You know the feeling you get when you are excited and nervous at the same time? That’s how I felt when I traveled to China a few weeks ago. It was the first time I was traveling to a foreign country all by myself. I have had the privilege of working in other parts of the world with my team but there’s a different level of preparation needed when your company sends you on a one-woman journey to a country so close to my own and yet so different.
The flight was a total of eleven hours. I flew Cathay Pacific and had a two and a half hours’ layover at Hongkong, which by the way, is truly one of the prettiest airports in the world! It’s built on the island Chek Lap Kok and I enjoyed the short layover before the final journey to China.
I knew that one of the challenges of this trip would be my lack of Chinese speaking skills so I had a piece of paper with me with the address of the hotel written in Chinese. A big thanks to my colleague for helping me with that! I stepped out of the Beijing airport after a smooth immigration process and was approached by several taxis who offered to drive me to my destination for three times the fare amount! Thankfully I found my way to the airport taxi counter to find a taxi and they didn’t charge anything extra for the ride. On the way to the hotel I tried to make note of landmarks and realized that all the road signs were in Chinese. How would I ever get around on my own! This was going to be an interesting week.
The weather was great – chilly in the evening and early mornings and warm during the day.
The hotel I was staying at was in a commercial area with tall skyscrapers all around. I walked up to the receptionist and breathed a sigh of relief when she greeted me in English. My room was on the 19th floor so I checked-in and headed up.
Oh the food!
China has an amazing variety of food, especially sea food. The two common items that caught my attention were fried squid and crunchy crickets. But I don’t eat meat and it was not easy to find too many vegetable options. I ended up eating plain bread, salads and fruits for most meals during my trip. I did meet a lady at my business meeting who was from Hong Kong and she understood the problem I was facing in terms of finding food options. She was really kind and helped me order vegetable soup and rice whenever we went out to eat. I even tried learning how to eat with chopsticks but I still have a long way to go before I can master that technique.
If you’re planning to travel to China, I would recommend that you download maps and messenger services from Baidu. I learnt that China has several restrictions on internet use and Google apps are banned. It would have probably been easier if I had a travel companion but I learned a lot about getting around without being able to speak or read the language. Quite an accomplishment, you could say!
Being a tourist!
You should definitely visit the Great Wall of China but Beijing has a lot of other tourist areas that are noteworthy. The huge Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Kunming Lake, the Bird’s Nest, which is the Beijing National Stadium, are all amazing!
The Silk Market is where the famous Chinese silk garments and the authentic Chinese cosmetics are sold. Travelling to these places will not be difficult with well-connected subways and routes marked in English. If you do get lost, you can always pull out your address, preferably written in Chinese and get directions because people there are very friendly and helpful.
Looking back on the trip, I am glad I did it because it certainly made me feel adventurous and accomplished. My short trip to China taught me a lot about traveling solo!
Guest author: Rashmi Jammi has been aptly nicknamed the “South Indian Bengali” by her husband. She lives in Hyderabad, India and enjoys exploring new places whenever she can take a break from work. This trip to China was her dream-to-travel-solo come true.