Monday, March 28, 2011

BEIJING – HONG KONG 3/20 – 3/28/11

Olympic Bird Nest Stadium Beijing

 China’s population is now at 1.4 billion people – 20% of the earth’s population.  Cities, high rises and the economy are also growing at a staggering rate.  In most parts of the world, developers design and build high rises, resorts, shopping malls, sports complexes.  In China, they create cities from the ground up.  Actually, I should say from the sea up.  On March 20th, our ship docked in Tianjin, China.  As we drove out of the port, we rode over reclaimed land in the process of developing into a city that will sustain 48 million of people.  However, due to the one child per couple policy, China’s population may soon begin to decline.   Consequently, a new a new policy allowing 2 children per couple will soon be implemented.  The irony is that China’s quickly emerging middle class cannot afford 2 children!  One guide told us he is spending thousands of dollars a year to send his son to kindergarten in addition to music lessons and special classes to learn English.  Outside the cities, many people still live in abject poverty. 

Ron at the Great Wall of China
 Courtesy of Regent, in-transit guests were bused to Beijing and treated to tours of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and a night at the beautiful China World Hotel.  Having been to those sites in the past, we skipped the Forbidden City to spend a few hours at the Beijing Silk Market.  In spite of the name, it is a 6 story building that sells everything imaginable: luggage, purses, clothes, shoes, jewelry, watches, electronics and more.  When you tire of shopping, you can get a manicure, pedicure or massage on almost every floor.  If you can tolerate the hard sell of the Chinese merchants, it’s great fun and you can find great bargains.   

City of Shanghai
From Beijing, we sailed to Shanghai.  What began as a fishing village has emerged into the “Paris of the east.”  It is difficult to describe.  Looking out over the city from one of the new super tall high rises, the city appears to go on forever.  In just 15 years, 8,000 high rises have been built and 2,000 more are in the planning or building stages.  That is why the “crane” is said to be the national bird of China.  At 23 million, Shanghai has 3 million more people than the capital Beijing.  Two highlights of our time in Shanghai were a visit to the Acrobatic Show and a ride on the high speed train.  It runs from downtown to the airport in just 7 minutes, and reaches a speed of 431 kilometers, about 260 miles per hour.   
Shanghai at night

We enjoyed a sea day after Shanghai and then arrived in Xiamen, China.  With a population of 2.5 million, the Chinese consider this a small city.
Xiamen was one of 5 ports opened to the British by the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing following the First Opium War.  Hong Kong, where we are now headed, was actually ceded to the British in perpetuity.  But, as you may recall, it was returned to China in 1997.