XD Hi!

:3 Ni hao

πŸ˜› Γ§a vais bien?

πŸ™‚ Xin ChΓ o

Hehe That is all four languages I know for now. A little background about my four languages hihi.

gnekoda admin

I was born in Viet Nam-> it makes my first language is Vietnamese.

As I was about 5 years old, my mom and some relatives forced me to study French.

Even I don’t like French much, but the fact I have been followed the French language for 15 years is unchangeable! (now it’s dusty haha Pardon! :P)

And then 2013, as the situation urgency, I crossed studying English. The purpose was for my immigration to Seattle. It’s a long-life wish of my maternal grandfather.

Fast forward until last year, I grew some interesting with Chinese Mandarin haha I self-studied a few months in the past year before focusing on another life aspect.

Back to this blog, I am still excited when I write this post and share my “hard experience” for my FIRST SOLO TRIP EVER in my life. And my destination is China, Zheng Zhou city.

Zheng Zhou city night view

It’s not a fun trip to you, but to me, it has much values for my personal grow XD And do you know why I write this blog?

πŸ˜€ Do you know we are in the Gemini month?-> The main concept about Gemini is about learning and communication. And one more common trait with all Gemini is talking about the “up to date” personal issues, no matter what aspects haha-> I just copy that Gemini trait πŸ™‚

Before traveling to China, You need a Chinese VISA (in most case)

my Chinese Visa L type

Before my leaving, I had to apply for a Chinese Visa L type. L type means for travel seeing and leisure. (if you want to know more about which type Chinese Visa you need, Chinese Embassy is the destination) I had been prepared the Chinese Visa since April 2019. At the time, I planned I would fly to China around April 17th and come back on the following Monday.

However, my plan was crashed because of my cold and flu… *sigh* It took around one month for me to recover from the cold and flu. I was angry because I could not fly anywhere. If I flew with a cold/flu, it might spread the virus to other passengers, the flight crew. More seriously, the USA’s custom might not allow me to depart from SEATAC International Airport.

And then in May, our US has one national holiday – Memorial Day. I took a little advantage and decided to fly to China, even it was a short trip.

I left SEATAC International Airport around 12:45 PM in the afternoon-> flew to Shenzhen Airport… It was a long trip with more than 14 hours staying the aircraft. I had 2 hours 30 minutes for transit into the domestic.

From Shenzhen, I flew more to Xiamen Airport-> here, I had almost 11 hours long for connecting to the next flight…Next, I flew from Xiamen to my destination: Zheng Zhou city.

Basic, it costed me around 30 hours for flying from Seattle to Zheng Zhou city. (well, I’m economy class πŸ™‚ so I don’t have much choices about flights )

Normal Chinese people can’t handle you haha

That was the original translation from a tourism guide. He was a native Chinese. Of course, he didn’t speak English. We had to use the translator for communication.

Google translator

Yup, it crosses your mind at first, but it has a little problem. When you are outside the USA territory, your mobile phone network can’t reach you unless you purchase a “roaming international package”.

For me, I don’t use that option, and my choice is the local SIM card and the free wifi from airport. -> it has the disadvantage…. You can not leave the airport without a local SIM card issued internet.

After translating back and forth more than one hour long, the tour guide right inside the Zheng Zhou Airport can help me to activate the internet on one local SIM card. (Reminder: this SIM card has only one purpose: provide you a Chinanet on your mobile phone. It means you need to unlock your phone before the trip if you choose the option like me)

Next, he asked about the hotel. He suggested some 5-stars Hotels near the Zheng Zhou Airport because his company had contracts with those hotels. I refused to use his services because he offered the highest price…

As I was about to leave the airport, he let me know one fact: Not every single hotels accept a foreigner.

It’s true because I am the witness…and it costs me some because I don’t believe in him…

After leaving the Zheng Zhou Airport with the Chinanet on my phone, I headed to ground transportation and was planning to go to the local hotel that I chose before the trip. (the Booking website said it has an error when I book a room online)

As soon as I entered that local hotel, the receptionist made me feel dizzy because that person said the hotel doesn’t accept a foreigner.

*sigh* I sent a pm the tour guide in Zheng Zhou airport and asked why. He replied the hotel needs to have a special permit from Government in order take a foreigner as a guest!!!

That is one more ugly truth…

I didn’t know about this fact before the trip. Perhaps, I didn’t google enough about accommodation in China…

Before traveling to China, You need to know about Chinanet

What is the special about Chinanet you need to know?

  • Chinanet = China + Internet
  • It means the internet you have in China is very SLOW!
  • Chinanet allows you to open Chinese websites ONLY!
  • Chinanet has the Invisible and Invincible Great Firewall to back up!
  • It’s China Great Firewall makes the internal internet so slow!
  • It’s China Great Firewall blocks almost external Western signal and all products from Google!

Realistic solution: get VPN before travel China if you want to use Google products and services. I am serious!

My situation: I use the Express VPN before and during the time I stay in Zheng Zhou.

A foreigner is treated in many “unique ways”

Actually…. I was treated in some negative ways because I’m a foreigner in China… IT was a hard lesson….

As you can see with my picture above, my Vietnamese race makes my outlook very similar to native Chinese people. Without saying a word, Chinese people assume I’m one of them. -> it leads to one problem: the language barrier.

I don’t know much about the Chinese Mandarin language. Before the trip, I self-educated a little bit. With one referred software from the public library, I had learned less than 100 Chinese Pinyin. (By the way, Pinyin is the core pronunciation of Chinese Mandarin.)

With less than 100 pinyin (most of words are travel-relating), I was over-confidence.

It costed me some because of that.

If my first sentence is saying ” DuΓ¬bΓΉqǐ, wΗ’ bΓΉshΓ¬ zhōngguΓ³ rΓ©n. “, the Chinese listener will shout their Chinese Mandarin with the normal speed. They REALLY don’t care you understand or not. They just care about their business and how they manage to make some profits from a foreigner.

Honestly, it also is common situation in my home country Viet Nam. Vietnamese people usually over-charge the price to all tourists. That is one of many reasons international tourists don’t come back to Viet Nam the second time. And I find somewhere in China has the similar.

(Last) Language barrier

When you decide to have an international trip, Language is the most essential thing. With 7 billion people in our Earth (and still growing seconds by seconds), the top 10 most spoken languages order has changed in this year 2019:

  1. Chinese 

      2. Spanish

      3. English

      4. Hindi 

       5. Arabic 

      6. Portuguese

      7. Bengali

      8. Russian

      9. Japanese

    10. Punjabi

It totally depends on the population which speaks that language. It’s obviously Chinese and Hindi are in the top 5 because each country has more than 1 billion people.

For me, I am on the way to learning Chinese Mandarin after French and English. I don’t just say. I make a plan and also do some actions.

Zheng Zhou University main gate entrance

One destination of my China trip is Zheng Zhou University. It’s simple because Zheng Zhou University is the best University in the city. I go there and ask about my study application(of course, the best way to study Chinese Mandarin is right in China). At that day, the admission said it’s not my turn to take a look at my application yet-> it means I do the unnecessary thing and waste “some times” because of my impatience!


My first solo trip to China is not so good. It has more problems than my original plan, but the trip helps me to learn many things. It is the first time at all. Nobody perfect for the first time. The point: will you learn from it and improve for the next trip?

How about you? Where was your first solo trip? When did it happen? What was your destination back then? Who did you travel with? Can you share why did you choose the destination for your first solo trip?

20 Replies to “5 Things You Need to Know Before traveling to China”

  1. Hi, thank you for such a great, informative article. I do want to go to China one day, and those challenges you faced aren’t anything I would ever have imagined!

    I knew about getting a sim card when I go to another country, didn’t realize the extra steps for China. Thank you for providing such important details and links for them, too!

    1. Hi Jerilyn 

      First, about the sim card in China, it has only one purpose for foreigner tourism: the Chinanet for your mobile phone. 

      In China, there are big three providers: China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile. The price goes up as the order. Cheapest is China Telecom-> and then China Unicom-> and then China Mobile. Everything has the price. China Mobile has the best network covered almost every inch of China territory.  

      Second, to activate the Chinanet on the sim card, it would be easier when you can change the language input of your phone. Change from English default into Chinese simplified-> and then let the tourism guide do the rest of work. After that, just change back to English and check internet traffic. 

      If you have any further question, I am glad to help you within my ability πŸ™‚

  2. I’m sorry you had so much trouble on your visit to China, but I’m glad that you shared it here. That way, I can learn from it. I’ve always wanted to go to China because of its rich, ancient traditions. So, I’m glad you shared some insider travel knowledge. I’m sure that most websites about traveling to China would go into the details that you went, especially if they were Chinese. It was especially helpful for you to include the information about Chinanet. 

    1. Hi

      You don’t need to be sorry πŸ™‚ To me, the problem offers the opportunity for me to learn more things. 

      If you really want to travel to China, go to some local travel agency. It would save you times and save some problems later on. They can create a private tour just only for you or for your family. 

      Have a nice day there Chris. 

  3. I found your personal story about your first trip to China fascinating and entertaining. It sounds like you had a few rough patches that you did not anticipate, but also that you had a chance to get out and see a new place and meet new people. I can relate to some of your trials and tribulations!

    My first trip to China took place many years ago, and I was also confronted with a lot of challenges. I had made hotel reservations, so that was not a problem, but the taxi took me the long way (I found out later) and I was overcharged by a lot. It still was small money but still…

    The language was also an issue like you experienced. I did have a friend that was there to help me get around and she also did the translation, as my few words were not much help. It all was a nice experience overall though, and I returned many times after that first trip.

    The 5 things to know you mention are all good points to know and I am glad that I came across this article from you. Soon I will be heading back to China, and as it has been quite a few years, I am sure that things have changed and I will be glad that I read your post!

    Will you go back to China again or will you go to another country for your next trip? I have been to about 85 countries now over the past 47 years, and I still want to get to more before I get too old!  Do not let the few hiccups stop you from traveling, you obviously have a love for it!

    1. πŸ™‚ Hello Dave Sweney 

      Thank you so much for saying “I found your personal story about your first trip to China fascinating and entertaining”. Comparing to you, I am just a beginner because I just visited two cities so far. One is San Jose, USA (I visited it with my mom in order to attend one event) and one is Zheng Zhou city, China (soloing :D). 

      I had the same experience with you about the taxi overcharged…I also share in detail how I notice the taxi driver overcharges in My First Solo Trip to China. Do their method is the same as my situation before?

      And for your questions πŸ™‚ Yes, for sure. I will go back to China, but the next time I will plan more careful because I have some experiences from this time haha. 

      πŸ™‚ Thank you for a reminder but during my trip to China, I don’t have any hiccups at all. 

  4. Before I travel to China, I will make sure that I know all the information that I need to know.

    China is very beautiful, There are so many places that I would love to see.

    When I get my personal business going well enough and make some money then I would love to travel.

    Your article is very good and packed full of information.

    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog Melody Logsdon. It’s good that you have a general plan. When the time comes, just go for it. It doesn’t matter where you will travel. The main point is you will do the action, not by saying. 

      Have a nice day there. 

  5. First of all, your story is fascinating, and I have to tell you that your English is impressive.  I’m sure I could not do as well if learning your language.

    I’d love to go to China sometime, but after reading your article, I think I’ll do so when I can go with someone who knows the language.  Believe it or not, in our little Alaskan village there have been a couple of trips to China in the not-too-distant past, where a group of people traveled together, and had one person with them that could speak the language.  

    Your list of the top 10 languages was interesting.  I did not realize that some of the more uncommon languages are on that list.  Of course, to us dumb Americans, many other languages are uncommon because we’ve never bothered to learn them.  I believe that’s an advantage of living somewhere other than the U.S., as one is more apt to learn more than one language.

    1. Hello Fran πŸ™‚ 

      Honestly, I am still learning English. My current English level is English 101, which is the standard for US college only. However, I still not pass the class yet. I need to improve more πŸ™‚ 

      Having a local friend is the best way to travel to a foreigner country. When I was alone in China, It was me who only counted on. I depend so much on Google Translate and Baidu translator. It was good that China Great Firewall doesn’t block Google translate completely. 

      By the way, before you enter China mainland, active your VPN – Virtual Private Network. Or using the airport free wifi to reach the VPN-> without VPN, you can’t access to any Western platform. All Google services are banned. Western social media also are banned too. 

      At the time I stayed in the hotel of Zheng Zhou city, I turned on my ExpressVPN 24/24 on my cellphone. Take a look and try 30 FREE days by click on this link

  6. My biggest fear was about the internet because I know many websites and search engines we use over this other side of the world are banned in China. After reading your article, now I know I can use a VPN to go around it, so thanks for the info.

    And I really like the post, it’s very detailed and helpful. China has boomed and we are all very curious to visit and experience their culture.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. yeah πŸ™‚ using VPN when you travel to China alone. Another option is you can go to your local travel agency in your city and buy a private travel package. They would take care all for you. 

       Since we have a different time zone with China, our biology system needs to get to use with their local time zone. I remember I have the “jet lag” when the aircraft descendant from 43000 feet in the sky to 30000 feet… Every single blood cells are dancing. I feel the numbness through all my body, from the neck-> shoulder-> arms-> and go down more to the legs. 

      And when you take the rest in the hotel, you would be bored even they would have some Western channels like BBC news. And the rest channels are Chinese. 

      Therefore, maybe you should take a nap or regular sleep as your body needs. 

      Thank you for reading πŸ™‚ 

  7. If I am bringing my girlfriend to China for a tour, then we will both need to study Chinese language. And according to some friends, there are two kinds of Chinese language. First is Mandarin, second is Fukien. Based on your story, what you studied is Mandarin. Maybe that’s the one we should master, Mandarin. But I’d like to know which part of China speaks Mandarin and which part speaks Fukien? I am asking this so that we will avoid going to places there where Fukien is not being used.

    1. Hi Gomer

      Thank you for your question. Actually, Fukien is just one of many Chinese dialects. You should avoid Fujian province because local people speak mostly Fukien dialect. You can find some other places speak Fukien such as Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore. 

      The majority of Chinese Language spoken across China mainland and some in HK, Australia is Mandarin. When you start to study Chinese Mandarin, they call it as Hanyu. Hanyu is well spoken in Northern and Southwestern China. When I travel to Zheng Zhou city, Henan Province, I hear Chinese Mandarin more than other dialects. 

      Besides, the second Chinese I heard about is Chinese Cantonese. It’s Putong Hua. Chinese Cantonese is more popular in Taiwan and HK. When you travel to Taiwan and try to ask local people, you will have two options: Chinese Cantonese or English. Local Taiwanese don’t like to use Chinese Mandarin when dueling with business…

  8. i Personally had a number of Solo Trips and China was not one of them and i am glad i have met with your post before travelling to China .

    Your trip was interesting and important as it has given you insight to guide others .

    My purpose to travel to China would be business and i am seeing from your trip that i would really need someone from within China to stay withing plan and budget .

    How much was the difference between what you had budgeted and what you actually spend if i may ask ?

    And how did you find the food and the accommodation and the General Hospitality ?

    Thank you for the post

    1. Well… honestly, the trip to Zheng Zhou was more expensive than I planned because of many reasons. One of them was I didn’t search enough. Before I traveled to China, I should check the accommodation before heading to the airport. I did do it when I waited for boarding at Sea-Tac airport (it’s my departure). However, online booking kept pop in “error” -> It’s because the hotel I chose does NOT accept foreigner. At that time, I didn’t find where on that website stated about it…

      When I actually landed in Zheng Zhou city – my final destination, I had to find a hotel that accepts foreigner. Of course, it costed more than other local hotels which serve for Chinese people only. 

      About food, I ate a few times on the street. Actually, some small restaurants on the streets. The menu was cheap. The range price varies from 10 yuan to 30 yuan for one normal dish. However, you can order one food with 100 yuan haha. With 100 yuan, your stomach would be filled in the next three days XD I had my free breakfast right inside the hotel. And it was a buffet breakfast πŸ™‚

      For health… I don’t know because I don’t have any sickness when I stay in Zheng Zhou city. 

      Thank you too for reading πŸ™‚

  9. I feel sorry for your inconvenient travel to China, but I recommend you for still looking at the positive side of what you experienced. I knew about the Chinanet because a lot of my friends worked in China. Along with this issue, they also find it hard to even open their facebook or youtube because China has its own similar apps.

    I believe there are travel agencies that can prepare you with all these things and can even give you travel packages including hotel accommodation and touring services. I just hope that China will be more lenient and welcoming to tourists. But to each his own. We can never question how they do things in their country. Good luck on your next travels. I hope it would be as memorable as your visit to China and then you can share it with us too! 

    1. Hi πŸ™‚ 

      thank you for your recommendation, but I treat that trip as an opportunity for me to learn. Failure is the best teacher in the life school πŸ™‚ 

      And for your friend issue, it’s easy. Using a VPN. China has launched its Great FireWall from 20 years ago, so our young generations can’t do anything when it blocks all Facebook and Youtube since then. -> in China, Facebook and Youtube are combined into one multiple purpose platform. It calls Wechat or Wexin. It has some similar apps such as Weibo. And currently around 2016 until now, there is one app that becomes the most popular social app in China-> It’s Douyin. It’s Tik Tok China version. (haha, I don’t mention to “Tik Tok” song of Keisha. It’s a mobile app) 

      After the trip until now, I still summary, review and search more information that I can use in China without a VPN. I will update soon πŸ™‚ Of course, I have the confidence to plan the next trip better because I learn many things on my first solo trip to China πŸ™‚

  10. What a saga! I’ve done most of my traveling in Europe, which is a little easier. Even the French were nicer than everyone said. Oh course, they laughed at my bad French but they seemed to appreciate that I tried. But your article reminded me. Even when you are having a good time, travel is work.

    I usually like to travel on my own with no itinerary, but your article convinced me. If I go to China it will be with a tour group when everything is handled for me. I know that sounds cowardly, but China sounds daunting.

    My first solo trip was to London. My experience was the opposite from yours, easy and pleasant. But then it was my language and my ancestral culture. The hardest part was to remember to look in the right direction before crossing the street. In China don’t they drive on the “wrong” side too?

    Did everyone speak Mandarin? Is that official now. I grew up in California where it was mostly Cantonese. But that’s changing too, as more people arrive.

    Anyway, thanks for an interest and informative article.

    One suggestion. Your stuff is signed Admin. I’d like to see a name. 


    1. πŸ™‚ Hello Jimb 

      I share the same idea with you about “travel is work”. At that first trip, I have put my self alert and attention high. (it’s my first solo trip ever in my life πŸ™‚ I have a cousin who visits my home country alone. He goes there alone and he loses his wallet when he travels right inside our home country where the communication is easy) Therefore, I don’t pay attention that I have the high-stress level when I stay there because many things in my plan don’t work in reality. However, it’s a valued lesson for me. I learn how to dual stuff on my own. Decide which is matter to me, what I need to skip πŸ™‚  

      Even I have studied the French language at my University of my home country, but I never have a chance and intend to go to France πŸ™‚ Maybe when I get married and our situation provides, I and my future wife would go to Paris first-> climb to La Tour Eiffel-> go to Le Louvre -> and then take the train to French Midi -> Look for the French Lavender farm πŸ™‚ It’s so beautiful in some YouTube video, but the Lavender smell in real farm will be much more benefits to our body. 

      It’s not coward at all. It’s your choice to be safe. Even with some Chinese local people travel between city to city in China, one Chinese person still is rob by another Chinese person. (he goes as group tourism under three travel agency employee’s watch, but still can’t avoid the incident…)

      Oh my… the driving style in China… is “ruder” than the USA and other Western countries. Their main Chinese road rule: who comes first, that person has all right. You would hear a lot of horn on the road no matter what time is it.

      And yes, for Chinese Mandarin part. All the time I stay in Zheng Zhou city, Henan Province I hear local people speak Mandarin most of the time πŸ™‚

      Thank you for sharing Jimb. 

      Thong Ngo πŸ™‚ ( you can go back to my “about Gne admin” page for more detail )

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