Impressions of China (May/June 2015)

China is developing quickly, hence the timeframe in the title. I suspect in only a few years, some of the things I have observed will no longer be the case. Here are some of my observations of China from a 3 week visit there!

Children in China are treasured. I’ve seen kids in many other parts of the world look neglected and dirty and left to fend for themselves. Not in China! In China, every child is well dressed, well fed and well supervised. They are all very well behaved because they are very well looked after and constantly supervised. It is not surprising considering the one child policy.

The streets are always clean. There is never any rubbish on the side of the road. You often see people sweeping up any small bits of rubbish and leaves. The roads are always very clean and tidy.

Chinese food is not what we usually get outside of China. So far, in my meals that I’ve had in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Yangshuo etc. They are not like most of the Chinese meals I’ve had outside of China. In general, they are much more vegetable heavy, much less rice is eaten, the flavours are stronger, saltier and much more chilli and spice is used. China is a big country and Chinese food overseas is more cantonese style and somewhat westernised.

There are a lot of people in China but it seems generally quite affluent. Cities are just filled with large apartment blocks. Even small towns, have a heck of a lot of apartment blocks. There are lots of expensive looking cars on the roads especially in Beijing and Shanghai. Not to mention electric bikes and scooters which will run you down silently from behind!

It’s noisy in China. Life is noisy in China. Buses, cars and motorbikes are constantly tooting their horns, people talk at the top of the voices on the mobile phone and speak at maximum volume to each other when conversing at restaurants.

Women in China love to wear all their favourite things at once. Chinese ladies love to wear stockings and glittery shoes and sparkly tops and cute girlish dresses. They often look like they are wearing an odd combination of all their favourite things at the same time and WHY NOT! Why not wear those glittery shoes you love with that crazy patterned top. Why be understated! If you love it! Wear it and be happy!The other things I’ve noticed is the matching tops for couples and families. Super cute! Especially if they come in pants and top sets for the whole family!

A slice of life at Temple of Heaven park. I love seeing people who are enjoying themselves. As we walk through the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing, we can see lots of people enjoying their hobbies. There is a group of men huddled around two players playing a strategic game similar to chequers. The pressure must be intense with so many onlookers! There are ladies doing very fine and detailed crochet work while listening to old songs. Another group of ladies are choreographing a dance to some music while others are doing a dance/fitness class on the lawn to music. A lady has her own microphone and back-up music and is singing a sweet mournful song. She is not busking as there is no vessel for donations. She’s just singing because she loves to sing. Old friends are in deep good natured and noisy debate over some issue and there is a discordant cacophony coming from a shaded area nearby.In amongst the trees are a group of people practicing traditional Chinese string instruments. They are making a discordant racket but I think it’s great that they come to a communal area like this big park to practice, learn and chat amongst others with the same passion. I’m sure their apartment neighbours are most grateful they have chosen to practice away from home!

There was also a small band playing old songs. Two things struck me, first was the look on their faces. The lady on the big drum was hitting it with such finesse, enthusiasm and pride while the keyboard man was putting in lots of expression to his playing. It’s nice to see them enjoy playing together and for the people in the park. Secondly, they were playing a song that everyone seem to know. People leaving the area were singing the words to the song as they walked past while others had put down their handbags and other possessions to dance and sing to this song. It looked like everyone knew the simple arm movements and dance steps. When the song ends, there is some applause and those who stopped to dance, pick up their possessions from the pile and move onwards with their day. Isn’t it amazing that there are songs which can make people pause?Most of the people in the park are retirees and it’s lovely to see them socialising and engaged in their hobbies.

Wedding photos are big business in China.
Often, when we were in a scenic spot there will be couples taking wedding photos. We saw about a dozen couples having their wedding photos done at the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing and another dozen couples on the Bund in Shanghai. The women are always very glamourous in their elaborate gowns.

The smog and pollution in China is bad. The horizon is often much closer in China because of the smog and pollution. You can see through the haze to a distance and then you can’t see anymore because it’s too hazy and there is no visibility. They have fantastically tall and interesting buildings in Shanghai but due to the pollution, the tops cannot be seen.ShanghaiSkyline
In general, everywhere is hazy with some areas much worse than others. I awoke one morning at 7am on an overnight train and was shocked looking out the window. The visibility was only at about 4m. The strange thing is that you can’t smell it or perhaps my nose quickly normalised the smell.

Whilst on the topic of polllution, smoking is commonplace in China and even indoors. Often, the toilets will reek of smoke and people will smoke even close to food preparation areas and inside restaurants. We were on a cruise ship in non smoking rooms but it was obvious this was not respected because there were ashtrays provided in the room and the corridor to the rooms stunk of cigarette smoke.