Since I have traveled so much this last month, Paris, Chicago, Milwaukee and New York City, I had plenty of airport time to think about my past and memorable travels. I wanted to tell you all the my first trip to China and Hong Kong. It was in August of 1996 and it was my first time traveling so far and for so long. I had been to Europe many times of course, however this was the big time, Asia. My airline flight was booked, Passport with Visa back from the Chinese Consulate in hand, and I had my Raspberry Nutrigran bars in case I got hungry during my 2 week trip. I was ready, or so I thought.
The itinerary was set, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and lastly Beijing. The United flight was nonstop from Chicago to Hong Kong, a looooooong 16 hour flight. I thought I knew what it meant to travel long haul, yet you really do not know until you are stuck in the last seat on the airplane, you know the one that does not recline, and strategically placed directly across from the lavatory. I have never had so many butts in my face in my life. “I was living the dream”. We arrived into Kai Tak; I swear I could see people having dinner in their apartment windows, that takeoff and landing was truly not for the faint of heart and every single pilot who successfully flew it were aviation geniuses.
It was hot and steamy that summer morning and I could just feel the energy and knew that I was in another world. Hong Kong! KP had arrived. There was a hustle and bustle to the city and I just knew that Jackie Chan was going to jump onto my junk boat as we whizzed across the Hong Kong harbour to Kowloon. It was electrifying. I love the streets, the shopping and most of all the food. I promise to let you know all about my Macau (The Las Vegas of Asia) adventure in a separate post.
After a few days in HKG, we were off to see a little bit more of China and arrived in Shanghai. It so reminded me of Paris that there were times I have to admit I forgot I was in mainland China. The grand boulevards, the Pearl of the Orient and the Huangpu River that runs through it were quite enchanting. I will have to say that the best juice I have ever had in my life was in Shanghai, it was fresh squeezed watermelon juice.
Onward to the nation’s capitol, Beijing (Peking) and I was in for quite a cultural shock. To have people point at me in taxis and circle around me like sharks at the Forbidden City was surreal. My guide indicated that most had never seen an Afro/Latino-American before so this was a new experience for them and not to take offense. I was still not easy to get used to. I was able to see the Great Wall of China and many historical Chinese attractions. It was one of the most intense cultural trip I have ever encountered.
To top off this trip, once we landed in Chicago, we received devastating news; news that we were oblivious to as back then there was no WiFi on airplanes. Princess Diana, the people’s princess was dead; in Paris, of all cities. I was speechless as I know many were. I think that is is remarkable that we remember where we were during historic and tragic world events yet cannot remember our ATM pin numbers. It was such a specific and shocking event that it will always be etched in my mind and travel portfolio.
Do you have any travel/historical event stories to share?