We have returned from our trip to China and I wanted to share some of my impressions with you. During the tour we didn’t really have time to search out internet access, so I wasn’t able to give any more updates during the trip. But I was able to jot down some notes of things that caught my attention, so I will share them as a list.

  • There is new construction everywhere, especially in Beijing and Shanghai. I have heard that construction companies in the U.S. have been having some problems because China is buying such a large percentage of the world’s steel and concrete.
  • We saw older people exercising in the parks, but they were doing dance aerobics to western music instead of Tai Chi. Some couples were doing swing dancing.
  • Even in 5 star hotels, the staff doesn’t speak much English. It is very helpful to be able to speak Chinese.
  • In China you need to budget some money for buying numerous bottles of drinking water every day.
  • How to cross the street in China: (1) follow the crowd–the locals know what they are doing, (2) don’t run, because it will confuse the drivers trying to miss you.
  • People driving in China weave through traffic with very little room to spare. Some of the people in our tour group had to avoid sitting in the front of the bus, because they panicked every time a bicycle or taxi suddenly cut in front of the bus. I’m amazed that there aren’t more accidents.
  • The cities were cleaner than we expected, but the air pollution was pretty bad, especially in Beijing. We went to several locations that were supposed to provide a good view of the city but we could see very little.
  • The airports and train stations were new and modern, with bilingual signs.
  • [esvignore]The 2008[/esvignore] Olympics is a big deal in China. They are putting a lot of money into fixing up Beijing before the big event.
  • The new construction areas include room for trees and shrubs. Very nice.
  • There are quite a few parks in the middle of the cities, many of which were originally established for the emperor or a rich family. Now they are public property, but you have to pay a fee to get in.
  • “Mister! You want Rolex watch? Cheap!”
  • There are some people who are making a lot of money, and evidence of a growing middle class. In Shanghai, in order to get a local car license plate (necessary for using the local expressways) you must participate in an auction. The cost is about $3500 US for the license.
  • According to our tour guide, Shanghai has more high rise buildings than any other city in the world.
  • The government has built some very nice, large homes for the farmers to encourage them to keep farming.
  • The distinction between the street and the sidewalk is not always clear. Cars and motorcycles drive along the sidewalk to find parking.
  • There are a few “open” churches, which are very crowded, but there is a need for many more churches. Apparently it is very difficult to get permission to build additional churches.

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