I left Chongqing by the first flight yesterday, leaving Su behind for some real sightseeing, food and bonding with my friends. From the pictures they sent back, I believe they had a great time. While waiting for Su to come back, I find time to write another short piece.
Chongqing was only two hours from Chek Lap Kok. The city has transformed itself beyond recognition from 20 years ago when I first set foot there, around the time it broke away from Sichuan to become a provincial level municipality under the direct administration of the central government, with status enjoyed by Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. I had since visited Chongqing many times, mainly the fringe areas, including the poorer or poorest counties for service projects funded by Rotarians from Hong Kong and matched by the Rotary Foundation. Actually my first project in Chongqing was of a Protect Planet Earth (or PPE) nature carried out when I was District Governor. We raised funds for planting trees to ameliorate soil erosion around River Yangtze which China affectionately called their Mother River, hence derived the project title – Protect Mother River.
The old city is now very much overbuilt and extremely crowded. Bridges and tunnels are everywhere and traffic began to build up from 7am so that it can take an hour to cross the main bridge for a stretch that can be covered in 15 minutes on foot. So, they built a modern airport which was opened last August, once again extremely modern and spacious, and continued to expand outwards. We stayed in Chongqing Regent Hotel which is in a totally new area built up within the last four to five years and about 20 minutes from the airport when there is no traffic, but could take forever in rush hours.
The new township is populated with modern infrastructure and tall buildings that can match those of any big cities in the world such as New York, London and Paris. I would urge our young people to visit Chongqing for a feel and to learn what progress means or entails. The young people we met are all upbeat and proud of the city; and not all of them were born and raised there. While Chongqing has been busy brand building and competing with other municipalities, achieving phenomenal progress, Hong Kong has been busy with political issues and dragging its feet on livelihood and economic matters.
Back to our little personal world, I joined Su in the hotel for three nights and together we enjoyed the hospitality and fellowship of our HKU friends. It is a first class hotel as far as hardware is concerned, but there is room for improvement with service and software in general. Our friend detailed his Personal Assistant, a 26 year old from a top university in China and a fully qualified auditor, to take care of us for the two days before the main party arrived. She is matured for her age, smooth in her manners and skillful with her operations. She planned a perfect itinerary and attended to every detail. She was thinking of visiting Hong Kong later. If she does turn up, we would be able to reciprocate the hospitality.
We were cut off from Facebook and WhatsApp while in China, but somehow my phone received nearly 300 WhatsApp messages the evening before I left while we were partying at an outdoor lounge within the hotel from where we could view the city lights and Jialing River. Chongqing was cool and breezy with temperature around 20 degrees, which was extremely comfortable compared with weather in Hong Kong over the past few weeks. Facebook must have detected my absence and this morning asked me to log in and proved my identity, which I had some difficulty at first, but managed to log in. Internet technology these days could be tricky; and as Su has been saying, one must continue to update one’s equipment and keep abreast with everyday basic technology if one is interested to keep in touch with the outside world. She found that out before she had her first iPhone that she was cut off from other lunch groups because she was not on WhatsApp. While in China therefore, we resorted to using WeChat, and our young guide helped Su to set up the basics to get her going.
Su should be landing anytime and back in Mei Foo in an hour. She used WeChat to let me know that she plans to have dinner with me tonight. But things can change. Changes are the norm these days anyway; so continue to watch this space.