20 – 27 October 2011
By P Chong 1 November 2011
I first visited Beijing in May/June 1989 when I led a tour party of 10 there. The most memorable thing about that trip was the infamous Tiananmen Square demonstration which disrupted our sightseeing of the place. Tiananmen which means “Peaceful Heaven Gate” & which demonstration if not cracked down by the then Paramount Ruler, Deng Xiaoping would have spelt a different China we see today. It would be reminiscent of the last days of the weak Qing Dynasty which saw some eight foreign countries or more carving out Chinese motherland for themselves & looting away China’s precious treasures & heritage.
Now what a difference 22 years made? I saw then a city of millions of bicycles transformed to a city of millions of vehicles. Everywhere high rise buildings tower the sky, multiple lane thoroughfares, highways, express ways, traffic jams and as one of my Aussie friends said, “I have never seen so many Chinese.” Then in 1989, any significant modern structure was that of modern 5-star hotel, such as Kunlun Hotel where we stayed.
With increasing affluence & growth of capitalism, tourism is a great revenue source from foreign tourists as well as the locals. Wherever we went in our recent October 2011 tour, be it the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, Shopping Malls or Centrers, Summer Palace . . . there were jostling crowds & seas of heads. In a way, I was kind of disappointed as I was really looking to a more leisurely holiday.
The tour covering Beijing, Chengde & Tianjin, sponsored by the Chinese government, is designed to encourage the overseas Chinese to return to motherland China to see for themselves the phenomenal leap of progress that China has made in the last 3 decades. China may be Communist in name, but capitalism with Chinese characteristics is evident everywhere. The popularity of the tour is evident by some 34 luxurious coaches averaging 45 – 50 passengers.
When Deng Xiaoping coined the words “Xiang Qian Zou” (basically meaning Forward March), he changed the same sounding word “Qian” to mean money. The “Road to Riches” has since taken on with frenzy pace. Never has the world seen such rapid changes & progress anywhere in the last 30 years or so!
Presumably, the Chinese government has the ancillary support of some of the major corporations & manufacturers like the Chinese Tea industry, silk manufacturers, jade & pearl industry . . . in offering such cheap & good valued tours initially at AUD99 per head and then increasing to AUD198 excluding the AUD10 tip per day for the tour guide. The tour period is 7/8 days.
The tour would have been par excellent if more time was accorded to sight-seeing rather than taken to all those named factories where we spent unlimited time listening to sales presentations & demonstrations. As a matter of fact, in a previous similar tour of Shanghai, I found the tour guides were real professionals & skillful in their sales pitch. By the time you got to the jade or silk factory you were already succumbed to buying!
The food provided was good & the 5-star hotel accommodation at Radisson (Blue) Hotel excellent. One night accommodation plus the breakfast is worth every cent paid for. The day began at 6.00AM and so packed with activities that we didn’t get to bed till 10 or 11PM.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. All too soon, the tour came to an end, as with the mountain resort in Chengde & the ultra modern Tianjin with its impressive high rise. Friendships were made & though we parted, memories would linger on from the hundreds of digital snap shots we took.