When travelling to China make sure to hang onto any receipt you get from money exchange at a bank. You’ll need them to reconvert your left-over yuan to a western currency at the airport.
My flight from Beijing to Tokyo was around 9 am. So, I showed up at the airport around 6:30 to deal with check-in and security. Banks usually only open around 8:30 in China, half an hour after my plane started boarding procedures. Fortunately in the departure hall I found a small Bank of China teller that did open at 7am. However, someone in line before me couldn’t re-convert his yuan, because he didn’t have the original receipts from when he bought then. Apparently, to prevent money from leaving the country, you can only reconvert as much yuan into western currency that you have proof for having bought during your stay (the receipts have your passport number, so you can’t borrow your friend’s).
Now I’ve switched from yuan to yen. Even Japan is still a very cash driven country, but exchange procedures seem more straight-forward. I’m here at my little boutique hotel right on the Ginza, Tokyo’s combination of Park Avenue and Greenwich Village. I certainly won’t starve around here. Within a five block radius around my hotel there are probably 150 restaurant and noodleshops and even a few general stores that sell food items. My Japanese isn’t a whole lot better in shape than my Chinese. So, fortunately, most restaurants have pictures of their menues, and those that don’t tend to be very pricey anyway. Meal prices in Tokyo are about comparable with New York, while Beijing was a whole lot cheaper (probably 1/3 to 1/2 of NYC prices, depending on where you went).
Can’t wait to do some sight seeing tomorrow … and not having to confront suddenly changing traffic regulations …