I'm currently staying with my grandparents in Beijing after spending a week at SIGIR 2011. Thoughts on the conference will be forthcoming, but for now, thoughts on China.
Every year, the prices increase another notch, especially in the more touristy areas. Many experts think that China's will surpass the United States in terms of GDP within the next 5 to 10 years. Such an estimate does not seem unreasonable given China's (over-)population. After all, 1.4 billion is a pretty big number.
It certainly seems that the Chinese have become well calibrated to the prices that Western tourists are happy to pay. For example, Peking Duck at the historic Quanjude runs about $45 USD per person, which is about the upper bound on what most people (including myself) would pay at a high class restaurant in a "developing" country.
Although I've been to Beijing many times before, I spend most of my time with my grandparents, who are more the sedentary type. As a result, I always come across something new to check out every time I come back. Last week, I visited an ancient mosque with Khalid, and actually got to observe a Friday service. It was bit of an out-of-world experience to listen to a Chinese preacher espouse the virtues of and describe the preparation of Ramadan with a heavy Beijing accent.
This visit has also been a nice opportunity for me to try out my new camera: