How to be better prepared when arriving in Beijing for the first time

After an 8 hour flight from Sydney to KL, a 4 hour transit, then 6 hour flight from KL to Beijing, I arrived in China with little sleep, eye’s dried from watching a total of 5 in-flight movies, and running solely on adrenalin.

Things I’ve learnt so far.

No 1 – Make sure that your mobile phone is fully charged so that when arriving in a foreign country and purchasing your in-country sim card, it actually works.

No 2 – When getting a taxi in China, have your hotel address written in chinese as well as English.

T (sitting up front with cabbie) – ‘Do you know where this is?’ points at hotel reservation and address print out

Cabbie (blank look, but starts driving anyway)

T (said with best chinese accent) – ‘You know DongCheng district?’ (stabs repeatedly at the reservation and address)

Cabbie(shrug. Looks really confused. Leans away from me. Slightly frightened by my irratic arm movements and emphasized facial expressions. Makes phone call action)

T (More exaggerated arm action and finger pointing) – No no no! I do not have the phone number, and I cant call them anyway, my phone is dead! (tries for the 15th time to read the address, this time using an alternative chinese accent)

Which brings us to Number 3 – Make sure you remember to write down the contact details of your overseas accommodation. (duh!)

No 4 – Learn some of the language! Buy a phrase book, or download the iApp that allows you to write what you want to say and have the iPhone speak for you in the desired language.

After planning this trip for over a year, I did NONE of these things. I blame my grandmother. My whole life my grandmother and I have not been able to speak the same language. I just speak english fluently and she only speaks Chinese and Malay (Bahasa). We’ve made it this far with the help of sign language, caveman like grunts, a whole lot of laughter, and patience. From this, I assumed everyone understood my sign language and caveman grunts. (ass, you, me, I know!)

What you should do – USE the resources available to you. Which happen to be the cabbies mobile phone. Call his mate, who could speak english and act as an interpreter. Ask his mate if he had access to the internet and was able to look up the hotels contact details, (Yes!) have his mate call the hotel and find out their location, call us back and provide directions. Lots of smiling and thumbs up signs. .

Over an hour later, with the help of my new friends who did not judge me for being so disorganised, not that I could understand anyway, we arrive at the Beijing Hutong Culture Inn in the Dongcheng district.