Yes I'm back from China and lived to tell the tale! Exaggerating, sort of. It's been a good twelve or so years since I last went to China on holiday and with that I've decided to share some tips and hacks to surviving one week in (rural-ish) China.
Disclaimer: I'm sure these tips might not apply to the more developed parts of China – Big cities like Shanghai or Beijing – But if you're headed to the more rural areas (in my case, 江西/武汉) then you might as well play safe, yes?
Yup we all survived China 😂
7 Hacks to Surviving One Week in China 🇨🇳
Tip 1. Bring your own toilet roll everywhere you go
For all you OCD, clean Singaporeans who balk at the sight of an unflushed toilet bowl, please be prepared for the worst in China – On a scale of 1 to 5, here's what to expect 😂
1. VERY VERY CLEAN TOILET SQUAT OR BOWL. YAS TOILET PAPER, YAS DOOR LOCKS. YAS THERE IS EVEN HAND WASH! 10/10 WIN
2. Relatively clean toilet bowl. YAY, the toilet flushes which means you don't need to go out to grab a pail of water to do a manual flush. And wow the door locks too!
3. Yikes. Toilet flush doesn't work. No toilet paper too. But it's ok. At least it's kind of clean….?
4. Freaking shit (no pun intended) the door doesn't lock. Call a friend or sister for help to stand guard while you do your business. Squat toilet is dirty, but well you don't have to plant your ass on it, you'll make do. Thank god for your own toilet paper roll.
5. NO FRIGGIN DOOR. NO WORKING FLUSH. PILE OF SHIT (OF THE LAOSAI VARIETY) SITTING IN THE TOILET BOWL & STINKING THE HELL OUTTA THE TOILET. Unless desperate, if not I'll hold my pee and deal with a full bladder until I get to the next toilet stop.
Moral of the story: Just bring your own toilet paper roll cos you'll need it 9/10 times. Trust me.
PS. You can usually "steal" the toilet roll from your hotel room. Might as well, right *shrugs*
Tip 2. Getting past The Great Firewall Of China
If you didn't know – the Great Firewall of China is very real and it blocks off all your favourite apps, namely Facebook and Instagram!
There are a few ways around the Great Firewall and I'll list some so you guys have options.
1. Get a VPN-equipped Wifi Device like the one from Happi.Fi 🙌🏻 With this device, you automatically get to bypass the Great Firewall and stay connected 24/7, no fuss at all! It also connects up to five devices, which is awesome.
👆🏻 Look for them on IG!
Quote "PMYINA" for 20% off your wifi rental! Oh, the wifi device they provided me only offers 3GB of data (so this depends on whether you're a heavy user. 3GB might not be enough!)
2. Stay on your Singapore network and get Data Roaming 🌟 We were able to access all blocked websites and apps via data roaming! M1 has a Data Passport option that allows you to use your existing data package to Data Roam for only $25 a month (China)
3. Download VPN apps to bypass the Great Firewall even when you're on Chinese wifi networks!
I downloaded an app called ExpressVPN which costs $12.95 (?) for one month's use. It worked to bypass the Great Firewall when I was on local Chinese wifi networks! Pretty useful.
Tip 3. Don't rely on your credit cards
We are so used to paying with our credit cards no matter where we go – I love using my Citibank Premiere Miles cos can chalk up more miles overseas!
Unfortunately in China, foreign CCs are generally useless and widely unaccepted by most shops and restaurants – The only place we managed to successfully swipe a CC was in a huge supermarket in the basement of a big shopping center.
Every other shop was unable to process our CCs and it was so bad that we ended up borrowing RMB from our Chinese tour guide first LOL 沦落到那么可悲的地步!
The Chinese are actually VERY technologically advanced – Everyone uses 微信 (WeChat) and you can pay with your 微博 account that is directly linked to your bank account. We foreigners however, have to stick to cold, hard cash.
Tip 4. Bring all the stomach medication you think you might ever need
Thank goodness I wasn't victim to food poisoning/diarrhoea, but YZ was! He spent a lot of time inside those toilets I mentioned earlier from Day 4 onwards and it wasn't a pleasant experience.
The food we were served was generally oilier and heavier than what we're used to even in Singapore, so some delicate stomachs might not take so well to the diet over there. Added to that, I wouldn't bet any of my RMB on the level of hygiene so…..
All the Po Chai pills, charcoal pills, diarrhoea medication, standby! Better be safe than sorry.
Oh and while we're on this point, exercise great caution when deciding whether or not to consume street food! Even our local tour guide advised us against eating street food. Though if you do see a lot of locals eating from that particular stall and it looks to be clean/food seems fresh then go ahead at your own risk.
Tip 5. Watch where you tread
Let me recount an incident that happened right before my very eyes.
Our tour coach was parked in front of the hotel front lobby, and I'd just boarded the coach and taken my seat next to the coach window, waiting for the rest of my tour group members to get on.
There was a young boy (around 2 or 3 years old?) playing and running around the hotel entrance while his parent/guardian stood by one side – I assume they might have been waiting for something or someone.
Without any prior warning, said young boy suddenly squatted down on the ground: His pants conveniently gaped open to reveal a slit where his privates were and a puddle of urine started forming under him – This was right in front of the hotel lobby entrance 😱😱😱😱
I watched in horror while a few guests unknowingly stepped on the urine or wheeled their luggage through it while I gesticulated madly for my family members to avoid stepping into the puddle of urine wtf.
In case you're wondering, these sort of pants seem very popular in China for young toddlers – There's a slit at their butt and in front so that they can relieve themselves conveniently whenever and wherever they want to???!!!!
Even at the front entrance of a rather grand-looking hotel, and by the way, toddler and guardian vanished without a sound after the act – They didn't care to clean it up (of course not) or even inform any hotel staff to clean it up as well.
Pee doesn't sound so bad but those pants do also have a slit behind as well so I'm pretty sure you might just accidentally step on poop as well if you aren't careful… 💩
This is what it looks like, guys. Don't say I didn't warn ya
@pennypockets just reminded me of another incident I saw on 庐山 when a little girl threw up on the road (meant for cars and buses) right outside her family's car – It was pretty gross because after the little girl vomited on the road, her family passed her some tissue paper to clean up; once she was done, the soiled tissue was strewn onto the road as well before the car drove off, leaving the entire mess there! 🤢
Tip 6. Don't be shy – Assimilate into the culture if need be
If queueing is considered the quintessential Singaporean hobby, then consider it the anti-hobby in China – No one freaking stands in queue in China, especially if you're dealing with lesser educated Chinese from smaller cities and villages.
It stands to reason – China has one of the largest populations in the world and ain't nobody got the privilege to let someone else go first when it doesn't do you any good.
That being said though, BOY was it annoying when we experienced it first-hand!
Us good, law-abiding Singaporeans were told to wait in line at a bus stop within one of the attractions we visited – A huge geopark with multiple stops and sightseeing points where visitors were supposed to travel around by mini buses.
Our tour group of 19 pax was waiting patiently for the bus to arrive but once a bus pulled into the bay, a hoard of Chinese visitors pushed and swarmed their way past us onto the bus before us shell-shocked Singaporeans got an opportunity to react 😂😂😂 And this happened three times before we got riled up and decided to stand in a line to block off all the other Chinese visitors and get up the bus ourselves first.
Totally brought out the ah lian in me man, 老娘不好惹的OK!!!
Even our meek-mannered local tour guide got frustrated and when he told off the staff at the bus stop and asked why she wasn't doing anything about it, she simply brushed us off with one sentence: "我也拿他们没办法啊!" – "I can't do anything about it!" which infuriated me even more! 😡
She totally didn't care while three buses full of Chinese visitors pushed and shoved their way in front of our group (who arrived first) wtf WHERE IS THE LAW 🔪🔪🔪
I was super angry ok. Hahaa I also scolded her saying that we had missed THREE freaking buses and then I told everyone to line up in a horizontal line in front of the bus bay so that we could get up first no. matter. what!!!!
🐏🐐🐖🐏🐘🐐🐑 <- Chinese visitors
🐑 🐖 🐑 🐖
🙅🏻♂️👮🏻♀️🙅🏻♂️👮🏻♀️🙅🏻♂️👮🏻♀️🙅🏻♂️👮🏻♀️ <- Our tour group
🚌💨 Bus bay
Not ashamed of doing what needed to be done because god knows how many more buses full of Chinese visitors would have pushed past us if we had just stood and waited there meekly!
In another incident, my dad very nearly got into a fight with a local Chinese man…. 😰 #gangstadad
We had just finished lunch at a restaurant and I think Dad was queuing for the washroom. Dad had quite a bit to drink already because he's a super alcoholic and he's been drinking Chinese 白酒 (white rice wine) at every meal 🙄
I wasn't there when the incident began but according to my dad, he was waiting for his turn outside the washroom when a chinese woman and her 80 plus years old mother went over and wanted to use the washroom first.
As seeing that the mother was very elderly, my dad let the old lady go first, but apparently the woman's husband also wanted to cut the queue to use the washroom, at which my dad took offence at and thus, a loud argument ensued 😰
When we boarded our tour coach to leave the restaurant, the chinese man (husband) was shooting vehement glances at my dad who was already on the coach and gesturing for him to come down while giving my dad the finger 🙄🖕🏻 LOL my dad damn gangsta he gave back the finger with the arm HAHAHA luckily we were almost about to drive off so nothing happened, but my dad was almost ready to get off the bus and get a fight started liao! 😅
My sisters and I also experienced our queues getting cut multiple times, for example while we were waiting for our turn for a cubicle in the washroom – When a cubicle was freed up and it was nearer to the entrance of the washroom than the front of the queue (us) was at, other Chinese nearer to it would conveniently go straight into the free cubicle, disregarding the start of the queue.
Don't expect good customer service either, we ran into downright rude wait staff a couple of times, they are totally unapologetic and have no qualms about retorting rudely to customers – No such thing as "customers are always right" in China.
Which brings me to Point 7….
Tip 7. Keep your expectations low or have no expectations at all
… And you might just be pleasantly surprised at times! 😂😂😂
China is really a beautiful country with a rich culture and history, and some parts of it can be very breath-taking, same with its people – There are really agreeable and pleasant Chinese folks too and it is always a great pleasure to encounter that rarer species.
A picturesque old street that we visited. Love the quaint buildings that really harken back to olden-day China!
My sisters and I celebrating the new year with…. orange emojis to make up for the lack of physical oranges 😂
Lovely view at one of the scenic villages we visited – Under a plum tree in full bloom!
River raft ride at 龙虎山 – The mountains were legit out of a 古装戏 (period drama)
Charming little village streets near 江西
Goh fam with #gangstadad, #ahlianmum, my sisters and YZ!
The dogs were very adorable in China though.
We played with our own fireworks and it was both spectacular and scary!
Before we ascended 三清山 on a really cold day – Unfortunately there was so much fog that it obscured any view that we would have seen, all we saw was 🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫
And on yet another mountain – 庐山!
We saw SOooooo many monkeys on 庐山 and they were so cute! Was worried they would snatch my phone or camera though you know how Singaporean monkeys can get rather aggressive at times 😂
Bonus tip by the hubs:
Or Just Don't Visit China At All 😅
Yup guess who wouldn't be going back to China for a while 😂 Guess he really had it with the food poisoning/diarrhoea and bad experiences 😅
Appreciating Singapore a lot more after my week in China 😂
Any tips or experiences to contribute? 💩
If you've got your own tips or experiences to share, do leave a comment, I would love to read about your experiences too! Hahaha 🌚
Just for laughs…
Goh fam in China 13 years ago VS now. Is it 女大十八变 😂😂😂 BTW when we collected the physical copies of the photos back then I hid all the photos of me from that trip cos I was mortified at how hideously plump and ugly I was 😅