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China

dragonsSo, a two week blast through a few bits of ‘Greater China’. I started in Taipei (Taiwan), which has a lovely easygoing feeling about it and lots of Japanese influence if the number of restaurants is anything to go by. Many goods are more expensive than Europe, though not outrageously so if compared to most Asian ‘capitol’ cities. A place I really enjoyed visiting. I think it’s next month that Taipei 101 is officially opened and will take over as the world’s tallest building, even pre 9-11 this project was in doubt as the skyscraper was on the flight-path to the city airport and is located close to a fault line – also I was told it required an additional 60m erection on the roof to take the ‘tallest’ title. If these giant erections are the sign of vigorous economies then the next stop-off of Shanghai is an eye-opener in terms of the massive apartment blocks, offices and factories which are springing up everywhere; if the traffic allows(!) you can travel for an hour in almost any direction but will still be surrounded by giant construction works, civil, commercial or domestic – frankly it’s amazing – and business profits in China are up by almost 50% so far this year when compared to last! Next, and last hotel stop is Guangzhou in southern China. Also a place which has seen rampant development in the last 10 years, smaller and perhaps better planned than Shanghai, a place that even I might consider driving in! Apart from the occasional snake there’s nothing too much in Shanghai cuisine to frighten the ‘western’ traveller, southern Cantonese cuisine can offer a few more challenges though. Despite demonstrating that I was prepared to try just about anything my local team acted as ‘filters’ only telling me afterwards that they’d decided not to order the ducks’ tongues or ‘spare bits’ plus a few I won’t mention! On Thursday I took a fast train from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, which is close to Hong-Kong. Shenzhen is just one more in a long list of very modern Chinese cities – I particularly enjoyed the view from the train window, as for about 1½ hours new China blended into old, then back to new. A memorable night playing dice with the locals in an upmarket bar before 20 hours, 3 flights, 2 taxis and my own bed. . . . . . .

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