Middle Kingdom, Chinese Visa, Couch Surfing, Itinerary
21.09.2015 - 18.10.2015 30 °C
Three years ago I backpacked across Europe for 89 days, with a budget of fifty dollars a day.
Now I am sixty six, my right shoulder and knee are a bother.
I am still a couch potato if you leave out the ten sessions of hot yoga I pretty well laid through a year ago. I just went on a thirty minute walk. (More like twenty, seemed like thirty).
A month ago I shopped non-stop for four and a half hours and that was a workout, trying on those skinny pants, lots of bending and stretching. The only time I sat down was to try on shoes. I must have tried on fifty pairs.
My sister will write her own account. The fact of the matter is: she is in worse shape than me.
My balance is bad, wish I had taken more yoga, too late now, will do a few balance poses and hang onto the back of a chair. Also squats, ouch, I really noticed my sore knee then. Oops, careful. Do not fall backwards.
Why China? Air fare to Shanghai from Calgary, flying back from Beijing was under seven hundred dollars each, all in.
Now we are committed, non refundable tickets.
We decided on China as a destination two months prior to our trip. Not a lot of planning time for a trip of this magnitude. - yikes what were we thinking !!
There are numerous reasons to visit China:
- it is an ancient civilization. They invented paper, gunpowder, chopsticks, acupuncture, yin, yang and feng shui, the paddle boat, tea, the decimal system, the compass, matches, the umbrella, ping pong, kites, t'ai chi, the printing press ....
- China is a major player on the world stage, a country of 1.4 billion people who mainly speak Mandarin and read characters, let's just compare here, we have 26 letters in our alphabet. They need to know 3000 characters to read a newspaper.
- if there were only five people in the world one would be Chinese.
Confucius says: Study the past if you would divine the future.
We are going for 27 days, not as long as we had originally planned but maybe all we can tolerate. We expect to be in culture shock for the first part. We have been told not to cross the street, too dangerous - how will that work, constantly staying on the same block? We have also been advised of the lack of western style toilets in some areas and have some concern about using a squat toilet which are sometimes not all that private and we are private people.
As you can see I have read up a bit on what to expect. Yes, we are getting those contraptions where you can pee standing up. (Available on Amazon). Now I am thinking it will be difficult to maneuver with tight pants, maybe a skirt or elasticized waist or a really deep zipper would be better. Capri pants will be less likely to touch the floor in the squat position.....so much to think about and I haven't even sent in for my visa yet.
On Sept 4 I went to the Chinese Visa Centre in Calgary (on the corner of 8th and 8th, there is a Tim Horton's on the main floor, the Visa Centre is on the second floor).
You take a number and wait, not that long, maybe 30 minutes, take up your paperwork and in about a week you get your visa. One hundred and forty two dollars, good for several entries, mine is good til 2023 when my passport expires.
Paperwork for Chinese visa:
- Passport - they take it and give it back when you get your visa, the visa is actually a page in your passport
- Copy of picture page of passport
- a passport-like photo, recent, no older than 6 months
- a completed visa application form - get this online, complete precisely and print. Signature required.
- copy of airline ticket
- copy of hotel reservation in China. Although the visa form requires an itinerary you only need to submit one hotel reservation.
You need a visa. The form has to be correct when you print it or you have to retype the whole thing. You need an itinerary (difficult to put together in a hurry as an independent budget traveler, easy if you are on a tour).
Anyway I have booked twin rooms in Shanghai, Zhangjiajie, Yichang, Chengdu, Xi'an, Pingyao and Beijing at an average price per night of fifty dollars or 25 dollars each. My budget, not including sights (tickets, entrance fees) and airfare, souvenirs, cabs from the airport, train trips: fifty dollars per day. So I plan to average twenty five dollars per day to cover food, mineral water and incidentals like local transportation. Hope this works.
On 19 Sept one Chines yuan is worth $4.81 Canadian. Our dollar is terrible against the US dollar right now, one Canadian dollar is seventy-six US cents. Six yuan is worth one American dollar, pretty good value for Americans!! Given the weakness of the Canadian dollar, it is ambitious indeed to shoot for a budget of fifty dollars per day.
Two more sleeps til I pass the international date line.
180 degrees longitude approximately down the middle of the Pacific, this will be a first for me. We miss one day going and repeat one day coming back. Gee and I am already confused about what day and date it is, now that I am retired.
I am worrying about a lot of things: getting lost, not being able to communicate, getting run over, losing my money, not being able to walk to all the sights, not being able to use a squat toilet, getting sick, not being able to see anything because of the dense crowds, we talk about cancelling the trip, we decide to forge ahead, all is well, my worries were a waste of time, what would be, would be and I had a wonderful experience.
Confucius said "Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.'