The meeting with Les was exciting. He covered a lot of ideas that we hadn't even thought of. We met Pat and Jeri and went shopping with them plus had dinner. Linda and Jeri were ecstatic over their find of cute Chinese dolls for their daughters. Afterwards, we ate lunch at a new restaurant. Yes, I asked for "cha" and we received forks. I was in a restaurant so the word made sense. Everyone was impressed with my mastery of the word "cha" in the Chinese language.
This evening Linda and I went to the Temple Street Night Market and soaked in the atmosphere of street lights, loud music, and thousands of people all shopping. Most of the goods being sold were touristy stuff (i.e.: tee shirts, pirated CDs, jewelry, knick knacks and a few paddy-wacks). I took the video camera and shot a lot of the activity.
In a random order, here are thoughts and events of July 5, what could be the day before "Gotcha Day" :
I asked Les about time zones in China. Though China is as wide as the US, there is only one time zone. All China is Hong Kong time.
Here is a summary of the meeting with Les based on a tape I made of the session. I present it on this web site simply to whet your appetite with every detail regarding your forthcoming trip to get your child (if that is what you are doing). Do not be overwhelmed. Just enjoy the list. If you are going through Holt, there will be Holt representatives with you every step of the way to help you:
- When in China, always carry the name of the hotel with you so that if you wander about and get lost, you can hail a taxi and be carted back to the hotel (even if this may only mean being driven from the back of the hotel to the front).
- Although there is very little violence committed here, there are some pick-pockets that you have to be wary of. Wear your valuables in those canvass containers in front of you if possible. Though you will not have to worry about being struck on the head, it is possible that someone may slice the bottom of your backpack and, as you kneel down to pick up everything, they will have what they want and scurry away. If you do have an emergency, dial 999 (the equivalent of our 911 in the US).
- The best place to buy souvenirs is Hong Kong or Guangzhou. These are major metropolitan cities and the prices are probably better. Nanning is touted as just a "working town." (Linda and I found some great souvenirs in Nanning, however, so be sure to save some money for that city as well.)
- If you want a doll for you daughter that has Asian characteristics, you need to buy that in Hong Kong. Oddly, Chinese dolls are not available in China proper, only Caucasian dolls are sold in China.
- Many parents like to buy Jade for their daughters. Be careful. If you don't know a whole lot about minerals and it doesn't matter if later you find that you purchased colored glass, then go ahead and buy it from the street sellers in Hong Kong. Otherwise, if you are going to Nanning wait until you get there. You may be able to purchase from some wholesalers that Matthew and Xiao Xiao bring directly to the hotel.
- When buying a camera, hair dryer or other appliance in Hong Kong, remember that once you leave the premises that article is yours. There is no going back and saying an item is missing or it doesn't work. Whenever you are considering buying something, always ask them to plug it in and make sure the item is working BEFORE you leave the store.
- You may be tempted to go into a shop in Hong Kong that says, "Duty Free." Keep in mind that all of Hong Kong is duty free. Those stores are specifically attracting tourists who don't know that.
- If there are no prices on an item in the store, you have to bargain for it. If that is not your cup of tea, go to a department store in which all the prices are clearly marked on the items you need.
- Feel free to buy a Chinese music CD or tape. If you try to buy a US CD or tape and are impressed with the price, keep in mind it is probably pirated and you could have them confiscated at customs.
- When using credit cards in China, be sure to make sure the Total box is filled in correctly. Some shops unscrupulously inflate the price of something you may have purchased if that box is not properly filled in.
- Tipping is roughly 10% and is generally included in the restaurant tab. If the service was exceptional, please be sure to include an additional amount. (I heard from one source in China that the waiter or waitress does not see that 10% that is automatically added to the bill.)
- Do not drink the tap water in China. You will need to purchase bottled water to use for drinking and brushing your teeth. At the B & B International in Hong Kong, on each floor at the end of each hallway there is a little "watering hole" from which you can fill your containers with good water. If you are going to Nanning, Holt will supply you with all the bottled water you could need. When you are in Guangzhou purchase the bottled water just outside the White Swan. It is much cheaper.
- When at a restaurant and ordering bottled water, make sure the lid has been cracked open in front of you. Some restaurants make a little extra money by filling those bottles with tap water.
- Drink at least a liter and a half of water every day! It is very easy to dehydrate. You will start getting headaches and not know why so be sure to drink that good water.
- Don't use the items in the mini-bar as they are priced especially high. If you forget and indulge anyway, replace each item you ate with the same item you purchased from the gift shop downstairs.
- When in Hong Kong (or China) you may see vendors pushing little carts on the streets selling fried meat items. Avoid them. Buy your food from any established restaurants. The oil in those push carts could be 6 months old and who knows what has been fried in them and what that oil has been through.
- Buy fruit and vegetables that can be peeled (bananas, oranges, etc.) No one is really sure what may be sprayed on the fruit and vegetables in China.
- When you need to use the rest room facilities, keep in mind that in China, if you ask for the rest room, they may think you need to lie down. If you ask for the bathroom, they may think you need to take a bath. Ask for the toilets.
- Always carry toilet tissue around with you. Many of the local toilets are very basic and no tissue is provided. In some cases the toilet may be just an opening in the floor that you would need to squat over. Go to the major hotels or restaurants if you can wait.
- Be careful of your passport. Keep it in one of those special money and passport containers that hangs around your neck and is kept under your shirt. A US passport is worth $50,000 US dollars on the black market.
- When leaving from Hong Kong Airport for points inside China proper to receive your daughter, you will want to do this: If battery operated mechanisms (radios, tape players, etc.) are packed in the checked-in luggage, the batteries will need to be removed and placed beside the battery operated device. If this isn't done in advance, security will make you open your luggage and take those batteries out then. You do not have to do this with carry on baggage.
- Your camera can be checked through without going through the X-ray machines but, even if you allowed it to go through, the film would probably be fine. If the speed of the film is 100 to 400, according to Les, there have been no reports of problems. It is when your film speed is 1000 or higher that some difficulties occur. The average speeds are not generally affected.
- If you are carrying vegetables, fruits or dried fruit, it would be best to put that in your carry-on luggage. Granola bars or packaged processed foods are okay in the checked-in luggage.
- Be especially careful crossing the street in China. Once you start crossing, keep going. The bicyclists and motorbikers will go around you. If you stop, they will wonder what you are up to and you could cause an accident.