Here’s a tip for those travelling in groups: abandon mutual chopstick dipping into various dishes served traditionally on revolving tables. We did this after eight of our 14 succumbed to stomach ailments. Unfortunately, it was in Shanghai that we were served the most commercial and unappetising meal of our seven-city visit.
A Cambridge degree course in Mandarin Chinese: £18,000. Pocket phrasebook from Lonely Planet / Rough Guide / Berlitz: £4. Getting off the plane and finding that not one of the hotel staff, waiters, shopkeepers, public officers, bus conductors or taxi drivers you need to deal with speaks a word of English: Priceless.
Unless you are a fluent Chinese speaker or have a Chinese friend on hand to help you at all times, you will need one. English is not as commonly spoken as in other Asian destinations. If you can't get one at the airport, try the Foreign bookstore at 390 Fuzhou Lu or Garden Books at 325 Changle Lu - Tel: +86 21 5404-9728
This is not a recommendation, this is a tip. If you see a shop with a large window, a rotating red-and-white barber's sign full of sinks and girls in hotpants, it's not a hairdresser's, it's a massage parlour-cum-brothel. Chances are that the occupants have no more idea of how to cut your hair than they have of flying the Space Shuttle.
All over the place in sinister quantities
Watch out for "robber" porters, if your taxi drops you in the underground carpark. They take your bags out of the boot and then try to extort a large sum from you to carry them up a short flight of stairs. I guess it's a matter of either avoiding this carpark, or being brave by outfacing the porters, or grabbing your bag first and running!
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