The trip to China was a real eye opener, this is coming from a lowly individual who hasn't traveled the whole world; I still have to go to various continents and many more countries to really make up my mind on the sort of comparisons people like me would love to see. Also not being a great shopper as I am, however I like to buy little bits and pieces for friends and family, and always want a comfortable bed and good clean food. So to me a trip is not complete unless the three components above are met. Others may add other stuff to this list so shall we keep it at that for the time being.
Where does china fit into my categories? Let us see!
We arrived in the morning, not knowing that there are taxis outside, we took a ride with a person standing at the exit gate, who punched 280 on his little calculator! We thought we were smart so snapped 200 at him! He agreed, took us to the hotel and when we reached we asked the concierge if the fare was reasonable! He said that we had paid double. On our way back to the ferry the taxi meter clicked 32! So what we paid on the first day was 6 times more. Lesson one: check and don't be in a hurry, you could save a fortune.
The month of July is usually a month full of rain or monsoon, being Gulfians living in a non-rain country for umpteen years one forgets the little things in life! Yes we were wet and soaked! And that too in one of the most beautiful themes parks we had laid our eyes on. On top of that my shoes even though a sports walking shoes, it was not the most comfortable of shoes in the world. So lesson number 2: invest in an umbrella and a good pair of walking shoes.
I love food, being limited to Halal and non-scavenger, non-slimy sea food, the choice were limited really and forget about diet, the food here is great and authentic, since you are having lesser varieties you will be stuffing yourself with chow mein, chow moon and chow maan (rice and noodles with names that I dreamed up). But one great restaurant on top of a mountain that we went to had anything that we can eat in a fantastic ambiance as well as authenticity. The first time I have Chinese food without the Indian influence that we normally eat in the Gulf. Lesson number 3: check the area for your type of food! A country with 1.3 billion is bound to have something that will suit all tastes.
Remember that you will be walking for a long time as every block has its own style! I feel that every block is a country as more than a million live in each building and if you have been to Abu Dhabi for instance you will know that every block has more than 20 buildings! So you could be walking for miles to see things or buy things! One thing will strike you is the cleanliness; I am sure you all know how Singapore has a law against chewing gum! Well, china must have a law about all rubbish as the roads resemble a corridor in your home, very clean! And are they bragging? No! Very humble people are the Chinese. I think us the tourists are the ones that stain the countries we visit! Few blogs away I compared London to Portugal! Less tourist, cleaner, so the correlation could be detected by researchers in posh universities who have never seen a place but can provide us with astute accuracy statistical formulation about anything and everything in a country including its stock exchange. Lesson number 4: keep your trash in your bag, and threw it in a dust bin.
Buying from malls vs Buying from markets and haggling was another thing I learnt from a country like China. The first day I went shopping I paid far too much for goods that I found later for a fraction of the price in the market. I guess shopping malls are created to lure us into thinking that the stuff is brands, and worth paying the earth for! Even in the markets one should slash the price by half at least, for instance my son paid 320 for an 800 gigs toy covered USB, I bought the same one for 80; I am not good in haggling, but it seems that my son is worse than me, I am sure if my daughter was with us she would have got these USB’s for 40, or maybe three of them for 80. Lesson number 5: haggle like there is no tomorrow.
Take your water with you, as you may not find close by shops that sell water bottles, and you should not drink tap water of course, so lesson number 6: drink lots of water.
The day we were leaving two things happened to us that should never had happened if we planned our trip properly. First we couldn’t get ferry tickets easily, so we had to buy first class tickets, and when we reached the airport, we found that we were placed one in Amman and another in Oman (as the Arabic saying goes), the woman at the counter said that we should have booked our seats earlier if we wanted to be together. Lesson number 7: book your seats and buy your tickets early.
The last thing I wanted to mention is the policy of one child family. It is so strange that a whole country listens to its leaders and never has more than a child? I would love to know what that leader does to ensure a one child family? Would he/she provide contraceptives? Or have a watchman in the bedrooms? Are people in China scared of their leaders? Or is there a fine? Not sure what the answer would be. However the results of this policy are incredible. First the parents and grandparents love the children so much; the children are responsible as they must do well in life, or else they would fail their families, and that is not something to be sneezed at in China, family is everything. Then the family ensures that the there is so much wealth to be inherited by the son or the daughter. And the sons or daughters will be great students as this is expected of them? Maybe at the end of the day it was a wise thing to do (limiting the families to one child), maybe the Arabs should think of this, rather than just thinking of increasing their family size either by marrying more women, or having more children and letting them loose in the streets. Sorry Arabs, it is clear that I don’t like us isn’t it?
My last point is about Splendid china theme park. It is similar to Madoradam, the miniature town in Holland. However this one is far grander than that, it is built in such a way that is breathtaking. The trees, shrubs and waterfalls are everywhere. And all the cultural and ancient places that one would want to see in China are located in this theme park, but in life sizes. The best one is the life size Buddha and all his followers, and the terracotta soldiers. I was kidding my son and told him that these are Yaajuj and Maajuj, the ones covered with boiling iron by Alexander the great. Now that they are out, the whole of china is exposed, to us of course and to all those who want to see a new please.