I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.
FAOs often think of us as big teenagers, except that teenagers sometimes grow up)
I wonder what a Chinese court would think of my 350 lb. Samoan layer if I got busted for something? There seems to be some pretty good drugs around here - I'm sure the 20 kg. toothless octogenarian I was 'talking to' the other night didn't have tobacco in the pipe he was carrying!
I had a bad experience in a Chinese train station in Feb. 2009 when I booked a 'last minute' (super cheap flights from Busan to Shanghai, Pudong) 'holiday week' (get-the-Hell out of Korea for a while) in Shanghai. Booked the flights, a really nice boutique hotel and got an 'L' visa... just in time. The hotel's English language version of the website had directions to the hotel from Shanghai East Train Station. I flew into Pudong airport and took the Maglev Train as far as it went... no problem. I got on the subway and transferred lines... no problem. I got off the subway at Shanghai East Train station and went up into the station... no problem.
However, I could not find my way out of the station! There were what seemed like hundreds of lines of thousands of people that stretched for miles behind barricades... and nothing was in English. I'm sure the were signs in Chinese saying 'Exit, this way'... but I couldn't read them. I could see out of the station through giant arches/gateways... but they were barricaded and had guards... who wouldn't let me through/out. Gestures did no good - the guards 'couldn't be bothered' and weren't interested in helping a laowai to get pointed in the right direction... even though they knew exactly what I was trying to do. I must have dragged my luggage 5 km around that station trying to get out.
When I finally did get out (about two hours later), I didn't know what direction I was going because it was completely overcast and I couldn't tell where the sun was. Street signs had English... but the avenues are so wide you can't read them from 'across the way'... you have to wait minutes for the light to change and cross the road only to find it's not the street your looking for. I set up a 'search pattern' - expanding, one block, each sweep, concentric circles - and started dragging my luggage with the knowledge that eventually I would find the road the hotel was on. After about an hour, I saw a travel agency and when in to see if anyone spoke English... one woman did (sort of) and when she realized what I wanted, she phoned the hotel for me. It turned out I was two blocks away... and I was there within five minutes after being pointed in the right direction.
The friggin' 'kicker' was - there was a subway entrance/exit directly
across the road from the hotel. If I'd stayed on the subway for one more stop, and known what exit to come up, I'd have saved myself about four hours (and about 10 km) of dragging my luggage around. Helen Keller couldn't miss the hotel!
Knowledge is priceless.