When we landed in China, I didn’t know what to expect.
Our first stop was Beijing and it left me with a bad first impression. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like China right away. The air was so polluted, and for someone like me who loves feeling the sun, I find that the atmosphere in China was really gloomy. On some days, there was so much smog in the air that you could not see the blue sky (in Beijing). It was suffocating!
I looked around and nothing really inspired me. Timon told me that not everywhere in China was like that. The land is so vast and there are so many things to do and to discover. I believed him, and he was right. I learned a lot of things during my 3-week stay and I want to share them with you today!
1. You MUST Try The Street Food
When we were looking for something to eat on our first day, I hesitated to buy anything off the street, thinking that it wasn’t really sanitary. I wanted to go to a restaurant where there’s a lot of people and where the service is good. Timon said that part of experiencing China is to eat at little family restaurants that serve homemade food. For us Canadians, it costs close to nothing. You can have breakfast for $2 CAN and dinner for $5 for two!
I thought about what he said. Living in Canada for so many years has made me somewhat close-minded. There are so many restaurants in Canada that seem proper, yet are so unsanitary. We see almost everyday someone posting on Facebook about a restaurant receiving a fine for not respecting certain regulations. So I tried. For our first dinner in China we ordered two plates of noodles. It was delicious! I loved it! It was better than any Chinese noodles that I’ve tasted in Canada (we were too hungry and didn’t think of taking photos).
My favorite dessert of all time has always been Crème Brûlée. Now I think I have a second favorite. It is called “Tanghulu” and is sold on the streets in many Asian countries. The first time I saw one was in a Taiwanese TV drama. I had always wondered what they were. Then a few years ago, I tried one for the first time in Taiwan and they actually reminded me of those Candied Apples that we have here in Canada (I love the candied apples from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory). I ate a lot of “Tanghulu” in China. They taste so yummy. I enjoy the combination of sweet and sour tastes. And they only cost around $0.75 CAN!
This is how “Tanghulu” looks like (the ones on the left). They are usually made with a fruit called Chinese hawthorne, but as you can see, you can also find them made with other fruits!
Not all street food look yummy though…
No thanks, I prefer roasted chestnuts!
2. You MUST Always Bargain When You Can
Thank God most people can understand my Chinese. Most of them think of Timon and I as locals, until we speak English and/or French to each other. Every time we go shopping and start speaking in English or French, the sales representative always looks at us with a smile and asks where we’re from. When we tell them we’re from Canada, they often say that our Chinese (okay, fine, I admit, Timon’s Chinese is 10 times better than mine) is really good and that they thought we were from the city. I love it when they think we’re locals, because as a tourist I feel like I don’t have a lot of bargaining power. I get the feeling that they think because I’m from a foreign country, I have more money and can therefore afford to pay at least 5 times more than the original price. I can bargain in English, French and Cambodian, but in Chinese? I’m not the greatest. I actually had a lot of trouble and Timon ended up bargaining for me most of the time (Ah, I love my husband!).
Don’t get me wrong, you can still bargain in English. You’d be surprised that a lot of sales representatives can understand English. Simply remember that when they tell you a price (usually they would enter it on a calculator only for you to see) always say “no”. Give them a price that’s much lower than the maximum price you’re willing to pay. They will most likely say “no” as well and offer you a second price that’s much lower than the initial one. If that price is still much greater than the final price you’re prepared to pay, then say “no” again and counteroffer with another price. Usually after 3-4 exchanges, you will both settle down on one price. I’m warining you, this exchange can go on for 30 minutes or even 1 hour! After a trip in China, you’ll become a barganing Queen! (haha)
3. You MUST Always Bring Tissue Paper With You
No long explanation needed. A lot of public toilets in China don’t provide tissue paper. You have to bring your own. Some toilets are quite special. I wasn’t too shocked when I first saw the toilets, because I had already seen those types in Cambodia.
This should give you a good idea of how some of them look like (refer to the first door on your right):
There’s more to say but I’ll keep it for Part 2.
Stay tuned! =)