Tuesday, March 25, 2008
On Easter we took a Ferry ride into Hong Kong to the area that is called Central, the main downtown central business district. We were going to find one of the four IKEA stores in HK to pick up some items we needed for home. We took the earliest ferry in and then the MTR subway out to an area called Causeway Bay. We had some time to waste before the store opened so we decided to go to Victoria Park within a block of our destination and to our surprise they were having the annual HK Flower Show. We bought a ticket and were in as it just opened for the day. No crowds yet! It was absolutely wonderful. Many of the displays had Olympics themes. The orchids are fabulous. We had to have one so we bought one put it in our backpack and were able to get it through customs and home without breaking it. Yahoo!
Monday, March 24, 2008
Well we made it and have some great stories to tell but it was a challenge. We did not see another American at anytime during the two day trip and only had one HK gentleman start talking English to us when we were touring one of the villages.
So we went to see the Diaolous (Dee Al Ohs). They are a particular kind of residential home that were built near Kaiping City between 1821 and 1920. The owners of most, were prosperous emigrants from a variety of places that made their fortunes and came back to their roots to live out the rest of their lives in what was a very luxurious style at the time. Most of the buildings have a similar style and are built with reinforced concrete. A total of 1833 Diaolous have been identified near Kaiping. The design is usually 5-6 stories with a ballasterd terrace at the top and a small room with a temple. Amazingly the stairways take up much of the central structure of the home. Many have a double stairway all the way up. Rooms are off to the sides. Three or four very small rooms at each level. We were able to see some that were furnished as they would have been. All ceilings and spaces seemed tight to me at over 6 foot tall. These are pretty secure structures with only one entrance and bars on a gate to that door. All windows are barred with exterior metal shutters that can be locked from the inside.
The weather was not wonderful but we did not get rained on while we were there. We also had a wonderful meal at the Hotel on Saturday night that included salmon for me and a t-bone steak for Bev, I think it is the first steak she has had since our Christmas trip.
More information on the Diaolous of Kaiping click here
The next big purchase is a car! Owning your own car is the desire of every Chinese. In the past that could only be a distant dream. Today with the increased wealth of many that live in the Special Economic Zones like Shenhzen there is a rising middle class that wants to emulate the West as is evident in all the advertising billboards, TV, magazine and newspaper ads that bombard one here daily and look suspiciously like they were produced with US models and in US ad agencies.
Currently China has 33 million cars on the road. Most of them are newer. China's auto industry is already the world's third largest. The prediction is that by the year 2020 there will be 100 million more cars on the road. That still means that fewer than 1 in 4 families will own a car. I have talked to many younger adults. (They all seem younger to me as the average age in Shenhzen is around less than 30.) Every Chinese I talk to wants desperately to own a car. What will 100 million more cars on the road do to the price of oil? There may be a slowing of that growth due to the limitation of natural resources to build the autos and infrastructure needed to sustain their use. China's current per capita income is about 10% of the US but that is an average and it seems to be much higher than that where we live. It is predicted that if it ever reached US levels it would take a few Earths to supply the resources necessary for a total American style of living.
The US government and US businesses have been promoting an adoption of the American-style of high consumption and high waste since the opening of China. Right now China has all the Coal and almost no Oil. Your eyes and lungs know that is true shortly after you get to China. They use the coal in any way they can to increase manufacturing, it usually involves burning it. Roads and bridges are being built everywhere. The newly completed bridge (just opened a couple of weeks before we arrived) between Shenhzen and Hong Kong island is incredible and should be a "wonder of the world" elsewhere but here it is just another giant over 6 mile long bridge. I have watched small dirt lanes turned into beautiful 4 lane roads with lighting and wide sidewalks on each side. With the labor force that is available this kind of construction can happen in what seems like overnight, but really takes a few weeks to a month.
Without more production the cost of oil, gas prices will undoubtedly go up. Oh, interestingly the most popular cars are not small high efficiency models. Buick, BMW, Mercedes, mid-sized Mazdas are all the popular names that we recognize in the US. Others that are most popular are what we consider to be mid-size and larger cars! The giant sized Toyota, Lexus, or Cadillac SUV of a is a highly prized possession.
Sorry for my little rant and the grim news but that is what I see happening in China. I see no evidence and there seems to be no discussion of a major change from that direction at this time. High efficiency electric cars would work great here as most people travel short distances and use mass transit for longer traveling but it isn't happening.
Let me know what you think.