This is the start of the big orient trip, Far east 1979
June 7, 1979 Leave St. Louis.
The United States has had diplomatic relation with China for about six months now, since January 1. So we, David, Ted and Jim are among the first Americans to see China for 30 years. The Berlin Wall will be around for another 10 years. Not a highly developed tourist industry except for Peking. The other people we meet in the hotels are mostly government officials, businessmen from England, Japanese, and diplomats. People traveling for their own sake are still a rarity.
There are three categories of hotels
1. Foreigners, i.e. non Chinese the highest class of service.
2 So called overseas Chinese i.e. those from Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, United Kingdom, France or the USA etc people of Chinese decent or ethnic Chinese. They may or may not speak Chinese.
3 Chinese hotels although the lowest class still considerably beyond the reach of most Chinese. Westerners are forbidden to stay in these hotels and since all travel is in the hands of the Government it is impossible for a westerner to even book a room in these Hotels. The five most common wants for the average Chinese citizen are bicycle, wrist watch, washing machine radio or black and white television.
A bit of current events the mayor and supervisor Dan White of San Francisco has recently been assassinated and replaced by now Senator Dianne Feinstein. Dianne Feinstein is also in Hong Kong. Prince Charles of England is in Hong Kong on an official State visit to the Far East. More on that later. California governor Gerry Brown a bachelor is making a big deal by dating rock star Linda Ronstadt. United States Liaison Office (USLO) in Peking is upgraded to an Embassy January 1 by President Jimmy Carter. The Pioneer 11 has just reached Saturn. The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàng Jūn launched a failed invasion of North Vietnam in February. Vietnam continues its occupation of Cambodia. It has been only seven years since Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Communist “red”China. The Shah has been deposed in Iran. The hostages crisis won’t begin until December. Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had a partial meltdown. Saddam Hussein is the new President in IRAQ. I have just graduated college at Vanderbilt.
Thursday/Friday Talked to an Australian family on the flight; they are returning from a year and a half sabbatical in Illinois (Champaign-Urbana). We are flying Pan Am Clipper Class they are now out of business along with a bunch of other airlines as well like Eastern and TWA. Left from SFO famous terminal 39.
It is now Friday in Hong Kong
Arrived in Hong Kong at 21:00 from San Francisco after crossing the international dateline. Total time from departure in St. Louis 25 hours. Our guide is from Toronto, her name is Elaine. At Hong Kong immigration and customs didn’t take long. A bus took us to the Hotel Excelsior, where we are staying; it is a beautiful hotel overlooking Victoria harbor and yacht club at Causeway Bay. It is barely five years old. Hong Kong is still under British control and will be for another 18 years until 1997. We went to bed early as we had to get up early the next day.
Saturday Hong Kong/Canton Got up at 6:00 am the sky was dark and overcast. Shared a room with Jim and David last night. We had room service for breakfast at 7:00 am it was very nice. Today we leave for China. The bus left for the station (Bahnhof) eight. The train left at nine and we got to the border at Lowu at eleven. Crossed the border at Shenzhen; it was then ten am, due to a time change. While it as since grown the second largest city in the province and a huge free trade zone, Shenzhen is now nothing more than a small fishing village of 3000 people.
Went through passport control, immunization and customs. Then we were brought to a large waiting room and served tea, followed by lunch, Chinese food of course. We have discovered the Chinese version of large beer. You can buy a one liter bottle of beer for less than one dollar, which is just about the right size for the three of us to split. Caught the train to Kwangzhou/ Canton/Guangzhou at noon and got there at 13:00 pm. We met our guide his name is Lee he’s 25 and he is very nice.
In Canton we are staying at the Pai Yun (White Cloud) hotel, a new place opened in 1977 on the outskirts of town. We changed money. After getting settled, we went on a tour of the town by bus.
Canton itself is very large and old; many of the building are in disrepair and appear not to have been painted since the Revolution. There are many trees however and the streets are very clean. Most buildings are of brick or stone, instead of wooden shacks. There are also many parks. My general impression is things are dreary, shabby, and run-down. Economic development seems to have halted in the 1940’s. It’s like a big time wrap here or something.
Drove trough the old French concession the part of town restricted to foreigners. In colonial times countries such as England and France actually held parts of a city in which local laws did not apply. They had their own churches, clubs, racetracks. British or French law applied . Established by so-called unequal treaties such as the 1842 treaty of Nanking this was a considerable source of shame and hostility. We also saw the liberation monument and more parks.
We had a very nice tour by boat of the Pearl River harbor. Saw many ships from all over the world Canton is a very busy port.
After returning to the hotel I went to the friendship shop. They had a nice selection of Chinese art products, as well as bicycles for sale.
After dinner at the hotel Jim and I fell asleep about eight. As I said or guide is Lee and he is very nice.
Canton/Guangzhou is the largest city in the Pearl River Delta
Canton has a subtropical maritime climate although its location 90 miles up the Pearl River delta offers it some protection from the frequent cyclones and typhoons. It is a city in south China. Many Chinese Americans originally came from this city. It is one of the four recognized Chinese cuisines including foods such as chop suey like chow mein or Japanese yakisoba. Although we all know chop suey originated in the States.
Visited the Foshan Porcelain Factory it has been in continuous use since the T’ang dynasty (seventh and eighth century). Katie has a lovely T’ang dynasty tricolor ceramic horse, using copper and iron oxide pigments. Foshan is the third city of Guangdong Province. The trip to Foshan was by bus; it made quite an impression on me. Although just 12 miles from Canton it takes two hours to get there as there is no highway and the average cross town speed is only 30 mph. The highway was just being built and it seemed by thousands of laborers with shovels there was no evidence of any earth moving machinery. In China everyone as a right to work and a duty to work. Our lunch was at a most unusual place. I wouldn’t call it a restaurant as it had none of the usual things such as advertisement menus or even a parking lot. Cars are still pretty rare here. The lunch was prearranged and prepaid I’m sure. We were all treated as some kind of important foreign bigwigs and escorted right up to a private dinning room on the third floor. The building in which lunch was served had three levels each just a little bit fancier that the next. The first level was packed with people eating little more than a bowl of rice or soup with a chicken leg or foot in it
I want to say something off the bat. There is something very strange about this trip to China. With the cultural revolution still fresh in everyone’s minds history here began in 1949. Madam Mao and the Gang of four are still alive awaiting trial and are in prison. This is a very different China from the Olympics held in Beijing in 2008. There is a general reluctance on the part of people to discuss any of the ancient pre communist art. They are most concerned with living conditions, workers production quotas, quality control and apartments. No one lives in a private house. There is also a conscious effort to maintain a certain distance between the guides and the tourists. Most of the tour guides are young women and speak perfect English although with a thick accent. Another point the three of us cause quite a sensation anywhere we go in a country where most people have only one child it quite a thing to see three bothers traveling together especially because of our age I am 22 at this point. The most usual comment is three brothers; I’d like to meet your father or how did you learn to use chopsticks but why do you use your left hand. Despite it all and claims of modernity the Chinese are still basically a superstitious people and the left hand is treated with suspicion. Criticism of Mao is taboo, his portrait is every where he has been dead just three years now. His little red book is for sale everywhere as are pins, books, photos etc.
Came back to Kwangzhou and went to Yue Xiu Park walked around and had ice cream; not nearly as good as the Morozhenoe (Ice-cream)
Next came our transfer to the airport for the flight to Shanghai. It was a nice flight, about two hours.
- English names in Hong Kong (amwfcouple.wordpress.com)