I am back home safe from my trip to China, completely unscathed by Maoism, Red Guards, and dangerous drinking water. I don’t mean to get so personal so quickly, but I kid you not, I was never forced to use Imodium. Not once.
How then shall I regale you, dear reader, with pithy, yet poignant stories of my travels to the Orient? Let me break it down for you.
I will be writing four posts on my trip to China. This first post is a clear-cut recap of my trip. The second post will be dedicated to a discussion I had with Roger, one of the big wigs at Nike in Hong Kong. Roger provided incredible insight into the world of Nike’s manufacturing and supply chain in China. The third post will detail my trip to a garment factory in Cixi City, north of Shanghai. Here you will encounter my fearless factory fixer Phil, who turned out to be one of my favorite folks. And the fourth will document one of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon.
I am not a travel writer. Actually, I am not a writer, period. But I am certainly not a travel writer. Good travel writing requires measures of vocabulary, wit, and endurance that I simply do not posses. J. Maarten Troost has all three in abundance. A few years ago, he wrote a book about his trip to China, which is aptly titled “Lost on Planet China.” As one may assume, Troost weaves a sidesplitting tale of his bumbles around China, making all sorts of cultural errors, eating live squid, accidentally finding himself in a brothel and a gay bar in the same week, and barely making it out alive. In short, China utterly bewildered – nay, bamboozled – him.
Like Troost, I was also a bit perplexed by China, though I experienced far fewer mishaps – which is a good thing, not because I renounce adventure, but because I wouldn’t be able to twist the mishaps into Troost-like comedy. But, I am very glad I went. While it would be incredibly foolish of me to say that the quick trip to China deciphered all the intricate riddles of the world’s most populous country, I do believe I have a much better feel for the place.
Here are the basics: I flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong with 15 teenagers who would be embarking on amazing adventures of their own with Rustic Pathways. Once I connected them with their in-country program leader, I ran out of the airport and into the humid arms of Hong Kong, who took me on a dreamlike, head-spinning tour. I mostly just walked around with my head tilted all the way back and my mouth gaping open in awe. It is a very… vertical city.
After meeting with Roger and stumbling around Hong Kong for a few more days, I flew to Shanghai to meet Phil, who took me to Cixi City, about three hours north of Shanghai. There, I toured two garment factories and fell in love with Phil. I then took the bus back to Shanghai where I had only enough time to take pictures of tall buildings and walk on the Bund before taking the zippy maglev train to the airport. And when I say zippy, I mean it is one of the world’s fastest trains and topped out at 431 km/h on my journey. I have no idea how fast that is in real measurement, but it felt quite expeditious.
After peeling myself out of my seat, I boarded a plane that seemed to only travel half the speed I had just accustomed myself to. I landed in Guilin (finally!), where I spent a week exploring its environs, taking in some of the most picturesque scenery I have ever witnessed. I also hung out with young people in hip hostels. Which means I was forced to drink flaming Sambuca on the fourth of July. U!S!A! U!S!A!
Then I flew back to Hong Kong, picked up 15 teenagers, and then flew home. It was indeed a whirlwind trip, and I am still recovering, but amazing blog posts are headed your way very soon!