My Day as a Chinese Tourist

The biggest groups of tourists in China are definitely not Americans, Brits or even Australians. It’s other Chinese people. Which makes sense when you think about it- there are literally a BILLION of them and they aren’t really allowed to leave the country much. So they travel domestically, sometimes drawn to things like the Forbidden City, and sometimes to things that are a little more… hokey.

Last week Mike and I visited one of these uniquely Chinese tourist attractions. Tang Paradise, is a recreation of a Tang Dynasty pleasure garden, except that instead of being built in 483 AD it was constructed a couple of years ago. And it looks like it- the entire place is shiny and new. It’s billed as an amusement park but you won’t find any roller coasters or bumper cars- instead there are 165 acres of parks, lakes, fountains and well, nature stuff.

It WAS a pretty park, and I decided to make the most of the day, and our exorbitant 90 RMB entrance fee by trying my best to be a Chinese tourist for the afternoon.

So here are my tips for being a Chinese tourist:

Get Ready to Pose

Chinese people, particularly teenage and twenty-something girls, LOVE posing for pictures. They will spend half an hour striking the perfect pose in the most scenic spot of any attraction, other tourists be damned. Even better are statues that can be used as props. I saw about a dozen teenagers posing with these enormous hand statues, so I had to try myself:

Got Mike in on the act too:

Play Dress Up

I’ve seen these stands in front of all the major tourist attractions in China. They rent out traditional clothes and headdresses for a photo op. While getting one of those lame “old saloon” recreation pictures back in the states will set you back a good $75, the place by the Lake at Tang Paradise was charging 20 RMB (less than $3). Since I was playing Chinese tourist I decided I better give it a shot:

The clothes were really hot and itchy, and the headdress is obviously made for someone with dark hair, but not bad right? They made me make some really weird poses that the Chinese can obviously pull of with more grace than me, but it was still pretty fun.

Win Some Stuff

Carnival games were spread out all around Tang paradise. These games are high stakes: in China you don’t play to win some stupid stuffed animal- you play for ACTUAL animals:

Yes those are parrakeets, and rabbits. I felt really sorry for the rabbits crammed in those tiny cages so Mike and I wasted 10 RMB trying to win one. We didn’t, I’m pretty sure it was rigged. It’s just as well, I don’t know what we would have done with the little guy!

Don’t be White

Seriously, you can act as Chinese as you want, you can even speak Chinese, but if you are Caucasian (or really anything besides East Asian) you are going to stick out like a zebra at a racetrack.

This unbridgeable divide gets wider at areas popular with Chinese tourists. People stare, sometimes they point. You become more interesting than the actual tourist attraction. I spent a large part of the day posing for photos with everyone from old women to kids. One woman even plopped her baby into my lap (“please don’t poop” I whispered into his ear)!

So I’ll never be a Chinese tourist. Still it was fun to pretend- if only for the day!

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24 thoughts on “My Day as a Chinese Tourist”

  1. Great tips 😉 Chinese tourists crack me up. I think I learned to push and shove and run to be first with the best of them during my brief time in China!

  2. Haha, nice post. What about the “peace signs”? That’s “real” chinese tourist style. Actually, probably more japanese. I always feel so asian taking photos like that. ooh, I’m also in Seoul right now and they seriously make me feel scandalous just by wearing a t-shirt. Seriously, it’s hot, i’m sweaty, and every other Korean girl i see is covered up in a jacket or sweater. oh, but they’ll wear SHORT shorts. i don’t get it.

    1. I find that so vexing! It’s freaking hot- why is it okay for you to wear booty shorts, but if I wear a tank top it’s scandalous?

  3. Loved this post — as did Chris, my friend whom you guys met on NYE — I’m staying with him in London now. Chris just got back from a few months in China and can’t stop telling wacky stories just like this about what people do for fun! (He also ordered a latte in Chinese at Starbucks the other day. Heh.)

    1. Kate, did you see the post I wrote on the 3-D porno? I thought I was channeling you and you adventurous ways a little bit on that one.

    1. Someday I’m going to make a calendar or something of all the goofy poses I’ve made around the world.

  4. Haha, love it! And especially your get-up in that pic. I think I’d kinda love the attention, actually…sorta like being a celeb.

  5. Great article Steph! 🙂

    It’s the same here in Korea with tourists, though. By far the largest tourist groups you’ll see anywhere are bus-loads of Korean tourists. I always feel like an oddity at the popular sites!

    Mountains are particularly interesting – I’ll be walking up a path and then an army of 40-something year old women will march past me, leaving me to cough up their dust as they speed ahead!

    p.s. I’d be pissed off if I was told I’d be going to an amusement park but didn’t know it had no rollercoasters in advance!

  6. We have had the total opposite experience being of Chinese descent (we’re Malaysian Chinese. Ancestors are from china). When in china, they expect us to be able to speak and understand their language and get rather put off if we ask questions like ‘what is this?’, ‘what’s on the menu?’… We’re not good at reading and writing Chinese. It’s good to see the perspective of a ‘real’ tourist to china though! Thx for sharing!

    1. I always wonder what it would be like to visit China as someone of Chinese descent, in some ways I think there would be a lot of hurdles I don’t have to face. Everyone just assumes I’m clueless!

  7. I’m still shocked and amazed over how many times I’ve been asked to pose for photos while travelling and living in Asia! I think I’ve had more photos taken with Chinese and Japanese tourists than with my wife! I once even had an entire 5th grade class ask me to pose with them…they emailed me the photo around 6 months later! Never expected that follow-through!

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