Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Phil's Random Observations and Commentary on China

Just in case you're planning your first trip to Beijing, here is what to expect.
  • Yes, there are young men who play guitar and sing for money in Chinese subway stations.
  • I heard that approximately 40% of the worlds concrete and steel are being consumed by China’s construction boom.
  • China is not producing dull, boring, utilitarian new buildings. The stadiums being built for the 2008 Summer Olympics are extremely modern and unusual looking. One technology park building catering to software companies features a UFO-looking structure covering the open space between buildings.
  • There are churches in China but they are supposed to be registered with the Bureau of Religious Affairs. Registered Protestant churches are called the “Three Self Partriotic Movement “
  • You are expected to bargin with shop keepers and street vendors. There is no bargining at Government operated shops, however.
  • The Chinese will still line up to view Chairman Mao’s body and leave flowers.
  • Thousands of bus drivers, taxi drivers, and people with other tourist-facing jobs are studying English to prepare for the many tourists coming for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
  • The new money in town can buy million dollar American-like luxury homes in gated communities with golf courses.
  • Hyandai cars are very common but I also saw many VW Jetta’s, a few Buicks, a Jaguar, a few Mercedes Benz, a few mini-van looking vehicles, and a couple of SUV-type vehicles.
  • The technology workers coming and going from the new technology parks in the northern suburbs seem very young and are high educated
  • You do see people who appear to be squatting on property on the side of the highway in shacks made of whatever material they could find.
  • There are some beggars on the streets.
  • I was approached to see if I wanted to buy bootleg copies of pornography DVD’s.
  • Aggressive entrepreneurs will try to sell you watches with the image of Chairman Mao, copies of Mao’s Little Red Book, and Red Army Hats.
  • The air is quite polluted. The air pollution hangs like a fog on winter nights.
  • The Chinese carry fancy cell phones.
  • The mens restroom in large buildings will often have both a western-style toilet and the hole-in-the-floor type.
  • Well educated and otherwise brilliant Chinese professionals really do eat duck feet but they are de-boned first. They also eat duck tongues, farm-raised bullfrog, eel, and more.
  • There are enough Muslims in the Beijing area that it is common for company cafeterias to have a separate line for their Muslim workers. I believe this is so they have meal options which do not include pork.
  • You can buy cigarettes from the same vending machine as Coke and candy bars.
  • It appears that most vending machines take one yuan coins, five yuan bills, and ten yuan bills. Why do they not take the one yaun bills?
  • Every restaurant I stopped at had either regular Coke or regular Pepsi. Almost none of them had Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi available.
  • When I ordered a pizza in an Italian restaurant in my hotel (which caters to western business travelers), the waitress brought me a bottle of traditional American Tobasco Sauce from the McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, LA to go with it. I've never eaten Tobasco Sauce on pizza but there it was.
  • Paper napkins are usually small.
  • "Hole in the wall" restaurants that locals frequent seem to cook a portion of their food on grills on the sidewalk out in front of the restaurant.
  • You can get bread in Chinese restaurants much like the bread in Indian restaurants back in the US.
  • Bicycle mechanics will set up shop on the sidewalk along busy streets.

No comments: