A lesson from Beijing

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Issue 1145, Page 2
Word count: 646
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A few things that I have discovered in my recent holiday in Beijing have amazed me quite a lot. To me, and perhaps to many other people from developed countries as well, China in general is less modern and advanced. When I went to Beijing for the first time back in 2007 because of work, I was quite astonished to find that this place was very different, just by the look/cityscape itself, from those second- or third-tier cities in China. (I have never been to Shanghai though).

Last week I visited Beijing for a holiday and finally got to see the famous attractions there.

While I like travelling around China, my concern is always about the sanitation problem , especially at public toilets. I was surprised to find that it was actually very easy to find a permanent public toilet in Beijing, no matter whether you were downtown or in a less urban area. Needless to say, public toilets are always around tourist spots – both big and small. Even outside of these attractions I also found that there were many of these facilities in streets for the public to use.

Much to my surprise, most of these public toilets were fairly clean and some of them were even “star-rated” by the Government. A cleaner could also be found inside especially at those in major attractions.

Some may think that Beijing is a first-tier city, being the capital of China, and for sure things are more up to standard there. I cannot agree more but I also believe that if the Chinese Government did not care about the “toilet issue” and chose not to build these kind of “star-rated” facilities across the city, the city that represents China as a whole, it would be really pathetic. Public toilets with poor sanitary conditions, I would say, are one of the major factors that could affect tourists’ impression of a place.

With regard to Macau, I’m not so sure how clean the public toilets here are as I usually avoid going to them. But if we look at the local major tourist spots, for example the Ruins of St. Paul’s, I think there are a few portable, self-contained toilets placed there. I heard that even if you can’t smell the odour it is very hot to be inside these molded plastic outhouses in summer. Although there is a permanent public toilet near the stairs to the ruins, I doubt many tourists actually notice it.

As simple as the case of Senado Square, neither a permanent nor temporary public toilet can be found there, unless you go back to San Ma Lou underneath the stairs close to the Post Office.

It seems that Macau is not a very friendly city for tourists, and actually for local people as well, in terms of public toilet facilities.

Another thing that I’ve learned from the trip is that the shops and stalls in Beijing, regardless of if they are a big supermarket or a small grocery store, would charge customers 30 cents for each plastic bag they use. It is certainly more advanced than in Hong Kong (let alone Macau) where the plastic bag levy is still not being implemented citywide.

In addition, I’ve learned from the tour guide, a Beijing local, that the hotels there, if not all, will turn the air-conditioning off during the winter months. Certainly the air-conditioning will be turned back on in summer, but the tour guide said the temperature will be automatically set at 26 degrees in hotel rooms.

While Macau’s anti-smoking bill is still “stuck somewhere” at the Legislative Assembly, I’ve been told that starting January 1, 2011 smoking will no longer be allowed in all public areas across Beijing.

It’s quite apparent that there are many things that the Macau officials can learn from Beijing during their many trips to come in the future.

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