Monday, April 9, 2012

What did China teach me?

I remember the last time I spent two weeks in Shanghai, while it was time well spent with my dear friend, I absolutely abhorred the thought of working let alone, living in China.  Fast forward 6 years, here I am again, finding quiet time in Beijing.  I'm not sure if China has matured or I have grown up, the same idea doesn't seem so loathsome anymore.

To begin with, the people of Republic of China are not as ill-mannered as they have been branded before.  I would even go as far as to say their hospitality has grown leaps and bounds and trust me, they have a hell lot better service than Malaysia!  Even in terms of cleanliness, well yeah you should be careful of spit bombs on the streets or the occasional toddler relieving himself on the pathway under the watchful eye of his grandma, otherwise I see a much better maintained city (way better than Kuala Lumpur).  Have you ever seen any cleaner hard at work, picking up after irresponsible citizens in public areas in KL?  I've not.  Or I've not for at least a very long time.  But such scene is not uncommon in the streets, subway stations, tourism spots of Beijing.  The capital's growing appetite for modernity has also pushed the boundaries for innovation and creative thinking.  The apparent manifestation is showcased in 798 district - a warehouse cum train station area that I can only imagine to be dilapidated before but now an amazing transformation of all things art - ideas, food, fashion, knick knacks.  Even Tokyo needs to be careful because the dragon didn't just awaken but is hungry for attention.  Imagine the same experience at half the price of what it would cost in Yen.  Not to mention variety, coming from a market which size can gobble up any nation.

The only unfortunate thing during my trip was getting my stomach upset mid-holiday.  I must have been over adventurous in satisfying my culinary curiosity (though I really can't figure what).  But generally, I enjoyed Beijing cuisine a lot - think Peking duck (how can you not) and Chinese dumplings (wawsome!  My favourite!) - the best part is, the quality of food reflects its value.  So there, seriously what's not to love in Beijing?

The only downside to living here; there goes all your Western-based, English-primary online content.  Goodbye Google, Facebook, Twitter and hello QQ, Baidu and Weibo.  With 1.3 billion market to serve, China is smart to hedge itself against the invasion of digital capitalism.  I suppose China, in that sense, will never truly unite with the world.  With such a huge growing market, you can imagine the money that's rolling in the advertising and communication production business, bearing in mind a huge chunk that's yet to be tapped.  O dear Najib, I think I know where your 'brain' has 'drained' to.

I've also had the opportunity to make a short trip to Guilin (southern China, nearer to Guangzhou, where the weather is kinder).  Although less developed, it's booming in its tourism industry.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to this little place of majestic mountains and pristine waters.  China's domestic tourism alone not only sustains Guilin's economy but accelerates it as well.  In Guilin, many live a hand-to-mouth life which is not to be mistaken as poverty.  Their homes may be bare and simple but the children are always happy.  There's no need for Toys R Us.  We stayed in HOMA (Hotel of Modern Art, Guilin) which is set in a 300 acres outdoor art park and I seriously would vote them as one of the best small hotels that provides the best service in the world.  I've had the opportunity to indulge in a few luxury boutique resorts previously, one of the most memorable ones was Huka Lodge in New Zealand where the experience was impeccable and world-class.  But HOMA is really something else.  We had our own personal 'butler-ess' and her name was Judy.  She made arrangements for almost everything and made sure we were well taken care.  She even stayed up waiting for us at night after a day of adventure!  The one thing that you absolutely have to watch in Guilin is the Impression Water Show directed by famed Zhang Yimou.  Here's a snapshot of what to expect, but seriously, a water stage on the Li River with Guilin's picturesque mountains as backdrop?  You don't even know what to expect until you see it for yourself!

And last but not least, my dear friend who put up with my week-long silly antics despite her busy schedule.  She's been influencing me to join Beijing's workforce (strongly).  To be honest, 6 years ago when I returned home from China, I almost kissed the ground of KLIA in gratitude.  Last night, it was different.  I admire China.  I remember the world laughed at her for her so-called backward mannerisms, and the West took awhile to admit that she's a force to be reckoned with.  Today, I have a new found respect for her people - well yea, the spit-in-throat gurgling sound is not very pleasant to my aural senses but, when you take a foreign culture with a pinch of salt and see beyond the negativity, you find a whole new world of optimism.  Who knows, one day, if fate doesn't lead me somewhere else, she may lead me back there.  And this time, I may be ready for that embrace.


  1. I lived in Qing Dao in China for a while, and, I can say it was FAR from a fairy tale. In fact due my experience, and cultural shock, to this day, I'm slightly more indifferent to Chinese culture (No, I'm a racist) due to the blatant racism I experienced during my year there.
    But if there's one thing China has taught me, I know how to not get ripped off, and how not to get sucked in to scams; China made me realize how ripped off we are the West, this applies quite literally to everything you can think of (food, clothes, electronics, water, the list goes on). What I'm trying to say, is, us Westerners live in a HUGE 'Bubble'.

  2. There's pros and cons in anywhere in the world. The best thing to do is to be inspired by the good ones and respect the bad ones. Though I must say 'turning the other cheek' isn't for everyone. But I sure hope you'll have a second thought of China like I did ;)