I first visited China and Hong Kong in 1986. I was then 17 and was on a two-week family holiday trip through the country where Dad was born - a country where my cultural roots originated but which nevertheless had become so foreign to me, partly due to the cosmopolitan environment I grew up in Singapore, and partly due to the tremendous changes that China has undergone in the 20th Century.
China in 1986 was one newly open to international trade and investment. State-run shops were everywhere and there was little of the consumerism found elsewhere in the world. Shop shelves were largely empty and service workers were generally rude. People dressed shabbily and shopfronts were unattractive. In fact, Chinese cities were then dominated with huge Stalinist-style facades and monuments. I found little to be proud of in the cities. The only comfort were the ancient monuments - Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Forbidden City - all these evoked not only the glories of the 5000 years-old Chinese Civilisation, but also instilled a great sense of cultural pride.
In October - November 1996, I went on a professional assignment to Chengdu City, capital of Sichuan Province - China’s most populous with 110 million - if it were independent, it would be the 11th most populous country in the world. I spent 17 days in the Province working as well as doing a lot of sightseeing. I then proceeded to Hong Kong from where I made a day trip to Macau and spent 2 days in Guangzhou (Canton) City, capital of Guangdong Province. The China I saw during these three weeks have completely changed my previous impressions of this nation. To me, no longer is China a backward socialist state, but an economic superpower in the making. There is much to be done, but the country appears to be moving in the right direction, and in many ways, the Chinese people (i.e., people of the PRC) is becoming more like the rest of the world... In the pages which follow, I would like to share with you my experiences and observations of this brief trip.
The tales and opinions expressed on this site are the author’s and by their very nature, personal. You may not agree with them and you are welcomed to voice them by emailing to the author. However, if the intention is to pick a fight, such efforts should be directed to soc.culture newsgroups. The author will not entertain anyone who furl insults and vulgarities.
During the trip, the author was essentially on a business assignment, although extensive sightseeing opportunities was available. Thus, he had not been travelling “on the cheap”, and therefore would not be able to provide useful information for backpackers. Before embarking on the trip, the author had relied extensively on 2 excellent books to find out more about this exciting region : May Holdsworth’s Odyssey Illustrated Guide to Sichuan (published by The Guidebook Company Ltd, Hong Kong, 1993), and Lonely Planet Travel Survival Guide’s China, 1994.