China is a huge, fascinating and quickly evolving country. Last time I was there in 1999 I stayed in Bejing and Xinjang (Korla, Urumqui) mainly for oil and gas business. This year, together with our friend Carlo we decided to take the opportunity to visit the central and the southern part of China with the main purpose of looking for minerals. We are currently based in Jakarta for business so our distance from the "doors of Asia" Singapore and Hong Kong is really limited. When a better opportunity?
Exploiting one of the few activity gap in our business we quickly self-organised our trip for early July. We had 12 days available and our plans were entering in China from Hong Kong, visit Changsa in Huanan province and then Guilin in the Guangxi province. We leaved Jakarta on June 30th heading for Singapore and then for Hong Kong. Here we had appointment with Carlo that was traveling from Italy. Trip was ok for both of us and our meeting in Hong Kong was on schedule.
We spent a couple of days in Honk Kong, a very busy and western-style town. Everywhere you look you see skyscrapers, futuristic bridges, colored lights, modern railways and metro, shopping centers and markets. The town, is recovering after the 2003 SARS, and it looks anxious to demonstrate once again his efficiency and Chinese style iper-busy attitude. We have to say that coming from Indonesia or from Europe, Honk Kong manages to stick your attention. The huge and ultramodern airport is extremely efficient. Everything is well organized , baggage arrived before we reach the collecting area after immigration desk, controls are very accurate and professional, comprised the health control, check-in is quick and all the land personnel speaks at least a decent or fluent English. Transportation to down town, as well as inside it, are quick and efficient, taxi and bus services are everywhere. However when you go out of the main and classic roads, you immediately appreciate the "feeling of china". It is also true that the service efficiency has a cost. First impression was that hotel, restaurants, transportation in HK are expensive, very very close to the European and American standards. The only exception we found was in the taxis that still had reasonable prices.
Our day in HK were spent visiting some of the "must" of the town: "the Peak, Hollywood road (the Antiques area), Stanley Market and Aberdeen harbor. The area of antiques definitely worth a visit. The main galleries really exhibit beautiful "pieces" of art from the various Chinese Emperor dynasties. You need to be a real expert to appreciate their value and since the prices are outstanding if you want to buy something it is recommended to have at least a separate evaluation on the piece.
|Hong Kong downtown
|Hong Kong downtown
a busy day as all the others
|House boats in Aberdeen
|Hong Kong, the
The day later we had our flight for Changsa, the Hunan Capital. Upon transferring to the domestic airlines for inland travel, we were immediately swept into the" true" Chinese culture and atmosphere. Almost all of the State-owned airline fleets are either modern Boeing or Airbus planes, and are commanded by capable Chinese pilots. Ticket are surprisingly expensive and service on board basic. However nost of the times flights all depart on time, even in weather conditions of terrible visibility with heavy rain and wind that would normally delay or ground Westerners airlines.
Our inland travels this trip took me from Hong Kong to Changsa, about a one hour and half direct flight. We were a bit surprised to see that here, deeper within the country, most informational signs at the airports and major highway interchanges are still labeled in both Chinese and English. Most of the better hotels have truly luxury grand lobbies and reception foyers, with elaborate marble decor, grand pianos, full concierge staff and doormen, and all conveniences the traveler could wish, and, the most important, are clean. Rates spans from $ 30 to $ 50 per day, including breakfast. Similarly, meals are still more than reasonable, also if there a a huge difference between Chinese and western cuisine, obviously.
China Inner country appears today like a land of clashes to the senses. Modern architectural structures and services in the main towns still contrasted l with simple or basic human living conditions, pollution, and relatively low income levels. But, it's a huge Country, it's definitely alive; and..... the most important point it functions. We have to say that Chinese authorities and social organization are capable to manage efficiently a level of complexity much higher that in our European standards. For me, coming from Indonesia the contrast was evident and stunning. As we said they manage to handle a much more complex environment, compared to Europe or the States, efficiently. Furthermore these environment it is not static but it's developing very rapidly.
People are intelligent, readily willing to be friendly, constantly curious (especially the young guys) about us. We had to quickly become accustomed to being stop virtually everywhere we went. Approaches are usually curiously friendly and sincerely kind, however, and without any serious prejudicial judgment. Chinese men routinely wear slacks and suit coats, and are generally clean cut and without facial hair. The women are active, efficient, kind, polite, and apparently very considerate.