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Field Notes from Xiamen, China

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Old 01-14-2008
Field Notes from Xiamen, China

Tim Bass
Mon, 14 Jan 2008 04:37:01 +0000

If you don’t travel to China, you don’t realize how*important reading your favorite blogs can be.** In my last post, I mentioned how they charged*us over 200 to 350% more than others nationals for a visa, but that was only the beginning of the Chinese shock-and-awe.
The Chinese government has blocked access to most all major blog sites, so while in China I could not read or access any blogs, including*this one.*
In addition, Wikipedia is blocked.** You don’t realize how much you depend on Wikipedia until it is blocked!
Also, you can exchange US Dollars for Chinese Yuan (RMB or CNY) easily, but it is*practically*impossible to change back Chinese Yuan back to US Dollars.** In fact, the General Manager of our hotel told me it was illegal, under Chinese law, for hotels (and most places except*the mostly closed*Bank of China)*to change Chinese Yuan to Dollars, but they can, by law, change USD to CNY.*** The Chinese system is designed to take your*money, so be careful!**
Making matters more bizarre, the exchange rate for USD to CNY was about 7.4 CNY to one USD; but in Bangkok, the banks only give around 3.5 Thai Baht for one Chinese Yuan, effectively giving you a greater than 20% haircut (should be around 4.5 Thai Baht per CNY as the current rate is about 33.2 Thai Baht per USD).
Needless*to*say, we*were*quite happy to return to*Thailand, where foreigners are warmly welcomed, you can access the entire Internet and*the government does not have a system to*disgorge you of your money in foreign exchange.
So the bottom line of this field report is that China*can be*a quite a hostile place for foreigners.* Beware!
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