Monday, March 26, 2012

Beijing Xi'an Guilin Shanghai.


When I began this blog, I promised only that, to the best of my abilities, I would post every Monday and Friday.  In the thousand-plus posts since, I have failed of that promise only (I think) twice.  Most weeks, I've posted five times.  Only rarely have I not posted on Wednesday.

That admirable record may well be about to fall.  But for good reasons.

On Friday, I fly to China.  I won't be seeing any of my friends there, which I greatly regret.  Nor will I be taking advantage of various professional contacts to see things not normally available to tourists.  I will (and I fear I will lose your respect for admitting this but I have good reasons) be taking a tour.

Why?  Because I'm researching a novel to be set in China.  For which I need to see exactly the sights which China's tourist board most devoutly wishes I would -- places of great antiquity and extreme beauty which any sensible human being has on his or her bucket list.  Two weeks is a pathetically short length of time for such an endeavor.  But it's better than nothing.  My visit to Chengdu, for which I will always be grateful to the good people at Science Fiction World, transformed my vision of China and only in ways that increased my already high admiration of it.  So too, I hope, will this fleeting visit.

While I'm away, I may not be able to post here.  The Great Firewall of China is not, alas, a myth.  In the airport in Beijing, I learned that it is not possible even to read my blog from China, much less update it.  I'll leave instructions with my son Sean and if I have easy Internet access in my tourist hotels, it may be possible for me to forward him entries to be posted here.

But if not, it's not because I've forgotten you.

And while I have your attention . . .

My pal, Eileen Gunn, wants to make sure that I sample the Three Treasures of Guilin while I'm there.  They are:  Guilin chili sauce, Guilin Sanhu liquor and Guilin pickled tofu.  I'll do my damnedest.

If you have any analogous advice, I'd love to hear it.  Keep in mind that I'm not likely to be able to wander away from the tour, that I don't speak Chinese (dammit!) and that the only places I'll be visiting, even fleetingly, are Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Shanghai.  I'm looking for the thingsthat  you'd ask in retrospect:  "When you were in . . . did you . . . surely you must have . . . ?"

I have hopes of less superficial visits to China in the future.  But for now, your input would be greatly appreciated.  If you have opinionated friends, give them this URL.


Above:  Karst mountains within Guilin.  Yes, these things exist outside of Chinese art.  How cool is that? Yeah, you're right: the question answers itself.



Joe Stillman said...

My wife and I visited China in 2000 to bring home our 1st daughter. We took her back in 2002 to get her a sister. We visited Beijing, Nanchang, Nanjing and Guangzhou.

The most instructive part was a visit to the type of family farm that the girls would have lived on had they stayed there. Imagine a two-room cinder block house with no glass in the windows and a live chicken roosting on the kitchen table.

Quite typical, I'm told.

Michael Swanwick said...

On my first trip to China, I was struck by the very poor people I saw in passing. They clearly knew how to be poor, the shifts and stratagems it took to get along well, and were able to retain their dignity in the circumstances they found themselves.

Lord, thought I, let me have the same grace in whatever comes as these people now display.

A little sentimental on my part, I grant you. But honestly meant.

Anonymous said...

My contacts in Beijing took me on a five hour drive to Taiyuan. I was told I'd be stared at a lot there. It's not a tourist city and I was told it was 'small', about five million. En route to Taiyuan, I saw hundreds of cinder block house surrounded by yellow earth and wondered what people could possibly grow to eat.

David Stone said...

I think that farmers in a lot of places are a lot better off than they were 10 years ago. There have been reforms or an relaxing of enforcement involving the hukou system (which determines where people can live and receive social services) and price controls on crops and so on which have benefitted rural residents.

Lately the big problem in China has been massive inflation especially involving food and other fixed expensive items, but I the flip side to this is that more money is flowing to people who produce food. Which is not to say there aren't still a lot of poor people, of course.

Julie said...

Make your choice, adventurous stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder 'til it drives you mad,
What would have followed, if you had. Cheap flights to Beijing