Some China gotchas

The Chinese net nannies do a much better job of blocking Facebook than do their Vietnamese counterparts. In Vietnam a simple proxy or even just a change of name server is enough to get you back on Facebook. Here the only thing that’s likely to work is a subscription VPN. And even they get blocked in the game of catch up played between the dodgers and the censors. I don’t use a VPN so there has been no Facebook for me since I got here. It’s frustrating because it’s the only way I have of keeping in touch with some people. I’ll have some catching up to do when I get to Australia. The authorities aren’t too keen on Google either. Search works, but slowly. Reader works but blogger doesn’t. I was able to keep up with the blogger hosted tango (and other) blogs I like to read through RSS feeds but couldn’t comment on any of them.

Where are all the bicycles? An enduring image I have of Beijing since seeing it on TV about 30 years ago is a city full of bicycles. Maybe I was in the wrong places at the wrong times but I saw very few bikes in use. Google puts the number of bicycles in Beijing as about 9-10 million as recently as 2009. I assume they’re mostly gathering dust in stairwells since they’re not out on the roads. I’ve seen more in Xi’an and Chengdu. I’ve probably seen more electric bicycles in Beijing than good old fashioned pedal ones.

The night I arrived in Guilin I was almost run over at least twice. Not by cars or buses but by electric scooters. These contraptions are totally silent in operation. They rush up behind you noiselessly like ghosts. At night the drivers often ride around with no lights on so you don’t see them coming either. At the last possible second the driver alerts you to their presence with a blast of their horn or by shouting at you. Like conventional petrol scooters they are much more massive than a bicycle or electric bicycle and getting run over is likely to result in damage.

The Chinese people are generally very shouty. Even more so when they’re “talking” on mobile phones. Dom Joly could have had them in mind when he created his shouty mobile phone user. Individually there are exceptions but collectively they’re rude, inconsiderate and unhelpful to my Western eyes. Maybe that’s a consequence of there being 1.3 billion of them. If they don’t shout, push and shove then they’ll lose out to the rest of the crowd. I guess the “rudeness” is a cultural thing but stop shouting please!

In probably every other country I’ve ever been in, if you’re out and about and find yourself in need of a toilet, McDonalds is a good place to find one. They’re always clean and functional and it’s easy to nip in, use the toilet and out again without having to buy anything. Not so in China. It’s hardly an exhaustive survey, but of the three McDonalds I visited not one of them had customer toilets. Actually finding a McDonalds is hard work in most places. There are very few of them in China. KFC however is just about everywhere. The couple I checked also didn’t have customer toilets.

Long term readers may remember that the price of a McNuggets meal was one of my inflation benchmarks in Buenos Aires last year. Well just so you know, they don’t have a McNuggets meal on the menu here, but 10 nuggets, large fries and large coke cost 34 yuan (about £3.40) compared with 28 pesos (one year ago and about £4.30).

Call the police! The fashion police that is. One of the ways the population here seem to express their new found individuality is through their wardrobe. I’m no fashion victim and probably have a few citations of my own, but the fashion police would have a field day here. Some of the clothes combinations are almost indescribably bad. Luckily I have a short attention span and poor memory so I won’t be permanently scarred by some of the wardrobe abominations I’ve seen. Women are the majority and worst offenders. Guys seem to specialise in bad hair styles.

Beijing is rubbish for electronics/phone/camera shopping. At least the big shopping mall areas are rubbish for techie stuff. I needed to buy a new phone, a battery charger and eyecup for my camera while here in China. I struggled to find them in Beijing. Xian and Chengdu offered many more possibilities. Especially in relative terms since they’re both much smaller places than Beijing. The charger is not a Canon one so it’s likely to cook my batteries eventually, and the eyecup is not exactly the right one but it does the job.

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5 Responses to “Some China gotchas”

  1. Stella says:

    HAHAHA ..
    About the McDonalds’ customer toilet, i still remember the first time i went into the McDonalds in Singapore,i was complaining to my friend that there was no customer toilet here!Coz in China , we usually have a customer toilet no matter in McDonalds or KFC ….

    Also , Why there are lots of KFCs rather than McDonalds in China ? Imagine you can even buy soya bean&egg tart &rice congree in KFC but you can only find big mac & Chicket nuggets in McDonalds ,what would you choose ?

    Have a nice weekend ahead Mark!

    • Mark says:

      Hey Stella,

      I’ve obviously been going to all the wrong McDs and KFCs then. Soya bean and egg tart vs McNuggets? No contest; McNuggets every time :-) I never claimed to be sophisticated 😉

      Have a good weekend yourself. I’ll be travelling today, in Melbourne tomorrow.

      Cheers!

      • Stella says:

        Oh yup!That reminds me last time we have Mcdonalds in BKK, You have McNuggets too!

        Enjoy your travelling today and also have a safe trip to Melbourne:-)
        Nites~See u on Skype!

        Stella

        • Mark says:

          I sampled the McNuggets here in Melbourne today. All in the name of research, you understand! AU$12.25 for 10 nuggets, large fries and regular coke. That’s about £8. Outrageous! But they did have nice clean toilets :-)

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