Monday, June 13, 2016

Some Thoughts After Guiding a Family of Four Through Hong Kong and Beijing

During the past week or so I have spent a lot of time hanging out with two good friends and their two children and guiding them around Hong Kong and Beijing. This caused me to take more of a break from blogging than I had expected. To get back into things, I will share a few quick off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts regarding the rather enjoyable experience I had with four visitors from the U.S.:

  • Hong Kong has been something like a second home for me during recent years. I really enjoyed the opportunity to show some friends a mix of standard attractions I felt were worthy and personal favorites I thought they would appreciate. And I felt fortunate to be able to efficiently adapt to some unexpected conditions, such as discovering two favorite places for pork chops & milk tea don't stay open very long after lunch. We just walked to a favorite nearby place for goose instead.
  • They liked the goose.
  • China has a number of popular tourist sites which don't necessarily deserve all of the attention they receive relative to other options, and some people have an almost fanatical attitude regarding "must sees". It of course depends on personal tastes, which is why it can be so useful, especially if you are on a tight schedule, to have a guide (or recommender) who better appreciates what you are looking for. I have experienced both sides of this equation, and it makes a big difference.
  • Some places which are worthy of more attention might not be as enjoyable if they received more attention. Life is complicated.
  • We met up in a similar fashion a year and a half ago in Shanghai, but it was still a reminder how different exploring a city can be when you have children along for the ride. For example, I have written before about requests I receive to have photos taken with strangers and am familiar with experiences other foreigners have had, but it still fascinated me to see yet again the amount and type of attention Caucasian children can receive in mainland China. I will refrain from a fuller commentary, but I will say that in Beijing some people asked if it was OK to take a photo with one or both of the children in the midst of others who were, shall I say, far more direct in obtaining a prized photo.
  • For the most part, the kids enjoyed the attention, so my friends were fine with the photography. But in one case when a crowd of photo-seekers swelled to the point where it was clear things wouldn't end anytime soon, intervention was required. We thought it would be nice to see more of the Forbidden City before it closed for the day.
  • I had a grand time hanging out with the children. Earlier in Shanghai we discovered they both like eating termite larvae and bees (Yunnan style). Impressive.
  • Visiting popular sites during a Chinese holiday is often a tricky proposition. Sometimes I grin and bear the crowds. Sometimes I decide it isn't worth it. Again, life is complicated. So is briefly walking around Houhai in Beijing on a Friday night during the Dragon Boat Festival.
  • Of course, I bought him a bottle. Part of the experience . . .

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