One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
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ozray

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China (People's Republic)

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2nd Trip to China

Jun 2007

Accompanying my Father to China at the invitation of the Chinese Government.

Day 0 - Taking off

Preparation

10:50pm

Spent the day packing and off to the airport early. The plane was due to take off at 9.55pm. Here we were, about to embark on a special tour, my father and I. Dad had been invited by the Chinese Government along with ten other men from different parts of the world. It is something that the Government has been doing over the last few years. Over the years many Chinese have settled in other countries, made successful careers and supported their local Chinese Communities. This was a way for the Chinese Government to show their appreciation of what these expatriates had done. It also showed me that the Chinese tradition of respecting your elders was even practiced by the government.

I don't mind long plane trips, I enjoy watching the movies and even eating airline food. This trip was no exception, I knew I wouldn't get much sleep so I didn't worry about it and just relaxed.

Day 1 - Arrival in Beijing

Introductions

6:00pm

Into Hong Kong airport very early in the morning with plenty of time to get our connecting flight on Dragon Air to Beijing. Long wait at the security gate and they're quite strict on the new rules about restricting liquids to 100ml bottles, but I was allowed my bottle of Saline solution.

Had a bit of a snooze on the 3.5 hour flight to Beijing and it went quick. It was with some excitement when we emerged from customs and a group of people were there to greet us holding up Dad's name in Chinese. Of course, I had no idea. The group included Zhou Li who is Deputy Director of the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs of the State Council of P.R.C and China Overseas Exchange Association. They certainly don't believe in abbreviating Department names. Also there was her assistant Shen Ya Feng who just happened to have been born in the same year as myself which I found out later in the tour. There was also a young man Wang Yun who was busily videotaping us as we arrived and was to follow us during the whole tour. pretty good gig for a young man if you ask me.

They took us to a car and accompanied us to the Xiyuan Hotel , got there around 3pm and we had some time to rest before dinner in the revolving restaurant. Wow finally there after some 17 hours travelling.

Dinner was a buffet style with plenty to choose from. This abundance of food was to be typical of every dinner time and lunch time as well. We got to meet some of the others on the tour and sat opposite James from Canada and his wife, who could speak English so were the first people I chatted to other than my father since arriving. It was a bit embarrassing being the only person on the tour who couldn't speak Mandarin. To my surprise Dad told me that Zhou Li said she was organising an English speaking guide just for me so they certainly made me feel special.

We finished dinner at around 8.30 and dad decided to take me downtown to a place where they sell food on the street. It was very interesting, and we looked around the shops for a little while where dad bought a belt, before heading back to the hotel for a proper sleep.

Day 2 - Beijing

Forbidden City, Song Qingling's Residence

10:02pm

First full day in Beijing. After breakfast met everyone in the foyer where I was introduced to my personal guide, Michelle and boarded the bus to the Forbidden City. Still in a bit of daze as I entered the side gate, it was hard to believe I was now standing in a complex that I had seen so many times in movies and documentaries. Dad had insisted that Michelle sit next to me on the bus so that she could translate what the main guide was saying. But the guy never stopped talking so I told her not to bother with translating and just give me the main points. It was much more interesting talking about our families and life in general in China. Turns out Michelle is unusual in that she is the third of a family of three children, something that I didn't think was very common in single child policy China. She explained that her family is from a smaller city and 2 children is not too uncommon. She told me her father was able to arrange things so that it was OK.

Spent around 4 hours exploring the Forbidden City. The only disappointing thing was that two of the main buildings were completely covered with scaffolding, but I consoled myself that I would be returning in a couple of years and will get to see them then. Towards the back of the complex are smaller rooms where the concubines were kept but now they house various museums. It was also great seeing the famous 9 nine dragons wall.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/forbidden.htm

Lunch was in a restaurant that was right next door to the Forbidden City. We then went to an old part of Beijing, the Hutong area where we boarded rickshaws which took us at a very fast pace through the area and along a canal where we stopped at the former residence of Song Qingling who was Sun Yat-sen's wife. It was quite a grand residence and property with lovely gardens.

That night we attended our first official dinner which was at, what I assumed to be a Government building seeing as there were guards at the front gate. Dad said the program had casual dress but when we went downstairs all the men had suits on and the women were also dressed up. I felt really uncomfortable even though Dad said he was right, so I told him I was getting changed anyway and went and put my suit on. The dinner was in quite a formal setting so I was so glad I did. Dad didn't seem to care. Lots of speeches by officials and also all the overseas men including Dad were asked to speak. It was a very grand dining room and the food was served banquet style. The most unusual thing about it was that a lot of the dishes were soup based. Mostly very nice but I imagined I would be going to the loo a fair bit that night.

On the way back we were told not to eat or drink anything because the next day we were to be taken to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital where we are all to have full medical check-ups.

Links:

  1. Forbidden City (Palace Museum)
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