It was Jim who came up with the idea that we should visit China this year. We were taking our daughter Kate and son-in-law Ashley with us and while Thailand was high on our list, we finally opted for China in the hope that we could see it before it was changed too much by western ways as capitalism seems to be taking such a firm grip. Jim and I flew to the UK a week early so that we could take our granddaughter Matilda to Disneyland Paris
Before we flew with Emirates, there was a little confusion over the seats on the Dubai to Beijing leg of the flight. Three of us had been placed in row 19 (which according to the plan was Business Class) and Ash was missing! Unfortunately, after a quick email we discovered that we had not been upgraded and we were still in row 56 for the whole journey despite a 4 hour stopover in Dubai. We were initially a bit concerned that our seats were the last in section and wondered how far we could drop these back to relax but there was really no need, there was a walkway behind them and loads of room which was good because the flight in total was 17 hours. In fact, everything about the flight was good, the food was excellent, I have never seen such large loos and the staff couldn´t have been more attentive.
We could have done without the stop in Dubai airport which was very disappointing – rude people taking up 3 and 4 seats with their bags (needless to say I moved some to get a seat), very expensive products in the duty free and watered down drinks in the Irish Bar. When we finally boarded the plane to get us to Beijing there were few European faces other than a single lady and a mother and daughter (we later learnt that these were Rita from Middlesbrough and Chris and Kirsty from Scotland). The majority of the other passengers were single black men which wasn´t something I expected to see.
We arrived at Beijing airport and there turned out to be eight of us (hadn´t noticed Iris) who were on the same trip. We were met by Connie a lovely young woman in her early 30s who had perfect English. Our group also included a couple from Australia, Chris and Pat who arrived the previous day and Roger and Jan from New Zealand who arrived a few hours earlier.
The Grand Gongda Jianguo Hotel is where we would both start and end our visit before we continued on to Hong Kong. The hotel is an hour’s drive from the airport, which is considered close because the city is huge. Initial impression is very modern and comfortable which turned out to be true. What made us giggle though and it turned out to be the case in each hotel we stayed in is that in the bathroom there is a selection of condoms clearly marked NOT FREE
We all met for dinner and had a private dining room. I like Chinese food but normally go for a set meal, as I’m never quite sure what to order. This was wonderful I tried things that ordinarily I would never have eaten like tripe and sweet and sour fish although I did draw the line at chicken feet! From the start, it was easy to see that everyone in our group would get on well. There is however always one and it turned out to be a lady who moaned about everything. In the end, we had a name for her sayings they were ‘Irisisms’.
An early night was called for, as we have a wakeup call at 7.00 in order to start our tour of the city. One of the reasons we chose China was because in 1949, Jim’s cousin, David Young had jumped ship and would not see his homeland again for over 30 years. After seeing the TV programme in the 1980s about his homecoming I thought it fascinating but when questioned Jim and his parents said ‘That bloody commi deserter’ they obviously had no time for him. Nevertheless, this is his story The Chinese Geordie and this trip was an opportunity to see what China’s attraction was for David.
The journey begins ….. page 2