Flying in from Seoul by Air China to Beijing yesterday it became largely apparent that the Chinese encourage tourist visits and are prepared to make the visit enjoyable.
China is about the same size as America only with four times as many people (1.4 Billion) and flying over the countryside it is readily apparent that the growth has been well- planned out. There are varying sizes of towns and cities surrounded by farmland and some are large industrial centers that are surrounded by many large apartment buildings with shopping areas to support the population.
A tourist visa is required and must be obtained prior to leaving America and that process is almost as complicated as getting a passport.
However, the flight attendants, security personnel, customs agents, cab drivers and hotel agents were as friendly as you could hope for and most spoke some english. Safety, cleanliness and modern facilities are the norm here but I was most astonished to see forests of trees everywhere amongst the many tall apartments, office buildings and industrial buildings. The freeway from the airport to Beijing, a distance of about 30 miles, was lined on either side with a deep landscape barrier and large planted trees to separate and conceal whatever was behind them.
The six lanes of traffic moved along a modern roadway at high-speed and I was downtown by taxi in half an hour for about 80 yuan ($14.00).
After eating Asian food for several days I decided to seek out some American food and found a Hooters about a mile away from my Holiday Inn Hotel. Visiting with the young Chinese there I found them to be very friendly. They were surprised to learn that many Americans would not travel to China due to concerns about life safety issues and they emphasized how safe they felt in their homeland.
Brian, my Christian tour guide (what are the chances of that happening) arrived to pick me up Tuesday morning at 8:30 am and we set out for a fascinating day exploring the sights of the City.
Brian’s real name is Ma Ching Wa (i butchered that) and he was born, raised and educated in Beijing. He graduated from the Beijing Foreign Studies University, is fluent in English and very knowledgeable about world history and religion.
We visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and had a fabulous
la carte lunch at a noted and popular local restaurant. After lunch we went to the Summer Palace and visited a pearl factory. Brian then took me in a special sideline tour to the Asbury Methodist Church, one of the oldest (1870) christian churches in China.
My last day in China was capped off with a trip to the Great Wall of China through the mountains about an hours drive from Beijing. There are many sections of the 6000 km wall that you can visit and hike upon but it is no longer one continuos wall.
After walking the very steep stairwells to exhaustion we headed back through the foggy hills and returned to Beijing to visit a Temple and other sights that seemed forgettable after visiting the Great Wall of China.
One thing I noted on my last day was how that coins are never used and everything is rounded off to exact Yuans (or Quie as its commonly called) which is about 17 cents. In other words, everything is rounded off to the nearest 17 cents thus eliminating the need for coins. At Starbucks at the airport I asked for my change in coins and they looked at me with a smile and gave me two one- yuan coins.
Another item of interest is that if you run over someone on a bicycle then you will be personally responsible for some if not all of the medical cost of rehabilitation. This would explain why there are very few accidents between the bicycles/electric mopeds and automobiles. There is no such thing as auto insurance such as what Americans are familiar with.
I was awoken at 3:30 am by American Airlines that night announcing that my return flight to Chicago was delayed by about 12 hours. I chose an alternative route via Air China to Japan and then Ameican direct to Dallas. I write this final comment from the American Airlines Admiral’s Club in Narita, Japan while awaiting my Dallas flight. I can’t tell you how satisfied I am with American Airlines through this endeavor. They had a concierge meet me upon my arrival in Japan and walk me through the security, customs, terminal transfers to get me safely to the departure area. Air China excelled also but American is the best!