China is a country that does not always conjure up positive imagery in an American’s mind but after several trips to this beautiful country I have to disagree with some of the negative feelings that my fellow countrymen have. I do agree that the politics of China are significantly different from that of America and that their policies generally do not allow for the same levels of freedom that ours do, but the people of China are warm, friendly, and do not usually agree with all of the policies imposed.
My experiences in China have always been positive and I have never felt afraid for my life, which is more than I can say for other countries that I have visited. The warmness shared by all Chinese people I meet, who earnestly want to be friends with their American brothers, have moved me to learn more about the Han culture and language. As part of my job, I get the somewhat infrequent opportunity to go to China to visit with customers. I cherish these trips as a chance to practice my Mandarin, pick up some new books, and spend time with my very good friend and colleague, Daniel Zhu, who lives in Shanghai. It is truly my friendship with Daniel, more than anything else that has endeared me to the Chinese culture and language.
During this most recent trip I had a pretty busy customer visit schedule with two days in Shenzhen, one day in Guangzhou, one day in Tianjin, and one day in Beijing before returning home. My good friend Daniel joined me for the entire week.
My trip started off wonderfully with a free upgrade from United on the flight from Boston to San Francisco. Having status with an airline definitely has its perks. From here it was a good 13 hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is another interesting island to spend some time in but I had to take a limousine car directly from Hong Kong Airport to Shenzhen on Mainland China.
The ride from the airport to the hotel took longer than usual due to a long line at the Chinese border but overall it was uneventful. I had a pretty good sleep and a busy day the next day at one of our customer’s facilities. For dinner that night, Daniel and our other colleague, Kevin, treated me to some delicious South Chinese food. The long day was well worth it.
Following the first day, the second day was somewhat uneventful as we were tied up with customer visits but I was able to get back to the hotel early to catch up on a lot of e-mails.
Wednesday we drove from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. It was my first time coming to Guangzhou and unfortunately, we were there for a customer visit, a quick lunch and a trip to the airport. For lunch we went to a Vietnamese restaurant and the food was excellent. I truly enjoy eating Vietnamese food here in the US but it was much better tasting in Guangzhou. I’m sure that being so close to Vietnam helps them.
From here we flew to Beijing. When we arrived at Beijing we got out of the airport. Daniel told me it would take about an hour from the airport to the hotel. It was around 8 o’clock when we arrived and I was starving. After getting off the plane we were greeted to a 45 minute wait for our luggage. Apparently they didn’t know how to get our luggage from the plane to the luggage carousel. Thinking this was the excitement for the night, we stepped outside and I found that there was another hour wait to get a taxi! By the time we got to the hotel we had a light dinner and crashed.
The next morning we took a train from Beijing’s South Station to Tianjin city for another customer visit and a train ride back to Beijing for two more customer visits. On the train to Tianjin we shared a compartment with two other gentlemen and a couple with their young 5 year old daughter. The young girl was an absolute doll and entertained us during the entire 40 minute trip with her singing. She was so adorable I just wanted to bring her home so she could play with my daughter, Amelia.
On Thursday night I was treated to Dadong restaurant. For those in the know there are a few major restaurants that are famous for Peking Duck, which should never be missed by any meat-loving visitor to China. The most famous is called Quanjude (全聚德烤鸭店). One of Quanjude’s chef’s, Dadong, left and started his own business. I have eaten here once before and it is one of the most amazing meals I have ever eaten. Some of the dishes we had were: Peking Duck (of course!), scallops, fried pork, and orchid roots. Everything here was amazing.
After dinner we strolled across the street to Wangfujing Bookstore, a massive multi-story bookstore, where I picked up several Chinese Breeze Readers and books 4-6 of the New Practical Chinese Readers. It was a terribly long day.
On my last day in Beijing we had more customer visits (lots of those) and I was able to finish up the day with a nice Shanghai style dinner with Daniel.
On Saturday I endured the long trip home and was rewarded with a wonderful welcome from my family.
Although traveling to China and spending time with Daniel is a great treat, I do miss my family terribly while I am gone. It is just another reminder that while other places may be cool, in the end, there’s no place like home.