The flight home always seem to pass more quickly than the flight away. Part of this is because, thanks to the rotation of the earth and prevailing tail-winds, it is quicker... by about 1-1/2 hours this time... but it doesn't explain everything. I mean, what's an hour in the course of a 13 hour flight? Not much. Perhaps it's a mental thing?
Overall, I can say that I loved my brief time in China. Absolutely loved it. I have been dreaming of standing upon The Great Wall since I was very young, and now that I have actually done it, it feels as though a part of my life that was missing is now complete. All my other experiences on the trip, wonderful as they were, pale in comparison. If you ever have the opportunity to visit The Middle Kingdom, I highly recommend it.
If you do go, however, there are some things to prepare yourself for...
- Traffic. In China's two major cities of Shanghai and Beijing, traffic is horrendous on a scale that dwarfs all my other traffic complaints. More and more people are getting cars, and the road infrastructure is simply not able to handle the volume. Beijing's subway system helps, but can't take you everywhere.
- Queue. As I mentioned, standing in line in China is the ultimate torture. From the minute you step off the plane and queue for a taxi, to the minute you stand in line at Border Patrol to leave, you will be forced to endure shoving, pushing, crowding, and lots and lots of line-cutting. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in a line and getting nowhere because people are constantly cutting in front of you. Nothing will make you more angry than being next in line at a ticket window, only to have somebody shove you out of the way so they can go first. It is constant and never-ending, and will plague you in every single queue you have to wait in. You have to learn to ignore it, otherwise you will be very, very angry for most of your trip.
- Construction. China is forever expanding and changing. And now that the Olympics are coming to Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo is coming to Shanghai in 2010, their efforts are doubled. Many important landmarks are closed or covered in scaffolding, which means you probably won't get to see all the things you were hoping to (for me it was Temple of Heaven and Confucius Temple).
If you can get past these sticking points, then you will see and experience things that will blow your mind. Chinese culture is thousands of years old, and will capture your imagination in a way that few others can.