We are now in Seoul, South Korea for a few days before returning to Beijing to start the next part of our trip. On the downside, as soon as we arrived here in Seoul, I got sick. On the upside, since I don’t feel up to sightseeing there is plenty of time for me to update my blog! The first 4 posts are related to our river cruise; the remaining are the places we visited after disembarking from the ship.
Now that our China visit is wrapped up, you may be wondering what my impressions of China were. As I mentioned earlier, we had visited a few port cities on our previous trip here and had left feeling like we had not actually experienced China. We wanted to return to visit more of the inland cities and to take a river cruise. I had in my mind a vision of what China was like. Did my vision live up to the reality?
I guess the short answer is no. One thing I did not understand about China was how very much the cultural revolution changed the country. Perhaps if I had visited prior to this era (1966-1976) I may have seen the China I had expected to see. But, Mao Zedong and his regime destroyed that China. Over the past 40 or so years, things have changed dramatically. Entire villages have been “relocated” to relocation cities, which are just big cities filled with skyscrapers. Most Chinese people live in urban jungles of 20 to 30 story tall apartment buildings. Fortunately, not every cultural icon has been destroyed, but these icons are few and far between. Many of the buildings that have been constructed are quite ugly, so the cities lack charm.
Now, the younger generation of China no longer want to live anywhere but the big cities. They like the modern amenities, but have to work like crazy to keep up the lifestyle they want. As such, having children is no longer a priority. They prefer the “double income; no kids” life. The government revoked the “one couple, one child” law and still, people are not having many children. As such, the population is aging. It is very noticeable that there area many more older people here than younger. The couples that do have children expect their aging parents to take care of their young. Some parents are not longer willing to do so; they would rather travel and enjoy the fruits of all of their years of labor.
Because so many people live in apartments, parks are very important in the daily life of the Chinese. Every morning, the seniors of China head to the park for exercise, music, and conversation. After working hours, the young head to the parks. Public toilets are everywhere because a large portion of the population do not have a toilet in their home. And, of course, the vast majority of the toilets are the “squatty potty” type. If you visit, be sure to bring your own tp and by all means, don’t flush it. There is a wastebasket for you to dispose of your toilet paper next to the toilet.
I notice random things as we travel. Here are a few things I noticed:
• Smoking is everywhere. I saw many more men smoking than women. It is now against the law to smoke in a restaurant. So, smokers gather in the hallway instead.
• Electric scooters are a common mode of transportation. There is a separate bike lane on the roads. Some of the scooters have what I call “scooter mittens” sewn on to keep the rider warm. Even though the temperature was in the 80’s and 90’s while we were there, the scooter mittens were not removed.
• The beds are really, really hard. In the villages, people used to put a board on top of bricks and use that as a bed. I guess the hotel beds were a bit softer than that!
• Of course, you can’t access Facebook and other social media platforms (unless you have a VPN). But, were you aware that you can’t access Gmail, either? That came as a rude shock to me since I use that as my primary email account.
• The locals refer to white foreigners as “big noses”. Gotta love it!
• Spitting on the sidewalk is a big thing. I noticed this more early in the morning than at other times of day.
• Dining is family style. The only real downside to this is if 8-10 dishes are served, and you only like 2 of them, you are only going to get a couple of bites of those dishes since everyone is sharing.
• Ordering food at a fast food restaurant can be a challenge. To make it easier, some have printed menus where you can point and hold up fingers to show how much you want of each item. This generally works ok, but we did have an instance where we ordered 3 main dishes but only 2 sodas. When our order came we were given 3 sodas (because we ordered 3 items??). No big deal; I signaled for her to take one back. She got quite upset and told me it would cost more money. What??? She kept repeating, “more money, more money”and I kept shaking my head no. She eventually gave up.
• Make sure you have cash to pay for virtually everything, especially food. Your credit card may not be accepted everywhere.
Well, that’s it for now. I may or may not have anything to post about Seoul; it depends on if I get well before we leave. If not, my next posts will be about our 19-day trip from Beijing to St. Petersburg! Who knows if I will have any internet access for awhile, so stay tuned!