Barbara Nicastro, The Law
Offices of Barbara E. Nicastro
China is a contrast of modern and ancient, of tradition and
innovation, of peacefulness and high energy: a place unlike any other and a
country that should be on your list of Top 5 Places to Visit.
My visit to China three years ago was with the Chamber tour.
I traveled with over 20 other people, but had no travel companion. I
traveled with people I knew and perfect strangers – at least for the first few
hours. While I’m no travel agent, I know what works and know a bargain
when I see one. The China
trip was spectacularly both.
I’m an organizational freak, so I bow down in admiration to our
tour group for how well every detail of our trip was planned. From the
time we left until we returned to Arlington, everything was taken care of for
us. The transportation was great, the days were packed with activity, the
experiences were highly varied, and I got to see how the Chinese live their
daily lives. The tour guides were highly knowledgeable and
friendly. All I had to worry about was what to buy as gifts/souvenirs and
whether I wanted something extra to drink or eat.
Was everything perfect? No, but in hindsight, most of the
“grousing” was more due to cultural differences than to actual deficiencies in
the tour. And the little things that weren’t perfect paled in comparison
to the amazing experiences:
at night and shopping on the city streets
- The Forbidden City and gardens
Square with its eerie memories
gardens, artifacts and laughing, frowning, serious, ancient Buddhas
lessons at a tea farm in how to properly make tea
apothecaries and healing practices
with a Chinese family and our tour through a traditional neighborhood
- Walking through
a town market on Saturday morning as town residents did their shopping
trips on canals, lakes and streams.
how silk rugs, jade pieces, porcelain and fresh water pearls are created.
Now that you’ve decided to GO to China,
here are some recommendations:
walking as exercise regimen. This tour is not for people who
cannot walk well or who have difficulty with mobility. While you could go,
you would miss out on a lot.
this a true vacation. Divorce yourself from your iPad, your laptop and even your
cell phone if you can. Instead, bring a camera. Besides the
“lugging around” factor, your personal memories of actually seeing China rather
than photographing it will be what last.
lightly/pack to leave behind. China’s weather is
varied. You will buy more than you think you will. With these two axioms
in mind, pack layers and don’t worry about how stylish you look. I took
old clothes, left them behind after they were worn, and had tons of space in my
suitcase for those “had to have” purchases.
- Read up
on the Chinese personality and behavior. It’s different from ours
and can be initially confusing until you figure out how to act Chinese.
take a lot of cash. I managed very well on $300 and a credit card.
- Find a
credit card that doesn’t charge a fee for international purchases. Capitol
One is one, and USAA only charges 1%. Make sure your credit card company
knows you’ll be in China.
- Take the
“optional” tours since
you’ll be left on the bus if you don’t and they are spectacular.
- Ask the
Chamber to find you a roommate for your
hotel stays if you are traveling as a single. You’ll save money and with the
schedule for each day, you’ll be doing little more than showering, sleeping and
repacking your bags in the hotel.
the price of EVERYTHING! The Chinese will sell to you at full
price but won’t respect you in the morning. The calculator is the
your eyes and ears open: there is something fascinating going
on almost everywhere!
[Editor's Note: The Chamber is
hosting another trip to China this Fall from October 11-19. For more
information about the trip, contact Cassie Bate, Member Services Administrator,
at 703-525-2400 or email@example.com.]