This week I have invited Grandpa and Micheline to contribute to my blog with a review of their holiday in China. It sounds to me that they were a bit surprised about many aspects of life here, starting with our house! Well thank you for coming all the way to visit us and for sharing your thoughts on my blog.
Visit to China – a Retrospective
Following the precedent set by Suzie, and at Thomas’s request, we are giving our own impressions of our visit to China.
We were amazed by:
- The Terracotta Army. Yes, we had seen the pictures and it was a long and expensive trip for the five of us, but it was definitely worth it. Not only to see the sheer extent of the warriors, horses, chariots and assorted animals, but to learn that there are still several pits not yet excavated with some known to contain 5,000 figures.
- The Great Wall. The section we visited was in a very scenic range of hills. We only managed to walk between six towers/forts, but , nevertheless, formed a good impression of the monumental effort it must have taken to build it.
- The size of Tiananmen Square, which will hold a million people, and the extent of the Forbidden City.
- Being in Beijing’s Summer Palace with over 100,000 Chinese tourists. Our holiday coincided with a national holiday and we have never seen so many people sightseeing. En masse the Chinese make an incredibly loud noise and do not believe in queuing. The contrast between the Japanese [quiet, orderly and restrained] and the Chinese [noisy, pushing and shoving] is notable. The range of different faces and races of Chinese was a surprise.
- The airports and stations. They were all enormous and looked as if they had only just been built. They put Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to shame.
- The urban sprawl around Xi’an, Beijing and Shanghai. Where was the countryside?
- The amount of construction recently completed and taking place. There were cranes everywhere. We went to the top of what was until recently the tallest building in the world to look out from 100 floors up at a forest of skyscrapers that had been built in the last 15 years.
- The decay and dilapidation of the fine colonial houses in Shanghai, particularly Mrs Daisy Qwok’s house where she lived with 25 servants. It is now occupied by 25 families, some living in a single room.
- The volume of shipping we saw on a trip down the Huangpu river – hundreds of ships, barges and naval vessels.
- Shanghai Museum which kept us interested for a day and we still did not see everything.
- Our ‘last supper’ and seeing five Chinese waiters approaching our table singing ‘Happy Birthday, dear Grandpa’ with a birthday cake put together by Thomas.
- At Hangzhou at last seeing some impressive countryside and, of course, the amazing show on the lake.
- The lovely smell of Osmanthus trees.
- For Micheline, the very high quality clothes made for such low prices.
- Joining in with a group of Chinese ballroom dancers at 10.00 pm in a park in Xi’an.
The surprises were:
- The disparity between rich and poor. Also China is not a third world country any longer – at least in Shanghai and Beijing.
- The quantity of food that appeared in Chinese restaurants for our ‘light’ lunches.
- Prices in general. Apart from local Chinese restaurants, locally-made clothes and taxis, everything else seemed to be similar to UK prices.
- The chaotic traffic conditions despite massive road building, including ten-lane roads in Shanghai. There are too many cars and few small vehicles. It must be the biggest market for Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Taxis are driven by lunatics. It also seems to be essential to sound your horn every few yards.
- The level of pollution, especially in Beijing. Here we encountered two days of record pollution. This was in contrast with our first day when there was a clear blue sky which resulted in our guide saying ‘Oh, my god, you can see the mountains’.
- Experiencing being on the edge of a typhoon when Shanghai had the heaviest rainfall in 24 hours since 1961.
Lots of thanks go to:
- Elaine, Bromley and Thomas for their hospitality and attentiveness. Bromley’s detailed organisation of our trips was excellent. Everything went like clockwork. He could be a professional travel organiser. Thomas’ positiveness, cheerfulness, IT skills and entertainment delighted the old aged pensioners. Elaine was ever smiling, rarely stressed [like her dad!!!] and, like Thomas, always positive.
- Our guides in Xi’an and Beijing who were excellent.
- Elaine’s driver in Shanghai, the inscrutable Mr Huang, who never drove like a lunatic.