Should I visit China?
This is a question that I often get from my friends, colleagues and relatives – The questions leading to this million dollar question were mostly concerns evolving their toilet cleanliness, the food hygiene, the culture and people etc. I decided to blog about this and hopefully to let those who are interested/uninterested in China, to have a glimpse of it and why they should visit China.
I had this question as well during my younger days and I decided I need to see it for myself. It’s hard to know what China is like without actually traveling there. My first visit was Beijing in 2014 while my second visit was Guangzhou in 2016.
The Great Wall of China in Beijing.
Eating expedition in Guangzhou
The recent visit was Shanghai, en route to explore Hangzhou and Suzhou to see another side of China. The conclusion I have is that the cities in China are progressing to be more modern and advanced than many countries, including Singapore, yet it doesn’t lose its culture and traditions.
1. Witness their E-Payment culture via WeChat
It’s interesting to see how everyone in China just operates using WeChat. I’m pretty sure by now that you have heard China uses WeChat as their main mode of communication – payment, messenger app, social network etc. If you don’t have WeChat in China, you will be viewed as an alien… seriously. Everything runs on QR code. Even beggars has their own QR code!
Unfortunately, one would need to stay in China for around 3 months in order to have a valid business account for WeChat (or something equivalent, you may research more) to make payments. Alipay is accepted in China but I can’t seem to get mine to work at all.
Basically we survived on cash though it was inconvenient and the drivers, cashiers, hawkers, restaurants gave us look that we came from caveman era. Lol. Even the train ticket has a QR code for you to scan to know your seat number and details of your ride. I tried to use my WeChat to scan it and it worked.
2. It’s a food paradise
Mala, Xiao Long Baos, Soup bao, Bubble milk tea, Dumplings, Dim Sums, Scallion noodles – you name it, they have it. If you are a true fan of Chinese food, then what are you waiting for?
Their local eateries can be as cheap as getting 12 Xiao Long Baos aka xlb at SGD7. They also have expensive restaurants with fine dining brunch at SGD110 for 2 pax. Either way, you get to experience all things at its finest.
Besides local and authentic eateries, if you find yourself queuing for all the new bubble tea stores in Singapore, then you can find their local brands such as HeyTea, A little bit (一点点), and even Taiwanese bubble tea such as The Alley. For coffee lovers, get to try out their local chain Luckin Coffee, which is their Starbucks equivalent.
One of my fave drink got to be their yogurt drink, which you can find at any convenience stalls. My bae likes their coconut drinks which quench our thirst during our day trips.
3. Accessible and Affordable Transportation
Its transportation are accessible and well connected. For example, it only takes 25 minutes to reach Suzhou from Shanghai via their high speed railway train. To get around, you can either take their metros/taxis/DiDi. Didi is an app which is the same as Grab/Uber/Gojek. A 15-min ride only cost less than 20yuan, which is SGD4. Their normal metro rides cost SGD 0.40-1.00 per ride. But strangely, my Didi never did work so thankfully my bae Didi worked well during our trip. And yes the Drivers accept cash payment. If you are thinking how’s the conditions of their stations, they are surprisingly clean.
Having said that, we had our worst experience in Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station as we made our way to Hangzhou for a day trip. You need to be there really early like gg to check in to catch your flight. The railway station was so packed and crowded and foreigners have to queue in order to redeem your online tickets as we can’t redeem using the automated machines; they only accept their National ID. I have to say my patience was challenged that day haha! But you have to experience the downside to appreciate the upside isn’t it?
4. Experience the Beauty of China
China is huge. You may not know where to start or go. I’ll suggest to start from major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai on a 5-day trip to have a taste or sampling of it. Thereafter, when you are ready, you can plan for day trips or short stays to see another side of China – water towns, UNESCO heritage gardens, west lake and more.
5. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.
Let’s get real – no countries, cities or places are perfect. The major question I always hear is that are their toilets clean? Well, they have modern toilets in shopping Malls, even in water towns etc. But the stench takes the cake. This is because they do not flush the toilet papers down. The used toilet papers are usually tossed in the bin aside. This is because of the older sewage systems and piping. Thus the stench of most toilets in China really gets quite bad.
Yes you may have heard the infamous Squat toilets in China and yup, that’s true. Most of their toilets are squat toilets. The one and only toilet that I’ve visited during my day trip to Suzhou Zhouzhuang was to this touristy shop. They have 12 cubicles and when I opened it, I got the shock of my life.
I stood there for a while and had some self doubt and came out of my cubicle. I observed others and the rest of the tour mates came in and out of the same type of cubicles (there’s only 1 type and I checked while I walked around). But that being said, this was an one off toilet situation.
I’d strongly recommend anyone (especially ladies) to carry at least 2 packets of tissues with you as the toilets usually do not provide toilet papers, needless to say hand towels. I used up an average of 2 packets Everyday during my trip and I began to appreciate most public toilets in Singapore and now I look at toilet papers differently. Lol.
But you should not let toilets deter you from visiting this beautiful country. I believe we have come across bad toilets in our life during travelling. I remembered my worse experience got to be walking into a toilet BAREFOOT in Yangon Shwedagon Temple, using the squat toilet and stepping on muddy waters. Not to mention Long coach rides stopping over for toilet breaks which meant less than desirable conditions.
Toilets aside, if you can’t accept some pet peeves such as people trying to cut queue, then you will find yourself frustrated most of the times. Our recent trip in Shanghai, we have witnessed many uncles flashing their bulging tummies to air them due to the hot and humid weather. You get to see people spitting on the floor, the road, the grass etc. As long as they don’t spit on me, I’m fine HAHA!
Eating at a roadside stall is an unforgettable experience.
After reading all of these, would you still want to visit China? In general, we find China safe and they are most probably too absorbed in their handphone to even bother you. The locals are helpful and polite too, when we asked them for directions. I remembered we walked into some post restaurants and looked at the menu. The waitresses and waiters recommended us some dishes that won’t break the bank as we were put off by the steep prices. They were helpful and never once put up an air or anything.
Bae and I are starting to shortlist the places to visit in China for future trips and bad toilets or not, we are still going to visit China no matter what.