6 Impressions of Beijing & HongKong

Before continuing “Around the world in 50 days”, we would be honored if you would comment on your own impressions from Beijing and Hong Kong. Either your impressions from the voyage we walked together so far, or from your own travels. To help you get started, we have summarized our own first impressions. But we are always listening to you...

1. Beijing first landing & Intense Heat

A Journey of a 1000 miles begin with a single step... and we have just started walking.

After a long flight, with a slightly nervous entry into this new country, we were immediately struck by the intense heat of the season. It should be noted that Beijing in July is extremely hot, and as it is a city environment, it also gets very dry and dusty. Interestingly, we never saw the sky during our entire stay due to the smog hovering over the city. Dilek & Vedran’s sense of adventure could however not be immobilized by mere weather conditions. We were more excited than we had been in a long time to start our exploring.

2. Beijing Transport is quite Intuitive

Orientation and accessibility in Beijing was not at all as hard as we thought it would be. Most street signs, although written in Chinese characters, often had a Pinyin translation (Chinese to Latin) as well. We were able to walk through pretty much all of southern Beijing without any difficulties (although the heat was a nuisance). The subway system is also very easy to grasp and follow. It is not very big and moves very quickly. Taking buses, however, is a bit trickier as it is hard to understand the names of the stations that the driver calls out. Although back and forward from the airport for only 14 RMB is more than OK in our book.

Best Travel Route, Itinerary, Recomendations: Around the world in 50 days

3. Communication will be an Issue

Communication in Beijing was very tough. Most people do not speak English, and of course we do not speak Mandarin. However, people are very nice and we were always well received. At first we thought we were doing something wrong because everyone kept giving us these strange looks, but it was later explained to us that it had to do with our appearance. Fair skin is a beauty standard in this part of the world. Apparently, we are very attractive. Dilek’s hair especially seemed to catch everyone’s attention.
We also learned not to ask questions at restaurants as it leads to a lot of confusion and stress for the waiters. Even something simple like asking for “water”, and combining it with signs and gestures indicating a faucet, will cause devastation in the restaurant. They will send waiter after waiter to try to decipher what the tourist wants, and they will point to every bit of alcohol, soda, and juice to try to figure out which type of liquid you are asking for. But in the end you will have to consume your food without the water (unless of course there is a picture of a water bottle in the menu). ☺ Today, most people can get through by using a translation app – make sure to have one! Even most of the guides you encounter will use apps for communication.

4. Food to die for, but the Candy will kill you

Delicious food

Dear friend, please make note that we absolutely LOVE the Chinese cuisine. Today, we always look forward to our trips to China as we know that no matter what happens, the food experience is going to be great. On our first visit, however, we had not yet detoxed our body of sugars and other chemically enhanced foods, so the experience was quite different.
We had heard from others who had been in China how difficult it was consuming the food due to its different nature, but we assumed that these were exaggerations. It turned out that they were not. The food was so different in taste and aroma, that we had difficulty processing it. We tried all sorts of restaurants, and left every one of them with a sort of bitter and/or gagging feeling. The exception was of course the amazing Beijing Duck restaurant that we visited with our local friends. That food was out of this world, and so were the more upscale restaurants. Today, after our changed lifestyle, we can highly recommend any type of local food as it is all amazing.

Related Article: #4 The Great Wall of China

We also recommend that you do not purchase any local candy (this comment is valid even in present day). The reason is not only that we discourage sugar, but also because local candy really does taste like freeze dried soap. Imagine, if you can, what a light bar of soap would taste like if you put it in your mouth. Got it? Well, we maintain that this is the closest description we can give of the candy tastes. Any candy we bought, we gave away as gifts. The local children seemed to like it.
Fruits are highly recommended because they taste the same anywhere. If you are from Europe, you can find more exotic fruits that will tickle your taste buds in a delightful way.

5. Negotiate EVERYTHING

Beautiful clothes

Please, by all that is holy, avoid all and any eye contact with local vendors! They will stalk you 50 meters, pull your clothes, and in some cases even physically lift you up and carry you into their stores - kicking and screaming. This is not an exaggeration! It actually happened! Although there was not that much kicking and screaming; more laughing and amusement at the ridiculousness of the situation.
Bargain! Hassle! Negotiate! It is pointless to ask for the price as the sales people put on margins of 90% or more (really). Instead decide what you think is fair to pay and offer the price. Also, never be afraid to counter offer the sales person with a ridiculously low sum. They will act offended, but that is just part of the game. As long as they continue negotiating you know that you are still in the ballpark. Dilek managed to bargain down the price of a hairpin from 100 yen to 5. That should give you an idea of how aggressive the margins are. ☺

6. Tremendous Culture and History

Last, but certainly not least, make sure to enjoy every bit of the rich culture and tremendous history of the country.
China is about the same size of Europe, and consequently has as an equal amount of diversity within one country as a whole continent. So if you get the chance, visit the lesser known places, the rural areas, the mountains, and the rivers. It will feel like stepping into a fantasy world. Your guides will bring you to all of these places in coming adventures. Believe us, dear friend, these places will blow your mind away! We cannot wait!
Whenever you are ready, let us continue with “Around the World in 50 days” - next article.

What are Your impressions of Beijing and Hong Kong? Post in the comments below.

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