Zhu Hai: The Fairytale China Experience

While living in Hong Kong from 2010-2012, I traveled to many different countries around Southeast Asia and wrote about a few of them in my then-blog, Ashley’s HK Experience. I’m reposting my piece on a trip to Zhu Hai, China that my friend Karen and I took in September 2011 to my new blog as a travel piece. 

Once upon a time there were 2 American girls who lived in Hong Kong, hoping to see the world and wanting an adventure.  They both were addicted to online coupon deals and couldn’t resist the promise of fun with a package to China and Macau.  Little did they know that the big, bad China would be there every step of the way, fooling them, not talking to them, making them eat with chopsticks, and peeing in toilets in the ground.

Saturday began like any other Saturday, with TV shows and lying about until the time came when the ferry to China was to depart.  The ferry was clean, but nobody looked like these 2 American girls or spoke their language.  The girls laughed out loud, but secretly hoped that at least 1 toilet in the next 2 days would have toilet paper and wouldn’t require them to squat to the floor on their haunches.  Their wish certainly didn’t start off very well with the ferry bathrooms being a squatter with no toilet paper; the boat swelled and swayed and the girls wore flip flops, a piss poor combination for squatting toilets!

Once the boat arrived safe and sound in China and passports were stamped, the girls met their tour guide (which to this day will remain nameless as he never introduced themselves to the curious girls).  This tour guide knew approximately 10 words in English (one, two, three, four, etc…).  And these foolish girls knew only bits and pieces of Cantonese or Mandarin (yi, er, san, si…).  They again laughed while questions born of confusion popped into their heads.  How would they know where to go?  What time to meet?  Thankfully, a few English-speaking Chinese were on the bus and provided the silly girls with a few answers.

First stop on the Zhu Hai journey was to a 4D show!!  Ooh and aah! the girls thought!  Maybe they’ll even be subtitles?  But alas the girls were again disappointed, but they most certainly guffawed at the too-late 4thdimensional seat drops and vibrations and the Mandarin voiceovers except for the name Mike of the character in the movie.  This movie was followed by the ever-predictable jade and terra cotta museum where the girls were gawked at and followed.  Maybe China wasn’t that bad after all!  Clearly everyone thought they were beautiful celebrities!  Why else would they be in Zhu Hai at a ceramics museum?!

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The travelers’ day of “sight seeing” was over and dinner was next on the agenda.  What else does one do at a traditional Chinese dinner but wash your chopsticks, spoon, cup, and bowl in your tea!  Of course!  And since the restaurant apparently won’t clean it for you first, you’d better make sure the tea is piping hot and that it touches the surface of everything that will in turn touch your food or your mouth.

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cleaning them dishes

Dinner, of course, was family style with a turntable in the middle for everyone to share the scrumptious delights such as “Nourishing Delicious Soup,” “Chaozhou Style Halogen Plate,” “Golden Spring Dish King,” “Hao Kang One Night Stand,” and “Fine Outdoor Vegetables.”  With a menu like that no one is bound to go away hungry!  At least the English-speaking Chinese were at the girls’ tables to explain that everything, despite the luminous names, was safe to eat (except of course the chicken head that came with the Hao Kang Salty Chicken).

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With the completion of dinner, fireworks were in store for the girls and their Chinese companions.  The Macau fireworks’ competition featuring the Philippines beckoned the girls onto a boat facing Macau island.  The lights were spectacular and almost duped the girls into believing that the past 8 hours had only been a dream.  Yet, once the girls arrived at the hotel, only plywood beds and Chinese television were to be found.  No subtitles, no English words, only dubbed over movies like Transformers and Johnny English were to be seen and not heard.  Luckily, the girls had had a long, exhausting day of picking out each time the tour guide would say a number in Cantonese and guessing if that meant the time to meet, how many people were going, or maybe they just misheard the tone and it actually meant dog.

Despite the hectic day, the misunderstandings, and the rock-hard beds, the girls slept fairly well, awakening to another day of new adventures, but this time in Macau.  And despite this brief craziness, the girls continue to live happily ever after…even with sore backs, befuddled brains, and clean chopsticks.

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The American princesses

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