Now that the trip is over, I have begun to assess its significance and also to appreciate what we have seen (it’s very hard in the middle of a busy trip like this to reflect). Thus, there are a few additional observations that I must make.
1. Watch out for China. The country is not only emerging and entering the world political picture (as symbolized by the 2008 Olympics), but it seems to be embracing capitalism in a huge way. We saw many examples of the acceptance and exploitation of tourists. Many Chinese vendors are especially aggressive toward visitors perhaps because of all the competition. The amount of building going on in Chinese cities is staggering. Beijing is so worried about the demolition of historical areas, such as hutongs, that it has designated several to be preserved.
2. Another noticeable aspect of China’s cities is their cleanliness. This was a total surprise to all of our group. We expected, probably because of the huge population and stereotypes of old and backward people, that things would be very dirty. On the contrary, China seems to have adopted a policy of washing the streets each evening, just like in Europe. I am always embarassed that I am an American because our city streets are so filthy, with litter everywhere. Now China has shown us up as well.
3. What a rich country in terms of its historical and cultural treasures. It is gratifying that the Chinese government seems to be intent on preserving this long and distinguished legacy.
4. The hotels we stayed in on our trip were all very good. The best ones, however, were the Ritz-Carlton in Beijing, and the Shangri-La in Bangkok. The staffs at both of these hotels must have attended the same workshops on service!
5. Because of the excellent time we had with other members of our group, we are considering establishing a "Travel Club." I have been chosen to coordinate and communicate with everyone in the planning of future trips. Most of us feel that group size should remain at 15 or under, since larger groups are much more cumbersome and are likely to be more stressful.
Lee would also like to add some comments before this entry is posted.