Standing in the middle of Nanjing Xi Pedestrian Road as the electric glow of the neon lights illuminate the dark sky, my friend and I marvel at the rows of pretty rainbow lit buildings. It was my first day in Shanghai and first time to China.
Before moving to South Korea, I had my top two countries to visit selected. While all of the other native English teachers focused on the more exotic countries for their vacations, like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, I had a simple reason for my strategic planning. Two of my friends, I’d met while they were living in the U.S., were now back in their homelands, Japan and China, so I knew those had to be my first stops.
I had traveled to Japan over the summer with no problems, and began planning to travel for Korea’s thanksgiving, Chuseok, in the fall. China was next. No problem, right? Wrong. My first hurdle was the realization that U.S. citizens were discriminated against (in my disgruntle opinion): I searched the internet for information on visa requirements, and much to my astonishment, while every other country’s visa fee was about $40, it was a staggering $200 for the U.S. Strike one, China!
My other disappointing revelation was that I had waited too late to purchase my flight – for debating whether or not this short trip of an extended weekend was worth the excessive expense. I paid double the average amount it would cost to travel to China from Korea. Strike two, China!
But I succumbed to my weakness for and satisfaction of checking it off my been-there-done-that list. My passport and photos had been sent off to the China Embassy office, my money paid, and the flight confirmed. It was official, and in spite of the knot still stuck in my throat from swallowing those two jagged pills, I was excited about visiting the country known as the Red Dragon.
It was fun seeing and catching up with my friend that I met in the U.S. when we both worked for an online newspaper. She was gracious enough to invite me to stay at her home for the entire weekend. We traveled together throughout Shanghai, and then to Beijing. I even got the chance to have a home cooked Chinese meal by her parents – who were just as sweet as apple pie.
All in all, in the short four days of my stay, I had a great time of exploring a small piece of China, and enjoying good conversations with a friend.
Have you ever had to bite the bullet when it came to an unwanted, but necessary expense for traveling to a desired country?
**Stay tuned for: part 2 – Beijing, The Great…, and part 3 – Culture Shock!**