Dr Mike J Smith
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China: First Experiences
I wasn't sure quite what to expect of "China". Stepping off the plane in August you are immediately hit with the heat. A very hot time of year. The airport has alot of building going on in preparation for the Olympic Games, however as I was travelling to Wuhan, a 2 hour flight south, there was no opportunity to see Beijing. Although there was a fair wait at border control, the airport was efficient and rapidly unloaded baggage. The internal domestic transfer bypassed normal queuing in the terminal which was a good thing as I checked in 30 mins before departure; no problems!
Wuhan is a conglomeration of 3 cities at the confluence of the Yangtze and Han Rivers. A large, somewhat sprawling, city with a population of 9 million and still expanding. It is bustling, with alot of building going on. There is ongoing construction of a major highway from the airport, so the taxi ride required cutting through many of the downtown streets. And this is perhaps the first striking aspect of Chinese city life (besides the energy sapping heat in summer); cars, bikes, scooters and pedestrians all mix on the roads in a haphazard melee. I haven't witnessed a single accident (perhaps due to the relatively low volume of cars and low speeds), but cars wandered across lanes, cut each other up, went down the wrong carriageway, and this was whilst scooters with 2 or 3 riders (wives, children) whizzed by and pedestrians ambled across the streets. I'm not really sure why there were traffic lights as they appeared to have little effect on the traffic. It is all very vibrant though, with mixtures of shops, lorries repaired at the roadside, food sellers and flashing neon lights. I whilst there are clearly aspects of western culture and really has very little in common. It is somewhat noticeable that many people take great pride in their appearance and, whilst he streets are full of bustle, I have seen virtually no animals at all.