You know how it is — you’re browsing Facebook, killing some time, entering a competition here and there… and a few weeks later, you’re being called by some bloke called Neil at STA Travel telling you you’ve won an adventure of a lifetime!
We’ve all been there, right? OK, so maybe not (wishful thinking), but for one lucky lady, the dream became a reality.
So what was China like? What kind of stuff can you expect to get up to there? And do they really eat dog in China?! We caught up with Jade and grilled her on her amazing adventure.
Read all about Jade's amazing adventure in China
STA Travel meets Jade Little
How did you hear about the competition?
I saw it come up on my news feed on Facebook. I never normally enter competitions like this because you think you’re never going to win. I could have easily flicked down and not entered but something made me click on the link and enter my details. Thank goodness I did!
Had you won anything before?
In high school I won a book voucher for coming third in my history class… but I’ve never won anything as exciting as this!
How did you feel when you had won?
When I got the call to say I had won I thought it was a scam, I didn’t believe it. STA Travel had to convince me that it was, in fact, not a scam and I had actually won a free trip to China. It was a pretty amazing prize, I was extremely lucky.
Had you ever thought about going to the destination before?
I’ve always wanted to visit Hong Kong as I’ve heard it’s an amazing city, which I can now say it totally is! China was just an added bonus especially visiting the Great Wall was one of the many highlights.
Jade and friends on the boat trip down the Yangtze river - before or after the rice wine, ladies?!
Who did you take with you & how did you make that decision? Why them in particular?
It was actually really good timing. I was in between jobs so I decided to just go for it and booked it for the next month. One of my best friends had been living in Canada for a few years and I hadn’t seen her in a while. Like me, she loves to travel, so when I mentioned it to her she jumped at the chance! So glad she did as she’s an amazing friend and I love her to pieces. She had a bit of a rough year so I was happy that I could do something like this for her, as she was totally deserving of it.
Did you have any preconceptions about the destination? When you arrived were these proved true or not?
SMOG. Millions of people. Huge cities and high rises. Shopping, shopping and more shopping. These were all proved true when I arrived in China!
Jade and her friend meet a local fisherman
What were your feelings when you first arrived?
Apprehensive, excited, nervous. It didn’t help that the first taxi from the airport I got into tried to overcharge me by a small fortune on the taxi fare. A massive argument later and my stubbornness came into good use as I ended up paying the correct fare and not letting him get the better of me. I thought that there would be more English tourists but it turns out most of the tourists in China are Chinese. Crazy!
Do you have any amazing memories or funny stories from the trip?
Trying to squat while on a moving/stopping train is a pretty interesting experience. So is going into the women’s toilets, only to find there are no doors so you have to gather up the courage to actually use the toilet!
What was the best/worst food & drink you tried there?
Being a vegetarian isn’t always easy when you travel. My first meal was a vegetarian tofu soup with a hint of bacon strips that they failed to put on the menu, so it was challenging. The bakery food looked delicious until I realised the brown stuff in the middle was actually meat! Dog was a common dish in some parts of China, which I thought was a myth. Turns out it’s not. We ended up getting what we thought was vodka for the boat trip, turned out to be 50% rice wine. We still drank it anyway, much to our guide’s horror.
Exploring China's beautiful countryside
Did you pick up any special souvenirs?
The paper cuttings were beautiful. I have a few of them at home which I’ve had framed. So much work goes into them, it’s amazing.
Did you meet some memorable fellow travellers on the trip? Anyone you’ll keep in touch with?
We were pretty lucky — our group consisted of around 12 girls and 2 guys, all similar in age, so we all got on pretty well. Dan, Chris, Willeke and Sabine made our trip all the more better, so a huge thanks to them. I will definitely be keeping in touch!
What was the highlight of the whole trip? Something / a moment you will remember forever?
Walking along the Great Wall of China. To say I’ve done it is a pretty amazing feeling.
Do you have any insider tips to give others planning a trip to this destination?
China has extreme weather. It’s both hot and cold so make sure you pack for both. Save some room for shopping because there are some amazing things on offer. Make sure you take hand sanitizer and toilet paper everywhere you go. Oh, and be prepared to do some squatting!
Do you feel this trip has given you the travelling bug?
I’ve always had a travel bug. I adore travel and the craziness of different cultures and foreign places. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake it.
Jade fell in love with Hong Kong
Any plans for more travels in the next year? Where?
I live New Zealand, and I’m heading to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands soon for a good friend’s wedding. I’m also planning a trip to Tokyo, possibly for Xmas. I’m always planning and thinking about the next adventure to tick off my bucket list.
Would you go back to China, or recommend it as a destination?
I would definitely recommend it. China is a fascinating place with a culture all of it’s own. I will be back to Hong Kong for sure. I could easily live there for a few years. It’s one of my favourite cities.
Has the trip changed your opinion towards China, or travelling as a whole?
It made me realise how lucky we are to have space and open areas where we live. To be able to see the blue sky and the green grass is something we definitely take for granted. To be able to have as many children as we want is also something that we should be thankful for. The most different countries and cultures are always the most interesting and mind blowing.
Cycling the city wall in Xi'an
What were the best, worst, and most emotional moments of the trip?
The worst: the spitting. Anywhere and everywhere, it got a bit gross after a while! The smog and being unable to see the blueness of the sky most days, something I took for granted, was also quite tough. The most emotional: the market with dogs and cats in cages and hanging off hooks ready for people to eat. The best: Hong Kong. The Great Wall. The Terracotta Warriors. The river cruise down the Three Gorges. and of course, the amazing people I met along the way.
Can you sum up the experience in 3 words (or pick one of your photos that best sums up the trip?
That’s so hard – I’ll pick 3 phrases instead: explosion of the senses; vast and diverse; a memorable experience.