So I’ve talked a little about Beijing already and about the air quality and cars, but what else has changed? To put it eloquently, a lot.
First and foremost, the cost of tourism. Since I last visited, the US$ has fallen a good 7%–prices have not. To gain web access today, I bought a 28 RMB cup of tea which works out to about $4.17. This isn’t some fancy latte or cappuccino; it is a tea bag in water served in a 14 oz glass. Of course, this is an establishment catered towards tourists, not locals, but these prices could give Disneyland a run for its money (ha) and win. Thankfully though, family-style restaurant prices have not really changed. Most dishes can be bought for between $1.20-$4 with specialty items like Peking duck costing a bit more (~$10).
Secondly, the city has not developed as much as I had thought. I spent a good hour searching for WiFi access before I found this place. I’ve also concluded that most people don’t have WiFi in their homes because at one point, I was walking down the street searching with my computer and came up with only a couple of password protected hotspots. The cellphones here are likewise not as flashy as I thought they’d be. The majority of folks have sliders/candybars/clamshells reminiscent of the US’s phones circa 2006 whereas everyone in Hong Kong had either a Sony Walkman, iPhone, or Android handset.
Finally, the foreigner count has increased more than I ever could have imagined. It seems like every fourth person I see on the street is not Chinese.
Anyway, I’m going to live with my cousin in a day or two so I should be getting regular web-access from then on.