1 Getting around
There was a time when tourists needed to join a group or hire a guide to
visit China. Those days have gone but the myth remains. Part of the
problem is the description that is applied to the country.
We're told that that China is an emerging economy. This gives the
impression of inadequate transport, substandard accommodation, poor
sanitation and all those other things associated with the "underdeveloped
The picture is partially correct. There are regions of China that are still
"emerging". Others have most definitely "emerged". It would not be an
exaggeration to say that there are as many people in China with a
comfortable standard of living as there are in Western Europe or the USA.
What's more, the housing and public amenities, in those parts of China that
have "emerged", are newer and more modern than in Europe and America.
The parts I am talking about are mainly on the coast. There is a big east-west
divide in China.
You can, of course, join a group to visit Beijing and Shanghai or tour the
picturesque towns along the Grand Canal. But there's no need. The whole
eastern region of the country is well equipped to receive tourists. Most
tourists are Chinese but a fair sprinkling come from outside the country.
Since you are reading this, I can safely assume that you speak English.
The Chinese have an amazing ability to learn foreign languages and English
tops the list. You won't have too much trouble finding someone who can
understand you. My frustration has been in trying to practise my limited
Chinese. Too many people want to practise English.
You will find all sorts of accommodation from five-star to no-star. It's
amazing just how little impact communism has had on the deeply ingrained
Chinese desire to do business. Go north into the former Soviet Union and
you will see what I mean. Booking a hotel, or even a guesthouse, can usually
be done over the internet. There is an extensive network of backpacker
hostels and similar accommodation, often run by Westerners.
The metro system in the big cities is modern, safe and easy to use. Place
names are given in both Chinese characters and Roman (ABC) script .