Travelers With Disabilities

China should not be your first choice of destination, and if it is, you should travel in a specialist group (although such tours to China are very rare) or with those who are fully familiar with giving you whatever assistance you may need.

China is difficult for those with limited mobility. The sidewalks are china shop, and sometimes with pitying condescension because they are too stupid to speak Chinese. At some sights, out-of-town Chinese tourists may ask to have their picture taken with you, which will be fun to show friends in their foreigner-free hometowns. ("Look! Here's me with the Elephant Man!") Unless you are of Chinese descent, your foreignness is constantly thrust in your face with catcalls of "laowcii," a not particularly courteous term for "foreigner," and a bit like shouting "Chinky" at every Chinese you encounter at home. Mocking, and usually falsetto, calls of "Helloooooo" are not greetings but similar to saying "Pretty Polly!" to a parrot. Whether acknowledged or not (and all this is best just ignored), these calls are usually followed by giggles. But there's little other overt discrimination, other than persistent overcharging wherever it can possibly be arranged. Indeed, in general, foreigners get better treatment from Chinese, both officials and the general public, than the Chinese give each other, once some sort of communication is established. People with darker skin do have a harder time than whites, but those with no Mandarin will probably not notice. Hong Kong and Macau are both more tolerant, although souvenir shops and markets will overcharge wherever possible. Hong Kongers married to foreigners know to leave their spouses at home when they shop for dinner.

very uneven, and there are almost always stairs to public buildings, sights, and hotels with no alternative ramps. In theory, some major hotels in the largest cities have wheelchair-accessible rooms, but rarely are they properly executed—the door to the bathroom may be wider, or the bathroom suite lower, but not both, and other switches and controls may be out of reach. Metro stations do not have lifts, and any escalators are most usually up only.


China is still in denial. Even Beijing boasts only a single gay bar of any note, but it is not permitted to describe it in print as such, and there's less still for lesbians. You don't travel to China for the gay scene any more than you'd travel to Mexico for the icebergs. Only Hong Kong and Macau are well supplied with openly gay bars and clubs. Other Asian countries have much more to offer. Even The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; & 800/4488550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta. org) lists no gay-friendly organizations dealing with in-bound visitors to China. Out and About (& 800/9292268 or 415/644-8044; www.outand, which offers gay guidebooks, has a Hong Kong title (". . . no other city is better equipped for the #1 gay sport: shopping!") but nothing for the mainland.

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