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Rea View Searching for warmth and calm

Reflections on China

CHINA | Friday, 30 November 2007 | Views [307]

China was much easier to travel in then we excpected, at least in the small southern portion we explored. Transportation tickets were pretty easy and cheap to purchase and schedules strictly adhered to...well, departure times anyway. The trains and buses were fairly clean and the rides usually relatively smooth, and sometimes traditional or pop music or even martial arts videos accompanied the passing glimpses of everyday life and beautiful scenery.

Many Chinese travel within their country, so one has a chance to communicate in some manner with them. Skill with the Mandarin and Cantonese languages would definitely help to break the ice (and to read signs!). Many Chinese wouldn't return a smile or greeting, but all stared openly, watching our every action. The smiles and kind words we did receive were great. We felt large amongst them, with Laura taking a size Large in clothing and Bruce looking like a hefty bodyguard.

Ah, but the toilets. Good knees and balance are needed for squatting, especially on the train. With your own toilet paper in one hand and the other sometimes holding your nose, while carefully watching where your feet and everything else goes, it can be quite a feat. Lijiang had the fanciest toilets - still the squat type but with a pop music video screen at thigh level for one's entertainment! And their entrances were like upscale hotel lobbies, with attendants collecting the small fee. We (especially Laura) coveted the rare rooms which employed the Western sit-downs...

The ever present pollution (except in the mountains), including noise, exhaust, smog and smoke, was difficult to take in at times, and unfortunately obscured many wonderful sights. Of course the Chinese have respiratory problems, and hack and spit their way through the streets.

Tags: Philosophy of travel

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