We left China with a lot of mixed emotions, but I think we mostly felt relieved. Of all the countries we’ve visited, this has been the one we were most glad to leave. People have asked us how was China and my reply has been I hated it or just didn’t like it depending on my mood. I think this surprises people. Sometimes this even surprises me too.
Maybe we just did it wrong.
If we’ve learned anything about travel, it’s that two sets of people can visit the same places at the same time and have completely different impressions and experiences, based on where they stay, who they meet, and what they choose to see and do.
Part of our problem was that we got to China at a point in our trip where we were getting burned out on the whole travel thing. Yet China was one of the few places where we thought the major “touristy” sites actually lived up to the hype.
Another strange contradiction: we found the vast majority of the people in Beijing to be unfriendly and abrasive. I would sometimes wonder if they put on the good face for the Olympics and now the show is over. And yet it’s the only place in our travels where we’ve been invited into someone’s home.
Maybe our experience in China could have been better if had done some things differently. I don’t regret having come here but it won’t make the list of places I would go to again and I have a hard time recommending it to others.
On our last day in China, during a rest stop on our bike ride around the city wall, a group of teenage girls started edging their way toward us. They weren’t staring at us the way most Chinese do (with a scowl), instead casting occasional shy glances our way. And smiling.
I decided to break the ice and invited them over, where they wasted no time in taking some pictures with the girls.
When I asked them where they were from, they said, “Thailand”. What a coincidence, that’s where we’re going next!
I think we’re going to like it much better…