Thursday, February 19, 2009

China then and now

I've spent the last couple of days updating the China section of a multi-country guidebook for a publisher.

I don't know when the China section was originally written, but I'm guessing 15 to 20 years ago. The writer obviously has not been in China in the last 10 to 15 years.

For example, the writer talks about the Friendship Stores, once the only store that foreigners were allowed to shop in, and even then they had to use a special money, called FEC for Foreign Exchange Certificates. Chinese were not allowed in unless they were employees or had FEC, which was very hard for them to obtain since they weren't foreigners. Now anybody can shop at Friendship Stores, though few do because the stores haven't adopted modern marketing practices.

The writer also mentions how people could not stay at the Beijing Hotel, then Beijing's premier hotel, unless a high Chinese official got them in. Now you can book rooms there over the Internet. And the Beijing Hotel is no longer the premier hotel in Beijing, though it's still a nice hotel.

And I bet Sanya residents would be surprised to see how their city is described: You get there on an old Russian biplane; there are only 500 rooms and none have private bathrooms. Today, Sanya on Hainan Island has a modern airport with more than 100 flights a day. It has thousands of hotel rooms in all price ranges, including a bunch of five-stars. Sanya is now known as China's Hawaii!

Please see my website for more information on travel in China.

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