Here are a few notes and thoughts from The Welge Report on China:
How well do you keep a secret?
Consider this: The Chinese massacre of their own people in 1989 on Tianamen Square was unknown to most Chinese for many years. How can that be? Our tour guide, Bin, tells the story of his uncle who was a hospital doctor near Tianamen Square. He was off duty on the day of the massacre.
The next day when he went to the hospital the cafeteria was filled with the bodies of young people. He ran to his office and never mentioned it “even to his family” for more than 20 years.
Everyone in the Tianamen Square area was visited at the time and told that nothing had happened. This lie holds even to this day for many of the Chinese people.
After decades of independent travel, Dee and I have been very fortunate with our recent small group trips to experience once-in-a-lifetime stories. Our Chinese tour leader provided us with one of those stories. Some of our group asked Bin to relate what had happened during the Mao and Red Guard purge that lasted from 1960 to 1976.
Bin decided that it would be beneficial to us if he brought in a speaker who had lived through that period. Bin asked his mother. He served as her interpreter. This following report is a very condensed version of her tearful story.
She began by telling us her background as a child, what her parents did, and their status in China. The family was well-educated, land-owners and also had a shipping interest. In 1960 during the cultural revolution Mao established the “Red Guards”. Chinese, such as Bin’s family, were considered a danger. All of their private property was confiscated.
Bin’s grandfather was jailed and his company was taken. His new job was cleaning the toilets at the business he once owned. Their home was taken, and they were relegated to live in a very small apartment. His mother had 3 sisters, and they walked together to grade school. His mother looked after her sisters, and protected them from the “Red Guards”. One day she stayed late, and her youngest sister disappeared on the way home.
After frantically searching for her for 3 days, a piece of her clothing was brought to the family by the Red Guard. They went to claim the body, and found that she had been raped and killed. They sued but it was dismissed.
Later Bin’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, and her husband also had a liver cancer diagnosis. He was to be hospitalized for 3 months, but they released him after one month because of his politics. Then the communists decided that they could use his expertise to engineer a project in the interior.
He cut a deal to get his wife treatment in the best hospital and better living conditions for his family. After finishing the project he was offered his old job back, but not his company. He declined and died 2 years later. His wife, Bin’s grandmother, is still alive.
Bin’s mother wanted to go to high school and college. Even though her grades were the highest, she did not qualify. Priority for school was given to politicos and women were discriminated against. She met her husband at a young age and after a mandatory 4½ year courtship (because of their age), they married and were blessed with Allen.
Her husband, Bin’s father, died after minor surgery because they had neglected to bribe the surgeon and the hospital. Sadly the minor surgery became complicated due to neglect and infection.
Bin’s mother recently graduated from college. The day after this discussion Bin mentioned that he might not do this again because he feared the interview would lose its spontaneity. His mother however, felt it was cathartic.
Hong Kong – Dining
Dee and I enjoyed this inexpensive Thai restaurant that Bin had suggested, Tai Ping Koon (taipingkoon.com) 60 Stanley St, Central, 852 2899 2780. It is just off of Nathan Road, but it could have been difficult to find if we hadn’t made a wrong turn. There was a line in front of Tai Ping Koon and we went in and were given a number “14”.
The Maître’ d told us the wait was 20 minutes. Our number was called and we were given a great table and the head waiter spoke pretty good English. We ordered prix fixe menus and a bottle of the Tai Ping Koon house red. It was pretty good. I had menu A which included a shrimp and fish salad, pigeon and fried rice with ham and vegetables.
Dee had a vegetable soup and the rib-eye steak cooked medium rare. We ordered water and our head waiter enlarged our table for 4 to accommodate our numerous dishes.
In the New Territories we visited the Sai Kung Fishing Village, where we viewed fish tanks that were filled with all sorts of exotic fish and seafood from all over the world, such as razor clams, abalone, gigantic prawns, pink and green lobsters, king crabs and huge fish. Everything was live.
The procedure was to buy your fish and then take it to your favorite chef to prepare it who charged 30% of the cost of the purchase.
We climbed up to the 2nd floor above this display and had a wonderful lunch at Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant, 53 Sai Kung Hoi Pong Street, Hong Kong, 852 2791 1195, a Michelin rated seafood restaurant.
Dee and I split a small bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that was quite good. Lunch was served on a lazy susan and featured shrimp, grouper, cuttlefish, vegetables and a pork dish plus a corn soup. Everything was delicious.
The following was taken from a letter by Randy Pollock in the Sunday New York Times on May 20, 2012 and relates the conditions in China pretty accurately.
China is well worth the visit, but take it from a six-year resident – personal habits evolve more slowly than living standards, and you should be ready for some boorish, self-centered behavior. Hawking and spitting, line-breaking, pushing, bewildering driving, cell phone screaming, unsanitary food preparation, shouting in stores, poor service, shameless staring, smoking in nonsmoking zones (including elevators), yelling and slamming doors in hotel hallways late into the night – these are day to day pitfalls on the mainland including Shanghai and Beijing.
Hong Kong feels more refined but not as authentic – call it China Lite. Best advice: maintain your sense of humor and awareness of the country’s dense population and difficult history and get ready for a fascinating trip.
We experienced some of the above but with a tour you are sheltered and pampered to a large extent.