Hangzhou –> Huangshan Tunxi –> Hangzhou –> Shanghai (15th – 21st June)
This is my first international solo budget trip. I have been wanting to do it for the longest time ever – China and solo. Nothing would ever stop me, now that I am single.
For a long time I thought I would never wanna do a China trip. We heard about horrible China people on news all the time and all the crazy stunts they commit and how things could go wrong in China in the weirdest way possible. Also, despite being raised and educated in the Mandarin Chinese dialect in addition to other languages, I have been trying to steer clear of my Chineseness since my early twenties by ditching all Mandarin dramas, newspapers (and other reading materials) so that eventually my thought processes are all well put together in English. It was like I couldn’t fully reap the benefits of my English improvement attempts if I didn’t get rid of the Chinese side of me to make room for it, if that ever makes sense to you. However, China started to appeal to me few years back after reading “Five Star Billionaire” by a Malaysian author Tash Aw. It piqued my interest and curiosity to find out how China has developed herself in recent years and how different exactly are their people compared to those of us overseas. Needless to say, I faced disapproval and scorn from others when I said I was going, especially among the peers who thought China is no good. That only reinforced my desire to visit since I never aim to please everyone and be mainstream.
Suffice to say, the trip itself definitely opened up my eyes. Hangzhou and Shanghai have rather developed and systematic public transportation system to get around the main places of attraction. The streets, parks and all are cleaner than KL, really put KL to shame. If anything, I felt safer there mainly because I blended in rather easily thus didn’t stand up to attract any unwanted attention albeit with my huge backpack which was rather uncommon in sight as local tourists traveled with luggage. The same couldn’t be said about KL or some parts of Malaysia though due to the influx of South Asian migrants and Middle Eastern tourists. I had no fear or hesitation to wear short pants there as it is common among the Chinese girls, unlike Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia where exposing more skin is akin to asking for more stares from the public. All in all, it was all good and safe for a single female traveler to move around in China big cities, as most sign boards come with English for those who barely read Mandarin.
Having said that, my feelings were complicated there. On one hand, I proudly shared with the locals that I am a third-generation Malaysian Chinese, knowing for certain that I would be relished in admiration where they started complimenting on my great spoken Mandarin and my ability to speak other languages. On the other hand, I felt inadequate because that was all the advantage I have over them, nothing more. I might have an easy and comfortable life back home, but these people (especially the young ones) have hopes and opportunities, plenty of them. This realization came when I entered an eatery shop to have my first meal in China. I sat at the table, not knowing what to do because I was used to waiter coming to me to take order. Then a bunch of girls coming in, started placing their order by taking the ingredients they wanted near the counter before passing over to kitchen for food preparation. I followed suit, only to be shoved around by these girls until they were done. When I looked at them, I realized I have been “softened” – I could have been more ruthless because the world out there is a harsh place, just that I am getting all too cozy with what I have now.
But when I thought of the men there (sorry, I am a superficial visual creature) and I felt bad for the local women who have to put up with these men. I obviously felt relieved that their Chinese counterparts in Malaysia and Singapore seemed better options and even that, I am dating outside my race now. Put myself into the women’s shoes, if I had to decide between choosing one of the local men or staying single, I would choose the later. But that is just me being all superior and shit.
I tried to pack as simple and as practical as possible into my newly purchased 60L backpack, avoiding hand carry of any sort for the ease of moving around freely.
Items I had to actually leave back last minute *sad face*
– Forever 21 lady sling bag & China travel guide & a book
Items I forgot to bring (duh!!!)
– phone charger USB cable & printed self-prepared travel itinerary which contained EVERY SINGLE DETAILS!!!
Items I wish I had brought
– umbrella (as it was proven to be more useful compared to disposable rain coat)
Items I was thankful to bring along
– sneakers and waist pouch bag where I kept my valuables (although it didn’t look great as the girls at the nail salon initially thought I was a street trader)
Items I should have left behind
– camera as I used my phone camera throughout the entire trip