With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

I guess she doesn’t speak English.

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 6, 2009

February 7, 2008

All Pictures

Erqi (7th of Feb) Memorial Tower

Get on the bus

I landed at the Zhengzhou airport around 5:00pm that evening. I went out the front entrance of the airport to look for the shuttle to town. When I found the spot to catch a bus, one was just pulling out. But there was another bus right behind it. I boarded the second bus and this was where I learned how buses run in China. Here are, in my opinion, the Chinese Bus Commandments:

    1. No bus shall begin its journey unless all seats are occupied. Scheduled time of departure matters not!
    2. Bus driver, if thou canst fit more passengers by making them stand in the aisle or sit upon their neighbors’ laps, then thou shalt  surely make the Bus-God merry.
    3. Buses shall at all times play horrible Chinese pop music videos or horrible Chinese pop music with some unrelated video. The louder the better. It must be played even whilst waiting for all the seats to fill up.
    4. Thou canst orally expel saliva, urinate, or regurgitate anywhere that pleases thee and thou needest not feel ashamed.

It’s funny now, but I was quite shocked the first time I saw someone peeing on a bus.

Somewhere in Zhengzhou.

That girl looks lost

I stayed at a unique Chinese hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet: China 2007. It was a little hard to find. No one I asked knew where it was or had even heard of it. Sometimes the Lonely Planet is not so great with directions. It also doesn’t help that all the Lonely Planet maps are completely in English but, all the actual street signs are in Chinese… written with Chinese characters.

The Lonely Planet said that the hotel was near the 7th February Memorial Pagoda (二七纪念塔). Once I stopped asking where the hotel was and started asking about the monument I found it in no time.

near the 7th of February Memorial Pagoda

To what from where how come you go?

Checking into the hotel wasn’t as easy as it was in Shanghai. Outside the major cities in China no one really speaks English. On the streets in Zhengzhou I was at the mercy of passersby willing to read what I pointed to in my Lonely Planet Phrase book. (My pronunciation of tonal languages is absolutely horrible.)

The lady at the counter in the hotel took one look at me and assumed that I spoke no Chinese. She was correct in her assumption. She handed me the “English” version of the check-in form. I started to read it in order to fill it out. Other than “name” and “country of citizenship” I had no idea what the paper was trying to ask. One question was something like, “To what from where how come you go?”

I stopped writing and looked up at the lady with the most confused look on my face. This made her think that I didn’t speak English. Unfortunately she only had Chinese and English forms. If I couldn’t understand either language enough to fill out the form, then I couldn’t stay in this hotel. At least I think that was what she was trying to tell me.

Luckily for me, another lady passing by asked if I needed help. She turned out to be a Chinese English teacher on vacation with her husband. She explained to the clerk that the English forms were translated very badly and that no English speaker could understand them. Then she asked for a Chinese form and helped me to fill it out. (I’m sure the clerk was devastated to learn that she could not count on the steady business  of the one English-speaking tourist a year that wandered into her lobby.)

The hotel was interesting. I was never given a key, but a ticket, like the kind you get at a raffle. I took this ticket to my floor and showed it to the floor manager who then let me into my room. She turned on my heater and electricity then showed me how to use the TV. When I needed to go out, I had to find the manager so she could lock the door for me and turn off the electricity. This hotel came with a midnight curfew.


How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to China.
  • Visas to China are expensive for people of some nationalities.
  • Getting a Chinese visa is not a quick process. Apply as soon as you can.



There is a long list of websites that cannot be accessed while in China. Facebook and parts of Wikipedia are just two of them. As with everything, there are ways around it. There are sites that will let you get to Facebook and other sites for free for about 15 minutes, then you will have to pay.

My advice is to find a few of them and use them for free. Then use them again on a different computer. If you are in China for a long time, then you might want to invest in paying for the service. Ask friends living in China for the best deals.



*These books by Jung Chang are banned in China. But I highly recommend reading Mao: The Unknown Story before going to Beijing.

*These books by Jung Chang are banned in China. But I highly recommend reading Mao: The Unknown Story before going to Beijing.


  • If you want an internet cafe look for this (网吧) on a sign.


How to get there:

  • 34°44’55.7″N 113°37’38.9″E

You can get in by train, plane, or bus.



  • There are many hotels in this city, but the cheaper ones might not have any information online.
  • Check with travel guides or other travelers about places to stay and eat while in Zhengzhou.
  • You should get a travel book before going to Zhengzhou.
  • I wouldn’t go to China without a travel guide-book unless I’d done lots of research first.

7th of February Memorial Pagoda
Erqi Memorial Tower
(Èrqī Jìniàntă)


How to get there:

  • 34°45’07.3″N 113°39’58.8″E

Follow the map below and ask as many people as you can stop for directions. I had a hard time finding it before I asked for help.


It’s free to look at, but I don’t know if you can enter and climb up to the top.


Always available. But if you can go in, then I’m sure there would be opening hours.


  • Near this square there are, a decent hotel, an internet cafe, a few decent restaurants, and a McDonald’s. (No, McDonald’s is not a decent restaurant.)
    • The hotel has a midnight curfew.
  • Here is an online phrase book.


Click for Google maps

2 Responses to “I guess she doesn’t speak English.”

  1. […] next day was my flight out of Xian to Chongqing. I set out early because I knew that the bus would just sit there until the seats were all filled up. I brought a book, Midnight cab and prepared to […]


  2. […] last bus to Wuhan. It should have left half an hour before I got to the bus station. But thanks to Chinese Bus Commandment #1 the bus was just sitting at the station waiting for more people to come along and occupy some empty […]


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