China: And Away We Go!
Almost, at least: we leave Friday, but I wanted to get the itinerary posted for those of you who want to follow along.
Kit and I leave for Hong Kong on Friday -- a bit early since Kit has some meetings there (hey: may as well while we're there!) and so I can meet our guide early and be sure everything will go as smoothly as possible.
Hello Hong Kong
I've never been to Asia before. One's first trip to the other side of the world can be pretty disorienting (no pun intended), but Hong Kong is a nice way to stick your toe in the water: so many people speak English, though our local guide says the younger someone is, the less likely they speak it very well. Too bad!
How to Spell Macao
Kit and I (and quite a few other hotel consultants) took the jet ferry from Hong Kong to Macao, another "special administrative region" of China. As Hong Kong used to be a territory of the U.K., Macao was run by Portugal (for over 400 years), and it was also handed back over to China (in 1999; Hong Kong was handed back in 1997). Macao has long boasted one special feature: gambling -- so much so it was often known as "the Las Vegas of China", but it really fell behind the decadence of Las Vegas. Until recently.
Health Care, Chinese Style
A previous post mentioned Hong Kong's terrible smog (a word the Chinese don't seem to know, but they understand "air pollution". Another reader says there's another term for it that's spreading like the smog: the "Asian Brown Cloud"). The next day a breeze came up and we had blue skies, which was sure nice, but over the next couple of days it got progressively worse again. But even then, it was never as bad as our next stop, a brief stay in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), where we could literally see haze between our bus and the buildings along the street.
The next morning we headed for the airport for our flight to Lhasa, Tibet, where we anticipated we'd see clear skies. We were definitely not disappointed.
Politics and Tibet
We have now left Lhasa, Tibet, and we discovered that this was quite an interesting time to be here, politically speaking.
Health in China: Another Angle
I'm back after being offline for several days while cruising down the Yangtze on a riverboat (more on that in a few days). Meanwhile, a few observations on some things the Chinese are really doing right, healthcare-wise.
Pandas in Chengdu
One of the (many!) highlights of our trip was a visit to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (it probably sounds better in Chinese). Chengdu, our first stop after Tibet, is the capital of the Sichuan province.
Cruising the Yangtze
After rushing around Hong Kong, Tibet, and Chengdu, it was time for a little rest. With a four-day cruise down the Yangtze River, we won't have to pack and unpack, or catch planes, for awhile.
At over 3,900 miles (6,300 km), the Yangtze is the third-longest river in the world (after the Nile and the Amazon). It stretches from the highlands of Tibet plateau to Shanghai, where it dumps into the East China Sea.
The Three Gorges Dam
When discussing the Three Gorges Dam project, the Chinese guides loved to spout numbers. (27.15 million cubic meters of cement. 281,000 tons of metal structures plus 354,000 tons of reinforcing bars. 365 townships in Sichuan and Hubei provinces have been or will be inundated -- a total of 632 sq. km. Etc.) What I found more interesting was the human factor.
China: My Conclusion
There is only one more thing I want to cover about the trip before I wrap up this section of my blog and move on to regular business. That is, the part that made this such a memorable trip, otherwise known as the answer to the question all my friends have been asking me since we got back: "What's the most outstanding memory, or biggest highlight, from the trip?"
The answer is not the scenery. It's not Tibet's Potala Palace in Lhasa. It's not the river cruise, the food, the can't-see-them-anywhere-else sights. It was the people -- though probably not the people you think.