When my wife & I first went to China in 1989, we were tremendously impressed with the standard & range of design with their five-star hotels in each of the cities we visited. In Beijing we stayed in Kunming Hotel, Shanghai was Sheraton Hotel with its fantastic indoor fountain which responded synchronising with the music played and I still recall the marvellous White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. They even had a fleet of Mercedes for guests’ use.
That was 25 years ago when China was just opening up to welcome tourists. Shopping then was mainly confined to their Friendship Stores or roadside stores. Currency exchange was with some difficulties, besides not having much shopping choices to attract the tourists’ dollars. Food was good, especially the hotel breakfast and all our travel was covered by air-conditioned coaches for sight-seeing.
China has since come a long way with its remarkable range of hotels. Today’s structures are mind-boggling & futuristic. Such is the presentation of the 27-storey “big glowing doughnut”
Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort that’s newly established near to Shanghai.
When I first visited Guangzhou in May 1989, it was like an “gigantic village” – dirty, ugly & teeming only with people & bicycles. It wasn’t a pretty sight except for White Swan Hotel, a five-star splendour, where we stayed. To attract foreign tourists five-star hotels were being first built.
Then what greeted me in the late 1990s and 2000s is staggering & beyond my widest imagination. Simply unbelievable!
There weren’t many places of interest in the old days except the Five Rams’ Statue, Dr Sun Yat Sen‘s Memorial, the zoo which housed some Panda bears & shopping mainly at Friendship Store. However, we had the taste of the famous Guangzhou cuisine & it was good. In a word, we were totally unimpressed as first time visitors.
Today, Guangzhou is different!
In line with the Stratosphere Casino Hotel Tower in Las Vegas, the world’s ‘highest’ Ferris wheel‘ is set to open for business on top of a 1,480ft tower in Guangzhou China – with passengers riding in see-through pods. As compared, this development may not be as daring & adrenaline-pumping as with the Stratosphere’s. (Refer: Stratosphere Casino Hotel Tower, Las Vegas on Wed. 19 Sept. 2012).
Built on the 450-meter-high Canton Tower, known as the Guangzhou TV Tower, the amazing wheel consists of 16 pods holding a total of 96 fearless thrill-seekers.
Each capsule is just over three meters wide, and built using a special macromolecule material which allows a 360-degree crystal clear view.
Just think about this – 15 years ago some of the leading business journals scoffed when Coca-cola announced they were going into China and one remarked “How can the Chinese afford to drink Coke when a can of Coke would cost the equivalent of a week’s salary?”
Chinese companies are now competing with the likes of GE, Westinghouse, ABB etc to build power plants and massively sophisticated infrastructure – and beating ALL of them hands down!!
NOBODY CAN COMPETE WITH CHINA!!
Countries and companies that align with Chinese companies will become super powerful as China and Chinese companies have a long tradition of “Guan-Xi”. In Australia, BHP-Billiton is one such company that is laughing all the way to the bank, for China is building one Sydney-sized city every five days. Did you know that by the year 2025, China will have 219 cities with more than one million inhabitants, compared with 35 in Europe today and 24 cities with more than five million people. Also, 40 billion square meters of floor space will be built – in five million buildings. 50,000 of these buildings could be skyscrapers – the equivalent of ten New York Cities.
In the grip of nostalgia, I revisited Guangzhou in November 2010. I was first there in 1989 when it was no more than an“international sprawling village” with old derelict buildings, narrow twisted streets & lanes . . . so very crowded with both people & bicycles. Today, there is only one word to describe the scenes that greet the eyes – unbelievable! It’s a miraculous transformation!
Guangzhou, known invariably as Flower City & City of Rams, is a historic-cultural city with a history of 2200 years. Today, it’s an economic power-house in the south of China. Its growth is phenomenal and as part of the conglomerate group of the nine cities to form the largest megapolis in the world, it will continue to spearhead the future growth of the Pearl River Delta region. (Please refer “China – World’s Largest Megapolis” on 25 February 2011).
Modern Guangzhou with 11.7 million population has everything that an international megacity has to offer – a sprawling network of highways, super bullet train network links, underground commuting network, super shopping malls, high-rise skyscrapers, parks & gardens, top-class hotels, entertainment, golf courses, theme park resorts . . . and rightly playing host to the 16th Asian Games and making it the largest & grandest ever.
As with all the major tourist places, first class hotels were sprouting up everywhere to usher in tourists in the 1980s. Guangzhou then boasted of its famous White Swan Hotel, located on the historical Shamian Island, the old concession zone during the late 19th century and early 20th century (where dogs and Chinese were forbidden). It overlooks the Pearl River and faces the White Swan Lake. Reached by its own private 635 meters causeway, the White Swan Hotel is only 10-minutes drive from downtown and 1-hour drive from New Baiyun International Airport.
Opened in 1983 and refurbished in 2002, it is still majestic though there are now many other 5-star hotels. The White Swan Hotel boasts of a total of 843 exquisitely decorated and well appointed guest-rooms. All rooms and suites are comfortably furnished and well-equipped with modern amenities. The restaurants in the hotel offer a wonderful variety of Chinese and Western food. Fitness and entertainment facilities in the White Swan Hotel include swimming pools, gymnasium, sauna and massage room, squash and table-tennis room and so on.
It is best known for its elegant design and high quality service. Its lobby is featured with a tropical waterfall and a display of many huge jade carvings. The hotel used to receive visiting foreign heads and government officials and was regarded as the landmark building of the city of Guangzhou in 1980s and 1990s. The hotel amenities even include a toy room sponsored by Mattel that provides toys for children of every age and gender.
Shamian used to be a place where foreign enterprises concentrated with a lot of western- style buildings. Now Shamian has become a beautiful city park with cafes and bars here & there.
Having stayed there during our first visit to China in 1989, it’s really reminiscent to be seeing it again after more than two decades.