BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Ambling from colorful gardens to green lawns, Yao Guiying could hardly find the location of her old house. But when she spotted the familiar willows and elms, she had a flashback of the shabby home village that now turned into a huge park for the world's largest horticultural show.
"I never dreamed that my old home village could become so beautiful!" said Yao, who appeared emotional.
Yao was among 30,000 people, mainly local residents in Beijing's northern suburb district of Yanqing, who were invited as the first group to visit the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing before it opened to the public on Monday.
To make room for the expo site, Yao and some 2,000 residents from two villages were relocated from their old dilapidated homes into modern buildings in 2014. The area where they used to live now houses new roads and buildings, but the plants in the villages have all been preserved.
"I like my new home, and I hope Yanqing, my 'bigger home', has a better future," said Yao, who has volunteered for the expo that will last till October.
"With a district heating system in my new home, I don't need to burn coal anymore in winter, and it makes my home cleaner too," said Meng Xianrong, another villager.
Meng said life has become more comfortable since he moved to the new home, and he often walked to the expo site several hundred meters away with his neighbors to check out the construction. "I just couldn't wait to see the opening of the expo."
The horticultural expo has attracted exhibitors from 110 countries and international organizations, and is expected to become a hot sightseeing destination, wowing visitors with all kinds of flowers and plants, some even exotic, from across the world.
It is estimated that 16 million visitors from home and abroad will visit the expo, while also getting a glimpse of Yanqing, which has undergone great changes thanks to the expo.
In order to ensure transportation for the expo, Yanqing built 13 roads that stretch 54 km, to link the expo park with neighboring cities and areas. New highways and railways will also provide better traffic for visitors as well as local residents.
"To host such a big event is a great opportunity for Yanqing. The district has seen huge improvements in all aspects, including infrastructure and public services," said Yu Bo, the district chief.
Yanqing boasts itself as being home to parts of the Great Wall. Although a summer resort and the agricultural base of Beijing, the district is more than 80 km northwest of central Beijing.
"Traffic used to be a weakness that impeded the development of Yanqing," said Wu Shijiang, deputy chief of the district, adding that although tourism is a major industry of Yanqing, poor roads kept tourists away.
"The upgrade of transportation opens a door in Yanqing, allowing the district to fast track its social and economic development," Wu said.
Over the past few years, Yanqing has made great efforts to improve its ecological environment, such as growing over 10,000 hectares of trees and tackling water pollution.
"The district has been developing floriculture but failed to realize scale economy as the plantation areas scattered and scales were small," said Wang Shuqin, deputy director of the district's gardening and greening bureau.
Learning from the experience of the Kunming International Horticulture Exposition, which boosted the fast growing of the horticulture business in the southwestern province after the event in 1999, Wang believed that Yanqing would have the opportunity for fast development, too.
So far, the district has attracted more than 30 horticulture-related enterprises and institutes to settle in.
"The upgrade of infrastructure and the acceleration of the horticulture industry can further stimulate the development of tourism in Yanqing," said Zheng Aijuan, an official of the local tourism department.
Zheng noted that the district has developed more travel routes and improved the quality and services of local hotels and guesthouses, so that tourists attending the expo could have a wonderful experience in Yanqing.
"This is not just about development," said Yu, the district chief. "More importantly, we can build our hometown even better as the concept of green development and ecological civilization has been widely accepted and cherished by local residents."