China – logistics #1

The Great Firewall of China

In China the government controls the internet and only certain information is allowed to get in. Because of that, a lot of sites that the government cannot censor are blocked like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is pretty annoying while traveling here as it means no Google Maps, Gmail, posting on FB, etc. Luckily, this only applies to Chinese internet, but doesn’t affect data on my Verizon plan. Also, its possible to get a VPN service and circumvent these blocks, but it’s annoying because now i have to turn this vpn on whenever i am using wifi, and turn it back off when i am not. I always end up forgetting to do that and end up with super slow speeds or being blocked. (I know… life is so rough, eh?)

It is pretty insane to think about though. That there are *1 billion* people in this country, and they cannot get access to uncensored information. No free press. No unfiltered internet. The tv channels are all run by the government. I was listening to NPR a while back, and when a reporter went around to ask Chinese college students about the Tiananmen Square protests, even showing them the infamous photo… they didn’t even know what that was. It was just deleted from history. This is some serious 1984 style Big Brother stuff. I know back home we talk alot of shit about the government (and yes, clearly our current administration is fucking awful), but it’s crazy just how much worse it can be and how lucky we are to live in a (relatively) free country.

Also, interestingly, even though google isn’t used here, people still say that they googled something if they looked it up on the internet.

Phone

Despite all the crazyness with the firewall, my phone has been a lifesaver here on this trip. Cellphones are everywhere in China. Sometimes i see people even carrying more than one. And reception is incredible. In the middle of nowhere i still often get a perfect signal. Honestly, it’s much better than back home. How is it that *Silicon Valley* has worse cellphone service than China?

Google translate is the one app that the Chinese firewall doesnt block, and i use it all the time to translate things though it’s not perfect as people sometimes cant understand the translation. Google maps surprisingly has maps of *everything*, even totally remote tiny towns. I can book train tickets, hotels, and flights. I can contact people back home… I was literally texting people back home while walking on the Great Wall of China. It’s hard to remember how people survived while traveling before smart phones. The one thing I cant really do (outside of Beijing) is find restaurant listings/reviews.

Atms

The atms here dont like American cards. Not sure what the deal is but often i need to try 4 or 5 atms. By the 4th one, I am usually breaking a sweat, afraid that i’ll be stranded wherever i am with no way to get money, but eventually it always works out (so far).

Didi

This app is like uber/lyft and has been a lifesaver like crazy. Trying to talk to cab drivers is super hard as they dont speak English, and google cant always translate names of places. Not to mention, cab drivers often try to rip you off etc. It is *so* convenient to just be able to plug in a destination in the app, and just get picked up and dropped off wherever. Also, if you are in a random area at night with no cabs… amazing.

Cup of Noodle

Back home, cup of noodle is mainly for poor college kids, but here it is absolutely everywhere. It is the ultimate travel food, so every airport, train station, bus station, etc has a hot water dispenser so you can fill up your cup of noodle.

Smoking

A huge percentage of the men here smoke and you can smoke pretty much anywhere, often even in restaurants. Not sharing is considered very impolite, so I get offered cigarettes quite often, especially when I am in taxis.

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