China holiday strikes a bad note
TOWNSVILLE, QUEENSLAND THE driver stopped his taxi and screwed up his face. ‘‘You give me bad money,’’ he said and offloaded us on the side of the road. After a long flight to Beijing contemplating shopping and sightseeing, this was not the warm holiday welcome we had expected.
Later, our guide dropped us at the Silk Street Market in the Chaoyang District. Welooked up at a multi-storey building, wondering how to enter — the doors were hidden behind padded, hanging blankets to keep out the 5C chills. We followed three guys into the folds of the blankets to a shopping wonderland with floors of small shops selling almost everything imaginable. Aggressive saleswomen shouted to us from doorways.
While touring Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, we were repeatedly told we were offering counterfeit Chinese yuan and quickly learned it was a widespread problem. We discovered we faced being arrested for passing bad notes so we tried to keep our fake money aside but the crisp, new bills still looked genuine — until we were aler- ted that some had identical serial numbers. We soon found the money exchange ATMs in the lobbies of good hotels were safe to dispense cash.
The winter landscape was dazzling; we climbed the Great Wall, walked across frozen lakes, cruised through misty gorges on the Yangtze River and sailed Shanghai’s Huangpu River at sunset, gasping at the city’s psychedelic light show.
The Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe charmed and astounded us — a couple waltzed with great grace and ease above our heads and eight motorbike riders raced inside a huge, mesh globe in a death-defying act that received a standing ovation.
We tried tang bao, soup-filled steamed buns with a golden crunchy base. We sat on a long bench with locals, not sure how to politely drink the soup through a straw in the middle of each bun.
Returning on a full China Eastern Airlines flight, the passenger in the seat behind me hoicked repeatedly into a plastic bag. I no longer felt so embarrassed about the offended woman who had got up and moved away from us on the restaurant bench as we loudly slurped the tang bao. At least she had had a choice. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Columnists receive a kit (total value, $107.85) of OSABrands Universal Travel Adaptor with two USB ports ($44.95), OSABrands Digital Luggage Scales ($32.95) and Tatonka RFID Protected Passport Pouch ($29.95). More: osabrands.com.