Monday, January 27, 2014

Great Wall

It has taken a few days for the pure Tasmanian air to rid my lungs of all the smoke I inhaled in Beijing last week, and it will take a bit longer for the excitement of that great city to leave me. I spent a few days there for work, and managed to fit in a couple of things outside work. On Wednesday night I ventured out to see some stand up comedy in one of the hutong areas (traditional low-rise housing). It was an English language open mic night featuring a mixture of expat American and local Chinese comedians, new and experienced talent. It proved to be a fascinating insight into the life of foreigners living in Beijing, with jokes about English teachers, diarrhoea and dysentery featuring highly - oh dear!

The day I arrived, my new work colleague met me at the airport and joined me on a half-day tour out to a section of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. It is about 80km by car from the centre of Beijing. Last time I saw only the city centre. Our guide Apple told us that there are now 23 million people living in Beijing. So about the same number as in Australia. Incredible. On the way we saw a large frozen waterfall! Yes, it was quite cold. But we soon warmed up huffing and puffing up some huge steps on a steep section of the Great Wall. It was a Sunday but there were very few tourists.

The PR consultancy my organisation uses in China also handles the Tourism Australia account. They told me that interest from Chinese people in visiting our country (including Tasmania) is growing. There has been much discussion in Tasmanian business circles about whether Tasmania is ready to meet the needs of Chinese tourists, and from informal conversations I've had with two Beijing locals who visited, they didn't have a great experience. I'm sure we can do better. It seems a fair amount of money is up for grabs if we do.

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