10 things I learned in China

The purpose of this article is not to offend anybody but to share what I learnt as a Chinese from the Chinese. I’m just expressing my thoughts.

A little bit of background introduction, I’m Malaysian Chinese. My grand parent and parent were born and raised in Malaysia. My descendant (great grand parent) were from China, Teochew province. That’s all I know about the history of my family. My family speak Hokkien (Fujian) to each other but speak Mandarin to me. In short I’m Chinese as race (that speak and write Chinese). I’m a true Malaysian anyway… (also read & write Bahasa and English)

This is my second time to China (The first time is to ShenZhen from Hong Kong). The main purpose of the visit is to import some goods from Yiwu. We stay in China for 14 days, visited Shanghai, Wuzhen, Hangzhou and Yiwu. Here’s what I learned:

1. CHINA IS BIGGER THAN I THINK

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One of the day (In Shanghai) we got so tired and lazy after dinner, we get on the taxi for 2km ride back to hotel. The driver asked “why don’t we walk? It is so near…” I have to explain to the driver that I’m tired of walking the whole day.

Do you know? Back in Kuala Lumpur (KL), I will drive the car out wherever the distance is more than a KM. I will also find the nearest parking spot to the destination (Mainly because I’m lazy and also to avoid snatch thief).

Ok, I have studied the map on Google and I know China is big but I have never understand how big the country is until I set foot there. 读万卷书,行万里路 (Read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles.) It helps understand better of what I learn. The country is gigantic! The layers of highways are at least 8-storey building high, some with 4 lanes. From one building to another requires a lot of walk… China is really big alright!

2. THEY ONLY SPEAK CHINESE 

I mean duh… of course they are! They are Chinese :p All the signboards, train stations, signage, bills… are in Mandarin.

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I wonder how those westerner survived China… Especially those who work in sub-urban or rural area… Solute! So, I think you must learn Chinese in order to survive. When we are in Yiwu market, all the order forms and products description are in Chinese. It does give some confusion if you do not read Chinese. Some new generation Chinese in China can speak and write perfect English eg. the agent we met in Yiwu. She is the only person we met that speak and write perfect English through out the whole trip.

3. FOOD IS GENERALLY OILY 

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All kinds of cooking are with extra oil (similar to my Myanmar experience). Peanut oil, pork oil, vegetable oil… Is the cooking oil that cheap in China? Well, I love the taste in general but it will be perfect if it is less oily. May be reduce 50% of the oil. Above photo is ChongQing Style Steamboat 重庆火锅, our first dinner in Yiwu.

4. HOTEL IS CHEAPER AND BETTER THAN I THINK 

In general, the rooms are bigger, cheaper and nicer comparing to Malaysia (not Thailand). Thailand still has the best hotel deal (in general). One of the nicest hotel we have stayed was Millennium Resort in Hangzhou. 5 stars hotel (RM420/night)

The price is equal to a Chalet we have stayed in Boracay (peak season) as shown below. Boracay Beach Chalets.

The rest of the nights in Yiwu (RM150/night) Yimei Plaza Hotel 伊美广场酒店

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and Shanghai (RM250/night) Astor House Hotel 浦江饭店

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5. TAXI DRIVER ARE RUDE AND IMPATIENT

8 out of 10 taxi driver we met are rude and impatient. Other than train and bicycle, Taxi is our main transportation in China.

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First encounter in air port (first time ever take a taxi in China), there are a lot of nice polite guy who speak perfect English will come approach you and offer to take you to hotel. We stop by and listen to what he says also ask for the price. He says RMB 600 only as it is mid night. He also says that at this hour there are a lot of people waiting at the queue and no taxi would take the job. We walk away with stunt face as it is way too expensive to even response! He shouted “RMB 300” ok give you half price and we change to a normal car no limousine… Both of us are speechless. Did he thinks that both of us are stupid and do we need a limo? We continue to walk away and follow the crowd downstair. Yes he is right, there are no taxi at all and long queue… but after 1 minute all the taxi come together… We got on the taxi after 10 minutes and arrive at hotel safely for RMB180.

Second incident in Yiwu, we got on the taxi and when half way to the destination the driver says out loud “You need to pay me RMB 30 for the ride”… Me and Danny look at each other, stone for awhile… He did on the meter, he also keep stoping, trying to take another customer. It’s not that we can’t afford RMB 30 for a ride (normally cost RMB 20 ish) If you give a great service may be i will tip you. However we didn’t voice out… We are just being nice, polite and may be it’s ok to let him earn a little bit more… but I don’t like to being treated that way… We could have voice out and refuse to pay the ride but we didn’t…

Third incident in Hangzhou, we got on the taxi, greeted the drive “你好” then I ask in Mandarin if he uses the meter (the meter is not on). He got angry and scolded us asking what kind of question I’m asking? Then he mumbled in mandarin something like “of course I use the meter…” Agitated, he on the meter. The whole journey from hotel to train station no body speaks in the car. We just pay him whatever is shown on meter. I was thinking may be I asked the right question

6. THE BUND SHANGHAI – POPULAR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION

The above photo is courtesy of Carey Management Philanthropy Photos

A lot of Chinese couple are getting their pre-wedding photograph shot at this location. Most of them either dress in White or Red and will have arguably the most beautiful skyline in China that features The Oriental Pearl Tower as backdrop. I must admit that the skyline is incredibly beautiful especially during the sunset time. You don’t see the grey sky during this hour but bluish sky with all the beautiful neon lightings.

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7. LAUNDRY COST A BOMB 

We paid for a stupid mistake in HangZhou, China. Laundry service cost RMB1200 (approx RM630). We were assuming the charges is by kg but actually it was count by piece. A friend in China told that the price we paid is enough to buy 2 new washing machines in China. What to do?! Price paid and lesson learned.

One of our friend in KL even laughed that this is the first time he ever heard that people thinks the hotel laundry is count by KG. Well, yes we did assume that it was count in KG like all the hotels we have stayed during the 3 months travel. Probably we are not use to 5 stars hotel. Most of the time during our travel we were staying at great cheap hostel and guesthouse with 5 stars service. Now we know that the laundry service in hotel can be a way to slaughter the rich and not rich but careless dump head like us.

On the other hand, here’s my precious laundry tips to other travellers to China: You can find those self-service laundry shops in town. You just need know where to find them. Ask.

On the side note: If I ever have my own hotel I’m gonna give free laundry service for first time guest. Probably I will go bankrupt doing the business or not but very successful.

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Never assume and clarified the cost of everything in China. Some with hidden cost.

8. DIFFICULT FOR FOREIGNER TO GET TRAIN TICKETS 

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Ever since the Kunming attack at the train station, buying the train tickets has been difficult especially for foreigner. Each of the tickets sold must be registered with ID. For locals they uses their ID and foreigner have to proof their passport. I don’t think you can get any travel agency or hotel company to help buy the tickets as we have tried with the 5 stars hotel (Millennium Resort in Hangzhou).

The tickets are sold online on the official website in mandarin (铁路客户服务中心 www.12306.cn) but you need to register (if not wrong you got to be citizen to be able to register) and have China online payment system. However you can check the time and numbers of tickets left to plan your schedule ahead and avoid long wait at the train station.

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The first time we ever bought the ticket was in Shanghai Hongqiao Train Station. All the counter info is in mandarin. We have no idea the tickets could be selling so fast (It’s like queuing to get movie tickets for the time you want)! While we were queuing, we heard the selling counter saying sorry that tickets sold out.. sorry finished… We were praying so hard “please please please I don’t want to spend a night at this train station…” Finally my turn… Tickets to Yiwu for two please? Yes available…. We gave our passport and she key in to the system and printed the tickets.

Another incident in Yiwu. We were buying the ticket to Hangzhou. The time we want was sold out and the next available train to Hangzhou is next day! The counter girl suggest that we go Hangzhou Dong (East) Station. Since it is in Hangzhou we confirm the tickets immediately. After getting off the queue, we check the Baidu Map for the distance. The taxi ride from Hangzhou Dong Station to hotel is approx. 25 minutes. Not that bad! Then, we found out that the tickets are with “K” numbering. Which means “Kuan Che 快车” It’s not the fastest train that we want! We could have arrived another few more hours later or at night. We quickly queue again at the “ticket return and changing counter”. Then I find out the train we want is with “D” numbering and it’s called “Dong Che 动车”. Well, the sitting tickets are sold out only free standing left!

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No choice, we have to take it. Luckily the journey is only 1 hour (Dong Che is really faster).

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So one hour standing on the train all the way from Yiwu to Hangzhou East. We made it.

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9. EVERYTHING RELATED TO GOOGLE ARE SUSPENDED. NO FACEBOOK. 

For a Malaysian like me to stop using Facebook for 14 days it’s like stop going to toilet for 14 days. It’s almost impossible. I need to get daily update from the people I love and update them about my journey. My friend suggested me to install VPN app and I did. With this VPN (Virture Private Network) I can access to any website or application that is block. It’s secure connection like WAN for protecting personal identity and location. With VPN I’m able to access Facebook, Google Map and Gmail too… The first 300MB data is free and after that it’s USD1.99 per GB

10. BAIDU MAP 百度地图 IS VERY USEFUL 

Other than Google Map, you gotta have Baidu Map if you’re in China. We uses Baidu map to find what’s the nearby attraction, great food, bars and restaurants, public transportation, taxi cost from point A to B, how long it takes. The food recommendation is very useful too. Everything is in mandarin.

I’m here trying to tell what I think and learned. Hopefully no body is offended.

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5 responses to “10 things I learned in China

  1. Just came back from China and I agree with everything you said! I’m a Westerner but I do speak (and read, write) Mandarin (no, really) and this was my 6th trip to China, so I’m familiar with the country. Also visited Malaysia a few years ago and I loved it 🙂

    Doing the laundry was a challenge, Laundromat are not easy to find (you usually end up looking for the guy who has a 洗衣服 service at the back of a hutong :lol:). We almost made the dry-cleaning service mistake!

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