I will close my retelling of our China trip with our days in Hangzhou and Shanghai. (The Wikipedia articles have great pictures of many of the sites I took pictures of, including the tea plantations and Shanghai's waterfront.) In Hangzhou, we began with a boat ride on the West Lake and took a walk through the gardens nearby. We also visited a tea house and sampled traditional green tea. The next day, we traveled to Shanghai. There, Vanessa and I saw the new developments and skyscrapers which have sprung up over the past few years. It is a city which is growing extremely rapidly, yet all of the land is still owned by the government. They have started a lease program, in which an entity can get a lease from the government to use the land for 70 years. When property changes hands, the lease isn't renewed, you only have the remaining time on the original lease. Some of the real estate prices were outrageous (even by California standards) if you consider that you may only have your property for 50 years before the government can take it back. I imagine this system will seem extremely odd to most Americans. While we were in the waterfront we saw the construction of what will be the tallest building in the world, when it is completed before the 2008 Olympics.
In closing, I offer some reflections on the trip. We saw amazing sights, experienced a different culture, and met new and interesting people. Several thoughts occurred to me as I think over my journey, I noticed that their culture had common themes and ideas. Similar stories, values, and ideals, it seems that in some ways, the core of most societies is very much alike. I was also struck by the pace of growth, it seems that China is an economic force to be reckoned with, and they appear to be rapidly expanding. Perhaps I saw only the "good parts"; my view may be inaccurate. Perhaps my view was colored by the pessimism which people say is characteristic of my generation when it comes to our nation's future. Perhaps I was just tired of the Chinese food ;)