Am I a local, a tourist or a traveller?

China is like a bad romance, a love, hate story with no end. It is so modern and so accomplished in many ways, and then just a rude child in many others. It is a constant, convenient challenge that doesn’t eat me up completely but still keep on entertaining me on a daily basis. I know my last three blog posts have already examined this never ending complexity, so I guess you get the picture. After four months I have adapted enough to know what’s going on around me, to nod assuringly at the right moment, to say ”I don’t need” like I speak Mandarin. I use Wechat for payments, Didi for taxis and Mobikes to get around the cities – which most tourists don’t have access to, (I so, thanks to my brother’s Chinese bank card!). I also carry around my bottle with green tea, and have started slurping my noodles in an outstandingly loud fashion. I hope to discontinue this habit the second I leave China. Now, against this backdrop of personal adaptation, I still get horrendously annoyed by the excessive use of plastic, how people buy the smallest bottle of water many times a day, instead of one larger (or refilling the bottle they carry with!) how some people use one toothbrush per night in a hostel, a pair of slippers for a train ride – only to be thrown immediately. Consumerism in China made me realise how futile the Swedish initiatives are regarding to global environmental issues – and yes, I’m feeling more or less cynical when picking up trash one or two metres away from the bin, cause it’s just in their mind to rather throw it on the ground than where it belongs. China has a playfulness to it, where the people can be irresponsible, funloving, outgoing and quite modern in their mindset, because their government are playing loving, caring fathers, employing armies of people to swipe the streets and burn the trash. This is just an example.

Travelling is convenient in this country. Too convenient. The Chinese people are relatively new at travelling due to their recent acclaimed economic power, the rise from mainly poor to mainly middle class citizens. This rapid increase in cash, also created a rapid increase in domestic tourism, so rapid most of the genuine experiences have been stripped of their authenticity in a way I have rarely seen anywhere else. Though spectacular nature, quaint rural villages with centuries old houses, relics of Ming, Tang and Qin dynasties all over the country, it is hard to reach under the surface, to see the soul of this country, to feel and breathe with the history echoing off the walls of cities of imperial architecture. Every house is repainted, every authentic village is walled off, barred with a ticket booth, every mountain and forest is fenced off, but once on the inside, conveniently accessed by shuttle buses and cable cars. Religious sites clattered with ”pious” nuns grabbing you, even blocking your way for a ”donation” of money. Every view point has a platform, only accessed for money and every hiking trail is paved. The top of Zhangjiajie – the geological phenomenon of 380 million years of work by mother nature; inspiration for the nature of Avatar; a UNESCO world heritage site and bla bla – have a McDonalds on top. Did I stop for a coffee? Well. I really needed it, head exploding with the loud noises of a hundred tour groups, guides using not headphones but megaphones in typical Chinese manner. I still have the highest regards for the Chinese people travelling, discovering these fantastic places, maybe learning a bit of them from a tour guide. Though most of them seem to only come for the photo ops, maybe some of them discover they do have a nack for travelling while doing so. Swedish people go on charters to Mallorca or Thailand, eating Swedish food, talking Swedish, having Swedish coffee, conveniently available. What I had not anticipated when arriving in China was that I would be dragged in to it, that I would have to adopt. Pay big money to visit beautiful spots, being hindered from exploring nature by fences and bars, and in the few occasions I can do so, having people look at me and ask ”why would you wanna walk there?!”. I want to take a hike along a beaten trail, not on paved roads. I want to go to a beautiful village and not being charged to enter, just to find all the houses repainted. I want to reach the top of a mountain and not find a McDonald’s there. To turn around and look at the view without hundreds of cable cars going up and down the mountains, and I want to hear the sounds of chirping birds, rustling leaves instead of megaphones. I image how pretty China must have been before economic progress, but at the same time I love how well functioning, clean bullet trains take me places, how I can discover much more of a city with Mobike and that I don’t have to withdraw and carry cash around any more but just pay everything from the smallest street vendor to the hostel bill using by scanning QR-codes. Oh China. “I though I was out, but then they pull me back in!”

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