China Part 4

Published in the Trinidad Guardian on 14th October 2007


Well I had my bubble burst about being the first Trini with a 2008 Olympic Hat. One reader who was in Beijing in 2005 bought one! That is preparation people. Did you see any World Cup Cricket souvenirs on sale here 3 years before the event?


My articles also prompted one reader to write pointing out that I seem “….unaware of the toxic toothpaste or the lead laden paint on the children's toys. The export of death to the West.


A country with an oppressive society, and the practice of  infanticide (female born)” I replied saying “I'm sure you are aware that Mattel has apologised to China as they were as much to blame for the lead paint on the toys.  Re infanticide go to the American CIA web site at



Now if I’m reading the CIA statistics right, while 4 more girls per thousand die in China at birth, in T&T 4 more boys die at birth. Does that make us a nation also practicing infanticide?


I’ve had several readers write and tell me I have been brainwashed by the Chinese but when I ask them if they have visited China the answer is always no. My question is how do we know we are not the ones who are brain washed?


But back to the story. Last week I wrote about our visit to the incredible Great Wall which signaled the end of our stay in Beijing. Our next stop was to visit the Terracotta Soldiers at Xian. Now China is approximately the same size and shape as the US and Beijing is roughly where Washington is. Xian is a one hour flight away in a South Westerly direction. The domestic flight was in a very modern Boeing jet with only 10% of the passenger being tourists. The airport terminal in Xian is very modern and totally spotless. Indeed China made me realise I live in a dirty country. I happened to be driving visitors through San Fernando and Port of Spain yesterday around 5pm and the streets were a disgrace.  And the PNM doesn’t care otherwise they would have fixed the problem. But let’s forget T&T for a moment.


We stayed in another 4 star hotel in Xian, this time with a rather small room because I had overlooked the first rule of hotel travel… look at the room before you accept it. By the time we realised it was small all our luggage had been delivered. However the room was just for sleeping in so we left it and went sight seeing.


Now nothing you have seen on TV or in books can prepare you for the sight of the tomb with the Terracotta Soldiers. The first thing that puts you in awe is the size of the tomb. Imagine an area two football fields wide by two football fields long with a giant clear span roof over head. Now imagine how many people could stand shoulder to shoulder in that area and you have a sense of the immensity of the “Army” of Terracotta soldiers that Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di (246BC) wanted to “guard” his grave. It took 750,000 conscripts to build the terracotta army and his tomb. Sadly upon his death, people had been so oppressed by his rule that they broke into the underground chambers where the clay soldiers stood and smashed them all to pieces. It was only 30 years ago when a farmer was digging a well that they discovered this incredible tomb. Indeed the farmer is still alive and autographing books in the gift shop! Since then the Chinese Government has spent millions restoring the soldier, horses and chariots as well as providing proper tourist facilities. The Terracotta Soldiers have been described as one of the most significant historical finds of the 20th century. You have to see them to believe it.


Let me share some more experiences with you. DO NOT under any circumstances have any washing done by your hotel. In a moment of madness I asked Sheila to put some traveling clothes etc in a bag for the hotel to wash. To be precise there were 4 blouses, 1 T-shirt, 2 slacks, 2 sets of underwear and 2 pairs of socks. Guess what the bill was! Try TT$488.75!! I almost took a scotch out of the mini bar but caught myself just in time as that would have been another $50! It was bathroom clothes lines from that moment on!


One thing you will find quite disconcerting is every where you look; you think you see someone you know. I could have sworn I saw at least a dozen each of Michael Tsoi a Sue, John Chin Yuen Kee, Colin Soo Ping Chow, Johnny Lee and Howard Chin Lee. I had to go and have a good look at their faces to assure myself I was mistaken.


Incidentally I suggest you walk with a tiny world map with T&T clearly marked or be prepared to say you are from Canada. Most of our guides had no idea where Caribbean was but would tell you they knew when it was obvious they didn’t.


Of course in amongst the millions of questions I asked was one about pensions. With one child per couple how was the Government going to collect enough taxes to pay pensions in the future. The answer? The law makes the children responsible for their parent’s welfare. If you have no children the state will provide. So apparently it’s not uncommon for parents to take their children to court for failing to provide for them!


Of course everyone told us before we left to be sure to buy one of the fake Rolex watches China is famous for. So we pressed our guide to take us to a shop selling them. She was kind of reluctant as China is seriously clamping down on counterfeighting and there are big fines for being caught. But we persevered and we were led into the back of a shop selling handbags to see the watches. We were warned to watch out for fake fakes and only buy genuine fakes! Anyway after your boy carefully looked at the selection and after some fierce bargaining, I walked away with my beautiful fake Rolex for about TT$600. Very heavy and solid, with wonderful workmanship, lots of hands swishing round etc. Of course you know what happened next. Three days and a thousand miles later, I’m proudly showing my acquisition to some fellow travelers when the strap promptly broke! So please don’t ask to see my Rolex OK.


Here are a few more tit bits for you before I finish. All prisoners are made to go to classes while in prison. Despite being a communist state, the Government only picks up 20% of health care costs. Their Walmart is called Wumart. We saw some beggars, even in the Forbidden City but we never saw any street children


Next week…The Yangtze River Cruise