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-by Ernie Diaz
Very rich Chinese are different from you and me. They have more money. Other than that, they tend to display the same parvenu behaviors universal to the nouveau riche. In terms of vulgar displays of wealth and scandalizing French maitre d’s, they are hard to distinguish from Russian oligarchs and Australian CUBs (“Cashed-up Bogans”).
When it comes to traveling in China, wealthy Chinese are not so different from us western rank-and-file. Hurun, the Chinese Capitalist-Roader-Running-Dog-Lackey publication of record, has compiled the top ten favorite domestic destinations for China’s super-wealthy. The results are hardly surprising, but instructive, should you care to follow in their footsteps.
Western Analogue: New Mexico
If You’re Super Rich: Stick to Urumqi, where you can buy up enough quality jade (with a practiced eye) to round out your precious metals and jewelry portfolio.
If You’re Not: Stock up on plump Xinjiang dates, so you stay healthy enough to keep laboring into old age. Hit one of the many restaurants where each room is a yurt, and the dancing girls don’t let you leave until you’ve drunk yourself into a Xinjiang tango tizzy.
Revolutionary Alternative: For getting back to their proletarian roots, China’s super-rich need no alternative to Xinjiang’s overwhelmingly humble, but still awe-inspiring, landscape. A little re-education picking grapes in the orchards couldn’t hurt, though.
Western Analogue: Vancouver
Super-Rich Friendly?: Somewhat. You’ll need government-connect as well as a fortune to occupy one of the old-world mansions dotting Qingdao’s shore, the ones the mean old reactionary imperialists left behind.
If You’re Super Rich: Dock your yacht, and enjoy your crab on the upper deck, where the hoi polloi can’t see you dribbling shell bits all over your hand-made polo shirt.
If You’re Not: Walk the boardwalk, breathing deeply, redressing the lung-damage incurred inland. Practice your Korean with the locals. Take in the preserved colonial outer shell of the city and studiously avoid the center.
Revolutionary Alternative: Jinan. What do you need yachts for, classist? Biggest kite festival in the world over here!
Western Analogue: NYC
Super-Rich Friendly?: Uh, yeah – ever since foreigners turned the swampy concession that was a joke on them into China’s preferred venue for unchecked capitalist antics. Nowhere else in China will you be fleeced with more discreet panache.
If You’re Super Rich: Dine at La Grange and laugh behind your menu at the white waiter’s Mandarin. Then retire to Shook and write a blank check for the world’s most expensive cognac.
If You’re Not: Go take a walk on the Bund, then get your ass out of town. What’s this look like, Bub, a charity?
Revolutionary Alternative: Wuxi, close to Shanghai, yet so far. Taibo built this cultured city, not opium.
Western Analogue: Moscow
Super-Rich Friendly?: Yes and no. If you don’t have black license plates, you’ll sit in traffic with the rest of us, Bentley or no. Lots to part you from your fortune as quickly as possible, though.
If You’re Super Rich: Try a Manchu Three Day Feast. Dump sacks of small bills in Tiananmen Square just for the paradoxical frenzy which ensues.
If You’re Not: Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, done. Bonus if you do all three without commenting on rude motorists/pedestrians.
Revolutionary Alternative: Baoding, just a three hour rattle away from Beijing. Take in China’s biggest wind-turbine blade factory, and cheer the proletarian push to a greener future.
Western Analogue: Lucerne
Super-Rich Friendly?: Not really. Compared to Xian, maybe. Who said culture is only for those who can afford it?
If You’re Super Rich: Rent out Louwailou, the ancient restaurant on West Lake’s Solitary Island, and have a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon costume party.
If You’re Not: The rest of West Lake awaits, and a host of less tout-intensive water towns nearby.
Revolutionary Alternative: Qiandao, man-made island-hopping paradise. A triumph of dialectical materialism!
Western Analogue: Lisbon
Super-Rich Friendly?: Sure. Especially if you came into riches through organized crime, as opposed to organized exploitation of the peasant masses.
If You’re Super Rich: Hmm, what’s a good way to show how little money means to you in Macau? Maybe an establishment that allows you to make a foolish wager…
If You’re Not: Stay away from the baccarat, and the painted ladies. Sit in a sunny plaza and have a Portuguese egg tart.
Revolutionary Alternative: Taishan, or what’s left of it. No casinos, but it’s in the neighborhood, and anyone there with a drop of reactionary blood left ages ago.
Western Analogue: Chile
Super-Rich Friendly?: The antithesis, in fact. It’s heartening that enough of China’s super rich are sincere enough about spirituality, or at least sincere enough about looking sincere, that Tibet makes it so high up the list.
If You’re Super Rich: Make like a Qing or Ming or Yuan or Song or Tang Mandarin and become the patron of a temple, by donating a princely sum. If you’re afraid of being compromised as a sympathizer, spring instead for custom-made thangkas featuring you at the center of the Buddhist universe.
If You’re Not: Good luck getting in nowadays. Lhasa will suffice to remind you that your first world problems are petty, but there’s always Tibet without the Temples.
Revolutionary Alternative: Qinghai – all of the wasteland punctuated by solitary monasteries, none of the Trustafarians or Mystical Baby Boomers.
Western Analogue: Peru
Super-Rich Friendly?: Nope. Fried yak cheese and hostels on stilts can only cost so much. What’s with these super-rich Chinese, appreciating the things money can’t buy? Where are we supposed to direct our envious resentment?
If You’re Super Rich: Stock up on endangered Yunnan animals to ship back to your private menagerie. See what’s left over from your Tibet philanthropy and fork it over to a good Yunnan-based environmental NGO.
If You’re Not: Wellll….there’s Lugu Lake and Shiyang, Xishuangbanna , Jiuxiang; Weishan and Tengchong, but stay the hell away from Jinhong. Heck, you can just walk around Kunming, marveling at all the minority girls with waist-length braids marching around hand-in-hand, and dream of a more peaceful tomorrow.
Revolutionary Alternative: Myanmar, right next door – the Karen are revolting right now.
#2 HONG KONG
Western Analogue: Hong Kong
Super-Rich Friendly?: In a way. The whole place is geared to making the super-rich feel like plain old rich folk, and the merely rich like the middle-class.
If You’re Super Rich: Forget the tacky jewelry stores and monster brand outlets. This is the city for morally ambiguous pampering. Drop a few million dollars HK on 300-year-old ginseng, or take the shortcut with human placenta injections, HK $100,000 a pop. We’d never recommend ground rhino horn or tiger penes to revitalize your luxury-ravaged system, but in Hong Kong, if you make inquiries…
If You’re Not: Go up Victoria Peak for a look at what you’re missing, and get over there.
Revolutionary Alternative: Looking for socialist versions of Hong Kong is like looking for upscale versions of McDonald’s. It’s a contradiction in terms, even if the CCP refuses to (officially) believe it.
Western Analogue: Hawaii, after Putin successfully invades.
Super-Rich Friendly?: Not so much so as, say, Saint Kitts, but you can certainly drop a pretty penny or two in Sanya, especially on a vacation home there, which 27% of those Hurun surveyed already have.
If You’re Super Rich: Never mind the five-star resort, no super-rich points in Sanya unless you’re on a super-yacht anchored a few hundred yards offshore, with coked-up Euro-trash dancing to trance-hop on the poop deck.
If You’re Not: Save the beach-fun for Thailand, and venture inland.
Revolutionary Alternative: Beihai. Yes, Beihai.