1. Leave at least 70% of your manners at home. Whilst most Chinese people are polite, when you are queuing to enter attractions, catching the bus, desperately waiting for the toilet or just walking down the street...manners count for nothing! It is a free for all, and being polite means you won't see that temple until next week!
2. Be prepared to become a celebrity. You will get stared at...a lot, you will get asked for a picture at least 3 times a day and little kids will point and laugh at you.
3. Where possible travel by sleeper train. It's a great experience, but book well in advance to ensure you get a soft sleeper. (Hard sleepers have no doors or room to sit)
4. Take toilet roll everywhere you go, and be prepared to use a squat loo...especially in Xi'an.
5. Buy a Point It picture book, in most food places and markets you will find that nobody speaks English, not even a little. So taking a little pocket picture book will ensure you're eating a duck leg, rather than its intestine.
6. Always carry extra cash. Especially when going on excursions. We made the mistake of not taking any money to the Great Wall and had to hike up thousands of steps, rather than just using the cable car. Idiots!
7. Don't shy away from market food. It has been without a doubt some of the best food we have tasted. Yes we haven't always known what it is, but we're still alive to tell the tale!
8. The first time you hear someone cough up phlegm and spit it on the floor you will be disgusted, after the tenth time in an hour you learn to ignore it. An essential tip...just don't turn around to look!
9. Use public transport, it's so cheap and easy! Much better than flagging down the wrong taxi and getting ripped off coz the driver doesn't use a metre.
For Kyle, walking on the Great Wall is his number one highlight. Closely followed by the food, nothing like what you get on a Chinese menu at home, but fresh, healthy and really tasty.
Kyle was also surprised by the cleanliness and greenery of the parks which we visited and a lot of the areas surrounding the cities. Beautiful and peaceful in the centre of chaos.
For me, I was overwhelmed by how close we were able to get to the pandas and the whole research ground itself. They are truly well looked after in an area filled with plants and bamboo.
I've also enjoyed exploring the little markets and the Muslim quarters, delving a little further than the typical tourist parts and finding hidden gems, like in Xi'an.
I think we can both agree that China has been an amazing experience, and we will definitely visit again in the future.
Love Carrie xxx