Expect the Unexpected! BOLT Reviews China

China! One of the most challenging and exhausting countries we’ve visited so far.  It is also one of the most interesting and beautiful. Am I glad we went? Most definitely! Do I want to return anytime soon? Absolutely not! The following are my impressions of China. Kathy will blog about her impressions in an upcoming post.

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Temple of the 8 Immortals, Xian, China

One of the best things for me about our Chinese visit was that my best friend, Lecia, came for part of the trip.  We got to explore Beijing  (The Great Wall and Forbidden Palace) and Xian  (The Terracotta Warriors, a Taoist temple and the Muslim Quarter) with her.  As expected, our time with Lecia was absolutely delightful. We also visted Hangzhou and Guangzhou after Lecia left. All together we spent exactly a month in China.

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Hangzhou Railway Station
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Metro Queue
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Muslim Quarter, Xian
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Forbidden Palace
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Beijing Railway Station

One thing totally unexpected, for me, is how very crowded China is. 1,400 billion people is just a number to me. Experiencing a country with so many people in reality meant crowds and queues everywhere.  The Chinese also have  very different cultural norms around personal space. People get right up against you in lines and I was often pushed, shoved and uncomfortably crowded.

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Bamboo Tree, Guangxio Temple, Guangzhou
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Guangzhou, China
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Hangzhou West Lake
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Hangzhou Railway Station
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View from Xian City Wall
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Liahu Park, Xian, China
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Hangzhou West Lake

An unexpected, but very pleasant aspect of China was how much natural beauty there is.  We expected to see beautiful and historic places, and we did. But we also visted lovely city parks, small temples and just city streets with lovely greenery. This was very nice in cities full of enormous, rather unattractive, skyscrapers.

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Hangzhou Walking Street
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Forbidden Palace, Beijing
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African Merchants in the Guangzhou Airport

I think the thing that made China most exhausting was the fact that there are very few black visitors  there. Everywhere we went we were stopped for pictures. We experienced this is Vietnam as well. However in China were were really stared at, pointed at and at times felt we were being laughed at. I have heard this is not just something black folks experience in China.  All non-Chinese experience it to some degree. Interestingly, Guangzhou has the largest number of African ex-pats  (over 10,000) in all of China. We were rarely asked for pictures there and were pointed and stared at much less.

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Chinese Metro
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I loved seeing all the very fashionable Chinese women.
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Hangzhou Mall
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High Speed Train
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Guangzhou Metro Station

I was pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised by the level of affluence we saw in the cities we visited. We saw none of the abject poverty that friends, who had visited in years past, had prepared me for. The Chinese seem to be doing very well.  This was reflected in higher prices than we have experienced in other parts of Asia. China is definitely the most expensive country we have visited.  This includes food, hotel and transportation costs. Another wonderful, if unexpected, experience was the excellent public transportation in all 4 cities we visited. We went everywhere by bus or subway and despite our non-existent Chinese we never got lost.

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Black Old Lesbians Traveling

We were somewhat prepared for, but still found difficult, communications in China. Facebook, Google, Gmail, You Tube, Instagram  are all blocked in China. I was able to get on by using a VPN, Hide My Ass, however this was very sporadic. We usually have no difficulty buying cell phone service in the countries we visit but found it very difficult to do so in China. This meant relying on the wifi provided by our hotels which was also iffy.  There is virtually no English spoken in most places but charades type sign language and having important things (hotel names, places we wanted to visit) written out in Chinese was very helpful.  

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Kathy at the Great Wall
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Me in Hangzhou

So overall, we are very grateful for our visit to China, for safe travels, new experiences and one more country under the BOLT belt.

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Kwan Yin, Always With Us, Guangzhou, China

Do you have a Chinese experience to share or question to ask?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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3 thoughts on “Expect the Unexpected! BOLT Reviews China

    1. Hey Olivia, no I really wouldn’t recommend the cities we visited to anyone with respiratory issues. I coughed the whole month. The air quality is pretty poor and also people smoke cigarettes everywhere (restaurants, public buildings, etc). I’m vegetarian and wasn’t crazy about the food. The best food, to me, was found in the Muslim quarters (there was one in every city we visited). Guangzhou is the former Canton and there you can find the food most of us grew up calling Chinese. There was really fresh (the fish, etc are still alive) seafood if you like that.

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      1. Marci I want to thank you for this wonderful post. I really got a good flavor for the cities you visited and I would never want to go, thank you very much! Just the smoking alone would do it for me.

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