再访重庆(下) / Chongqing Revisited (Part Three)

再访重庆(下)

在最近去重庆的短期访问中,还有一些其他事情让我颇受震撼,和二、三十年前的拜访相比,形成了鲜明的反差。

从香港到重庆,我乘坐的是港龙航空公司的空中客车A320机型,机上共设有8个商务舱座位和150个经济舱座位,基本上都满员了。

据我猜测,乘客中有100多位都是刚从香港旅游观光归来的四川省旅游团的成员。他们很多人都上了年纪,头上戴着明黄色的棒球帽,上面明晃晃地绣着旅行团的组织者——“四川国旅”的标志和字样。

他们手里紧捏着登机牌,鱼贯登上飞机,看上去兴高采烈。毫无疑问,这些人没怎么坐过飞机,而且也有点儿想念家乡的川菜。

登机的场面热热闹闹,好像在玩儿宾戈游戏或是进了赌场。“你坐哪得克?”“23!17!45!”“你嘞?”“38!”“19!22!”极富乐感的四川乡音在机舱里此起彼伏,好似一群孩子头一回到反斗城“切耍”。

换作20年前、甚至更近一些时候,做梦都想不到会有这样的旅行团。

上世纪七、八十年代,非因公出境的中国大陆居民少之又少,简直可以和美国的宇航员数目相媲美。但近几年来,中国赴海外旅行的人数,特别是团体出行的游客数激增。据旅游业预计,中国将在短时间内成为世界上出境游客数最多的国家。

这其中当然反映出财富中心的大规模迁移,也表明了人的流动性、包括观念的传播都发生了转变。

特别让我感到惊讶的是,这些同机旅客大都是老年人,看上去没什么钱,还都来自中国的西部地区。那里实施改革开放政策的时间相对于东部沿海城市要晚一些,而且也没有沿海城市那么富裕。但他们居然有实力去香港旅游。或许子女赞助了部分费用,或许没有赞助;但这都并不重要。

究其根本,重要的是只消一代人的时间就发生了沧海桑田的巨变。

Chongqing Revisited (Part Three)

Some other things struck me during my recent short visit to Chongqing, providing great contrast between this visit and the previous ones I had made 20-30 years ago.

My Dragonair flight from Hong Kong to Chongqing was on an Airbus A 320 aircraft, which was fairly full. The seating configuration was a small 8-seat business class section, and 150-seat economy section.

I would guess that about 100 or so of the other passengers were members of Sichuan tour groups returning home from a visit to Hong Kong. They were mostly older folks, and many wore bright yellow baseball caps emblazoned with the logo and Chinese character name of their tour operator, the Chongqing Branch of China International Travel Service.

They were obviously excited as they filed onto the plane clutching their boarding passes. Frequent fliers these were not, and no doubt they were a bit homesick for good Sichuan home cooking.

As they boarded, it sounded a bit like a bingo game or roulette table. “Where are you seated?” (23! 17! 45!) “And you?” (38!) (31!) And so on (19! 22!), in their lilting Sichuan accents, like a group of kids visiting Toys R Us for the first time.

A group like this would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, and even much more recently than that.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Chinese mainlanders travelling abroad on anything other than official business were about as common as astronauts are in the U.S. In recent years there has been an enormous surge in outbound tourist travel, especially group travel. According to travel industry estimates, outbound Chinese travelers will soon surpass any other national group in numbers by place of origin.

That of course reflects a massive shift in wealth, and in mobility, not only of people but of ideas.

What particularly struck me about my fellow passengers on that flight was that they were older folks, not affluent looking, coming from a western region of China, an area slower to embrace and benefit from the Open Door Policy than the wealthier eastern coastal cities. They could still manage to afford a trip to Hong Kong. Perhaps with some financial support from their children, or perhaps not; it doesn’t really matter.

This in itself is a sea change within the span of roughly one generation.

谈到观念的传播,重庆已经从20年前那个连电话都很难找到的小城市变成了如今即便是农村都几乎人手一部手机的大都会。在重庆山城错落有致的小村庄里,随处可以看到接收卫星电视信号的天线和太阳能热水器。宽带上网的普及率也在迅速提高。

以前我去四川郊区或是中国其他地方访问的时候,总是很难看到野生的鸟类(除了一些麻雀和蝙蝠之外)以及野生的动物。那时候,过度猎杀捕食和滥用杀虫药物都非常普遍。

这次去忠县的短暂访问中,我看到了翠鸟、白鹭、一只野鸡,还有四、五种叫不上名字的鸟类。虽然重庆还存在这样那样的环境问题,但发现这些鸟的存在却是一个极好的迹象。当地人也告诉我说,在刚刚涨水的长江江段或是支流可以钓到各种各样的鱼,但最负盛名的美味——江团鱼却十分罕见,如果能够钓到的话,每条江团鱼的市场售价可以达到500元人民币(合70美元/磅)。

访问中我还在当地结识了一位新朋友林戈,他在重庆附近的农村已经生活工作了十几年。我们之间有一次非常有意思的谈话。他有很多爱好,其中之一就是爱看美国电影和任何有关二战的影片,而且还自学了英文。

我觉得自己来自香港,怎么也算得上是游走于大城市之间、见多识广的国际旅行家,于是就推荐他收看HBO电视台新近推出的有关二战时期太平洋战区的剧集《太平洋》。这部片子是由汤姆•汉克斯出品,我以为他一定会喜欢。我还告诉他一共已经播出了三集。

“不对,一共是十集,已经播了六集,我每集都看了。”林戈客气地纠正我说,“片子拍的不错。”

我还算什么见多识广的城里人啊!连住在中国偏远地区的林戈都比我知道的多。时代真是变了!人和他们的观念也都不同已往了。

Speaking of the mobility of ideas, Chongqing has gone from a place, 20 years or so ago, where finding a telephone was a challenge to a place where everyone seems to have a mobile phone, even out in the rural areas. Satellite dishes are common sights on homes in the small farming communities which dot the terraced hills of Chongqing, as are solar powered water heaters. Broadband internet penetration rates continue to soar.

In my early visits to rural parts of Sichuan, and other parts of China, I was struck by the near absence of wild birds (other than a few species like sparrows and magpies) and animal life. Over-hunting for food and indiscriminate ag chemical use were the usually cited culprits.

This time on very a short visit to rural parts of Zhongxian I saw kingfishers, egrets, a pheasant, and 4-5 other species of birds I could not identify. Despite Chongqing’s environmental challenges, I found that an encouraging sign. Locals also told me the fishing for various species in the newly flooded sections of the Yangzi River and its tributaries is very good, although stocks of the prized delicacy Yangzi Catfish (jiang tuan yu) are now so depleted that a fresh steak sells for up to RMB 500 per cattie (in the range of US$70 per pound) in the market, if you can find it.

One of the new local acquaintances I made on this visit has lived and worked in a rural area outside of Chongqing for more than ten years. We had an interesting conversation. Among other interests, he is an avid fan of American movies, and any movies on WWII, as well as being a self-taught speaker of English.

Thinking of myself as a kind of big city sophisticated global traveler type dude from Hong Kong, I suggested he be on the lookout for the new HBO miniseries on WWII in the Pacific region, called “Pacific”, produced by Tom Hanks, which I thought he’d enjoy. I added that three episodes are already out.

“No, there are six in the series of ten which are already out, and I’ve seen them all,” Ringo gently corrected me. “It’s a great series.”

So much for my big city international sophistication! Ringo was better informed than me, despite the relatively remote part of China in which he lives and works. How times change, and with them, the flow of ideas and people.


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