Fri 9 Jul 2010 - Tue 20 Jul 2010 30 °C
Toby and I have been travelling in China for 11 days now (side note - world tour has begun! Woohoo!) and we are learning the local customs and trying our best to adjust to their norms. Travel in Beijing was surprisingly easy, perhaps because we have such a large Chinatown in Toronto, or because Toby took an "intro to Mandarin" course which taught him numbers and key phrases. We stayed in a small hutong and during our week there we became accustomed to the winding roads with small shops, restaurants and homes. Beijing had so many sights to see... the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and of course the Great Wall is nearby. We quickly learned that the majority of tourists in China are Chinese, followed by Japanese and Korean. So Western visitors stand out and many curious Chinese asked me to take a picture with them in perfect English. At first I didn't mind; they were polite and friendly and I was happy to oblige. After a while I started to tire of the constant stares and giggles, and the sensitive part of me wondered if they were in fact laughing at me or making fun of my style of dress. When I climbed to the top of the Juyongguan area of the Great Wall, I could only pause for a second before hearing, "We take picture with you?" Red-faced and out of breath I sighed and smiled for the camera.
Other observations about China: there aren't any public benches or chairs anywhere, so the locals effortlessly squat whenever they need a rest. Chinese women take pride in their appearance and wear party dresses and heels even to tackle stairs or cobblestone roads. Chinese toddlers wear pants with holes in the crotch and relieve themselves on the street when needed. Chinese men spit on the street and floor frequently. Chinese men also hike up their shirts under their armpits when they are hot - exposing the many Buddha bellies Chinese couples wear matching shirts instead of holding hands. Chinese tour groups also almost always match something - hats, shirts etc. When it rained in Beijing we noticed that no one had a black umbrella - they were all pastel colours and flowery.
Cities explored so far: Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Xi'an with many day-tours to explore the nearby sights.