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I can remember the very first time I was arriving to China, I was excited, anxious and curious about what this ancient and massive country held for me as a traveler. I even got sick in the plane as we were landing because I worked myself up so much. Everything I found on that first trip fascinated me. Things were very different than my own big country the USA and other things were similar, but overall China hit me with unlimited wanderlust because it constantly offers something new to find: geographically, culturally, historically and in so many other ways.
So now I find myself back again ten years later, hopping bullet trains, catching flights, enjoying futuristic cities and luxurious hotels, everything I was doing before, but the perspective of time this trip is something that has really hit me about China, it continues to evolve and impress me.
The culture can be a real adjustment for any traveler, even people who like myself have been to over 70 countries. I’ve been passing through new cities, airports and train stations as well as ones I’ve been to before and what I can say on the whole is that the experience is easier than ever before, still quite different, but much easier. Here are some of the things I came to know and love about China years ago that are now even more fantastic for travelers like you and me.
The transport infrastructure: China is a country that offers great transportation. It worked well ten years ago and every time it gets smoother. New construction is everywhere and projects are completed fast. On this most recent trip I found new roads, bridges, and several metro lines in several cities that were completed. New airports, train stations, routes and development to existing ones are everywhere. The facilities are more efficient, clean and comfortable than ever before.
Communications and information services: In the past I found more internet limitations. Social networks didn’t work at all, internet was slow or nonexistent many places. Now there is a lot of free wifi, sometimes blocked sites are available or apps will work and there are more opportunities to pay with credit cards too. It is still a place where most people only speak Chinese, but this time I found many more retailers, transit, tourism and hotel operators able to speak English and speak it at a better level. Chinese people are friendly and always willing to help, that continues to be the case. On several occasions police in the metro have voluntarily helped me with my heavy bags.
Engaging in culture and customs: As a foreigner with an interest in understanding the daily lives of people I have found the best ways are to go where people go on a regular basis. Temples, parks, hotels, squares, malls etc. China has these in abundance and they are steadily becoming more accessible. I found that temples and museums have more signage in English, hotels have well marked tourism maps, cities publish free guides for expats in the airport, all of this increased the quality of my sightseeing and navigation on this trip. I even ventured to try some new foods based upon guides and descriptions I read which weren’t available years ago.
China continues to amaze me and innovate. I am still filled with wonder at the variety of culture, architecture, wilderness and urban living and impressed further by how the experience has evolved. My conclusion is more people have to come and experience this. It is a more manageable challenge for travelers and it will continue to be so, in light of all this I encourage other travelers to embrace the adventure and enjoy the new developments.