Tea Cere-money Confidence Tricksters
Other have said it, but BEWARE of confidence tricksters in the touristy areas. The three con-artists pictured here introduced themselves as college students that were vacationing in Shanghai as I was sightseeing solo along the waterfront and invited me to tag along for an "authentic Chinese tea ceremony". Cool, what the hell, right? I had read the warnings on VT but thought that there friendliness was genuine.. wrong! We went to a tea ceremony which was pleasant until the bill came and I saw that I had been had. What's more, I was coerced to pay for one of the girls as well. Damn..
Powerpoints in Hotels
I was unclear as to what adaptor to take from Australia, so I took two. The one with 2 round prongs and one with 2 flat prongs. All Hotels we stayed at took the one with 2 round prongs, but not the other one. Also, at our last Hotel in Shanghai, The Metropole, it also had a power point in the room that you could plug Australian plugs straight into, without an adaptor.
So, just do your research, cover all possibilities and you will be ok. Someone here on vt will tell you exactly which adaptor to take to any country in the world!
No "Facebook" in China!
I was quite devastated the first time I got on a pc in China to learn that they have banned Facebook!!! I dont really know why, but a quick warning - that if you are hoping to keep in contact with friends and family via Facebook while holidaying in China - IT AINT HAPPENING!!!
The language barrier can often be a big problem
If you dont speak some or fluent Mandarin, then your holiday in China is indeed going to be an adventure! Ours certainly was, and thats an understatement. Most taxi drivers, shop owners, and even Hotel Staff speak little or no english. But, we seemed to get by with knowing only a few words in Chinese, ordering food from only pictures, and if all else failed, then just by using body language! Most Chinese dont know the meaning of "toilet" so we struggled with that one, trying to actually find a toilet. We learned very near the end of our trip that "WC" sometimes works and the word "pee" sometimes works, and also pretending to rub your hands together sometimes works, as Chinese quite often refer to going to the toilet as washing your hands. When we were at the Great Wall with Alvin, he kept asking us if we wanted to wash our hands, and we kept replying that we were fine, that our hands were clean, then later we worked out he was asking us if we needed to go to the toilet!
I can tell you the few Chinese words we did learn that came in very handy.
xie xie (pronounced she she) meaning thankyou
ni hao (pr. nee how) meaning hello
bu yao (pr. boo yow) meaning dont want
bu yao la (pr. boo yow la) meaning dont want chilli - this one worked great!
duo shao (pr. door shou) meaning how much?
bu (pr. boo) meaning no
far peow (thats how its pronounced) meaning ticket or receipt, this worked both in taxis and an shops.
Chinese toilets are not much fun!
Im sure many people have done warnings about Chinese toilets before, so this will be not unlike the warnings! I will say that the toilets we encountered were not quite as bad as I was expecting, although I will also say that it is an added travel problem to have your periods whilst travelling in China!!!!! (sorry guys - had to be blunt here!)
The majority of toilets we came across were squat toilets, and I guess you kinda get used to them, although I did miss a few times, and its also sometimes difficult to keep the bottom of your pants or skirt from dragging on the floor which is covered in urine!!! We did only come across a few toilets that were so putrid we had to refuse to use them. Oh, and of course about 95% of toilets do NOT have toilet paper, so you always have to have with you little pocket tissues.
This pic is of a typical squat toilet, this one slightly cleaner than most!
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR WESTERNERS - in most public toilets you will usually find one western sit-down toilet, and it will usually be marked with "disabled/wheelchair access" on the door. It was always either the first or last toilet, so remember that when you enter a toilet block, look first for the disabled toilet. Rather funnily, if there was a line-up for the toilets (and there usually was!) the Chinese ladies will usually opt NOT to use the western toilet, but to wait in fact for a chinese squat toilet to become available!!! We found this quite amusing, as we were always waiting for the sit-down toilet to be free!
Taxis in Shanghai
All taxi rides we did in Shanghai were metered and we found them to be quite good drivers (amazingly!) and the prices were very cheap, definitely the easiest way to get around in Shanghai, apart from the subway and walking.
Our worst taxi ride by far was on our way to Guilin airport bound for Shanghai. Tracy was sitting in the front seat, which is not such an intelligent thing to do when you see how crazily they drive! All of a sudden the taxi driver just stops by the side of the road. He gets out and walks over to a big pot of soup, gives it a few stirs then comes back to the car. He then mutters something in Chinese to us and off he goes again. This time he is gone for a good 5 minutes. I told Tracy to beep his horn and she did! Hey, they beep their horns enough, so I figured it was ok for us to beep it! He comes back with a bag of eggs, we presumed this was morning tea! And then, we are on the road again, bound hopefully for the airport.
You see, that is the big disadvantage we have in China when not speaking or reading their language. We get into a taxi, usually with our destination written in Chinese. The driver nods his head and we just presume that he is taking us to our intended destination, when really, he could be taking us absolutely anywhere! When we were in a taxi, bound for somewhere, and we finally saw a road sign in english saying our destination was ahead, we were always like "phew - at least he is going to the right place!"
Taxi drivers never wear seat belts, nor are there seat belts in the back seats. They will always answer their mobile phones at least 10 times during a short trip. They NEVER obey road rules, actually, come to think of it, Im not entirely sure there are any road rules in China! They usually dont speak a word of english and thee taxis are usually pretty filthy dirty. Oh, one taxi driver in Shanghai spoke some english, he just kept repeating "I am a communist - long live Chairman Mao!!!" I was not about to tell him Chairman Mao was dead and the body at his Mausoleum in Beijing is just a wax statue!!! No way, I was not gonna tell him that!
ALWAYS ask your Hotel staff to give you a Hotel card with your destination written in Chinese, and always ask them for a rough idea on the cost to get where you are going, and roughly how long it will take.
Scarcities in China
Even at Hotels, they were stingy in providing toilet paper, mostly only giving us half a roll per day! And most if not all toilets provided toilet paper, so you MUST bring your own, or even better are the small tissue packs, fitting easily into handbags or bumbags.
Also something we found difficult to source was Lipton Black Tea, it took us 4 days to finally track some down! None of the Hotels we stayed at provided it free in the room, so it took us days of searching in Beijing to finally find some to buy. We bought 3 packets and kept it in our room safe, along with our toilet paper, passports and cash!!!
The other thing we found impossible to find at the shops was the liquid hand wash you use, like Dettol or other brands. I did bring 2 small bottles from home, but ran out and couldnt find it anywhere, luckily I also brought some anti-bacterial wipes from home also. So, make sure you take a huge stash of handwash stuff.
Oh, and another thing we found hard to come by (and had to steal them from shops!) was sugar for our cups of tea. We usually went to Starbucks or King Coffee (the chinese equivalent of Starbucks but cheaper) and had a cup of tea or coffee and then stole about 10 sachets of sugar each! Also, something not given in our rooms was teaspoons to stir our cuppas, so had to steal these also, from Starbucks or KFC! So, if you like a cup of tea or coffee in your Hotel room, it might be wise to bring your own sugar, teabags, coffee and teaspoons. The milk we just bought on the street, guessing it was low fat milk and getting it right every time!
THIS ONE IS FOR US GALS - If you are going to have your periods while in China and you use tampons, you MUST bring enough with you as we never once saw them for sale, only pads.
Some Tourist spots in Shanghai Closed
Shanghai is under construction again. This time for the Shanghai Expo. What this means to Shanghai tourists is you cannot get to some sites and many buildings are obscured behind scaffolding while they are being repaired and repainted. I thought I would tell everyone before you go there and are as disappointed as I was. Here is what I found:
You can no longer walk along the Huangpu river waterfront on the Bund, also known as Waitan in Chinese. There is a billboard blocking the view of the work being performed and also blocking the view of the Pudong buildings. I went there on July 3, 2009 to take a picture to match my Shanghai page picture from 15 years ago, but I couldn't get back to the same spot. It is all closed to the public.
The historic old Peace hotel is closed, both North and South wings. The buildings are covered in scaffolding while they get a face lift and nobody is allowed inside the hotel.
Stores are closed and buildings are under repair on older sections of East Nanjing.
Some of the businesses surrounding Yuyan Garden are under repair. Scaffolding is everywhere around the city.
Some roads, especially Yannan road under the central highway are under construction.
I enclosed some pictures I took of the construction by climbing a barrier.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
East Nanjing Road
As this road is the busiest in the city, watch out for pickpockets and such like plus be aware of people trying to sell you fake DVD's, sunglasses and watches. I was approached about a dozen times so you just don't get any peace at all.
Dishonest taxi drivers
When you got off the Mag Lev train, there'll be a lot of taxis waiting.
The dispatch should give you a ticket with approximate fares to various parts of the city. The taxi driver may -- like they did with me -- try to charge you a higher fare with various excuses. (My meter is not working, etc.) Make sure you stick to those rates. If your destination is a hotel, ask them to help as soon as you arrive if the driver is too much of a crook.
From the Mag lev to the North train station area -- it should be around RMB 60-80. Don't overpay and spoil things for others.
Taxi scam at airport
I got off my United flight to Pudong Airport in Terminal 2, went quickly through immigration and customs and emerged into the public area of the terminal looking for the maglev train. Obviously, I was unfamiliar with the airport, and apparently it showed. A nice man in his 40s came up to me and asked if he could help. I told him that I was looking for the maglev train. "Oh," he said, "The train isn't running today. It's under repair." He seemed so sincere that my radar did not tingle even a little. In that case, I said that I would head for the bus departure area, but I wasn't sure which bus to take. He asked me where I needed to go. When I told him, he said that no buses run near there, and I need to take a taxi. Now that didn't ring true to me, but nevertheless I asked him where the taxis are. He said, "I'm a taxi driver. Just follow me." At that point, all alarm bells were ringing loudly in my head, and I said no thanks and walked away. I asked someone else where to find the maglev train, and when I got there, it was running fine and had been all day.
- Business Travel
On Nan Jing Road, between the Bund and the pedestrian area of Nan Jing Road, young couples approaches foreigners. They usually say they are students from Beijing University. They asked you to take a look at their art gallery.
I was approached many times in this area. I always politely said I do not have the time. I have heard they take you to an art gallery where the art is not that good but charge very high prices. This supposes scan has been talked about very often on the internet.
It is up to you if you want to go but be aware.
This does not seem to be as bad as the famous Tea House scam. Young people say they want to practice their English and take you to a Tea House. You get a bill at the end for something like 1000 rbm. About $147 USD.
This scam is even listing as a warning in the US Government travel warnings.
This is a real shame because I like to meet local people when I travel. They make it harder for locals that just want to be friendly.
Please rate this and my other tips when you find them helpful, interesting or you like the photos.
Girls who come up and start talking to you...
...are generally trying to get you to buy them something. A lot of people have posted that pretty girls would approach guys, get them to go to a tea house where they would then get stuck with a big bill. I ran into this twice on Nanjing Road. The first time, I made the mistake of telling the girl I was hungry. She found what looked like a really nice Chinese restaurant and tried hard to get me to go there, but wanting something NOW, I insisted on going to the McDonalds next door. So we went there, I placed my order, then she placed hers. When I saw the total that was twice what I was expecting, I asked why and they told me it was because of her. I said to cancel her order. At that point, the girl turned around and walked away. HA! The second time, as soon as they approached me, I was expecting this. Of course this time, I was a man on a mission, and I didnt have time for them. They tried to help me, but didnt really understand what I needed. Either way they eventually gave up and left. In addition, I ran into tons of people trying to sell stuff. One guy wanted me to go to his art gallery. I went, but only because it was just across the street and I had some time to kill, and I told him beforehand that I wasnt going to buy anything. Nothing bad came of it, so whatever. Just remember that Chinese people who come up and try to start talking to you generally want something from you.
If you have no intention to buy the fruits, do not accept an offer by the peddler to try their fruit. One of my tour mates was given a fruit to try, so she accepted it and ate it. However not finding it sweet, she refused to buy the fruit. The peddler suddenly got nasty and shouted at her saying, "You try already you have to buy!" in Chinese.
So.... only unless you are prepared to buy, then try their fruit by all means. Otherwise, reject their offer to try.
Other than the hotels, I found the service in Shanghai horrendous. Even in MacDonalds, the service counter didn't show any smiles. They looked as if they were tired and fed up taking orders. Yes, I'm sure it's tiring but being MacDonalds, they're not keeping up to the franschise's standard of service! Sad.
Nanjing Road Touts
As a Westerner walking on Nanjing Road you will be continuously approached by locals offering you all types of goods, services and entertainment. I was warned of this by local colleagues prior to my first visit to Shanghai but still surprised by how much of this goes on. There are plenty of reports on travel forums of people being seriously ripped off by accepting these invitations even though some of them seem totally innocent and harmless at the time. SIMPLE ADVICE IS NEVER BUY ANYTHING OR GO ANYWHERE WITH ANYONE WHO APPROACHES YOU IN THIS MANNER. However, no need to avoid Nanjing Road for this reason as those approaching you are not threatening and a firm "no thanks" is enough to get rid of them - also makes for good people watching as the touts go about their "business".