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Old 01-02-2007   #1
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 43
Kayaking In China.... Any Advice?

So I am leaving the states on january 11th and heading over to china to kayak for 2 months with The World Class Kayak Academy. If anyone has any advice or hints on anything from packing to what not to eat let me know. Thanks!

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Old 01-02-2007   #2
DanOrion's Avatar
Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,448
A buddy of mine just got back from China and commented on how difficult it is to communicate, even if you have some basic Chinese under your belt (esp. in rural areas). I saw a card once with pictures on it, a bus, an apple, a plane, etc that you could point to in order to help with communication, it might be worth having something like that.

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Old 01-02-2007   #3
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
Sounds like fun. I don't know anything about kayaking in China, but I did visit there briefly. I can tell you I was initially nervous about getting sick eating stuff from streetside vendors and uncooked fruit, and such, but the guy I was visiting there had a laissez faire attitude to the whole thing that I got into. So I ate just about anything and anywhere so long as it hadn't touch the ground and I never got sick. I thought one of the best parts of being in China was the food - really good and super cheap and you can pick up some great stuff from streetside vendors for almost nothing. Fruit actually tastes like fruit there. As for eating fish head soup and intestines and such, I say go for it - all part of the experience (although eating endangered species like turtles is not cool, even if they do make you sexually virulent) That said, I heard some stories of questionable sanitation from places in Tibet, so if you're in Western China, which it sounds like you might be, maybe you should try to get a look at how clean the hands are of the guy preparing your grub.

Also, I found the Chinese didn't have much respect for the ground. I suppose it will depend where you are, but in the cities there was a lot of spitting, children urinating, and garbage thrown on the ground. Main point being, don't lick the ground, and most hotels have little slippers for walking around your room - use them.

I found Chinese culture to be really foreign. Be prepared for behavior that you might find rude such as unabashed staring, pushing and shoving, and general disrespect for personal space. Unfortunately as a foreigner you will be targeted as a person with lots of money who should be ripped off (the government seems to even encourage this behavior). Expect to get ripped off, but try not to. Also, most rules like no photography, no food or drink in such and such a place, etc. seem to be generally ignored. However, it is a police state so don't get on the wrong side of the law, but if all the locals are ignoring the rules, you're probably safe to follow suit.

The card is a classic piece of advice for traveling in places that don't use our alphabet (really annoying, wish these guys would get with it). I assume you'll be accompanied by someone who speaks the language, but if you're venturing out on your own via some mode of transportation that makes getting back on your own unclear, it's not a bad idea to carry a card with the name of your hotel on it.

Hmm, otherwise my advice is be open minded, don't act like a spoiled American brat (i.e. don't act like Bill O'Reilly) and bring back some cool paddling pics and stories.
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Old 01-02-2007   #4
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 54
I just got back from a slalom race there. China is an amazing place! the people are friendly and the country side is beautiful. The area we were in was very rural and poor but was a training site for the olympics. As far as i know, the "boaters" i talked to had no idea of paddling beyond training on their artificial courses. The communication barrier is tough but if you have any kind of tranlator you'll be ok. I had a card of chinese phrases but it did me no good because i never had it when i needed it and i could never pronounce the words. Bring pictures of your home and family. they love to see other parts of the world too. If you have any pins or stickers or small gifts to give to locals bring them because when we were there they literally showered us with gifts and we didn't have enough to give back. It is curtesy to always try the food they offer you (even when it is dog). Nearly everyone in our group got sick though so i would reccomend bringing your full arsenal of medecine. Also if you are in a big city, dont even try to drive. The traffic is horrible. Get a taxi or something. In the small village we were in, safety wasn't an issue. Everyone wanted to help us out and we warmly welcomed to dinner countless times. You'll have an awesome time there. I hope some of that gives you an idea of what your up against. If you have any questions hit me back
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Old 01-02-2007   #5
Austin, Tejas
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 22
Zhong Guo

I travelled through China for six months, and the best advice I can give you, especially if you're travelling to rural areas, is buy yourself a Lonely Planet guide for China, AND buy yourself a Loney Planet Chinese Phrasebook. Read the guide, and do your very best to learn as much Mandarin as you can. It is likely that the only English-speakers you will find will be at large universitites, and remembering that you are on their home turf, and that it is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about the way they do things will get you far. Don't be too suprised if the PSB (secret-plain-clothed police) take intrest in your kayaking, but aside from questioning, you shouldn't run into any trouble unless you, again, are blatently loud and disrespectful. Only drink bottled WaHaHa water, or boiled water...otherwise you'll wish you were never born. Most Chinese are very polite and forgiving to foreigners, as long as you remain respectful. Just don't be taken by scam artists. Have fun!
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Old 01-02-2007   #6
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 43
Thanks so much for all the advice. I am not sure if we have a translater but where can i pick up one of these cards. Once again thanks aton. Also is the water in the rivers clean in the non city areas??
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Old 01-02-2007   #7
Roy's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
I paddled in Western Sichuan province up to the Tibetan plateau with three other boaters led by Travis Winn in the Fall of 2004. It was set up through Shangri La River Expeditions (, which is run by Travis' dad Pete out of Grand Junction. Surf around their site and you can find a description of our trip, as well as several others.

Some thoughts:

If this "World Class Kayak Academy" is anything of the sort, you'll have translators. It would be damn near impossible to pull off that kind of trip without them. Learn some basics, like "thank you", "hello", "goodbye" and "one large beer, please" and you'll be fine. Carrying your passport and a hotel card while on walkabout is always a good idea.

The people were very friendly everywhere we went. Some of that probably had to do with our excellent guides, who were actually speaking Chinese with them, but I never felt like I was in a hostile environment. Just put your best foot forward and be friendly and respectful and you'll most likely get the same in return. I always felt safe, even if that was an illusion of my own making. You won't pay what the locals pay, but getting "ripped off" in China is still pretty cheap by US standards.

The food was fantastic in Sichuan, but pretty bland in Tibet. We had goose tongues and cows forhead stir fried in tasty Sichuan sauces our first lunch, and quit asking after that. Without knowing where you're going, your mileage may vary, but I say try it all, as that's part of the experience. So is getting sick for a few days. Just accept it as inevitable and count your blessings if you get lucky.

I believe there are some vaccination recommendations that you can get through Rose Medical Center, but it may be too late. Call Rose to find out if you haven't done it already.

Rivers range from pristine to foul--same with the air. As a general rule, the higher you go, the cleaner the water.

There are first descents galore available for the taking. As big as you want. Maybe bigger!

Good luck--

I expect you're in for quite an experience!

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