June 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m on a diet. It’s called the “China enforced diet.” I haven’t actually lost any weight but I have been feeling like absolute crap which I feel like is the more common side effect of diets. The diet consists of going to China, getting intensely painful stomach cramps (due to the unforgivable sin of being female), eating dubious looking Chinese medicine as well as rich foods covered in sauce, and then purging it all out through…let’s just say it’s not number 1 or 2. I may not lose weight through this ordeal but I will certainly look more haggard. Yay for China!
It’s actually quite comical how things have turned out. Before coming to China I was so excited to finally visit Beijing, Xian, and all the other areas that I didn’t have a chance to see during my last time here. Allan, on the other hand, was absolutely dreading the pollution and unsanitary conditions he experienced the last time he was here. However, Allan is now the one who is first in line to visit all the historical monuments while I grumble on about redundancy in our itinerary (seriously, I know these things are old but after four museums in two days everything starts to look the same) and how much squatting toilets suck. This is also the first time I’m traveling in a tour group which, although it has its advantages, made me realize how much I value traveling alone. But before I go into China, let me recap a little about Korea.
Allan and I arrived in Korea on the 12th, exhausted and cranky from the 14 hour flight. Luckily my cousin didn’t abandon us despite the delayed flight and waited at the airport to meet us. We spent the majority of our time visiting a mix of museums, professional gaming events, and of course, great restaurants. Korea was more about meeting up with family and friends and although we packed our days full with things to do, it never felt forced. If we didn’t feel like doing something, we didn’t do it and if we didn’t feel like eating something, we didn’t eat it. And although I did feel more pressure acting as Allan’s tour guide, I had so much fun just being in Korea and soaking everything in.
China is quite different. First, the degradation of my Mandarin from when I visited two years ago to now really frustrates me. Actually, it’s not so much the act itself but more so that I cannot express myself and therefore cannot communicate at times. Even if the Chinese person can speak English, there are still language barriers so many times my questions or concerns remain unanswered. For example, today I needed toilet paper but when I rang the hotel operator, they had to transfer me four times before someone who understood English could transfer me to housekeeping (but yes, I did finally get that roll of tp). It’s my fault for not knowing how to say toilet paper in Mandarin but considering this is supposed to be a five star hotel (albeit by Chinese standards), you would think that they would be able to help me without making me feel like I’m calling Bank of America customer service (sorry BoA but that’s what you get for outsourcing all your customer service and not bothering to train them).
However, I do have to say that the hotels I am staying at in China are the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. I don’t really stay in hotels to begin with but still, I’m sure these hotels would cost three times as much in San Francisco or New York. The nice things about tours is that transportation and lodging is all taken care of. But that also means that the itinerary and meals are also pre-planned. Pros and cons. Overall it’s the people who make the experience for you. Allan’s family except for his oldest brother is here so it is fun to hang out with them but because we’re usually just listening to the tour guide explain the story behind the next palace or artifact, I can’t say that we’ve really had that much time to hang out. There are also a few others on the tour so in order to make sure that they don’t feel left out, I try to sit next to them during meals and include them in the conversations. The food hasn’t really impressed me yet but it could also just be because I haven’t had much of an appetite lately. I was able to visit the Great Wall in Beijing, which I wasn’t able to go all the way up because of stomach cramps :[ , and see the Terracotta soldiers in Xian but again, it’s hard to enjoy things when your body is rebelling against you and the only thing you can think about is how to strategically plan out your toilets for the day so that you never have to squat.
The history is admittedly amazing and varied and I wish that I had studied up more on these places before I came so I could fully appreciate the significance. However, I am glad I came because I don’t know when I would have had an opportunity to visit all these places and navigate China without a tour guide. Of all the places I’ve been to, I’ve definitely seen the most tourists in China. But that could also be because I’m on a tour in China and all the tourists go to the same places.
Anyway, I feel like I’m not doing Korea or China any justice writing about them while I’m indisposed so I will try to update when I’m not the toilet’s best friend. Until then.