4 things you always need on you when travelling through China
Travelling through China can be a challenge for Europeans not only due to the language barrier. Besides the usual travel gadgets and necessities I would recommend everyone going to China to carry the following items on you at all times:
Despite the high temperatures one can encounter in China during the summer months one should always carry a scarf as it proves to be more multi-purpose oriented in this country then anywhere else: it keeps you when it is cold both outside or inside (due to the strong air conditioning everywhere during the summer), you can put it over your mouth and noth when you encounter a sand storm (which are not uncommon in the north of China) or bad oudours as well as keeping you save from burns when the sun is too strong.
2) Tissue or toilet roll
Yes, it can happen to you anywhere in the world to come upon a bathroom where the toilet paper may have run out, but in China the great majority of toilets I encountered were without tissue. And who wants to be without any tissue at the ready when you are on the road realising that last night´s dinner, while being delicious, did not sit as well with your tummy as one would hope? An important point to make in regards to toilet paper is that it is important in rural areas not to flush it, but pop it in the bin next to the toilet instead. You may think that this must start smelling unpleasently very fast, but do not worry, just put use your scarf to protect you from the smells.
3) Hand sanitizer
Other than the lack of toilet paper the lack of water (not to mention soap) at a lot of public toilets even at tourist attractions actually suprised me. Carrying a wee bottle of hand sanitizer can therefore come in handy when you use the bathroom and plan having some food soon after. I would always recommend the wee bottles to sanitizing tissues as once empty they can be recycled whereas the the tissues make a lot of non-recyclable waste from beginning to end.
Our local guide urged us to always have some schnapps with us, which you can buy locally. Having a tablespoon of it before and after eating reduces the chances of get sick in the stomach he said, and I never had any issues. It can also be used to desinfect your plates or cutlery if you see it not clean enough in some cafès or restaurants.
Extra tip: While I would personally recommend to anybody who does not already know how to eat with sticks taking their visit to China as opportunity to learn this skill, if you want to be on the safe side bring your own re-usable fork and knife in your hand bag since a lot of places are not able to offer these for your convenience.
Photo credit: Mark Nye via http://www.flickr.com