Friday, May 16, 2008

Reference: Bird's Nest still battles the haze, Bangkok Post, May 16, 2008

It has become fashionable to think of Beijing as choking with traffic and pollution and yet it is a clean and wide open city with large boulevards complete with bicycle lanes, accessible sidewalks, and pedestrian underpasses. At the height of the tourist season armies of tourists both Chinese and foreign descend on Beijing and parts of the city appear to be packed with people and the roads appear to be packed with cars but even then the traffic is moving. If you visit Beijing only during these periods you will get a distorted view of life in the city.

There are no motorcycles to be seen much less two-stroke engines. Many Beijingers ride their bicycles of both the human powered and battery assisted varieties through an excellent system of bikeways . A network of electric and NGV powered buses and underground subway trains provides an extensive, efficient, reliable, and dirt cheap mass transport system. The air is cleaner and the traffic moves more freely in Beijing than in Bangkok.

It is unrealistic to expect the staff at a three star hotel in Beijing to speak English. You would have better luck at five star hotels and at the international guest houses at any one of the universities in Bejing where the room rates are more affordable. Sadly, the much hyped English language training program for Beijing taxi drivers that was announced last year has come to naught. It helps to speak a little Chinese.

Cha-am Jamal

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