It was a 8 day trip to Nanjing, China. I started on April 10th and got back on April 19th. It was one enjoyable, hectic trip. Here are some of the interesting things that I experienced in China!
I am basically a coffee enthusiast. Now that I am in China, I thought I will never be able to sip a cup of my favorite drink in the lazy early mornings. However, in a country where Tea is consumed predominantly, I was really surprised to find amazing coffee. During my outbound trip, on Air China, with much speculation, I had my first cup of coffee and immediately I was taken by surprise. I like my coffee strong and that’s how it was! After I reached China, during morning breakfast routines at my hotel, I was able to start my long days with a perfect cappuccino. Mind you, I didnt stop there. When I was going around Nanjing, I found this coffee house called “Costa Coffee” which was in near perfection to the traditional Madras coffee. Later, a Google search suggested that Costa coffee is based out of UK.
I have seen this in India. We never yield to pedestrians :). Living in US for the past few years saw pedestrians differently. Yes, pedestrians are Gods! In China though, I was totally careful not to run over by a Bus/Taxi/Car/Bike etc… People drive really crazy out here. If you are not careful and do not look around when you cross the roads (Even if it is green for you), you are bound to get hit by a vehicle! You can’t really blame the drivers, since the population is so huge that you will keep yielding to people 🙂
I would say, the people here are very hospitable. The hotel employees at the door are very friendly. When getting into and out of the taxis, they keep their hands on the window top so that your head doesn’t hit the window accidentally. I was really pleased to see this amicable behavior. There was one guy in Shanghai train station who literally walked half a mile with me and helped me get onto a bus. There was this Air hostess in Nanjing-Beijing flight that was very much concerned because I did not get any vegetarian food on flight. But wait on; don’t ever ask the general public about an address that you do not know. They don’t entertain you. I had a huge problem in Nanjing when I was trying to find an Indian restaurant (which turned out to be pretty bad), nobody helped me locate the address. I blame it on their English speaking skill which comes next.
English Speaking Skills
They do not use English at all in their day to day life. They learn everything in Chinese. I guess Chinese government has learned the importance of English as a language and they are trying their best to make English a part of their education. They literally run away from you when you speak in English to a by-stander. I had a big problem in explaining to them that I don’t eat meat. Ahhh..here comes the problem with Food which comes next.
As far as the Chinese are concerned, they eat everything that is moving. Period. Being in Bay area, fondly called as Baylapore by my friend, I do not miss Indian food that much. I am open to most of the cuisines as long as they do not have meat in them. Once my trip was confirmed, I was warned that I will not get to eat vegetarian food and that nightmare turned out true. It was really hard to find vegetarian food in China. With the language issues, I could not convey to them that I do not eat meat. However, a nice trick helped me here. I got it written down on a sheet of paper from my Chinese colleague stating that “I do not eat meat”. But, I was able to find a decent Indian restaurant in Nanjing called Taj Mahal restaurant where food was vegetarian, indianized and decent enough. Some of the days, I got the food delivered from this restaurant to my hotel. Funny thing was, the waitresses were dressed in Salwar and they looked cute :). Talking about the looks, here comes the fashion and style next.
Fashionable and Classy
I would say that young Chinese people dress really well. The mid-aged people are fond of suits and most of them wear a light jacket on top of their shirts. The guys and girls in china dress very modern. They literally stores of all the top brands found in US. There are lots of shopping malls, coffee shops with really good ambience etc… I guess they are not lagging behind in this aspect and I would say they are pretty much ahead in dressing sense compared to lot of other countries. This was evident when I visited Shanghai where I was basically running to all places to cover as much as I can
I always wanted to visit Shanghai ever since I watched some footage in some hollywood movie. I was totally taken aback when I saw Shanghai. It was one amazing place in this world with a mix of both traditional and modern China. The government has developed Shanghai in such a way that it can easily compete with the architecture of the western world. Tall structures, well lit buildings at night and it were one spectacular scene at night. I got to see the entire Shanghai from the 88th floor of Jin Mao tower that stands tall among the other buildings in downtown. A special mention goes to the oriental TV tower which looks like a tall pipette with a bigger bulb at the bottom. Flashy lights decorate this tower and the entire stretch (called as Bund) looks just too good. There is always some construction that’s happening here like good old NY. Apart from the crazy taxi drivers, pollution and population, this city should be rated one of the best cities in the world
Temples and Architecture
I visited the Buddha temple in Shanghai and it was totally a different experience. The moment you stepped into the temple, there was this sense of calm, serene feeling that overcame the irritating noise of the busy city outside. I saw a lot of young Buddhist monks praying in the temple (some of them carried mobile phones too!), all in the orange clothing and it looked vibrant. I toured around the temple and was amazed by the kind of architecture the Chinese culture has. I would highly recommend this temple for people visiting Shanghai.
Other Interesting Things
Here in US, you are expected to tip at least 15% when you visit restaurants, however, this is not the case in China. They do not expect anything from the customers and they look confused when you pay them more than what is billed. The same case with the taxi drivers, they just take you from place A to place B and charge really less. The taxi rates in China is so cheap (at least when you convert it to dollars) that you will think of taking a taxi everywhere.
To Sum it UP
To sum it up, I would say this was one of my enjoyable and favorite trips. Not to forget the long days at the office and training the engineers for 5 whole days, I really had a good time. Chinese culture was simply amazing to learn, their tradition and culture, way of life, everything seemed so different. China is a big mix of traditional and contemporary aspects. I am really looking forward to travel to China again and visit The Great Wall this time around.