With only 39 days to go till the Olympics, is Beijing really ready for their big coming out party? It’s been a week since I last saw the sun. I’m feeling depressed already as everything is gray and gloomy. I hope they can improve the environment because it’s not gonna be a beautiful Beijing without the blue sky.
Anyway, here are some changes which is in effect during the Olympic and Paralympic period. Most of them are already annoying and a lot of foreigners and businesses are not happy.
1. Exorbitant Hotel Rates – Home Inn is a budget hotel. Their regular rate is RMB 200-300/night but during the Olympic period their rates rose up to 5x their regular rate to a whopping RMB 1500. Most hotels during the Olympic period require 4 day stay and upfront pay when you book. If you don’t have a relative or family living in BJ, you’ll be forced to stay in the hotel as visa requirement.
2. Visa requirements – a lot of ‘transient’ foreigners who are holding F or L visa are forced to go home as renewal and extensions are no longer processed inside China. Going to HKG is also not an option for some as they already posted 33 countries who need to go home and apply at their home country. Business people are complaining about the added requirements to apply for a visa and hotels are getting frustrated with the cancellations they have as guests aren’t able to come due to this matter. People applying for a visa must now present a confirmed hotel booking, roundtrip air tickets on top of the regular requirements. This will be the case for the next couple of months and hopefully, just for the next couple of months.
3. Increasing Rental Rates – every year, those who rent apartments in Beijing are expected to pay more. However, this year, rental prices are ridiculous. They blame it because of the Olympics. Some landlords are even booting out their tenants expecting to cash in with this Olympic fever. A friend of mine who rented RMB 2800 per month for a 2 bedroom apartment last year was forced to move out this year as rent increased to RMB 3500. I really hope that prices will go back to normal after the Olympics.
4. Security – It’s a pain to go anywhere in the city as security has tighten because of the Olympics. Passengers riding the subway are now subject to x-ray machine and body check. The church I attended advised us that new security measures will be implemented starting July 6 which is similar to airport checks. Sooner or later, malls would be subjected to this kind of security. I won’t be a happy camper but I have to endure it.
5. Alfresco Dining – it’s summer! it’s nice to eat outside and enjoy the sunshine. However, the Chinese government are such killjoys that they banned restaurants to have seats outside. I’m not sure why, but I’ve heard people saying that the police were quite aggressive with this move.
6. Construction Ban – no one can construct or renovate anything from July 1 to September 20 as the fire security bureau who issues licenses to move in and start their renovations will not issue any. Businesses are forced to put on hold their plans of expanding or moving to another building. Good thing about this, there will be fewer people riding the bus!
7. Spitting Fine – Spitting will incur a RMB 50 fine if they caught you. It’s been implemented for several months now but I haven’t seen anyone apprehended yet.
8. Smoking Ban – smoking is ban in public transportation, school and lift. Dining establishment must set aside an area for smoking patrons or none at all. I’m quite happy with this as they sometimes abuse their bodies with too much smoking.
9. Odd-Even Scheme – starting July 20, the odd-even scheme for private and government vehicles will be implemented to lessen traffic and improve the air quality in the city. Yipee! I can sleep an extra ten minutes.
10. New Subway lines – The airport express, line 10 and Olympic lines are scheduled to operate this July. That means, easy access to Olympic venues and easy navigation around this big city. They still haven’t decided how much the airport express line would be but preliminary reports set it at RMB 25-30 one way. It will have two stops to the city, one in Sanyuanqiao and the other in Dongzhimen.
11. Free subway and bus rides – if you are planning to use the subway or bus during the Olympics, you’ll get free rides as long as you have a ticket of an event on that day.
12. No free plastic bags – if you plan to do grocery shopping expect to pay for your plastic bag if you don’t bring any. This was implemented to reduce non-recyclable waste in China. People are now slowly getting used to bringing their cloth bags and some even use their business skills and create cute bags for sale.
13. Chickens without a sex life – I got this line from thebeijinger blog. It’s so funny. Just like in my previous blog, they’ve started changing the menus in restaurants in the city. So, it would be difficult to find those funny signs in the future. Well, don’t worry.. I will try to find some more in other provinces.
I’ll add some more as the final day nears. I’m off to Lanzhou on Friday to cheer my friend Marco as he run his leg as torchbearer in Gansu.