Why My Trip To China Was So Overwhelming

Growing up, my mom told me stories about how she brought me to Guangzhou when I was 3 years old and I was eaten alive by mosquitos. To this day, I still have no recollection of going to China but am scarred from just hearing this story over and over again. My mom had asked me a couple of times if I wanted to go travel to China and I repeatedly said no. I’m very stubborn. It’s not modern enough. It’s dirty everywhere. It’a boring. Those were the presumptions running through my head. Earlier this year, Will asked me if I wanted to go visit Beijing with his family. I pondered on this for a while and the thought was still sitting uneasy in my mind. His family is from Beijing and he still has relatives living there, so it shouldn’t be that bad right? It’ll be easy getting around since his family knows Beijing… Plus Will speaks Mandarin too! Okay. I finally convinced myself that it’s about time I go to China and booked our flights.

The weeks leading up to this trip, I was super excited and did so much research and bookmarked all the places I wanted to go to. When we sat down with Will’s mom to discuss all the different places we wanted to go to, she gasped and explained that we would need more than a week to go to all the placed we wanted to see. I was so bummed, almost to the point I wanted to leave my job so I could stay in China to travel. Will and I always visit multiple cities within a trip, so we agreed to add Chengdu to the itinerary! We love spicy food, especially Sichuan cuisine — we were in for a treat!

Unfortunately the trip planning excitement didn’t carry out throughout the trip. I didn’t feel the same way when the trip ended. In fact, I’ve never felt this way after any of my previous vacations. I was yearning to go back to America. I was exhausted everyday because we had a different activity planned for each day. Don’t get me wrong but it was everything we wanted to do, but we just didn’t expect to be so worn out. There were definitely parts of our trip that we loved and didn’t want to end, ie. food, but nonetheless it was a trip for the books!

The language barrier affected this trip tremendously. Unlike European cities, there was no English anywhere and if I was lost, I was pretty much screwed and stranded. Every sign is written is Chinese and menus are in Chinese, but luckily Chinese people love incorporating images on the menu. That’s honestly the only way we ordered food or we just looked and pointed at what other people had, unless we were going to a specific restaurant for something specific. Occasionally, we encountered rudeness due to the fact that we were foreigners. I could make out some of the words when people speak in Mandarin but I had no clue how to reply in Mandarin. Guess this is what happens when your mom urges you to take Chinese classes and you refuse to go... 

Do you know how big China is? The city itself is massive and I was fooled on Google Maps to believe it was easy to get from Point A to Point B. It was a 3 hour flight between Beijing and Chengdu, but you can also take the bullet train, which is a cheaper option but takes double the time. It was way too hot for us to enjoy walking around Chengdu — I mean we were literally human water balloons while walking through the markets, ready to burst any second. We definitely tried walking between destinations because we wanting to see and experience the culture, but we failed. Things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see were just too far apart! Luckily, there was Didi — China’s version of Uber — and the best part is that it’s in English!

Lastly, China is modernized so quickly that they forgot about the rest of the world. Majority, if not everyone, uses WeChat in China and WeChat Pay. You can consider that to be their form of Apple Pay. After doing a lot of research trying to set ourselves up with an account, we found out we couldn’t use it because we didn’t have a Chinese bank account. Can you tell where this is headed? China is almost a cashless country, which is pretty ironic to me considering how many Chinese-owned shops in New York are cash-only. We figured most places wouldn’t accept credit card so we had carried RMB with us everywhere we went and with our luck, we were stuck multiple times with cab drivers who didn’t carry enough cash with them to give us change. The breaking point was when we were in Chengdu’s International Airport (notice the emphasis on International) and we had to rebook our missed flight… Long story short — they didn’t accept American Credit Cards for payment. I’ve never felt so hopeless in a foreign country before, not even when I lost my phone in Copenhagen…