Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Transportation Alternatives with Shorties in China

Getting Around China with Kids
Transportation Alternatives
Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing, PRC

Like many Americans, I spend way too much time in my car.  Sure, I ride my bike, the subway, I've even taken the Acela to Boston a few times.  But also like many Americans, my perceptions of China are frozen in time back in the Nixon visit. I imagined a sea of bikes streaming through every city.  Tough for kids in an urban setting, tougher for a preggers mommy.  Thankfully, I was wrong. 

Let's start with the FUN!  We rode double decker busses and trolleys through Hong Kong. We rode ferries like we had never been to an island before. 

We took gondolas up to see a Buddha and to mount the base of the Great Wall. 

We took an old fashioned tram up Victoria peak for stunning views of the HK harbor.

But, best of all, we got mommy/Auntie Nic-ferried on a paddle boat for six at the Summer Palace. The girls even managed to find a rikshaw home from the Forbidden city when the taxis were full of Chinese toursists. China has a million fun options for kids to get around. Also, it added a taste of the new Eco-friendly ethos of China to a heavy carbon footprint trip.  

All of the hype you have heard about the transit revolution in China is true.  The new high speed train from Guangzhou to Beijing was a mere eight hours of stunning mountainous, rice paddy-filled views.  Fifteen years ago, when my bud Leo was here, it was a twenty-two hour local; no videos, flush toilets or dining cars with chefs, braised cod and an assortment of ramen wonders. 

Now even the local trains have come a long way from what I heard they used to be (picture the film Ghandi for imperial comparisons.  Today, they are clean, cool, efficient and timely.  We took one from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and it was nicer than Amtrak.  We also rode myriad taxis and hired a car in Beijing, which was reasonably cheap by US standards, but a luxurious way to hit three spots in one day, with two kids and a preggers mom. 

But the biggest surprise was the extensive subway systems in every city.  While incredibly crowded, they were very easy to navigate.  And they were less than a dollar a ride everywhere, $0.30 in Beijing.  

So I suppose we could have tried the camel rides, rented  the motorbikes, or that motorboat at the Summer Palace, but I think we mounted enough forms  of fun.  So if you make it here, know that the transit options are extensive, enticing and enjoyable for kids and parents alike.  We have a lot to learn in the good ole USA.