The Many Faces Of China: Food & Travel

We just returned from visiting Beijing, Tokyo, Kyoto and Shanghai. We got to see first-hand the luxury hotels and the huge liquor bills involved when deals are being made in Beijing...

and then we got to watch the minions, who travel two and sometimes three on tiny electric scooters and bikes literally held together with wads of duct tape. 

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We saw the Beijing Apple Store, and the new Prada designer-brands skyscraper shopping mall with it's Salvador Dali sculpture, and the luxury cars waiting with their drivers outside that seem to belong to Communist Party bosses and Chinese entrepreneurs ... In contrast, we visited almost all of the historic sites - The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall of China.

And we saw many, many, many people living in abject poverty in Beijing, eating pork belly and rice, and a dozen kinds of gourds floating in tubs of hot water on the streets. 

Surprisingly, food was more expensive in Beijing than it was in Tokyo. After a couple of failed tries at local restaurants, we took refuge at the Beijing Starbucks that served all of our regular favorites at exactly what we are used to paying in Orlando, Florida! One World!

We thought food would be cheaper in China than in Japan, considering the vast difference in lifestyles and wages. But we went over budget for somewhat decent food that seemed safe to eat in Beijing and Shanghai, and we could have spent $40 each for breakfast and $99 each for a steak dinner (not including drinks) at our luxury hotel (The Regent.) 

The room, however was big and fabulous and less than $200 per night. 

We also loved the Chinese subway system that was cheap, clean and very efficient. Every ride ticket was "2 yuan" about 33 cents, paid for at the entrance. 

There are few traffic jams in Beijing because new license plates are rare, and must be won at the annual lottery. Since 1999, all diesel buses have been converted to natural gas or electric, and the vast majority of motorcycles and scooters are electric in China. 

But even without cars, air quality is a real issue in Beijing. The toxic smog from massive construction and industrialized manufacturing gets trapped in Beijing -- just like it used to get trapped in Los Angeles in the 1960's before auto-emission and manufacturing regulations went into effect in California. Both cities are settled into valleys surrounded on three sides by mountains.

Travel 60 miles northwest of Beijing for a day at the Great Wall.

Put on your best walking shoes, bring a wet wash cloth in a baggy, bring a couple bottles of water, dress light and bring a hat or umbrella to beat the heat, May to November. The Great Wall at Badaling, China is the best location, in the best repair with plenty of little shops for food and souvenirs. A day at the Great Wall involves a lot of walking, some of it up steep walkways. But it's a marvelous way to immerse yourself in the Medieval World. You can take a bus, but the train is actually cheaper, and more comfortable. #China #Travel
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