Monday, October 24, 2005
An Open Letter to the China Bureau of International Tourism
To Whom It May Concern at the China Bureau of International Tourism,
I am currently on vacation in your country and thought, given your focus on improvement for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it might be helpful to you to receive a letter from an 'outside' perspective about what I've found most wondrous and most disturbing during my travels here thus far. Please take the following suggestions with a grain of salt.
1) Cheap and abundant massage is a good thing. I believe the fact that I got a head, back and shoulder massage for 30 minutes followed by a foot massage for 30 minutes for a total cost of $7 USD is a definite winner. Keep up the good work.
2) Dehyrdrated bengal tiger paw from a decrepit street vendor is not an item that most westerners are actively seeking. Perhaps a slight curb on the use of endangered animals as 'street fare' would be recommended prior to the Olympic games?
3) Ability to purchase 15 DVD's for $10, cashmere sweaters for $10, and freshwater pearls for pennies on the dollar is truly astounding. Thumbs up to that.
4) Beijing Zoo needs some work. The pandas look bored and overpampered.
Note: Perhaps start in the small mammals section. I believe you will find most westerners offended at the fact that you have four gorgeous white artic foxes in a cement cage measuring 3' x 3'. Also, you may want to reduce the urine smell from that area prior to the Olympics as well.
5) Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City are every bit as magnificent as I thought. All are absolute monuments to mankind and the country of China in their own right and I think your spending $3 billion Yuan (RMB) to rennovate these great areas prior to the games is paying off. Good work communist party!
6) It's come to my attention you might be beating down some religious groups with extreme physical violence if they don't agree with your views. Hint: maybe not such a good idea for international relations.
7) Love the Jasmine tea. However some westerners do find it possible to drink more than one glass of liquid at a time. I will provide some examples of what it is possible to have on the table in Europe or the USA: Water and Tea. Tea and Beer. Water and Beer. Beer and Water. Water, tea and beer. Water, tea, beer and wine. Wine and water. Etc. Etc. Please look into this matter as thus far we seem to be limited to one item exclusively.
8) Local Chinese restaurants should be given priority for feeding visitors to your country. They are much tastier than the 'tourist' spots and cheaper too.
Our fried salty prawns and spicy peas last night that we chose by pointing to pictures in a menu were considerably better than the pre-chosen menu of sweet and sour mystery meat and bok choy that we had for lunch with the tour. I would be happy to create a guide for you based on the following criteria:
a) The less English in the restaurant garners higher star ratings
b) The more heads and tails on the food garners higher star ratings
c) Eyeballs on the food garners higher star ratings
d) Availability of multiple beverages garners higher star ratings
I know this seems opposite to western sensibilities but I think if people are exposed to items a-d they will see the light. The restaurant 100 meters from our Beijing hotel gets 5 stars based on the above. There is no English, everything is whole, everything looks at you, you can get beer and tea and it's absolutely lip-smacking delicious.
I won't burden you with further insights into the small items I've encountered (ex: older Chinese ladies climb the Great Wall and then find they can't get down) as I'm sure you can sort them out for yourself.
Thanks for taking my suggestions into consideration and the best of luck to you in the coming 2 years preparing for these great Olympic Games! If I had cable I'd surely watch on TV, but alas, I do not.
US Citizen and fan of China
Author of "My Food Is Looking At Me: A Star Rating Guide to Obtaining the Best Cuisine in China, Bar None"