A flight to Beijing, China is looming in my near future, which means I’m spending way too much time looking at travel brochures, scanning reviews of hotels, and wondering how I can check in on my Facebook page. And though there’s plenty to read and discover, and more than enough to learn about the language, something has caught my eye that has paused me in my tracks.
You see, apparently there are things not-so-nice about visiting Beijing. Even in this place where millions of people call home among the ancient and modern, even in this place where tourism is a thriving business, here, too, there are unsavoury things.
Okay, maybe this one is a given in a place so full of people. The Forbidden Palace and the Badaling section of the Great Wall are havens of foreigners, and the more people, the more languages spoken, the more locals can tap in to the confusion. In preparation for steeling myself against falling for any scams or tricks, I found the author of You’re Not From Around Here had some great tips and things to look out for.
Let me just say, from my very Western perspective, the idea of this is a bit… daunting. Playfully termed “squatty potties”, this is what the locals use for toilets. The fact that my packing list now includes toilet paper and double the amount of underwear (in case of accidents!) should speak for itself on this one. And the thing I might not be able to get over, though I am usually of the thinking that, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but the thing that gets me here is… are there at least stall doors?
The general rule is that if it didn’t come in a bottle or it’s not a hot drink (i.e. tea or coffee), don’t drink it.
So, I know that it will be summer when I’m in Beijing, and that with the people and the air quality and the seasonal trends, it’s going to be hot and thirsty. I also know that Beijing, with its many ancient landmarks, is also completed with modern amenities, like power, water, etc. So, colour me shocked to learn that the water in the taps, the water I will so crave in the heat of the people and the season and the smog, is undrinkable. Really? But people survive and carry on, and bottle and ship as necessary.
I would be lying, though, if any of these things is enough to keep me away. My excitement hasn’t wavered in the slightest, really it’s just my packing list that has changed.