Though my ethnicity is Chinese and I'm proud to have 100 percent Chinese blood coursing through my veins, in no way do I have that special attachment to or infatuation for the country of my forefathers. I'm sure that I still have very distant relatives back there but I'm dashed if I know who they are. I haven't even attempted to uncover my roots. Four generations of staying in Penang (even longer if I were to consider my maternal grandparents' side of the family) have put paid to the idea that I'd want to visit my ancestral village. No no, finding my distant Chinese relatives will have to remain taking a back seat in my life.
Okay, so I've spent five days travelling to China and back recently together with my wife and her colleagues on their annual company trip. This year, the destination was Beijing. There were only three main reasons why I wanted to follow her there.
First, I wanted to see how much Beijing had changed in the last 32 years. The last time I stepped foot in Beijing, it was still known as Peking and the city was still trying to recover from an internal power struggle. Back in 1978, wherever we went, the tour guides would preface any explanation with the phrase "After the fall of the Gang Of Four.....". It was so important that the guide tried to emphasise that their country was changing and attempting to progress after Jiang Qing and company were arrested.
Back in 1978, there were very few cars on the roads. The whole place was filled with people on bicycles whichever way I turned. Now, the city is filled with impressively big cars, especially BMWs, and there are traffic jams everywhere from sun up to sun down. Needless to say, "after the fall of the Gang Of Four", the Chinese people have progressed greatly.
At the very least, where fashion is concerned, they have shed their old monochromatic thickly-padded Mao jackets for the very latest fashion designs. The whole place reeks of capitalism within the socialist context. Impressive shopping malls stocking original designer goods to rather ordinary shopping complexes plying original fake goods. At these latter shopping complexes, bargaining is the order of the day. The traders will let you know that they would be making a loss selling to you at your offer price but don't you belief them.
Second, I wanted to climb the Great Wall with my wife. I wanted to be up there walking with her. We did climb the Wall at Badaling and I think it was at the fourth tower that we turned back. We were always very wary of the time that the tour guide had allotted to us.
Third, I wanted to visit the Temple Of Heaven, a tourist spot which I had failed to visit in 1978. We went there on the fourth day when our group split into two and we decided that we wanted to go see the place.
So, I achieved all three main objectives of this visit and I'm satisfied. Yes, there was a fourth objective: to take as many snapshots of Beijing as possible. This, I've also achieved. Like I said, I'm satisfied. I wouldn't pine about visiting Beijing again, not in the next 32 years.
Tiananmen Square, just outside the entrance to the Imperial Palace
Temple Of Heaven
Beijing's newest tourist attraction: the "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium