by Chris Bodenner
Readers can relate to a recent post:
One of my vivid memories of traveling in Tibet in 2006 is from visiting one of the monasteries in Lhasa to see the monks debate one another. Dozens of them gathered in a courtyard criss-crossed with stone paths to take part in these lively sessions. It was a unique and wonderful experience, but the Chinese tourists who attended were the one black mark. They treated the place like a zoo and the monks like animals. While almost everyone stayed on the stone paths and kept a respectful distance watching the monks debate and snapping the occasional photo, the Chinese tourists would walk straight up to the monks and stick a camera literally inches from their faces. It was jarring to watch them do it, and obviously the history and ongoing tension between China and Tibet colors the dynamic even more.
As you can tell from my VFYW and airplane window photos you’ve published, I get around. And little irritates me more while traveling than Chinese tourists.
I enjoy hiking, but don’t expect to see any wildlife when Chinese tourists are around. They block trails by not letting anyone pass, speak at their loudest, don’t respect personal space and just drive every living thing away from their vicinity. As you can imagine, bus loads are the worst, and the Chinese tour guides don’t do anything to take control of the chaos, as they’re often just as bad as their charges right to the point of using bullhorns.
The main reason I’m writing is to share an amusing experience with a Chinese couple while traveling in Australia. On a flight from Sydney to Adelaide a married couple, probably in their mid-fifties, obviously clueless about air travel, was driving the flight cabin crew crazy with their mild panic about every little thing, with the language barrier only making the situation worse (they didn’t speak one word of English and there was no one on the plane who could translate). We were relieved to be landing so we could be rid of them, but as we were descending, wheels down, runway dead ahead, everyone including the cabin crew strapped into their seats, suddenly the Chinese woman decided it was time to use the bathroom! A female cabin crew member unbuckled herself, bolted down the aisle, grabbed the woman from behind, threw her into her seat and buckled her in, then made it back to her own seat just in time for touchdown.
That was entertaining, but we weren’t through with them yet!
Adelaide has a small airport and an equally small luggage carousel. The Chinese couple pushed their way in front of the waiting passengers to the luggage exit and began pulling every black bag off the carousel in what appeared to be a panic as they looked for their own. Soon there was a small pile of black luggage as they were tripping over themselves trying to pull more off while throwing some of the bags back on after they confirmed, with much nervous discussion between themselves, that each rejected bag was not theirs. At one point the Chinese man even fell to one knee onto the carousel, so I was expecting a recreation of the Ab Fab episode where Patsy was riding it! The waiting passengers were dumbstruck. No one knew what to do or wanted to get too close, so I finally announced I’d go get a member of airport security to take charge.
That’s when I heard “They are my parents!” I turned and saw a young Chinese man in his early twenties, just standing there and watching the spectacle. I realized he had arrived at the airport to pick up the couple, so I blurted out “Help them!” He seemed offended and replied “They never travel before!” We had words about his responsibility to help his parents, so the older couple finally settled down and retrieved their bags with their son’s help. Knowing East Asian cultures, younger people are often hard-pressed to correct or give direction to members of their older generation, even when they’re making a scene.
It turns out Adelaide has several universities that attract large numbers of Chinese students, so we surmised this couple was making a visit to their son, possibly their first time outside of China. Hopefully he gave them some instructions for making it home without any calamities.
My husband and I were in Paris last February and did a tour of Versailles. We lucked out in that we were the only English speakers that morning and had an English-speaking tour guide to ourselves. Over the course of three hours, we were jostled from room to room and throughout the grounds, fighting for space among the bus-loads of Chinese tourists. Towards the end of the tour, our snobby French tour guide, who never seemed to thaw towards us, turned to us and said “I can’t believe I’m going to say this but Chinese tourists make me long for the days when Versailles was overrun by Americans.”