Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Glimpse of China's Treasures; Chinese Students Will Soon Be Flocking Back to the North East, a Reflection of the Country's Economic Boom Which Has Also Seen It Put Big Money into an Array of British Businesses. So as Many Start Life at Universities in Our Region, How Does China Appear to a North East Visitor? PAT HAGAN Went. and Was Bowled Over

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Glimpse of China's Treasures; Chinese Students Will Soon Be Flocking Back to the North East, a Reflection of the Country's Economic Boom Which Has Also Seen It Put Big Money into an Array of British Businesses. So as Many Start Life at Universities in Our Region, How Does China Appear to a North East Visitor? PAT HAGAN Went. and Was Bowled Over

Article excerpt

SO, here I am on what appears to be a slow plane to China (10 hours) wishing I'd got round to reading the guide and learning the lingo - a little bit, at least.

How embarrassing will it be when I can't even say please or thank you? Or order a glass of red wine? I remind myself that the loss of speech has never prevented me ordering a drink before. I am sure I will manage somehow.

We are here on our son's advice - nay, insistence. After working for six months in the most exotic-sounding place on the planet, he has persuaded us that this will be the trip of a ed us that this will be the trip of a lifetime.

ere will be a lot of travelling, though. We'll be in Beijing for four days before ying to Xi'an to march with the terracotta army. en it will be on to Guilin to sail down the Li past its magnicent limestone hills before a nal ight to Shanghai.

is, you will have gathered, is the sort of trip where all you have to do is turn up with your passport before being scooped up by people who will have hotels, trips and transport on tap.

Also, they will have ordered every morsel of food that will pass my lips for the next two weeks.

Chopsticks permitting. And here is another "also". Because this is a guided tour, there will be other people there. Other people whom I will have to socialise for a whole 12 days. Even if I don't like them. And they don't like me.

In the event, there are 10 of us on this trip. Ten of us who soon - ridiculously, you might think - become new best friends.

We do a lot of laughing, leg-pulling and, mostly, marvelling at sights the like of which I could never have imagined.

I had expected the Great Wall to be great. And it is. Of course. But there is so much more.

Forget, for a minute, the thrill of stroking silk worms.

And the rickshaw ride in the rain. And the Swan Lake son-et-lumiere in the heart of a hollowed-out mountain.

Forget also the calligraphy lesson where it takes an hour to write "happiness". (It's quite a big word, it turns out).

And the tea-tasting ceremony. And the Peking Duck dinner. And the fake designer store where it costs 20 quid for a leather bag that would cost PS800 at home. would cost PS800 at home.

For all this is, of course, a sideshow to the big set pieces - the Terracotta Army on silent guard at the rst Qin emperor's tomb, gliding through the Summer Palace sunshine on a beautiful Dragon Boat, and the dazzle and sophistication that is the Bund in the heart of Shanghai.

We risk life and limb in a taxi that dodges its way along one of the 12-lane highways that cut through swathes of skyscrapers on our way to the waterfront area, the Bund. As we do so, we see more Porsches and Mercs per mile than we have ever, ever seen.

is is the most amazing country. But we are under no illusion that China is some kind of Disneyworld. …

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