As the astute reader of this blog would astutely guess, this blog is not replete with travelogues. Not that I don't get to travel, but I was afraid I would not be able to provide a comprehensive recount of the details of all things under the sun (things-to-do, things-to-eat, things-to-see, things-to-travel-by). However a recent trip to this mystic land (China) incited me to narrate my emoted experiences during my journey into this another part of the Orient.Another reason why I decided to key down my experiences is that I realized that China, in spite being an immediate neighbor of India is not as frequently frequented by Indians as the North America or Europe is. We must afterall 'love, atleast check-out thy neighbor' before falling in love with a stranger.
As a kid, I had conjured up a few things about China in my mind's eye - yellow skinned thin-waisted ladies with thinning eyelids wearing long highly intricate silk dresses and sporting a nice hand-fan, a very difficult-to-decipher, but easy-to-recognize script, some very different names, the Great Wall, the martial arts, Communism, statistics like the largest population in the world, some rank for the biggest area in the world, cute looking kids and good athletes. As I grew up, I also had a privilege of working with some Chinese folks as well. But what really expanded my knowledge about this Oriental land was my marriage to my dear husband, who had spent a good couple of years in China, managed to stay vegetarian, shape up a better character and fall in love with the Chinese people. When he was traveling to his first-visited-country again, it was pre-destined that I join him for a vacation.
As I was preparing to travel, I've to admit that I had slight apprehensions about the language and the availability of vegetarian food. But the urge to see another man-made wonder of the world and more generally a country as ancient as my motherland is, took over, as I boarded the flight to Beijing. The flight journey was unfortunately uneventful (it wasn't a long flight from Delhi to Beijing), save a lone incident, when I chose to have the Chinese tea for a drink, instead of the American coffee or the Indian masala chai (having been inspired by the green-tea-fads in India and having been fascinated by the tea-tasting culture in China). The air-host gave me a second look, before she gave me a yellow liquid which I could not ingest beyond a sip, inspite of self-assurances about its anti-oxidant benefits. It dawned upon me later that the Chinese drink the Chinese tea (with a lot of herbs) sans sugar and sans milk, instead of plain water to hydrate themselves. And that was one of the first secrets of their good health and youth !
As I landed in China and boarded the Airport express to reach my hotel, I tried to reconfirm my route (and stops) with the local Chinese co-passengers (inspite of detailed instructions from my husband, lest I meander along a different tributary). It seemed to me that the Chinese had difficulty in 'parsing' English, as my Japanese friend would often phrase, and yet when any of them is approached with a query, one can be rest assured that it is answered either in parts of English or through more direct means of communication like hand-gestures and smiles. If needed, people flocked together to help each other to help us out. The Chinese are a benevolent kind of people , and could cross over the language barrier to go the extra mile to make their guests feel at home. It was only when we flipped through a book of Beginner's Chinese, that we realized that the Chinese language, pictographic that it is, does not have a direct correspondence with the alphabet. It is a more effective communicating medium, and that the Chinese people are constantly decoding and encoding while cross-communicating in another alphabet based language like English. Take a bow, people!
The best part of the China trip was the looks of admiration that we gathered as we tread along the streets. I was truly glorified when a woman sitting next to me in a local train complimented me with a perfect smile "You're so beautiful" :) and this was when I had just landed from a nocturnal flight and had managed to drag myself and my luggage into a coach. I had a inimitable emotion that I was being appreciated for what I was, not for what I wore or how made up I was. A lot of young girls wanted to take pictures with us, that was when the girls tried to cling on to my husband to get a picture of a lifetime and I was also invited to the party, as a gesture of true good-will. I didn't mind a bit, the Chinese were making us feel like ourselves (superstars that we are :) ).
No trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall. There are a few places in the world that leave you admiring, a few places that leave you gasping, but there are only very few places that take your breath away. The Great Wall is one of them. It seemed to me like the Wall was a bit like Lord Shiva - there didn't seem to be a beginning or an end to the Wall (these cannot be found in a day, apparently). The Wall is a testimony to the fact that the Chinese used a simple, yet persevering and resilient technique to defend their homeland, so much like them. What make the Wall even more attractive are the scintillating mountain ranges and fresh-breaths of pure air that one gets to inhale while on a trek across the Wall. The writing is clear on the Wall - It is a man-made master-piece cutting through some majestic mountains masterly crafted by Nature.
A few other nice things in China - I learnt to sharpen my bargaining skills (not that I had any while in India) in the Chinese markets (Silk market, Pearl Market in Beijing). We were also treated to a gracious vegetarian dinner in an ancient Chinese restaurant by my husband's colleagues. And we loved the Chinese kids (not to mention, the beautiful ladies), bubbly, blemishlessly skinned, ever smiling and hanging around with their grandparents. It was good to see another country that preserved the grandparent-parent-child tradition.The ancient Chinese temples, dress, food and culture were all enthralling to us. It was also heart-warming to realize that we did share some of the culture - like Buddha, the prince-saint from India who had spread the the spiritual knowledge amongst the vast Chinese and Indian population alike.
So my dear Chinese brethren, this post is dedicated to you all. Thanks for being truly yourselves!