This is my last post about China! The days are a blur of moving, pausing, watching and always a lot of new.
Of the countries I will visit, China (along with India) felt more daunting. This feeling may have come from the language barrier, U.S. media portrayal of the country and its people, or the massive undertaking required to get my visa. Now, after a small number of weeks in the country, I am an enthusiastic advocate for travel in China.
Safety was a non-issue, a fact that remained true from the first time I posted about this topic. Although the places I visited were popular tourist destinations, they were popular with Chinese people as well as international tourists. Because Chinese people were also touring the same sites, price gouging was not common and hawkers were less active. I think non-Chinese tourists may still be a less common site, likely because of the paperwork for obtaining a visa, so people were incredibly excited, kind, and helpful to me. Seeing the development (shopping malls, goods available) and contrasting this modern reality with the traditional lifestyle, clothes, and foods provided great contrasts. Finally, the sites in China are incredible. The scale of the man-made sites and the variety of nature is stunning.
Yes, there were some moments when it was clear my mindset was different from the mindset of the people around me. At these times I would smile, chuckle to myself, and carry on. Talking to other travelers, we all seem to have had at least a few “Only in China” or “Oh China” moments. I am sure though, the reverse would be true for a Chinese backpacker in the U.S.
I am writing this post from Hanoi, Vietnam. Before reaching Hanoi, I slept one night in an airport and three nights in Hong Kong. The internet connection I have now is less strong so the photos are small. I leave tonight for a three day visit to a more rural area of northern Vietnam (Sapa) with more beautiful rice terraces and lots of hiking. I am looking forward to life outside of the city.