China. You either love or hate it.
That’s what I had been told before I left. I’d been fed horror stories of scams and rudeness, unshakable culture shock and homesickness. And sure, people tried (and luckily failed) to scam me, some people were rude and the culture shock was pretty intense, but that doesn’t define China.
China is a mental country of ups and downs. I was only there for a month, teaching English and travelling but experienced both the best and the worst that the country has to offer. There’s a reason why expats and long-term travellers have coined the phrase ‘Only in China’.
China is a bloggers dream. Weird experiences are an everyday occurrence and after only a month away I gained enough anecdotes to last me a lifetime. Here’s the best of the bunch.
Critter-crunching in Beijing
Take your pick from grilled lizard, crunchy tarantula or roasted snakes. Mmm…
I opted for a crispy stick of scorpion which was surprisingly tasty. Just like having a packet of crisps, kind of.
Head to Donghuamen Night Market or Wangfujing Food Market for some fast food like nothing else you’ve tried before!
The poo-in-bag incident
After being in China for nearly a month, I thought I had been acquainted with all of the… different hygienic practices. From spitting and weeing in the street to the infamous squatting toilets I had learnt to dodge suspicious puddles and gained some fabulous thigh muscles.
But I never, NEVER, expected to witness this.
We were enjoying an amble around the Forbidden City, immersing ourselves in culture, history and politics when our eyes were drawn to a father holding up his son. Over a bag. Surrounded by hundreds of tourists. The child was pooing in the bag. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
Being ‘papped’ in Shanghai
The Chinese love their photos. They make the teenagers of Britain pale in comparison with their selfie addiction and cutesy staged group pics are the norm. (See above picture – I mean, what even is that?!)
Any non-Chinese visitor is met with open mouths and curious stares, even in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai where I’d expected western tourists and businesspeople to be in abundance. Not so.
Even in tourist hot-spots like the Bund, Shanghai locals and Chinese tourists alike descended on me, finding it hilarious when I joined in with peace signs and smiles. Some of them would never have met a white person before – how strange is that in this multi-cultural world?
Keep your eyes peeled for people taking sly snaps of you on the metro or in the street. Rather than being intimidating it’s quite sweet and a major confidence boost!
Find out more about my time in Shanghai here.
Tobogganing down the Great Wall of China
Zipping down the mountainside with one of the wonders of the world fading behind you is oh, so China,
Read more here.
Feeding monkeys at the Zoo
Animal welfare isn’t on the top of the list here it seems. A visit to Zibo Zoo was heartbreaking. Lions in concrete cages, deer with no grass to graze on and monkeys being fed whatever the kids had in their pockets.
Here, the kids were encouraged to choose a stick, pop on a bit of fruit/chocolate/paper and squeeze it through the bars for the monkeys.
Sometimes China can make you really angry.
Getting drunk at a KTV
Why oh why is this not a standard night out in the UK?! Most towns in China are blessed with KTVs and they are a must if you’re heading out here. Hire a private room, order crate-loads of beer, maybe a fruit platter or two, and sing along to your favourite tunes until you’re hoarse.
It’s probably best to go with a Chinese speaking friend/guide or at least make sure you are going to a reputable joint. Sometimes a dodgy KTV can offer you prostitutes alongside your fruit platters and that’s not something I’d like on the menu.
Watching Saw with 6-year olds
Having an ’18’ rating on a film usually means that it’s not suitable for a class of 6-year olds. Not so in China! I got quite a shock sitting down to what I’d expected to be a cartoon and being greeted by dismembered bodies and splattering blood and guts. The 6 years olds, however, loved it!
Have you been to China? Do you have any weird experiences to share? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!