Some things I should have taken to China (and ended up buying while I was there):
- A watch. I normally just use my cell phone, but since I didn’t keep it on in China, I had no way to know what time it was. This was pretty stressful when trying to be sure to be at a certain place by a certain time while traveling with a group.
- A cheap calculator. Trying to do conversions in my head was driving me crazy. Also, occasionally I’d come across a vendor without one, & having one was handy.
- A compass. Sometimes finding the way back to the hotel could be tough — especially in Lijiang where everything looks the same in Old Town. And I couldn’t always count on the sun being out to figure out what direction I was heading.
Things I bought in China, but I’m glad I didn’t haul with me:
- An umbrella
- A rain slicker
- An extra bag to haul stuff back home. Bags are cheap & abundant in Shanghai.
Things I took that I could’ve left at home:
- The books & DVDs. I read one book on the way home, but mostly I was too busy or too exhausted or too excited about the sites to ever want to read or watch a movie. Books are heavy, & by the end of the trip I was counting every ounce.
Things I wish I’d taken & couldn’t purchase in China:
- One pretty outfit to make me feel great. I got seriously tired of looking like crap all the time. And unless you’re teensy, you can’t buy clothes there.
- A little bit of make-up for the same reason.
- Those coffee bags that look like tea bags. They make a good real cup of coffee. There’s always a way to make hot water in the room. And the coffee in China sucks for the most part. I ended up buying Nestle coffee packets, which makes much better than average instant coffee.
- Some kind of electrolyte mix to mix with my water. Crystal Light makes one. I got in one bad spot where I was so dehydrated my body wouldn’t even absorb the water.
Things I took and was really glad I did:
- MY LAPTOP! I was able to get internet access in every hotel, sometimes for free. When it wasn’t free it was cheap, except for Shanghai where it was stupid expensive. I was able to journal as I went, & I wouldn’t have done so with a paper journal. I know I wouldn’t have. I was also able to keep in touch with my family daily. I used my laptop to dump off my photos from my camera. The laptop is the one electronic device that doesn’t need any kind of converter. It was important to have a power cord (duh) & my own network cable, as sometimes the ones in the hotel were messed up. I also had a power adapter to use on a plane, but those plug-ins are usually only in business class, so that was a waste.
- Two pairs of shoes. It rained. A lot. I wished I’d had one pair of closed shoes (I took two pairs of high end walking sandles – Clarks & Eastlands). While I was there I really wanted a pair of rain boots because we really slogged through some deep puddles & muck in a few places. A couple of people were able to find a place to buy some (not easy because they are so much smaller), but I wouldn’t have wanted to haul them to China & back.
- All my OTC & prescription drugs, including the probiotics.
- A Chinese phrase book. Big time helpful.
- Clothes that all matched each other.
- My Kavu bag. Seriously awesome.
Things I learned that made the trip easier or would have made the trip easier:
- Using an ATM card is easy in China. I just had to go to a Bank of China ATM. They were abundant, even in the more remote cities, & there is an English menu.
- I should’ve waited until Kun Ming to use the laundry service. That’s the cheapest place. Bejing & Shanghai are expensive for laundry. Many people washed their own laundry in the sink, but I was too busy seeing the sites to spend time washing out underwear. Oh, and wearing clothes multiple times was mostly out because it was hot & humid, & we walked a lot.
- Finding a supermarket or Walmart right after we got to a new town proved very helpful. We could buy bulk water cheaper & keep it in our fridge. Having our own water that was actually cold was a truly precious thing. We would pick up a few beers, sometimes a bottle of wine (you have to look for it to say “dry red” specifically, because the other is nasty), buy some snacks, & toiletries & such.
- The first night I was in China, the outlet fried my converter & my battery charger. I was able to buy a Chinese battery charger & batteries to go with it for a pretty affordable price, even for Bejing. The charger charged my rechargables just fine, & I didn’t have to worry with converters the rest of the time I was there.
- I ended up having an international calling plan put on my phone while I was in China (actually, my husband did). We were told we could get phone cards, but they were harder to find, purchase, & use than expected. I didn’t use my phone much while I was in China, but it was nice to be able to pick up the phone & call home whenever I really wanted to.
- Several times I really wished I had a backpack– just a small lightweight one.