What stands out about China?
- Security. Granted, as tourists we were in “sensitive” areas, but the level of surveillance was surprising. Cameras were ubiquitous, as were the police and military. At airports, security starts at the door, the again at checkpoints. TSA in America is child’s play compared to the Chinese. Metal detectors are everywhere, even at the Three Gorges dam.
- Food. With a tour, nearly all our meals were served 10 to a table around a lazy susan . The dishes came 2 or 3 at a time usually totaling 14 or so. I expected spicy, but nothing major. It helps to avoid the dark red chili peppers. Ninety percent of the food was very good, the soups being the least tasty. For a country so concerned about image, it is odd that you only drink bottled water wherever you go. I can’t remember a meal without watermelon, including breakfast.
- Size. The third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada, it is big! Like Australia, we took planes everywhere. Familiar with smaller hotel rooms in Europe, I assumed something similar. To the contrary, our rooms were the largest anywhere. Traffic is oppressive. Think Washington D.C. at rush hour well into the evening. If walking, watch out for the motorbikes! While they are required to have a license, there is no indication that they follow any rules of the road.
- Infrastructure. Large building projects everywhere, including bridges, tunnels, roads, locks, etc. You name it, they are building it. They have the world’s fastest train, a mag-lev that travels 260 mph. Impressive, except it only goes the 15 miles between downtown Shanghai and the airport. By the time it gets up to speed, it is time to slow down.
- Family. Why did they get rid of the one-child policy? According to our hosts, they need younger workers to take care of an aging population. Sounds familiar. But one said they need greater numbers to fill up all the new residential units they are building. I guess it didn’t occur to them to slow down the construction. It seems grandparents raise the children in China. Both parents feel compelled to work. We were told that, although wedding rings are exchanged, they are rarely worn.
- Scenery. Our guide denied that the flowers and lights were just for the 70th anniversary of Communist China. The city centers, adorned with flora, lit up at night, are sure to garner visitors from abroad. They welcome you to admire the country. The area around the Great Wall is rugged, surely unforgiving ground for Mongol horses. Then again, didn’t Hannibal cross the Alps with elephants? The 400 mile river cruise on the Yangtze was as beautiful as the cruise through Europe, just without the castles.