First Day in China

After finally getting adjusted to China (somewhat), I figured that I should start a blog just to share my thoughts and also to post some pictures. So what made me want to come to China in the first place? To be honest, going halfway across the world to a country that is completely unknown to me might seem like a gutsy move and I have had friends tell me that. Of course, I don’t really blame them considering that I don’t know how to speak the language very well.

I’ve also never been outside of the country either but I do feel that this is the perfect opportunity for me to do something like this while I’m still young. Besides, I don’t have anything back in the States to really hold me back. I do feel really sad though to leave my family and friends behind but I’ve always felt that sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone to have the things you want in life. In the worse case scenario I could always just move back to the States but I need to first see what I can achieve here before I move back. In my case, I’m doing exactly that so that I can see what else is out there and after China, I know that I want to travel to other parts of the world like Japan, Korea, Europe, etc. but China is definitely a first step for me.

Anyway, here are some photos (click the photos to enlarge them):

This is actually my first time at LAX so my family and friends came to accompany me and I’m really glad that they did. I know I’ll be back again to the States, but to be honest I’m just not sure when. I know for sure that I want to spend at least 6 months to a year in China just to travel around and to learn the language. I also want to take that time to work on my online sites.

So after arriving in LAX, we walked around the Duty Free store (which was pretty awesome) and checked in my luggage. I was also fortunate enough to get my ticket changed to an aisle seat. Anyway, about an hour before my boarding time I went to say my byes to my family and friends. I’ll admit that I was getting a little emotional after seeing my mom in tears but I know that this is something that I have to do otherwise I’ll always regret it. I did have a queasy feeling in my stomach though as if something inside was telling me not to go but it’s too late for that considering everything has already been prepared.

So after hugging my family and friends, I started walking through the security lines which were pretty long. The process was kind of tedious too as I basically had to take everything out of my pockets and remove my shoes and jacket to place inside these cartons that go through the x-ray device. After that was finished, I went through this waiting area where I had to wait to get boarded. I also met up with Shervin (Chris’ brother) since he just got off work so we talked for a bit before he headed home. He introduced me to one of his friends Al who happened to be driving the shuttle that I would be going on.

It was actually kind of cool riding on the shuttle as I got to see the whole space where the other planes and hangars are. Once we arrived to our destination, he pointed out the EVA airplane that I would be going on and I think it was at this point that it really hit me that I was leaving for China. I felt both anxious and excited knowing that I’ll be entering a totally new world.

Here’s a photo inside the plane that I was on:

I sat in the aisle seat and the seat right next to me was open. I’m pretty glad too since throughout the plane ride I was lying down. Anyway, I was feeling really nervous about launch since I’ve heard that it can be really bumpy and sometimes scary. So after waiting about 30 minutes, we finally took off and it actually wasn’t so bad. I did start to get a little motion sick since this was the first time that I’ve been on a plane. After about 10 minutes though, I felt a lot better. It was kind of loud though inside the plane but then again I was right near the engines.

The plane ride was REALLY exhausting and that’s when I found out that I hate air travel. I tried to sleep too but it was kind of hard so I just stayed up watching some movies. I watched 2012 which I thought was stupid. Then I watched a little bit of Twilight New Moon and I started to get bored after about an hour of bad acting so I just turned it off. Luckily the seat next to me was open so I did lie down for an hour or so before waking up to the smell of food. So the stewardess asked whether I want beef and rice or chicken and rice so I just ordered the chicken dish. It actually wasn’t that bad and I was kind of surprised as to how good it was. Then I had some coffee too which was probably a bad mistake.

After that, I just laid down and tried to rest some more. At one point, I was getting really lightheaded so I just closed my eyes and tried not to think about it. Before I entered the security lines, Jia gave me his jacket to wear and it’s good thing that he did too since it was kind of cold on the plane. Anyway, around this time it was 4am so I’ve only been on the plane for a few hours. Then breakfast was served around 6am I think and I just had scrambled eggs with sausage along with a cup of orange juice. I think I ordered another cup of coffee too which was another mistake since I wasn’t able to sleep afterwards.

After 10 hours of lying down, we finally reached Taiwan. Looking outside the window, the area was more rural as it was mostly farm land. I should have taken a picture actually but the captain made an announcement not to use any electronics while landing. I was nervous at first since I was expecting a bumpy landing but it was actually pretty smooth and turbulent free.

Some photos of the airport in Taipei:

I was bit confused when I arrived at the airport in Taiwan since I wasn’t sure where my next flight was so I just asked a bunch of people where I was supposed to go. The airport was actually kind of nice and I saw this huge Hello Kitty playground. Apparently, Hello Kitty is pretty big in Taiwan. I managed to find an internet cafe so I quickly sent off emails to my brothers and mom to let them know that I landed safely in Taiwan. After waiting about 2 hours, I found myself sitting on another EVA plane. So far so good!

This time the flight to Hong Kong was only 2 hours. I had a window seat but I didn’t mind too much since I was able to get a good view during take off and landing. I also sat next to this woman who was from Seattle and was going to be HK for 3 days for a business trip. Then we were just literally talking the whole time. I asked more about her business and how she got into it. She basically sells ceramic sculptures and I just thought that it was interesting that she was able to find a market in the States for this type of product. Then it got me thinking about what exactly it was that I wanted to do. I know I want to eventually do import/export but finding a profitable niche is probably the hardest part.

Hopefully I’ll be able to start something though as soon as I get a better understanding of the language and the culture. Anyway, after about 2 hours I arrived at the HK airport:

This time, I was really lost and I started to panic a bit since most of the workers here spoke Chinese. I was actually kind of swearing at myself for not taking classes earlier before I left but no time for that now. I wasn’t sure where to go for baggage claim and I wasn’t sure where my friend was. I was just about to buy a ferry ticket to the mainland too but then I saw a store where I could buy a prepaid SIM card.

Luckily I had my friend’s number with me so I gave him a call. I was definitely in a bit of a panic since I had no idea what to do or where to go but he helped me out and he told me to just meet him outside of the airport. After passing through the immigration lines I found myself near the baggage claim. I was just hoping that my stuff would still be there. Most of it is just clothes, books and toys so I could probably do without it but it would still be nice to have. Fortunately, my bags were there!

So after leaving the airport, I saw my friend waiting there for me and I felt a huge sense of relief. I haven’t seen him for well over a year and it’s good to see that he’s doing well. For a second, I thought I would be left stranded but that didn’t happen. So we took a taxi to the ferry:

The roads in HK are the opposite of the States and the driver side is on the right side. There were actually a lot of nice cars on the road too so that was kind of surprising to see. The air was a bit cloudy too but I was still able to get some decent photos. Anyway, we arrived in this shopping plaza where the ferry terminal was close by so we went to get some lunch. Oh yeah, I arrived in HK at 10:00am on Sunday March 21, 2010.

We had lunch at a place called Cafe de Coral:

Mike!

My lunch which was freaking delicious (pork with rice and beans). I think the price of both of our meals combined was like $5 or something and that included the ice teas too. Unfortunately, there aren’t free refills here but it’s not really a big deal for me.

Then after lunch, we just walked around a bit and had a mango shake. Then we boarded the ferry:

More photos but the window was a bit dirty:

This is the tower from The Dark Knight:

More photos:

Finally arrived near China after about an hour and a half ride:

Then it’s about a 30 minute drive to Zhongshan where I’ll be staying. It kind of smells outside like BO too and apparently people don’t use deodorant. Hopefully I won’t smell that bad when I leave the country. Anyway, this is what Mike picked me up in:

Then we drove about 20 minutes into the city and to his place. Along the way, it really hit me as to how things here are so much different compared to things back in the States. It really put things into perspective and it just makes me realize that I took a lot of things for granted. One thing I noticed though is that there are a ton of motorcycles and scooters. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way either. Anyway, here are some photos while on the way to Mike’s place:

Then I saw this on the road. A dad is driving his wife and kid on a scooter!

I thought this picture was kind of funny too:

Seriously, these riders might as well not wear helmets considering most are not full face and some are even made of plastic:

Some more pictures while driving to his place:

The car’s here are really different too and there are some models that I’ve never seen. And people drive really crazy here and get really close to one another when changing lanes or making a turn. I’m just surprised that I didn’t see any accidents. Around this time, we started to enter near Mike’s community area:

Peugeot 207:

Finally arrived at his place:

There’s more areas of the home but these are the only ones I took. Anyway, we got to his place around 1PM after the ferry ride  so Mike took me around the city once I dropped off my luggages:

We went to this area that was still being built but the homes there are actually pretty nice. Mike said that these homes are only built on the outside so the inside is completely empty. Basically, people buy these homes and customize the interior of it themselves:

A view from the top of the crow’s nest:

Around this time I was getting hungry so Mike said there was this really good noodle place in town. It’s kind of cool actually to see so many scooters and motorcycles around but I can imagine it to be very dangerous. Scooters basically split between lanes and they get really close to cars. Even turning into a regular street is a constant battle as you have to swerve around obstacles like other cars, pedestrians and motorcycles. Some photos:

The weather was a bit cloudy but it actually wasn’t as polluted as I imagined it to be.

There’s KFC here!

Here are some videos that I took while we were driving around town. You really have to watch them just to see for yourself how crazy some of the drivers are (still need to insert):

Some photos:

Just seeing how things are different here compared to back in the States really puts things into perspective. A lot of families are just beginning to purchase their first car but a majority of the people here still use bicycles and scooters to get around. It’s definitely dangerous to navigate through the streets but it’s something these people need to do to get to work. I miss driving my car already. Some more photos:

Couldn’t help but to laugh when this guy pulled next to us:

I don’t even understand why these guys wear helmets like this. Not only do they look ridiculous, but this helmet is definitely not sufficient enough to protect the head in the event of a motor accident. Actually, wearing helmets is not even a law here so there are still those people who don’t wear any type of head protection when riding around town.

In this area, the roads are pretty open for the most part:

McDonalds! Most of them are 24 hours too. Unlike in the States, fast food places like McDonalds and KFC are actually more like gourmet and one of those places that you go for occasion. The price in RMB is actually the same when you convert it to USD so these places are relatively expensive for most people. That’s probably a good thing though since a lot of people back in the States are fat because of places like this.

Anyway, we finally parked nearby this shopping area and Mike took me through this grocery store. I only took a few pictures:

Then I saw these chips that are like a Pringles knockoff. Jay Chou seems to like it:

Then we exited the grocery store and walked through this shopping area. There was actually a lot of nice stores here but I didn’t really feel like exploring any of them.

Then we settled down at this restaurant called Town Noodle. Here was my lunch!

The price of this noodle dish was 17RMB or about $2.50 USD. I was just surprised as to how cheap it was. It was also really good too and I can’t remember the last time I had a good plate of noodles. This restaurant though is definitely nicer than most but there are still places which are much lower in cost. Something like this back in the States would cost at least $5 USD or more. The best part though is that I didn’t have to tip afterwards. That was definitely one of the things that annoyed me most back in the States but over here if you tip, some places actually get insulted. So far I’m definitely like it over here. Another thing though is that the portions are a bit smaller than what I’m used to so I was still a bit hungry afterwards but another meal would have to wait.

There was an arcade nearby!

Oh yeah, I saw a place here that also sells Hoegaarden (my favorite beer) so I was pretty happy to see that. At first I thought my beer selection wouldn’t be that great but I can manage as long as I can get my hands on some imports. The price of these are more expensive than the domestic beers by a lot actually. A bottle of Hoegaarden was 25RMB (~$3.50) but a bottle of Haizhu (22 ounces) is 4.50RMB (~$0.50). Yes, 50 cents for a big bottle of domestic beer. It’s actually not that bad either and it’s comparable to Bud Light which I think is crap but still gets the job done. Some photos on the way back to Mike’s place:

Kind of funny seeing two guys on a scooter:

After we got back to Mike’s place, we just hung out and played games. A few hours later we went to this shopping plaza to meet up with some of his friends for dinner.

Outside I saw this:

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the place where we ate dinner but it was this local place that was near the shopping area. When we saw down at the table, I saw everyone else at the table literally washing their dishes using the hot tea under a plastic bowl that the restaurant provided. At first I thought that this was some of kind of tradition to start off the meal but Mike told me later that it’s to wash off the plates and other utensils. It’s more for peace of mind to ensure that the plates are clean so I just did it anyway so I wouldn’t look out of place. The meal was really good too and ended up costing like 100RMB (~$14USD) for dishes of fish, chicken, beef, vegetables and pork. We also had 3 beers too.

Everyone keeps telling me not to eat pork in China so I stayed away from that dish but everything else tasted delicious. I’m still amazed as to how cheap stuff over here is compared to the States. At dinner, we met with an English teacher who started to propose the idea of creating some kind of English teaching soundtrack to help the kids at his school learn the language. It was actually starting to become a heated argument since the teacher was unable to express his ideas clearly so we just left it at that. At this point, it was around 10pm I think and I was still really tired but we decided to go drinking!

There was this foreign bar called Friend’s. It’s actually kind of expensive compared to other places I’ve been to but they do have this beer on tap called Carlsberg that’s pretty good.

From left to right: Fenton, Mike and me.

We stayed there for a few hours until 1am at which point I was very tired. I’ve been up for pretty much more than 24 hours since I wasn’t able to sleep that well on the plane upon landing in Taiwan. I’m actually kind of surprised that I was able to stay up this long but it’s definitely been a good experience so far. Everyone keeps talking about culture shock but I came in with an open mind so that definitely helped. It’ll still take me some time to get used to things over here but I think I’ll be okay for the most part.

So after leaving the bar around 1am, me and Mike headed back to his place to retire for the night. After brushing my teeth and taking my contacts off, I immediately went to sleep after lying down in a bed on the top level of his house. The following day, here’s what I had for lunch:

I think total for everything was just about $15USD which is pretty good considering the price included two bowls of noodles, Taiwanese pancakes and two ice cream sundaes. Something that like back in the States would have easily cost over $30USD (not included tip) and this place was actually a bit more upscale compared to others that I’ve been.

So it’s been almost a week since I’ve been here. I was a bit jet lagged at first but I’ve managed to get used to the new sleeping schedule. So what are my thoughts of China? Like I mentioned earlier, being here really puts things into perspective and I’m glad to be able to experience something like this. It’s unfortunate that a lot of people here in China can’t even afford to leave the country and most just end up staying here the rest of their lives. While a salary like 1,500-3,500 RMB a month ($220-$515) might seem very low when you convert it to US dollars, keep in mind that the standard of living here is very low. People here are very happy with this kind of salary as they are able to live pretty comfortably. Just the attitudes of people here are really different too and I’ve noticed that workers here are really complacent.

I definitely consider myself to be fortunate seeing that I make a decent income online that is more than enough for me to get by pretty well here. Back at home though, my income has always just been barely enough to cover rent and other related expenses but over here I can pretty much live like a king. When people think of China, they think it’s this communist nation that controls just about everything but you need to be here to see for yourself that it’s not the case at all.

The internet is monitored sure but other than that, there are actually a lot of freedoms here that most people outside the country just don’t see. There’s a lot of buying power here too from what I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s just something that you would have to experience for yourself. So that was my first day in China and so far, I’m really enjoying myself. I was debating about teaching English part time but I don’t think I will. I want to use that extra time to maybe take some Chinese classes and to work on my online stuff. Until next time!

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About Hann

I enjoy learning and discovering new things. When I'm not working, I'm either writing or rock climbing. I'm also a freelance SEO content writer currently available for hire where I write focused content to bring targeted online traffic via the search engines.