Live Talk Transcript: China and Hong Kong
Writer Ron Gluckman answered your questions on traveling to China and Hong Kong
China is the world's fastest-growing travel destination; but few go beyond the main cities and major tourist attractions. Those that do are rewarded by engaging views of a vast land of unrivaled terrain, tribes and travel experiences.
Hong Kong has traditionally been one of the world's favorite destinations in Asia, and the usual gateway to China. But few would think of Hong Kong as a bargain getaway, or scenic retreat.
Ron Gluckman, a longtime resident of both Hong Kong and China, reveals the remarkable secret of taking a low-cost holiday to Hong Kong, by visiting many of the charming outlying islands of one of the world's busiest cities. Instead of high-rises, these charming islands harbor picturesque coves, great beaches and bargain lodging, all within an hour of the world's favorite shopping city.
Meanwhile, China continues to modernize and open up to the outside world. A reporter who has lived in and covered Greater China for over a dozen years, Ron Gluckman reveals some of the most exciting travel destinations and intriguing contrasts in the world's fastest growing country.
Ron answered your questions Tuesday, September 7, at 12 p.m. EST. Read the transcript below.
Ron Gluckman is an American journalist who has been covering Hong Kong and China for more than a dozen years. He has been based for the past four years in Beijing. Previously, he spent nine years in Hong Kong, living upon Lamma Island, one of the many idyllic Outlying Islands that he writes about in Budget Travel. Mr. Gluckman contributes to Newsweek, Time, Fortune, Discovery, MSNBC, Popular Science, the Wall Street Journal and Travel & Leisure.
Ron Gluckman: Hello. Ron Gluckman here; thanks for joining me on line. While my new story on this site describes the exciting and surprisingly-little known islands of Hong Kong, for today's talk, I will be taking your questions about both Hong Kong, where I lived for nine years in the 1990s, and China, where I have been living for the past four years. But seeing as I happen to right now be on the road, roaming around China's spicy Sichuan Province, I'll start with some of the questions about this area.
Tucson, AZ: Is the Yangtze River still something to see?
Ron Gluckman: Greetings to you in Tucson. Well, this is a short question, but a potentially big topic. It's sort of like asking, "Should I drive Route 66; is there still anything to see?"
Like the old highway of Americana, China's long Yangtze stretches 4,000 miles, through a wide variety of scenery, people and cultures. Right now, I'm in Chengdu, where flooding along the Yangtze has been in the news this month. Here, it's a wide, muddy Mississippi-like river that sustains massive cities of millions of people, rice farmers and boatmen. A few months ago, I was high in the Himalayas, near where the Yangtze tumbles down from Tibet. There, the river is a gorgeous creature that snakes through breathtaking canyons, fed by pristine snow-packs, and shaggy yaks graze by its side.
Most of the time when I hear from readers about the Yangtze, they are considering a trip through the Three Gorges, so I assume that's your interest. Much has been made of the controversy surrounding the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The world's largest construction project did force the relocation of a huge number of people along the river as well as the flooding of numerous towns, including many that were popular stops on the Three Gorges cruises. Before the dam was completed, we were treated to all kinds of stories about the end of these cruises, and a kind of hysteria to see the sights before they were supposedly gone. My feeling is that, for most visitors, the consequences have been greatly exaggerated. True, the river did rise (and is still rising; the full depth of about 175 meters won't be reached until 2009), and many sights are now gone. But after the dam was completed and cruises resumed, we saw a whole new industry selling the "new sights" of the Three Gorges, including the dam itself, which cannot be discounted. When your enormous six-story cruise ship is swallowed up inside one of the locks (each longer than a football field), that's an incredible experience.
Many no doubt are coming largely just to see the dam and pass through this massive engineering achievement.
Far more, though, come for the scenery, more than 20 million visitors a year in fact. I think the overall impression is very positive. It's all personal taste. If you want to take a break from the pressures of traveling in China, and just sit on a dock and watch scenery scroll by, the cruises won't disappoint. A minority of visitors say the trips take up too much time, and don't like all the programmed entertainment. In both cases, the pluses and the minuses remain unaltered. The canyons and gorges are just as magnificent -- or monotonous -- as they have been for eons.