7. China is as culturally diversified as Europe

If you travel around Europe, you will certainly notice the beautiful differences among its many countries and cultures. In comparison, China is area wise almost the same size as all of Europe and has almost twice the population. Hence, you can imagine the variety of customs and traditions. In order to really experience China, you ought to make time for a longer country wide tour. Right now, our ambition is to make it Around the World in 50 days (we are on day 7), and thus we had to allocate our time in other continents. We have however re-visited China many times over the years and even been stationed there for work. Each district is like a different country, and we have learned something new from every place we had the honor of visiting.


See our Travel Route: Around the World in 50 days

The Ancient Market gives you a glimpse

If you are in Beijing, and would like to get just a glimpse of other Chinese districts, you can visit the Ancient Market. It is a fantastic fun market to visit, a bit outside the city center. People from all around China set up their stands in this gigantic square, to sell merchandise from their own districts. We found the salespeople in this market to be much less aggressive than the ones in Beijing City. There is definitely a difference in attitude once you leave the city, and also when you travel to other parts of the country.

China: One of Top 3 best kitchens in the world. Do you agree?

Dilek enjoying great food

We have not mentioned the cuisine much in this section of our writing . The reason for this is because we had very mixed experiences during our first visit to China. Some of the foods, like the Beijing Duck, was to die for! But others were so revolting that we could not even muster it. Even things like pastries, or candy, tasted like soap. We are not exaggerating when we write this! We seriously questioned whether we had accidentally purchased a bar of soap instead of food. But the locals themselves ate it and even give it to their kids, so…
Even when Dilek was stationed in China we had some bad experiences with the Cajun kitchen, which is extremely hot. We often wondered why Chinese cuisine was described as one of the three major and most influential kitchens in the world. To us, it clearly was not… until our latest trip in 2016 (which will be posted soon). We will write more about this in later blogs, but we believe that the reason why we changed our minds, and absolutely love the Chinese cuisine today is because we have detoxed our bodies from processed sugar. We will post more about our diets and health strategies in our future posts.
That evening, we went to the main shopping center and ventured into a restaurant street, where we had some Hot Pot. Of course we had tried versions of Hot Pot before, but this time we only received a standard package menu in Mandarin and had no idea what we ordered. Once the food came, it not only looked a bit off, but also tasted odd. The only piece of produce we recognized were the small pieces of broccoli which seemed to surface every now and then. We laughed all evening and started imagine what our stomachs would be saying if they could speak: “What is this thing you are putting in me? What’s this? What’s this? Broccoli! What’s this….” To this day, this last sentence is one of our most treasured internal jokes.

Whenever possible, go a bit Off-Route

Vedran in an Asian conical hat

Earlier in the day we had visited the Ancient Market. When the time came to take a taxi back home, we started negotiating with a driver. He added a margin of about 80 RMB to the fair we paid to get to the market. He was relentless and did not want to negotiate. So we decided to walk home. It was a gorgeous day anyway, and there was so much to see.
After about 2-3 hours of walking, we arrive in a neighborhood where there were no tourists at all. It was a rustic area where people were looking at us in amazement; children pointing fingers at the strange people passing by, prices so cheap that we could not believe it: Shoes for less than 10 RMB (good ones), and cafĂ©-like shops that were practically giving away the food. We found a small pastry shop where we purchased a whole batch of buns, cakes and pastries for 3 RMB. The young baker boy was very happy to help us, and noticeably excited to practice a bit of English. He pointed at one specific cake and said “This one is delicious” – and boy was it.
As mentioned earlier, the locals who speak a bit of English enjoyed talking to tourists as it gives them a chance to practice their linguistic skills. But even those that did not speak English were fascinated by us, wanting to take our picture, and even touch us to see if we were real. Dilek’s hair especially seemed to draw a lot of attention. With increasing globalization in recent years however, Beijing has now become more international, and consequently tourists are no longer a novelty. Although, to this day, you will encounter the same curiosity in more rural cities/districts, which we will get to later on in our story.
Find more info in our Shop: Top100Wonders

Accentuation is everything

Trying to remember the correct bus sign

On our way home, we found a high tech mall where Dilek purchased a beautiful pink dress. The dress still fits today and has a special place in her closet. As evening was starting to descend upon us we decided that the time had come to take a taxi. Please remember, dear friend, that GPS services did not exist at the time, and according to our map we should have been back at our hotel long ago. Obviously the map was not drawn to scale, or perhaps we had missed a turn somewhere. So, we hailed a cab and asked him to take us to Beijing Zhan (the central railway station, close to our hotel).
Those of you who have some knowledge about the Mandarin language know that there are four different accentuations on most words. Depending on how you accentuate, the meaning of the word changes. The taxi driver could not for the life of him understand where we wanted to go when we said “Beijing Zhan” [Bay-zjing Zan] in a neutral tone. After several attempts, Dilek figured she should try with different emphasis and said [Baaay (raising tone) Zjing (lower tone) Zan (raise the tone in the last part)], and immediately the taxi driver got it. “Ahhhh Beijing Zhan, yes yes…” and then he started driving.
Of course another reason for the taxi driver’s inability to understand may have been that the railway station was actually just around the corner☺. As mentioned, we did not have GPS nor proper maps, and we had been walking for almost 6 hours without reaching our destination. Turns out that had we walked five minutes more, we would have gotten to our neighborhood☺. But at least we got a funny story out of it.
We always have so much fun during our travels, especially after a long day’s hike when we are too tired to be rational.
Receive a notice of the next adventure by Following: facebook.com/Top100Wonders
Follow & Subscribe on: Newsletter - Instagram - Pinterest - Twitter - YouTube 

Receive a notice when the next adventure is posted by Following: