My dad has been studying Chinese culture since the mid 60s. He visited Taiwan several times in the 60s and 70s before visiting the mainland in 1981. Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve watching hours and hours of slides as he curated the photos he took. We figured out that this was either his 23rd or 24th trip to China.
In 1998, went to china with my dad. It was 16 days of crazy travel, amazing food, and great memories. I'll have to dig up my slides from that trip to compare. I met and married my wife in the following year, and it has been a dream of ours to go to China with my dad. Circumstances were just right for this year, so we bit the bullet, spent the money, and went. My dad, my wife, and I set off for a two week adventure through China.
In two weeks we visited Beijing, Xi’an, Yangshou, and Hong Kong. There’s so much to say - and so many pictures. Here are some initial images and thoughts:
Beijing is indescribably big, and yes - fairly crowded.
This is pointed directly at the sun at about 3 in the afternoon.
We saw many of the touristy things, the great wall:
Tiananman Square is solemn for me. But it’s bustling with people.
The Forbidden City is surreal. The scale of this place is so ridiculously big. You go in, courtyard after courtyard. It’s simply beautiful.
the Temple of Heaven
Beijing is already lobbying (and advertising) for the 2022 winter olympics…
All of those sites are great - but Beijing is also a thoroughly modern city.
Xi’an is disturbingly big. It is the ancient capitol of China. In years past, my dad would intentionally plan to take tour groups from a bustling city like Beijing - and “take a step back in time” to the quieter, smaller city of Xi’an. This is no longer the case. Our tour guide and Wikipedia agree that Xi’an has about 8 million people. I’m here to tell you that they’re both lying, or the city is overbuilt by a factor of two. Have you seen the movie Inception? Rows and rows of concrete skyscrapers going further into the distance than eyes can see. This growth is almost all in the last 10 years.
On a positive note, Xi’an had some great street food, some fun markets, and there were still some pockets of peacefulness in the humongous city.
These are in Xi’an
and this pagoda
After Xi’an, we went to Yangshou, which used to be a small town outside of Guilin, which used to be a small town where you would go to see these:
but in the last 20 or so years, Yangshou went from approximately 30,000 people to over 350,000, complete with shopping districts and freeways and HUGE jumbotron ad boards. Guilin is now over 1 million people.
The people I met in China were genuinely kind.
They love having their pictures taken with us, especially my wife.
Superstition seems to play a big role in Chinese Tourism. This guy is waiting his turn to touch a big cauldron in the forbidden city.
The food in China is stupid good and almost disturbingly cheap.
I'm out of time for now. We finished off in Hong Kong. I'll add more pictures of that later.
The title of this post may sound a little dramatic. But I could see it on my dad's face almost the entire trip. He was struggling with the accelerated pace at which China is developing. In a conversation with him this week he said "Xian is now too big for me to enjoy." It's not good or bad that there is all of this development, it just is. And it was really interesting to watch my dad process it live.
I’m still working through all of the pictures and my notes and my thoughts and feelings. In the end, this photo sums up a big part of this trip: It was a grand adventure with my dad.