I felt a bit guilty casting aspersions at Chinese tourists in my last post. I’ve discussed the phenomenon with half a dozen world traveler friends, and they all hold the same opinion, that Chinese tourists are rude, and—the worst sin of all—they are forever ruining other people’s views in their quest to get the perfect selfie, often with the hateful selfie sticks.
I had this experience in Rome, at the Colosseum. I was standing at a viewpoint, marveling at the history of the place, when a young Chinese woman stepped in front of me and began preening and pouting for selfies. She seemed completely unaware that she had ruined my moment and was blocking my view.
Maybe that’s what made it so annoying—it was clear that to her, I didn’t even exist or at best was a detail to be worked around.
“But of course,” I said to a friend the other night at happy hour, “she may not have been Chinese. She could have been Korean, or American. I never heard her talk.”
“I know,” my friend agreed. “But there are so many Chinese out there! So the odds are she was Chinese. They’re always in huge groups with a Chinese guide, and they barge in front of everyone.”
“I know, I know. I’ve seen that many times. I was almost knocked into the street in Eton when lived there two summers ago. The Chinese tour groups came along the sidewalk like juggernauts. It felt like they would have trampled me like a bug if I hadn’t moved out of their way.
“Their guides had a horrible attitude. But I’d like to think there are polite Chinese tourists, immersing themselves in local culture, speaking a little Italian, but we just don’t notice them because … they’re not doing anything obnoxious.”
“Right. I hope you’re right,” my friend replied doubtfully. “Well, we Americans were the bad tourists for a long time, and still are. And the Japanese used to be notorious for taking photos of everything but not stopping to learn anything about what their subjects were.”
“I encountered a lot of horrid, loud-mouthed Spaniards in Germany.”
“And the Brits, especially in Spain, are super loud and trashy!”
We agreed, the Chinese get a bad rap for good reasons but also just because there are so many of them.
Travel used to be reserved for the rich. Thanks to the discount airlines and cruise ships, anyone can invade a beauty place with their braying and bad behavior.
I was on the shinakansen to Utsonimiya.
Oot-sone-oh-mee-yah. I loved the sound of it so repeated it in my head too many times and now it’s an earworm.
The shinkansen was clean and quiet. The seat was so capacious I could keep my suitcase in front of my knees. The ride was smooth enough that the water bottle I set on top of my bag never trembled.
From Utsonimiya I would take a regular train to Nikko. Then, I had mapped out how to walk from the train station to my lodgings. There were buses, too, but they wouldn’t go all the way to the Turtle Hatori Annex, and I was nervous about getting on a bus with my bag, figuring out how to pay, getting off at the right place, and walking from there.
I needn’t have worried about any of it. The moment I arrived in Nikko the skies opened up and the only option was to take a taxi. What a relief! I didn’t care how much it cost; I had to admit that I just didn’t want to walk or take a bus.
The taxi driver wore white gloves and his seats were covered in white lace.
The inn was twice as far and a much more convoluted route than my guide book or Google maps had led me to believe. I would have arrived exhausted it I’d walked.
The taxi cost about $9—no tipping expected—well worth it.
I had made my first successful transition from one city to another, the first of nine in the month to come. After being oriented by the chatty hostess of the inn, I strode out to explore Nikko in the rain.