– Susan McVey
I recently returned from my first ever visit to China. The trip was on my husband’s bucket list and since we aren’t getting any younger and the flights aren’t getting any shorter, we decided this was the year to go. My husband and I travelled with friends who are originally from China. Our tour was based in Beijing with day trips to a few places outside the city. We arrived a few days before the tour started and were the recipients of hospitality from the family and friends of our friends. Because of our friends, we got to see and hear some things I’m not sure we otherwise would have.
I expected to be overwhelmed by the scale of the place and the number of people and I was. Our tour guide told us that tickets to the Forbidden City are now limited to 80,000 people a day. High rise apartment buildings are everywhere and more buildings are being added with cranes all over the landscape. We saw many cars and were told that there are between 5.4 and 5.5 million cars in Beijing. There were some motorcycles and funky looking three wheel vehicles but most of the cars I saw were late model. Our friends told us that fifteen years ago most families did not have cars but now many do and some have two cars. To address pollution or to reduce traffic, cars are sometimes limited to an odd even rotation based on license tags so only half the cars are on the roads during those times. Approximately 8,000 to 9,000 tags are issued each month in the Beijing area with tags being awarded in a lottery. One of our friends’ nephews waited three years to get a tag. In Shanghai, we heard that they auction the tags.
We visited a classmate of our friend who is a very successful businesswoman. She began her career in real estate but has now expanded into other fields including movies and television. She has three different locations but we visited her newest site. Some staff housing for researchers is provided at the back of the property which has an organic garden and pond. The garden and pond are used to help feed employees and she provides three meals a day for employees at the location. At a pearl and jade store on the tour, some of the employees mentioned that their housing and meals were provided as well.
The average monthly income in Beijing is three to four thousand yuan or about $640 U.S. dollars. The cost per square foot in the central part of Beijing is $1,300 to $2,000. Considering the cost of housing and other expenses in an urban area like Beijing, many people are living in something the size of a closet.
We knew travelling in August would be hot and physically demanding but it was the time our work schedules allowed. October is the best time to visit China and we hope our next trip will be then. If you get the chance, go and enjoy.