more fitting to write about than a wrap-up of my experience in China. You’ll notice that the title of this post includes “Part I,” and that is because I will be returning here in about a month! I’ve retooled my travel plans so that I will fly here (well not here exactly, but to Chengdu in Sichuan province) after my time in Bhutan via Kuala Lumpur, where I’ll spend a couple of nights (thanks to Air Asia’s segment per segment booking). I’ll also likely be leaving from Shanghai in the process, but that’s still up in the air.
What to say about China… Well, obviously I like it enough to use the second entry on my visa in a timely fashion. It’s quite a departure from its neighbors in Southeast Asia, which is rather nice. And its also one of the most historically significant countries in the world, one of which I’d love to experience more of.
Of course it has its annoying ticks. If smoking really bugs you, then don’t bother coming here, as seemingly everyone is a chain smoker. There is no such thing as a non-smoking section in that restaurant or even non-smoking hotel room in cheap accommodation. Smoking is perfectly okay indoors…live with it.
I don’t mind the smoking as much as I do the other exceptionally annoying habit here…spitting. Chinese just love to hock-a-loogie anywhere and everywhere. If you hear that sound of someone revving up, stand back!
But these things aside, Chinese are amazingly kind people. Folks here seemed far less inclined to rip you off than in some Southeast Asian countries, which may have to do with the fact that their domestic tourism market is so huge that foreign tourism doesn’t play such a big role (as such, English is considerably less widely spoken) and outside of the big cities, many seem rather surprised and bewildered to see westerners (and yes, people will stare on occasion…)
I’ve discovered locals who are amazingly friendly and happy to engage, despite the language barrier (like my Chinese lessons on the train). People are excited that you want to learn about their culture and one of the most frequently asked questions asked of me in Chinese is “where are you from?,” which I’ve f0rtunately learned the answer to (“Mey-gwo”). It’s rather surprising, especially considering what the older generation has lived through, particularly with being taught to trust nobody! This simply reinforces the fact that one cannot judge a people by their government, especially when you have 1.3 billion of them!
Say what you want about the Chinese government. But I didn’t come here to pay homage to a government…I came to experience the people and the culture, which I feel I have gotten a nice little taste of.
And so I move on to another country…a new currency (ok 1 official and 2 unofficial, as the US Dollar and Thai Baht bear more significance in Laos than their own Kip) and a new language. When we hit the border tomorrow and I get that Lao Visa stamped into my passport (which is now dwindling on available visa pages!) I trade my “Ni Hao” for “Sa Bai Di.”
But fear not. I’ll be back in 4 weeks once I get another 4 countries under my belt!