Book Updates

     Bike Rental: It's fairly easy to find repairmen who will rent bikes, even if they've never rented one to anyone before. It may be a new idea, but many have old bikes to sell, or an extra one. Some bike shops may also be willing to rent used bikes. Cost per day may be as low as 2, with 5 average, and some will ask 10. Quality varies from barely rideable to excellent. They will ask for a deposit of more than the sale value of the bike, commonly 100-200, perhaps more for a very good bike. Don't lose the receipt.

     Words you will need: yajin 押金 (deposit); you zixingche chuzu ma? 有自行车出租吗? (Do you have a bike to rent?); then the bargaining starts.

     Expect to try three or more repairmen before you find something, or, if you are picky, maybe ten. Depending on your plans, you may need to ask when they open or close, or their phone number to make returning the bike easier. I often do some repairs and lubrication, using the shop's tools and supplies. The chain will usually need oil, and the brakes may need adjustment. The repairman usually takes over after I've gotten my fingers dirty. If you have problems with the bike and are nearby, the repairman will usually fix them for free. If you spot something broken on the bike, or a bad spot in a tire, be sure to point it out to the renter to avoid arguments later.

     Public Showers: South of the Chang Jiang (Yangzi River), I've rarely found a zhaodaisuo that didn't have a free shower, either in the room or down the hall. In the west, I've sometimes had to pay a little extra for the shower. In the north, many places don't have a shower. I can wash out of a basin for awhile, but I like a shower, and hate to wash my long hair in a washbasin.

     It's usually easy to find a public shower nearby your zhaodaisuo, on the street or in small lanes. The cost may be as low as 2, commonly 4-6, with bigger places charging 10. Many of these include the use of a steam room in the price of the shower. The water may be plentiful and hot, or a miserable warm trickle, but I can get clean and often do my laundry at the same time. In cities, there are also luxury spas that can easily cost more than 100 for the full treatment. Even in the small places, a scrub and rubdowncuozao 搓澡) is available for a 4-5 more.

     I find these public baths a little hard to spot, but you can watch for the words 洗浴 or 浴池 on signs. The full name will be longer. Watch for the water radical, , sometimes in two words in the name. Often, there will be a picture of a pretty girl in a swimming suit on the beach, in a pool, or playing with water, although such a picture on the sign my indicate a more expensive place. Ask for xizao fang (洗澡房, shower room) if you have trouble spotting one.

     Once you've paid, you will be given a key to a locker for your clothes, and a pair of plastic sandals. There will probably be a place to leave your shoes before you enter the dressing room.

     Money and Banks: In northeast China (including the northern part of Nei Menggu with Dongbei), outside the main cities, I had a hard time finding any place to cash traveler's check, or to exchange US$ for RMB. Finally, in Manzhouli, I was able to change US$ at the Bank of China, although they wouldn't cash my traveler's checks; they said I had to go to Harbin. Manzhouli is a tourist town! The charge for changing the cash was a reasonable 1% and the service was fast. I haven't had this trouble in other areas.

     Xining, 10/5/07, A small branch of the BofC would not cash TC, but would change US$, 1%

     Telephones: 07/9/17, source China Daily. More than 600 million mobile phones, counting Xiaolingtong. This number is growing at an average rate of 6.76 million/month, averaged over the first half of 2007.

     In the fall '07, many IC card phones I've tried do not work. I have better luck with the public phones in storefronts.