Roman Wanderaugh - National Radio Text Service
At times the road was rough and plans were changed due to necessity and unnecessary problems' raising the question is CHINA ready for prime time tourism? - Subway systems are excellent - Communications with SIM CARDS - Bank of China Nightmare - Internet solution
Tuesday October 25, 2011
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After some time off it was time for the Wanderaugh's to hit the road again. Since we have never been we were excited about traveling to mainland China. In the past we have traveled to the extended China that being Hong Kong prior to being turned over and Taiwan yet to agree to be turned over. We experience the sweet soon after arrival our arrival in Beijing with friendly smiling faces and assistance with directions and advice. We experienced the sour starting with an unnecessary encounter with the personnel at the plane transfer change but that is a story in itself which we'll devote space for that at another time.
Our 26 day tour plan was to travel to Beijing to see the Forbidden Palace, Great Wall of China, the Birds Nest stadium, the live music scene, play basketball and ride the bullet (fast) train. Then to Xian to se the terracotta warriors and whatever was in the area of interest. We were advised to travel to Shanghai which wasn't on our wish list but given the strong emphasis from our business associates that Shanghai is a must see therefore we included on our literary.
From the start during the booking stage we ran into some problems the first being that the Chinese government charged US citizens $140 for a tourist visa while all other countries are charged only $30. We asked our travel agent why and her reply was that the Chinese think ALL AMERICANS are rich. If that is the case then why is America TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DEBT to China? Our other concern was if American Express travelers checks were recognized there. When we inquired at the Bank of China in Phnom Penh, Cambodia if they sold them they said no as well as they didn't know anything about how their bank did business in China.
We never received any information confirming the acceptance of the checks from anyone. We did find some information where they could be purchased in China but give that it was such a short list we decided to use our credit cards for cash withdraws.
Our other concern was communication via Internet and telephone. That was easy as the hotels had free LAN connections to the Internet. They sell SIM card for cell phone service upon arrival at the Beijing airport. They have a booth after you exit immigration. The cost was $26 but we were concerned if that was a value and weren't familiar with the quality of the service providers in the country. We chose to hold on making that decision.
Transport from the Beijing airport to town is a breeze by train and costs only $4 (25 YUAN @ 6.4 = us $1). The airport train connections to the subway system which is enormous and the best way to get around in a very crowded city of 20 million plus residents. The trains are crowded during rush hours. The taxi is the best transport for those traveling with an abundance of luggage. The problem is traffic will be a nightmare.
Problems started to occur when we wanted to change dollars into Yuan. We went to the Bank of China and waited over an hour without service. You take a number from a machine and wait and wait and wait. We noticed that many people were just walking in to the bank and going to the window and received immediate service. We saw a foreigner that turned out to be an American teaching English at a university in Beijing. He said he had been waiting for over an hour but someone gave him an extra ticket for service which he gave to us.
Two girls from Korea came in and asked how long we were waiting. We were in the University area which is heavily populated by Chinese Koreans and the girls could speak Chinese. They wangled a deal with one of the employees to be serviced. The girl advised us to go to the window and receive service after we gave them one of our waiting list tickets for service. The bank employee seemed annoyed with them and they received a tongue lashing but we receive service none the less. This Bank of China nonsense took up two hours of our time and spoiled our day for tourism purposes.
We must clarify that the hotel offers services for a fee including exchanging money that requires you to hand over your passport and purchasing tickets for train and plane travel. Our preference is to do it ourselves as we prefer to get the feel of what the locals' experience which is one of the purposes in traveling that lends itself to The Adventures of Roman Wanderaugh .
The subway system is a dream but the city is so large that it can take some time to travel great distances. It is advised that you obtain a map of the train system IN ENGLISH. The hotel should have one with the points of tourist interests included. There was more to come including dealing with death of China's bullet and fast trains.
Continued - Part 2 - THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM & TRANSLATOR SOLUTIONS - THE TRAIN of DEATH
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