Sensory Overload in China

Somehow, after only planning a month in China, we ended up spending 6 weeks there. For me, that included a seat at TechCrunch Disrupt; for Fred, visits to the Shaolin Temple – birthplace of kung fu – and the terracotta warriors. Luckily, we also made it to the Great Wall, on a gorgeous day (see below). Some of the highlights from China:

  • The pollution in Beijing really is as bad as they say. On a few days, we awoke to what looked like a heavy covering of fog, but was actually smog. We bought face masks and looked like real tourists.
  • Be on the lookout for stinky tofu, a putrid concoction that many Chinese love. I literally had to refrain from breathing through my nose in much of Old Beijing.
  • Restaurants often offer utensils wrapped in plastic, for a small fee. From what we could tell, dirty ones are shipped back to a cleaning company, which power-washes them to remove any germs and sends them back wrapped up.
  • Chinese food – at least to me – was way too greasy and salty. But I did find the best salmon handrolls I’ve ever had, for just over $1 at Itacho Sushi.
  • KFC, McDonald’s, and Starbucks are ubiquitous.
  • In the street and on public transport, people are extremely pushy and aggressive – if you don’t assert yourself, you’ll get cut in line, trapped in a crowd, or squeezed off a metro car.
  • Domestic plane rides can be a boisterous social experience, with passengers jabbering, sharing food, and selling stuff.
  • Avoid Beijing during National Day – which in fact lasts a week – unless you love huge crowds. The government also tightens up Internet censorship during that week.
  • Speaking of Internet, it’s slow and spotty. GFW, anyone?
  • I’m told that heating is government-controlled and only goes on when the State decides it’s cold enough – which means a cold October in some Beijing courtyard hostels.
  • High-speed trains that average 125 mph make a clean, fun, and fast way to travel – only 5 hours between Beijing and Shanghai (a trip I did three times).