My very first attempt at travel writing (from 2010)
Ten years ago we travelled to China for a highlights tour of the country. I remember getting excited and scribbling something down on the hotel notepads. Notes I thought I had lost. A decade later Covid arrives from Wuhan and gives me free time to tidy up and declutter. And then I find the few pages I had jotted down all those years ago hiding inside another notebook.
Sunday 1 August 2010
Two days into my trip and I’m having the best time ever. The weather hasn’t been as bad as predicted, although Shanghai and Wuhan are going to be boiling hot apparently. We arrived yesterday afternoon. All was well till Kavitha decided to sit on her suitcase while waiting for the guide to gather everyone around. The case split. It was only a two year old samsonite. Now what are we going to do? (We realise later that we should have told the guide before leaving the airport and he would have got a brand new replacement suitcase. Although to be truthful the damage wasn’t the airlines fault). Once at the hotel, while everyone else had a lie in, we traipsed to the nearest supermarket and bought a new suitcase and some superglue. It was not an easy exercise as not a single person spoke English or understood what we were trying to ask them. Back at the hotel, I try to stick the broken parts together and the glue seems to have done the trick. Dinner was a buffet at the revolving restaurant at the top of our hotel on the 26th floor. I had the freshest fish ever, grilled to perfection. After dinner we went to see the Olympics village and took a stroll down the Hutongs of the Old Town.
Today we started our tour at the Ming Tombs followed by a stop at the Jade gallery. We had lunch at a restaurant near the entrance to ‘The Great Wall’ and then had two hours of free time to explore the wall. There were two choices. The easy route which looked crowded and the not so easy steeper climb which was less crowded. All the group members chose the difficult one including the elderly couple on the tour. We couldn’t let the side down and so joined in. We walked till we had had enough before turning back. Going up was difficult but not scary. Coming down was steep, slightly windy and a bit daunting but manageable. At one point I did suddenly think ‘Wow, I’m on the Great Wall’. Later in the evening we were taken to one of the famous restaurants in Beijing where the Peking duck dish originated. Tomorrow we fly to Shanghai where the temperature is humid and in the high thirties.
Tuesday 3 August
Yesterday evening we arrived in Shanghai. Shanghai has the most high rise buildings in the world and still more are being built. After dinner our guide Jennifer took us to see the Shanghai skyline overlooking the Huangpu river. The weather was boiling hot and the food not as tasty as it was in Beijing. The Chinese are not very religious. They’ve been disillusioned over the years and so unlike Japan there are not many temples to visit. The only temple we’ve visited so far is the ‘Temple of Heaven’ in Beijing. Today we visited the Shanghai museum and the Yu Yuan garden. The elderly and unemployed gather in the parks in the morning for their early morning exercises and mahjong games. We went to watch an acrobatic show in the evening. It was good. Tomorrow we fly to Wuhan.
Wednesday 4 August
This morning we visited the Jade Buddha Temple. The Buddha is carved out of a single jade rock and apparently weighs a ton. It was a busy day for the monks. Every two years they turn the pages of their religious books to prevent damage and today was the designated day. According to the newspaper the temperature in the city reached a sweltering 39 yesterday and today it is 37 degrees. There was a thunderstorm just as we reached our restaurant for lunch. We waited and waited on the coach but the rain showed no sign of giving up. We finally had to make a dash for it. After lunch we took the high speed train to the airport. It covered 30 kilometres in 7 minutes reaching 431 km/hour at its fastest point. We reached Wuhan this evening.
This is where my notes end. I look for my travel itinerary and find that we spent the night in Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province. We visited the Wuhan provincial museum the next day and then travelled to Yichang in the afternoon from where we embarked on our Yangtze river cruise. Wuhan, a city thousands of miles away, a city not important enough to garner any special mention until now unless you were an epidemiologist, a city which now I think most people in the world would be hoping never existed and a city which has affected every single person on this planet in one way or another and mostly in a negative way. Will I look back in ten years time and find some positives from this outbreak? I am sure I will. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?