China Epilogue By Keith Armstrong

Oct. 31, 2006

As we end our visit to China , we realize that despite our busy travel schedule, we have had only a small sample of the vast geography that is the “Middle Kingdom”. There are over a billion people in China , but I am convinced that we encountered at least half of the population. Our local guides always told us the local population but it was confusing because sometime it was the urban population - - - and sometimes the entire province.

Some of our local guides were Excellent Leo (Liu), Kevin, Summer and Roscita. Some others fade quickly from memory. Some of the drivers were very good and smooth. They anticipated the idiotic, aggressive movements of bicycles, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, trucks, cars and other buses. Some drivers kept us awake and alert for panic braking.

Our tour guide, Kathy Wang, has been with us for twenty one days. We have been in 7 airports, 3 flights on China Eastern and 2 flights on China Southern. This involved 205 tickets, 205 boarding passes, and 205 bags checked (and only one time over weight charges). There were a total of 246 transfers of bags to the room (plus carried bags).

In all of our travels, the transfers to hotels (and issuance of room keys) has never been handled better. On our previous trip to Thailand, we waited two to three hours to get our room keys. Kathy has handled all of our emergencies, injuries, and illnesses with patience and grace. She ranks with the best of the tour guides we have had.

If we ever had the opportunity to do China again (and I don’t think we ever will – there are so many countries we wish to visit), there are a few things I would like to do differently.

  1. I would have liked to have more discussions with our other GCT travelers. For example:
  2. I would perform group mock marriage vows at the start of the trip (eg: For richer, For poorer, In sickness and in health until Hong Kong do we part.) GTC should have a brief instruction on the first day on “Group Travel Etiquette”.
    1. Show how to line up – just like a kindergarten teacher trains the class.
    2. Demonstrate how to wait patiently for those in front to board or to exit a bus or plane.
    3. How to form a circle (or semi-circle) around the tour directors or craft demonstrators. This would allow more of the group to hear and see. The less mobile were always in the back and often could not see or hear. The 4 or 5 in front had a good view of the demo while the other thirty five viewed backsides.
    4. How to use the “lazy Suzanne” at group meals. There has to be a better way to have equal access. Also, how can we tell the waitress not to stack the food serving dishes in the middle of the table – particularly the heavy soup bowl. “Hot Pot” etiquette would be an advanced course.
    5. Establish a more equitable seating pattern on the buses. Kathy tried but wasn’t too successful.
My wife and I have travel for the last month over 23,000. We have traveled together as a group for many miles and on many modes: An estimated 3,200 miles on 5 flights, about 1300 miles by bus, about 450 miles on the Yantzee and about 80 miles by: Ferry, Rickshaw, Pea Pod Boat, Sampan, Golf Cart, Moving Sidewalk, Elevator and Escalator.

----- and speaking of escalators ----- The Chinese Headline “Gang of Four Toppled” was really Billy, Verna, Loretta and Judy.

According to my pedometer, I walked approximately 100,000 steps (or about 50 miles. After the 208 steps to the first level at Fengdu, it seemed like much more.

Although seated on the bus during the trip from Three Gorges Dam to Wuhan, my pedometer continued to register; therefore I have renamed that as the trip on the “Road of 9,000 Bumps.”

I take with me thousands of memories, images and thoughts. Just a few are of: the kindergarten class; the challenge of painting cloisonné; George and Marie’s subway arrest; Les , Ruth, Helen & my near arrest for playing bridge in pubic; watching water buffalo (on land and in water); seeing “farming and mining techniques”; watching roadway messages translated into English – “Don’t drive drunkedly” and “No tipping over” --;and learning how to respond to” Hello” from Hawkers with “Buyaw” (I don’t want it). .

And so, in closing, let me declare: We may now all take the toilet paper out of our wallet pockets.

“Shia Shia” to Kathy