J and I were descending one of China’s greatest treasures: the National Park of Zhangjiajie.
Every corner we rounded presented us with a new jaw-dropping landscape of carved sandstone valleys poking through a sea of lush green trees. J and I took a deep breath, inhaled the clean air of the countryside and lost ourselves in the sea of clouds swirling in between the mountains.
That is, until Avicii arrived. You know, the Swedish DJ. The Chinese tourist who came bouncing down the trail behind us was blasting him full volume from his iPhone speaker.
Now, I have nothing against Avicii, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of music I imagine when hiking down one of China’s most treasured valleys. This Chinese tourist didn’t stop his playlist at Avicii–oh no–we heard Calvin Harris, Rihanna, some Selena Gomez and even Justin Bieber.
After 20 minutes, J lost it.
“Excuse me,” she walked up to him and spoke to him in near perfect Chinese.
“Your music is not appropriate for the scenery and it’s causing a disturbance to myself and the other travelers. I think you should shut off that crap and appreciate the beauty of your country around you.”
His jaw dropped.
He shut off his music.
J pierced into his dumbfounded eyes.
He stepped back and cried,
“wow, your Chinese is AMAZING!”
While he totally missed the point, we were able to hike the rest of the mountain without club music. At least, for a little while.
This was only one of many delightful “habits” we faced when hiking with fellow Chinese travelers.
When hiking with Chinese tourists in China, one is bound
to put up with enjoy one of these five lovely habits:
Chinese people scream and shout on mountains. That’s just how it is. One scream prompts another scream and pretty soon the whole mountain sounds like a banshee.
I’ve lived in China for five years total and I still can’t figure out why they have to shout their lungs out on a mountaintop.
Maybe they get a kick out of the echo it makes. Maybe they feel like they’re on top of the world and want everyone to know it. Maybe they’re tired and want to vent their frustrations.
Either way, it drives me crazy. J and I were greeted to these lovely echoes and screams on almost every trail in Zhangjiajie, and we wondered what would happen if someone ACTUALLY screamed for help on the mountain.
Chinese people love to blast music on their iphone speakers. J and I did not hike Zhangjiajie in the silent serenity of nature—oh no. We had the Frozen song “let it go” as the OST to one of our treks, Avicii on another (as mentioned above), and of course Taylor Swift and other American pop hits following us on almost every trail.
Whenever I’ve gone hiking in China someone is always bound to be blasting music. If you’re climbing a mountain in China, get ready for some noise.
Is it just me, or is China the only place in the world where national parks have multiple designated smoking spots on almost every trail?
I was alarmed at the number of people smoking AND hiking (actually, I was kind of impressed). J and I were constantly waving away the stench of smoke and stepping over cigarette butts that people casually tossed onto the national park grounds.
One man was even smoking ON THE BUS. J stormed up to him and commanded that he immediately stop smoking, or she was going to give him the smack down.
He put out his cigarette.
China has more garbage cans readily available than any other country I’ve been in—yet the littering problem is enormous.
J and I saw a middle-aged Chinese woman throw an empty yogurt bottle into this lake.
Seriously? I know that the previous generation wasn’t trained in social graces, but this is a bit much. I feel like it’s common sense not to poison or litter an area as beautiful as this.
J and I saw so much garbage scattered throughout all of the national parks, our hearts were broken by the end of the journey. I really hope the younger Chinese are more respectful of the environment and learns to preserve these natural treasures for future generations to come.
“Are you worried about time?”
“No, sorry Mary,” J sighed.
“I just can’t stand the ayis (old ladies) behind us shouting and blabbering.”
It was then I realized that we were surrounded by screaming (yes, screaming) and shouting middle aged ladies talking about god-knows-what. It was difficult to hear myself think. If I wasn’t surrounded by screaming old ladies, then I was being blasted by the megaphone of a tour guide addressing a herd of tourists. Totally took the tranquility out of nature.
Luckily Zhangjiajie wasn’t too crowded, so our fast pace helped us outrun the tour group where we were able to find (some) peace and quiet.
Yeah, yeah, I’m sure most of us who have been in China know about the spitting–but I still can’t get used to it.
J had a front row view of an older man swirl a loogie in his mouth, accumulate foam, then hurl the yellow blob onto the floor with a deep throated snort. She almost threw up her lunch in response.
J and I were about to board the public bus, and like good foreigners we tried to queue.
Three older women literally pushed a mother and two children to the ground to grab the last three seats on the bus. Screaming and shouting ensued, but in the end, the three older women got on the bus and the mother and her two children were left in the dust of the bus that sped away.
Basically, to get anywhere in China, you have to shove. I hate being shoved and I hate shoving, but it’s survival of the fittest here. Very tiring.
As I observed the habits of the local tourists, I had an epiphany:
Chinese people really dislike silence.
China is a society that values 热闹 (re nao), which literally means hot noise. The definition of ‘re nao’ is loud, energetic, vibrant, vivacious… it’s the noise of peopled gathered together, talking enthusiastically, eating, being alive to the fullest. It’s a trait of the Chinese I love, but it’s also a double-edged sword. During the holidays and at parties, being re nao is awesome, good fun–but it can also grate your nerves when you’re looking to relax. Anywhere.
Chinese people scream on mountains, shout at each other, talk in loud voices and constantly eat and snack (and thus litter) because that’s their idea of a good time. Keeping the spirit of “re nao,” even outside of the home, is a natural trait of the Chinese.
It’s been a few years since I’ve lived or traveled in China, and to be honest the seven traits above wore me out on my most recent journey… especially the pushing, shoving, and loud voices. It was hard to find a moment of peace almost anywhere (even in one of China’s most beautiful national parks during low season), and to be honest it was quite exhausting.
So next time you’re traveling in China, mentally prepare yourself for the above. It will happen, but how you handle it is up to you. I suggest learning a few phrases in Chinese (like stop smoking or please be quiet) and do what J did. Many Chinese don’t know what they’re doing is a nuisance to others, and when told to stop they usually do.
Despite the above, traveling Zhangjiajie was totally worth it and, though I was worn to the bone, I have no regrets.
No pain (spitting, shoving, smoking, littering), no gain (gazing upon this).
Have you had any experience with Chinese tourists? Do you have any habits to add to the above?