In my lost posting I described the insane attention the children received in Beijing. Our trip up the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace.
China is an incredibly large country which is developing at an unbelieveable pace. Sadly it’s in danger of losing the mystical and historical charisma that is conjured in the western mind because it’s politicians are hell-bent on pandering to western tastes. There is little or no sensitivity when it comes to the renovations being done in preparation for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Slap on a coat of dulux – who cares if the temple is a couple of thousand years old. We were astounded to learn that all but one of the traditional Hutong communities have been knocked to the ground to make way for new shiny buildings. These places are the historical stronghold of the average Chinese person – it doesn’t make sense to rid the city of all but the Aristocratic history, but it is being done. This is rationalised by the fact that these old housing districts are/were fire hazards with little or no building standards – but they have been there forever.
MacDonalds and Pizza Hut are on every street corner – whilst I was secretly glad of this for the children’s sake it didn’t exactly meet upto my expectations.
On the plus side, Chinese people are incredibly friendly, open-minded for the most part and always willing help. We travelled on planes, over-night trains (which are fabulous – if awfully smoky), in taxis and on boats and covered a lot of mileage. We saw all that Beijing had to offer, on to X’ian for the terracotta warriors, then onto Guilin to see the River Li and the “pretty” rural China you see in the pictures. Then onto Guanghzhou (not the most pleasant place) for a ferry to Hong Kong.
Lord the travelling was hard – the food was inedible. I’ll tell you a quick story:
We were in a Cantonese Restaurant with a local. I was relieved to find a “picture-menu” and quizzed the person we were with about the items on the menu. One of the things looked like Pork and/or Chicken Strips. When I enquired, she assured me that this was Chicken/Pork. I was ravenous – 10 minutes later my food arrived. On closer inspection, the plate in front of me contained nothing but Chicken Paws – absolutely nothing like it to kill the appetite. Deep fried chickens feet, claws and all. Bleuuuurrrrghhh!!
I could go on all day about China. It has many good points and many bad points – certainly it’s not a place to have a holiday. We were exhausted by the time we reached Hong Kong. For us the most difficult thing about China was the food. Everything tasted horrible – I was trying to think of a nice way of saying it but I can’t. The food was gross. We were hungry. Believe me, we can tolerate pestilence, flood and doomsday but do not take the food from a hungry De Jager.
We are happy that we saw China before the Olympics. Both Torien and I believe it will change irrevocably after that. The days of being the Tourist Attraction at a tourist attraction will be well and truly over for the Western Tourist and that is a true loss.
We spent three days in Hong Kong after China – where Tate was stocked up on his now beloved Thomas the Tank Engine trains and tracks and Caelan was finally rewarded for his patience on our mammoth trip with a coveted Nintendo DS Lite and two games (for which he owes us half the money for the recored).
On the 14th we flew to Bangkok. I’ll update in a new post about that experience.