Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Info for future travelers to China

Here are some things I thought I would pass on to others traveling to China to adopt in the future.

1. Diapers and Wipes -- Pampers and baby wipes are readily accessible in China if you ask your guide to take you to a grocery store, carrefour store or the like. They are just as good as American ones. The wipes, in fact, I found to be thicker than the US ones. The diapers, while not quite as good of quality, are certainly sufficient - they held Mia's blast anyway!

2. Food for Baby -- Jarred baby food is available but only in limited quantities and options. They just don't feed this to their babies. We found options for Mia on the buffets and even Lucy's on Shamian Island has mashed potatoes and congee if you ask for the baby menu. Most other restaurants have something you can feed the baby - we found pumpkin soup on many menus and Mia loved it!

3. Constipation - be prepared for this. We brought two small jars of prunes but that wasn't good enough. We used an herbal packet for constipation that the couple we traveled with bought in China, that didn't work. When we got back to Guangzhou, the store on the first floor in the White Swan with all the candy and such had jarred baby food and juice. The pear juice helped her out!

4. Shamian Island Restaurants - (imagine Shamian Island as a big side-sitting rectangle)

-> Cow and Bridge - supposedly a Thai restaurant -- go out the side door of the White Swan (first floor) to the right a little bit and up the first street (4th street) to the North edge of the island (North street) - the old victory hotel is on the right (a beige 3-4 story hotel) turn right onto North street and it is right around the corner with blue neon lights. I didn't find much on the menu I liked but my husband had sweet and sour chicken with cashew nuts or something and it was good. I had steamed chicken and while it was good, it came with the head on and there wasn't really much meat on the bones. The dipping sauces with it were excellent though.

-> Lucy's -- out the side door of WS and to the right (east on South street) down that street. Right next to the park. You can't miss it! Excellent french fries, mashed potatoes and congee for babies. hamburger ok. great atmosphere if you sit out side in the back.

-> La Dolce Vita -- Italian... EXCELLENT PIZZA AND BREADSTICKS!!! on the east side of the rectangle shaped island (1st street). pumpkin soup for babies.

5. Take time to walk through Shamian Island. It's parks are beautful and peaceful. Don't be scared of it. It's a wonderful place

6. The "place's"

-> Linna's place - out the side door of the WS and directly to the right. The first one you see. There is a wonderful girl there, didn't catch her name, but she dropped out of school in the 8th grade and taught herself English. Her English is flawless and hardly has an accent. She is so nice and not very pushy at all. You can borrow a stroller from there for free and it is great to be able to just run it back right there at the end of your stay!

-> Sherry's place - best squeaky shoe selection and pricing on the island! Out right the side door of the WS to the first street (Shamian 4th street) and go north (left). Go up about one block to the far side of the "main street park block" in between the streets and turn left. (starbucks is to the right) You will find the Gift from China shop, you will see an Art 64 sign and then Sherry's place. You have to sep up into the building and then the shop is on the right inside the building door. The girl's here are very nice. http://www.sherrymama.com

-> Jenny's place -- same spot as Sherry's place but left inside the building door instead of right.

-> Susan's place -- located just north of the WS between 4th and 5th streets. skip it. lots of junk there!

**The further you wander from your hotel the better deals and better stores you will find so be adventurous! We weren't at first and I am so glad we did!

7. Chinese Medical Science Massage on Shamian Island
Oh my you have to go here to get a 90 minute massage for $10 USD. Tell them you want the foot and back massage. Go out the side door of the WS and go North up the first street to the top of the rectangle-shaped island where the old victory hotel is and turn left. Go down about 3 blocks or so to the north-west (top left) corner of the island. There is a set of stores with big red lanterns hanging. The lights to the massage place are neon blue at night above the door. Go in and there is a desk beside a staircase. That is where you tell them what you want. It is an awesome experience.. they soak your feet in a big wooden barrel of hot brown water, give you tea and orange slices, soothe your feet with piping hot towels and the massage is wonderful for an aching baby-carrying back!!!

8. What to Wear -- No matter what other people say, take some dressier clothes. The Chinese dress very nicely. All the time. We felt very underdressed everywhere we went in our jeans and sweatshirts/t-shirts. The Chinese are always wearing slacks, high heels, suits, etc. Even when the Chinese have on jeans they are designer looking jeans. And they typically wear black or navy or dark grey clothing.

9. Don't count on being able to use your credit card. We took all our money in cash and we are so glad we did. The couple traveling with us planned to use their credit card a lot and a lot of places would not take it. They had to have money wired to them. Don't feel scared of having all that money with you. We had a money belt under our clothes that we wore. We were only asked to show it once through all the security we went through and were never asked to remove it, just asked what it was. When you get to your hotel you can put your money in the safe in your room.

10. Chinese Yuan. You will see big bills and little bills. The little ones are like change. A little bill with a 1 on it is like 10 cents. A little bill with a 5 on it is like a 50 cent piece. you can compare them to our dimes and 50-cent pieces. There are also silver coins with a 1 or 5 on them that are comparable to the big 1 and 5 bills. We were confused about these at first! We also came across two different colors and styles of 1 yuan bills. A green one and a purple one but they are the same.

11. Don't be afraid to negotiate the price in the "place" shops on the island. Some places will not be willing to negotiate but some expect it. One shop owner even said to us "This is China you have to negotiate!!!"

12. Always carry smaller yuan bills with you to tip your drivers or bell boys or to pay your taxi! Our guide typically told us 5 yuan per person. Longer trips we were told to tip 10 yuan per person. We traveled in a group of 5 adults. Taxi drivers you do not tip though.

13. At your hotel you can get a little card that says "take me to the ____ hotel" carry this with you at all times just in case! you can give it to your taxi driver or show it to someone if you get lost!

14. a small pocket calculator would have been nice because I cannot divide by 7's very easily! LOL

15. Hair dryers were in each hotel we stayed in and they were sufficient.

16. Internet -- both hotels we stayed in had internet access. In Changsha it was free. At the WS it was 50 yuan per hour (not quite sure about that price???), 100 yuan per day, 300 yuan per week. We paid for the week and it was well worth it. Internet is available in the business office but it costs quite a bit more money. You pay for every 15 minutes of use.

17. Calling Home - Get skype on your computer and the computers of all your family members! It was absolutely priceless for calling home! Our family members loved seeing Mia every day on the web cam!

18. Would I lug my laptop to China again??? HECK YEA!

19. Our guide rented us a phone from somewhere. We paid $15 for two weeks and then a fee per minute that we used. We didn't pay squat for the minutes. It was nice to be able to be in contact with our guide when he wasn't around and we needed him and to call home. We could have used our regular cell phones but it would have been around $2.50 per minute.

20. Tours --

--> (Lianhua) Lotus Mountain -- definitely worth it! About an hour drive there in the Panyu district but breathtakingly beautiful
--> 6 Banyan Tree Temple -- amazing, beautiful and peaceful. Loved it
--> Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall-- The George Wahington of China. glad we saw it but not as amazing as the other two attractions were.
--> Porcelain Factory -- not a well known site - one of our cab drivers got lost taking the other couple there. Definitely worth the trip! The address I have is54-7 South Street Shamian.
--> XiaJiu Lu Pediestian Street - a great shopping district for clothes, etc. ...don't eat the street food here! made my husband sick! LOL

21. Exchanging Money -- you can do this at the WS hotel or if you go out the side door of the WS, there is a Bank just to the right. That is where we exchanged our money for the orphangage fee.


Valeri said...

I would advise for parents not to feed their children too much congee. It'll really block the kids up. Sorry if that sounds gross, but it's the truth! We had that problem with Jensen when we were in China and we had to get an enema for him.

Jay and Kelly said...

Thanks for the tips Sara!!

BlueBayBlues said...

Some really helpful tips there for travellers to China! Love your Angels Brought Me Here music and the lyrics!

Michelle said...

This is all very good, useful information. Thanks for posting it!

I too felt extremely underdressed while in China. I was there in August and I brought shorts and T shirts and people were walking around in skirts and long sleeve sweaters, even though it was hotter than the face of the sun(Seriously. I have never before or since experienced such heat). Next time I will bring a few dressier but comfortable pieces to wear so I don't look and feel so out of place.

Someone in my sister's travel group gave us all cards with the exchange rate on it, which helped me out greatly, as I can't do math very well in my head either, especially while it is a thousand degrees and I am in a foreign country!

I took my cell phone with me and it was so convenient to be able to call my husband in the States whenever I needed to(especially when I got lost for over 3 hours in Hong Kong), but my cell phone bill for that one week's time was $700.00!!!!

Next time the cell phone will remain at home :)

Ron said...

You covered all the basics. I agree with Valeri on the congee thing. Jensen was so plugged up, he needed an enema at the WS infirmary.

I wouldn't worry too much about wearing jeans everyday, it's all about comfort while you are there.

I think you forgot to add Danny's Bagel to the restaurants. It was delicious:)

Doug and Terrye said...

Loved all the memories that your post brought back...but you didn't mention the bathrooms at Lucy's, even my brave firefighter husband wouldn't go near them :O)

Terrye in FL

Tracy said...

I never felt underdressed there (and I never do in Hong Kong, either) - but maybe it's because I am clearly a tourist anyways, so I wasn't too worried about it. I didn't look like slob - I was dressed comfortably in what I enjoy wearing. So I actually would not bother with dressy clothes.

Megi said...

Thank you so much for the tips / suggestions - extremely helpful. I have been following your blog for a long time (Secret Pal)! We are next for referral...I can barely contain myself. Thanks again!!!!