Little surprises hiding everywhere
Trip Start Nov 01, 2008
16Trip End Dec 01, 2008
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Walking around on the main streets however is an obstacle course, and even though car owners are still a clear minority, everything seems tailored for them. Many city streets are fenced off on both sides and once again in the middle, so that pedestrians can only cross in certain areas, and often only through an underpass or over a bridge. Walking around just to explore means a constant up and down, and the bus stop on the other side may be half a kilometer walking distance until you get there. China's car owners must live in a little paradise though, because the country still has a relatively low number of private cars compared to many other countries, so that means few traffic jams, lots of parking spaces, and they can pretty much do whatever they want. Parking on the walkway right in front of the shopping centre, no problem. Turning the lights on at night, optional. Driving with cigarette in one hand and handphone in the other, why not? Red lights, can still turn right and honk at pedestrians. And the police is very tame, in other countries they just love to give tickets for all sorts of minor mistakes, here in China they just stand and watch. Maybe blow their whistle. Maybe wave a flag or flashing light to keep the traffic going, which it would anyway. In all those days I have only seen one policeman ever stopping a car.
China gets a lot of beating because of human rights, because of Tibet and all that, but I must really say, they also deserve at least some praise to keep such a huge country up and running in a positive way. In all these big big cities of 5 million people and above, I never felt one minute unsafe. No alley was too dark to walk down, no passage too narrow to be taken in the middle of the night, and you see women walking on the street by themselves at any time without any hassles. There are no shady characters hanging out at some corners like they would in any given US city. A few beggars are here and there, but mostly they do not persist for long. People generally leave you alone, sometimes I feel almost invisible, but at the same time it is easy to find some friendly help when there is a question. For my own life, this safety would be my personal number one priority. I would rate this much higher than political freedom or that cnn.com never seems to load. And compared to my last visit, people see that their lives are improving, and everyone can have a justified hope that things will be even brighter in the future. I think this is an amazing achievement in a country which is home to over one billion people, almost a quarter of the world's population.
For the first time ever in my life, I have a hotel room which is equipped with a computer and free internet access. This may be normal in luxury hotels but at under 30 Euro per night, this is new to me. And while my room was generally well-kept, one detail must have slipped the cleaner's attention: there is a plate with fresh fruit in each room and someone had a big bite out of a Japanese pear and left it on the plate. But I simply tossed it away without making a fuss about it. Who knows if they'd just fire a poor cleaner woman because of such an incident with a foreigner. However, when the fresh banana on the plate had a similar bite, and right through the skin this afternoon when I came back, I knew it was not the cleaner but I must have a subtenant in my room. I did hear some funny noises yesterday but only briefly and didn't pay much attention. So I took the banana to the floor attendant and within minutes, even two assistant managers came up to my room on the 10th floor to apologize, my luggage was whisked to a new room on another floor, a new fruit plate with chocolates on top was offered and they apologized again.