Eric's China adventures
Other travel documents
The story of seven trips to China! I got to love the country. I include here a couple of Taiwan trips too.
In 1988 the World Bank set up the "Chinese Provincial Universities Development Project" CPUDP to help the development of Chinese universities. The World Bank had offered all Chinese universities funded centrally by the "State Education Commission" (SEdC) a month of teaching by any foreigner they chose and any subject they wanted. There are "better" universities with direct government funding (e.g. military universities), and lesser ones with local funding, these were not included. The "provincial universities" were funded by the provinces. and were effectively the middle tier of universities, about 1000 of them. I got requests from two universities, one in Shenyang in the north-east and the other in Chungking in the west, but Chungking then refused me, I wasn't famous enough! The request from Shenyang was to advise on setting up a microprocessor course and laboratory, but see below. I later persuaded two colleagues to take up this offer, other colleagues didn't want to travel abroad!
Saturday 27th February 1988 I depart Heathrow 14h50 for my first China visit. I flew BA via Hong Kong & on up to Beijing; at that time that was the only way to fly into Beijing, everyone had to enter via Hong Kong. There was no-one to meet me in Beijing, I had to find myself a hotel. The airline desk at the airport recommended me to book into the Beijing Overseas Chinese Hotel, intended for visiting ex-pat Chinese - no-one there spoke English. Later I walked to an airline office and booked my on-going flight to Shenyang. At that time you couldn't book internal flights from abroad, later when I actually got there everyone was amazed that I had managed that, apparently.
Next day I flew on NE to Shenyang (a couple of hours), capital of Liaioning Province to work at Liaioning University in Shenyang. I was greeted off the plane by 3 people (the university Vice President, the professor of Computer Science and one other) with "Welcome to Shenyang, we see that you are a cow, and have a birthday while you are here". Do we say "the year of the cow"? Or "the bull"? They take your Chinese year of birth very seriously. I stayed at the University "Foreign Guest House", part of a student hostel. Outside the window were the boilers where they'd burned the library books during the Cultural Revolution, still there as a reminder, going rusty. It's a strange fact that many folks hid many books away, so I gathered that only part of the collection was lost. Every morning at 6am (I was excused because I was an eminent foreign visitor) all students and had to take part in massed exercises outside to music. The music over the tannoy was Auld Lang Syne and others! Bear in mind that these exercises took place in -20 degrees. The CIA had told me (apparently you get CIA advice if you work for the World Bank) that it would be -6 at nights and above freezing in the day. It was actually -20 every night and -6 in the heat of the day, the CIA are obviously very knowledgeable!
My World Bank specified job was to look at their Computer Science teaching and laboratories related to the introduction of a microprocessor course and laboratory. But instead they had organised that I was to give a course on "Software Engineering" and had the course advertised all over China inviting folks to come - for a considerable fee. Some had taken 3 days to travel by train. Good capitalist instincts, they made lots of money out of me, and I was completely paid for by the World Bank! It's just as well I was an older codger with a wide knowledge of computers, but I still needed to prepare a new set of OHP slides from scratch. I stayed for 4 weeks. It was appalling food in the hostel. Breakfast was the cold leftovers of the previous evening's meal. I asked instead for omelette and fried peanuts (picked up with chopsticks, we had competitions to see how many we could pick up, I won). Food included unmentionable meats, sea slug, cat, dog etc. I had to sign for all meals in the hostel, and was give a 3-character Chinese name which I've forgotten. For the "ley" part of Foxley there are apparently many characters that sound "lee", they chose propitious characters.
Whenever it was a posh meal from the authorities there were 21 courses for a important visiting foreign guest, it would be 23 for an emperor. I had to get used to not eating too much at the beginning. It was usually all on a rotating circle in the middle of the table. It always ended with dumplings and then rice soup. At many meals as part of my tours they invited other university staff to join us, you could tell that they enjoyed the chance to eat and drink lots and lots!
Shenyang student hostel was very cold, and with cold showers, -20 outside at night, -6 in the day. Joy says my first letter home was my most downbeat ever. But lots of students came and sat in my room of an evening, chatting, and wanting to know what life was like in the west. I got them to sit on my bed, that warmed it up a bit. The football pitch outside had a low rim round the edge and being filled with water made a skating rink in winter.
Shenyang has a nice local palace and tombs,a smaller version of the Beijing ones. Chinese currency was yuans, but if you changed foreign money you got different yuans in notes called FEC (foreign exchange currency) yuan. Any imported goods (e.g. fridge, TV, PC) had to be paid for with FECs not local yuan, a good way for the government not to get into foreign exchange debt. So everyone collected FECs because they like imported TVs and fridges. My students bought me souvenirs I wanted in local currency, I then paid them in foreign exchange notes which they saved.
My "students" (mostly actually staff from other universities) lent me a bike to explore downtown on my own, the authorities were reluctant, they thought it was dangerous for me. One reason I cycled was that I wanted to look at music shops. Students: "There are lots of music shops." Me: "I've looked everywhere and I can't find any." It turned out that they were all within sports shops, but up on the first floor, you didn't see musical instruments in the window, only sports goods. I tried out some accordions which caused a few stares, "Parrot" is a cheap Chinese accordion make but good value for little money. I also cycled round the suburbs looking at the public housing. It was better than in India, long single storey brick buildings with one big room per family and one facilities room every 3 living rooms. On my first visit I saw very little evidence of TVs or fridges, but a few years later ordinary people were getting much more prosperous. Of course I always saw people in cities, that's where the universities are.
I felt very free cycling around, just once I accidentally cycled into a military barracks, they politely pointed me to the way out. There was more road space for bikes than for cars/lorries/buses. It was wonderful at rush hour, hundreds of cyclists all close together, filling a wide half of a dual carriageway, the only noise was chains humming and people talking.
I sometimes took students out for a meal, they knew the good places to eat and it was very very cheap. A restaurant would have red lanterns outside like the stars in a guide; 4 lanterns for a posh restaurant, down to one lantern for a cheap dive. And it was blue lanterns (rare) for a veggie restaurant. It was a hard life for veggies in China.
For my birthday meal, there was a special dinner. They had made a sort of Victoria sponge cake and asked "What is the English tradition for cutting a birthday cake?". So I invented one on the spot, it is now the well known English tradition. I make one cut, then they each make a cut and take a slice, then I eat what was left. They said nice things about the fact that I was a cow. Cows eat grass which is indigestible and turn it into milk, which is nourishing and good for us. Teachers absorb difficult facts and explain them to students in an easily digested form. So it is good for a teacher to be a cow!
At the end I had to fill in a form for the Chinese government and the World Bank all about my visit and the university. My report was very frank, and gave the student point of view. For example, whereas the University said that the library was open every day from 9 till 6, the students said no, it's closed on Wednesdays all day because the librarian is away on a correction course and he won't give the key to anyone else. And they gave me other facts which differed significantly from the official university documents. It's partly because of that report that I got invited for further trips.
After work was finished I organised a little tourism, it seemed a shame to be in China at someone else's expense and miss the chance. I booked it all through a travel agent shop in Shenyang.
Friday 15th April 1988 arrive back at Heathrow 06h30.
These trips funded by the World Bank involved an international party of experts to inspect Chinese provincial universities and recommend World Bank development grants. It's a nice thought to have the World Bank cheque book in your pocket! The party consisted of western famous (except me) professors in Engineering, Computers, Medicine, Physics, Education, and University administration each with a Chinese counterpart. For each 2 or 3 day visit we each inspected as a pair our area of expertise and produced a report to the University bosses and the World Bank at the end of the visit. It was always presented at the last afternoon meeting with the university's high-ups. And of course a posh final dinner with some of the local staff invited. My partner in all this was Professor Wang Yuan Ren, ex-prof of computer science at Tsinghua University (one of the top ones), now a government minister in charge of foreign investment in universities, a wonderful man. There were no World Bank trips in 1989 and 1990 because of the Tiananmen,en Square goings on.
First is stayed in Hong Kong briefly, at the Hyatt Kowloon hotel, then flew up into China the next day for an initial team meeting at Beijing (at the Shangri-la Hotel, only the best for the World Bank) to meet everyone and explain the plan. The leader was a Canadian professor, the other western experts included a Russian physicist who worked with Sacharov. The next day we moved on for our inspection of Universities in the north-east. All internal air travel was in old Russian jets belonging to Chinese airlines, everyone cheered each time we landed successfully. We were always ushered through check-in avoiding the queues.
I came back via Hong Kong with a day's shopping there.
I spent time in Malaysia on the way to this trip. I flew on to Hong Kong to catch train on into Shenzhen in south China, just across the Hong Kong border. No-one was waiting for me in Shenzhen, so I found an expensive hotel. The time here is one hour different from HK (Hong Kong changes time for summer/winter, China doesn't), but most people and offices (but not the trains) work to HK time since they have business connections there. It can be very confusing when you make an appointment to meet someone.
I had been asked by the SEdC to do a solo inspection visit to Shenzhen University, on my own. The national SEdC (State Education Committee, the ministry of education) had asked me to give an independent view of how the university is doing. It is not under their control since this part of south China is an "independent economic zone". They're supposed to have a good Management Information Systems course, but it wasn't. It was just IBM software training courses, cheap to put on and good for IBM! Every "famous" visitor to Shenzhen University has to be shown their nuclear reactor (heavy water, it glows blue as you look down into the water tank and they switch it on) etc. Is it safe?? I was also taken on a visit to a park with a huge model of China with working noisy volcano. Then it was time to go to Guangzhou (Canton) for the start of the inspection trip proper.
Back to Beijing (Olympic Hotel this time), for the final CPUDP meeting with SEdC and World Bank and Chinese government representatives to discuss the results of both tours. My one-hour wind up summary at the final meeting took 59.5 minutes. Wang and I and others wanted the internet to be introduced, but after a long discussion in which almost all were in favour and supporting us, a young party member representing the party position stood up and said "No, it is not in the party's interest". No further discussion. He didn't need to justify that, if the party says no then the answer is no. Wang later set up an experimental research network between Beijing universities, that soon became the internet in China, but he then got sent to grass.
I flew back in a Finnair Lockheed Tristar change at Helsinki. After we boarded at Beijing I asked the steward if it was OK to use my laptop on the flight. He didn't know (laptops were newish then) so told me to go to forward to the pilot and ask. I got to the flight deck and the pilot said "Sit down there, we're about to take off". So I was on the flight deck for take off, and then chatted while we flew in a large circle to gain enough height to fly over the great wall mountains. Wonderful! Couldn't do that nowadays.
Saturday 5th October 1991 arrive back home.
The third of my World Bank inspection trips was preceded for by a conference in Japan, my only visit to that country. Then I did some more Chinese university inspections, not part of the CPUDP but I had got on so well with Professor Wang Yuan Ren of the SEdC that he invited me to do more inspections.
Some thoughts extracted from my short visit to Japan. There were lots of machines vending food, and lots of places and people standing up eating their food. There was lots of braille on notices and pavements. And lots of people jogging at lunchtime and after work. But lots of smoking (and I mean lots), far more than I've seen elsewhere. Pedestrians never jaywalked, they always obey the lights. The TV in my hotel room is all baseball, sumo, and westerns (cowboy films). EVERYWHERE in Japan smells of smoking, like an English pub in the old days the morning after.
Time to move on to China! This and later ones were solo university computing inspections at the request of my friend Professor Wang of the SEdC, since they were happy with my previous work.
Monday 20th July 1992
Arrive LHR at 0520, a bit early, and not bad considering the change of flights. BUT they had lost my luggage, so I had to hang around and sign forms. Joy had been waiting in a no waiting area, but wasn't hassled by anyone. I found her at 0700,
This was another "private" China trip, again doing solo University computing inspections for the SEdC.
Friday 1st October 1993
Arrive Amsterdam 05h00, about one hour wait in the airport while they cleaned the plane Then straight on to London. Arrive Heathrow (clock 1 hour earlier than Amsterdam, 7 earlier than Beijing) 07h25 TG916. Picked up by Don and Joy en route to West Byfleet? They departed Nottingham 07h00, arrived Heathrow 09h25, very good, no serious hold-ups. It was cold and raining, what a change! Don directed us via the airport perimeter road, we were soon at Dartnell Avenue. Slobbed and chatted with Joy, Don and Naomi, and then went for a short walk round the block, more rain. Mary arrived 15h00. Went for a lie down at 15h30, slept like a log till 20h30, then a shower, that feels better! Rory has phoned, he's safely back from Saudi. Dinner (Joy had been out shopping with Mary), bed 23h30.
Another China (and Hong Kong) (and Malaysia) (and India) trip, but this time with the Department of Trade and Industry DTI. They invited me on a trip to look at the state of manufacturing in South China. I don't know why me, I'm not expert in or interested in manufacturing, but if someone invites me on an expenses paid trip to China, who am I to decline? This time I flew first to be with Joy in Ahmedabad in India for a couple of weeks, where she was dancing at the famous Kadam dance college with the famous Kumudini Lakhia (UNESCO World Dancing expert). Perhaps one day she'll write something about her many trip to India to study dance there. After a few days there I flew on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for an international university exhibition, helping to man a stand advertising Nottingham University. After I arrived at the exhibition I was clobbered to give a public overview talk on computing syllabi in universities in the UK, I had to do a quick bit of searching the internet to compare details, and was surprised to find a two year course! Then off to Hong Kong for the DTI.
I arrived at KL airport 07h20, checked in, and then rest in luxury in the "Golden Class" lounge, the advantage of travelling posh when the government pays. We didn't board until the last minute. Depart Kuala Lumpur 09h30 on MH72. Arrive Hong Kong early at 12h55, HK was always the world's most exciting landing before they built a new airport. You flew in between tall blocks of flats (you can see what they're eating!) and the runway was surrounded on 3 sides by water. I met the East Anglia bloke disembarking, There was a 30 minutes queue for passport control, HK are not as efficient as Singapore, change money (100 pounds to 1181 HK dollars (so I assume 10 pence per dollar for shopping), then we shared a taxi HK$ 48 (charged it to his room) to the LukKwok Hotel, 72 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, fax 852-2866-2622. It's on the island, not mainland Kowloon. There was a note waiting in the hotel for me from Dave Scott and Louise (with their phone number) and from Greville Bloodworth (UK government, urgent, we must meet to discuss the seminar, what a prune he is). Showered, and phoned Louise, she was in. We had a good chat, they will pick me up tomorrow evening. I made all of my overhead slides for the seminar on Thursday. Bloodworth came and chatted, it made him happy. 19h00-- meeting in lobby for dinner with Neil Maynard (British Council). We walked to a Burmese restaurant, lovely selection of Malaysian and Chinese, some hot, 2 beers, HK$ 180. The I walked back to the hotel, I need the exercise.
The next day I walked at 08h20 to the British Council, it's only 10 minutes walk near the back of the hotel for a 09h00 briefing. The British Trade man didn't appear, we had a talk by Prof Sui of HK Polytechnic University (that's where Dave Scott works), a good survey of education (school, college, university) in HK. Then the trade fellow arrived (late), and waffled about how much the UK government values education! Then a talk on the China bit of our trip by the British Council South China man Michael O'Sullivan, it was a good summary, he reckons they're getting worse in education at the moment. We paid HK$ 400 for various ferry and bus tickets. That took till 12h05, no time for lunch,and we departed by bus at 12h25, arriving at HK University of Science and Technology at 13h30. We were shown round, a wonderful new campus overlooking the sea (Causeway Bay). Then we had talks, discussions and tours of laboratories (high definition TV, robot, incredibly expensive equipment). One of their objectives is "to help the economic and social development of the region" by technology transfer, incubation of R&D, etc. They charge 30 pounds per annum for a student to have a network socket in their room; the student can then search the library etc from their room, bear in mind that this was the early days of the internet. Student to staff ratio was to be 11, is now 13 (the UK used to be 7 or 8). Most staff are young, within their first 5 years; most are graduated from the USA. Local joke question -- "What's after 1997 in Hong Kong?" Answer-- "1998". Shake hands with the V-C, home at 18h00. Louise and Dave were waiting in the hotel lobby, lovely to see Louise, not looking older, but just as big. I washed, then we walked for a Thai meal 10 minutes away. Nicely chosen menu, spicy, then mango and sticky rice. Back to the hotel, signed out for 1 night. "Tunnel Bus" across the harbour, suburban train (KCRC) to ShaTin (their town, 15 miles up in the "New Territories" towards the China border), then 62K bus (small 20 seater runs every 5 minutes) to Dave & Louise's flat (10 blocks, 30 stories, all for HK Polytechnic University staff). Quite nice split level rooms, cool, on the edge of open hills.
The next day was a public holiday in China, Ching Ming day, when you do reverence to your ancestors. If possible you visit their graves, set off bangers to wake them up and let them know you're there, and leave a food offering. If they decline the food, you may take it back and eat it. As I had a free day I went to an offshore island and found a team of English ex-pat morris dancers with no musician but a spare accordion, coincidence! Day with Louise and Dave. After various changes of plan, including a phone call at 01h30, we aren't up early. Breakfast 08h30, off by taxi at 10h30 through ShaTin, the MaOnShan (town of 500000 people, bigger than Nottingham, it didn't exist 2 years ago, all new high rise blocks), ending up in a National Park at Long Harbour for 11h30 (140 dollars taxi). Walked up to a barbecue place (all the trees named, included a camphor tree) with a nice view. Then walked down to the pier, other morris men and women (makes 2 men, 2 women) and families (kids not well behaved) had arrived and we got the 12h30 ferry out (stopping at "ice house") to Grass Island (TapMun) in 25 minutes. There's a tiny village, corrugated iron buildings, narrow (4 feet wide) street. A small Buddhist temple at the end, where we danced after the next ferry, when the last 2 members appeared (they had walked part of the way, and missed the ferry, long wet muddy walk, just as well we did not choose to walk). I had to play Dave's little accordion, there were only six of them. Then lunch in "Wong Kee" restaurant, squid, big prawns, Malaysian noodles etc. The loos were a box over the sea. 15h30 ferry back, and a lift with other morris as far as the port of SaiKung, where we watched all the live fish (and crabs, lobsters, prawns, etc) in tanks in the shops. Bus (299) to ShaTin, and little bus (62K) to their house. Tea. Louise and I caught the 62K to the station, the suburban train KCRC (Kowloon Canton Railway) to Kowloon Tong, then we said farewell and she caught a taxi to meet their next guest at the airport (86 year old friend on her own, from Shetland to New Zealand to here the home soon), I went down to the underground MTRC. Change at MongKok and Admiralty, exit at Wan Chai, and short walk to the hotel for 20h30. Good day! I went up to the hotel bar for my "free welcome beer", met Bryan Bridge from South Bank (London) University, we chatted about matters academic. A new building just across the road, the tallest in Asia (1 metre taller than the Bank of China building) has four coloured lights on top indicating the time. It's unlucky to have a public clock face apparently.
Thursday 6th April 1995 Weekly malaria pill 4 remembered. Dark morning and pouring with rain, but the rain stopped by the time I went out. We haven't had a clear day yet. Breakfast = coffee + croissant + jam. Next letter to Mum printed in the business office (with problems, they weren't as on the ball as KL), and posted. Phoned Fiona + Andy, Andy will pick me up 18h25 tonight in the lobby. Phone call from British Council South China Office (here, in the BC building), my Chinese visa application form isn't filled in correctly, I went in to rewrite it. I should get the visa and passport back tomorrow. Then chats in the BC ECS (Educational Counselling Service) section about what they do for HK students, it gives a new perspective on all our publicity. I checked the Nottingham University folder, it's pretty up-to-date, I removed some Dublin and Nottingham Trent leaflets. Home for 12h10, snack lunch (smoked salmon and chips) and a beer (TsingTao, 2 pounds). Off by bus at 13h00 through the tunnel to East Kowloon to visit HK Telecom. Boring really, they train their own technicians, not our style at all. But, some nice equipment ("Video on demand" system with 200 gigabytes of stored video part compressed = 200 hours, splicing fibre optics, a 2.4 gigabit per second fibre network) and some museum pieces I recognised from my youth. I had a go at "welding" two optic fibres together, there's a loss of a few percent in the signal. I heard a story that Strowger (an undertaker) invented the first automatic exchange because an undertaking competitor's wife was the local operator and was diverting business to her husband. (I was taught Strowger telephone exchanges during my apprenticeship at Ericssons Telephones, Beeston.) Meet Andy Houghton in the lobby at 18h25, walk to his car. Long drive to their Nature Park house (they live off river water) out from SaiKung. Lots of chat about God moving them to Australia, but it's very convenient anyway as they want to become more settled. Very into hot gospel and drug rehabilitation. Philippino meal cooked by the maid. Fiona, Megan (growing) and Alex (cheeky) there and Fiona's mum and dad (right wing), Stuart away for the night. Driven back to Prince Edward MTRC (Mass Transit Railway Company, the suburban railway and subway, long trains all open inside) station by a friend Mike (11h25), trouble finding an open station exit at Admiralty, back to hotel for 00h30, HK$ 10. [Joy depart Ahmedabad Jet Airways 9W324 20h15, arrive Bombay 21h35.]
Friday 7th April 1995
Wake-up call for 07h00. Depart 07h25 for 08h00, morning visit to Mass Transit Railway (MTRC, Metro) HQ, the usual bus journey through the traffic and the tunnel to East Kowloon. Good talk (use TV camera in ceiling instead of OHP, but it showed his hands all the time), We each had a drive on a MRT train simulator (someone else crashed it, I didn't), and a good toy train layout for training. Good view of airport (in the murk) from their building. They say less than 1 five minute delay for every 300 passenger journeys. 6500 employees, 60 in the training section, training budget is 3.5 % of company payroll. They send birthday cards to all employees! Lunch snack at Brett's fish and chips, Dave from UEA had salmon, VERY expensive. 14h00 to 18h00 conference on joint research. The British Council invited applications for travel grants for joint UK/HK projects, Sarah Newby. I got my passport back, complete with Chinese visa. Evening reception, Dave is there. Chats with various folks about my possible November visit. Plenty of food, no need for a separate meal! Home to hotel and sleep early. [Joy depart Bombay LH757 02h25, arrive Frankfurt 07h20. Depart Frankfurt Lh2050 16h20,arrives Birmingham 17h00.]
Quote-- "science = basic knowledge of general truths", technology = "the means by which human life is improved".
Saturday 8th April 1995
The exhibition is in the "HK Convention Centre", we walk at first floor level over the road, into Central Plaza (the tallest building in Asia, new, incredibly pompous, the top usually in cloud) and on at first floor level through a shopping centre. 09h00 to 11h00-- "Dress stands", except that the 7 packages of leaflets from Nottingham weren't delivered until 10h00. Good job I had blu-tack and velcro with me, others were looking for some. I cut up some Nottingham leaflets to get pictures of Robin Hood, Wollaton Hall, etc to decorate the stand. Changed another 100 pounds,in the nearby Hong Kong Bank, this time to 1195 HK$. 11h00 to 19h00-- British Technology Education Exhibition (BTEE), only 470 folks all day (c.f. 9200 in Kuala Lumpur on one day). Still, relaxing in a way, some people sounded vaguely serious, I don't know how many we'll get. Ex-Nottingham Electrical Engineering Tony Marsland (now CompSci at Edmonton Canada, temporarily on a sabbatical in HK with his wife, came and asked about our folk activities). I give my seminar 15h15 to 16h00, it went OK, few questions in public at the end, but lots one at a time afterwards. No food all day, some coffees were available in the hall. Apparently it has been the first sunny day since we arrived, but we were indoors all day. Meal in the hotel afterwards, it was a buffet, Greville + wife + Napier man joined me, nice to have company. 21h15 phone home (14h15 there), no answer, phone Mum, chat, Joy has arrived and is fine, and pass regards to all. Watched "Alien" interrupted by the Grand National on the TV. [Gig for Diane and Paul, Joy and Hamish in charge.]
Sunday 9th April 1995
17 days gone, 7 days to go. American breakfast (omelette and bacon), walked across the footbridges for 09h50, 10h00 to 18h00-- BTEE. Even quieter than yesterday (in the morning), then a walk for 30 mins. One nut-case customer, who waffled on about Von Neuman architectures being unsuitable for Prolog, and we should all teach Visual BASIC. He wouldn't accept (or didn't understand) my arguments, but quite fun anyway! Later nip to the hotel to fetch the laptop and camera (a couple of photos, one with Neil Maynard from the British Council), and it was busier for a bit so no time to use the laptop. Long chat with CHUNG Hoi Fai, David Address-- 4/F, 450 F Queen's Road. West, Hong Kong. Tel-- 852-2546-5331, Pager-- 119-222-773, Fax-- 852-2546-1884. He had asked questions at the seminar about publishing and animation, and wouldn't accept our answer that this is an application, and we teach basic principles and not applications; 430 people through in 2 days. Cleared the stand 18h00, packed my of my stuff at the hotel, asked for the hotel bill, and walked off to the Thai restaurant. Lovely coconut soup, beef with ginger and onion (they added rice) and mango and sticky rice, 240 HK$ (it's all expensive here). I couldn't find Harry Ramsden's for a souvenir. Paid the hotel bill by VISA, HK$ 9300 or so. Handed the scissors back. Lots of TV adverts are in Indian (Hindi?) for Indians, are they local Indians or is it perhaps a satellite channel that goes to India too?
Monday 10th April 1995
18 days gone, 6 days to go. Meet in lobby at 07h15, bus to pier. Catch 08h15 hydrofoil to Macau (the bus was late, we got there at 08h20, much chaos, but we left about 08h25 on the next one. Due to arrive 09h15, actually 10h15, there was fog so it was slow all the way. Picked up by bus, over the old bridge to ... Island, dropped half off at Macau University, back over the new bridge, and dropped us off at Macau Institute. They do Language, Physical Ed, some computing (not at this site). They took us to lunch at a Chinese, very good, interrupted by a frog hopping across the floor, out of his box. Free afternoon, we (me, Norman, ...) walked down to the old town, past the cathedral ruins, eventually back to the ferry terminal for the bus. Over the border (not far, just the edge of town) to Zhuhai, and a bus to the Grand Angel Hotel, tel 86-756-333-8899, fax 86-756-333-8811 (by the sea north of Zhuhai). Evening meal with the gang, much mickey-taking because I was in shorts. [Plymouth conference.]
Tuesday 11th April 1995
19 days gone, 5 days to go. 09h00 talk in Hotel by boss of Zhuhai Personnel Bureau, just a general introduction. 10h00 by bus to visit Zhuhai Communication Equipment Co, marketing and maintaining Motorola mobiles phones and pagers. Lots of karaoke rooms for employees, payroll = 3000 including a professional football team (we saw them practising). I "got lost" and explored the dustbins round the back, and found garages with 3 new BMWs and 3 new Mercedes, not mentioned elsewhere. Then the paging centre next to the hotel. Back to the hotel and a swim, 20 lengths of the hotel pool, very warm water (too warm for exercise). The stands for tomorrow's exhibition are being set up in the "Grand Hall" on floor 3 (Chinese) of the hotel. Lunch in hotel. 14h00 bus for visit East River Electron Industrial Co, they assemble computers and file-servers, it appears to be mostly bought in; they have a karaoke room. Then bus on to Zhuhai Giant Technology Co, started 1989 by 2 men with 300 pounds, now building a 70 storey headquarters down the road, does software (mainly typesetting), finance (a bank) and bio- products (a fish extract to improve the brain); the first place where workers appeared to be working. Then tidy the stands (no swimming permitted) ready for 18h00 reception at Grand Angel "pool-side" by Michael O'Sullivan. Late start (19h15), they'd forgotten to invite the special guests (e.g. Mayor of Zhuhai). Speeches (Michael's good at Chinese, very impressive, he's a good organiser, shouts out instructions and sends us all details of timings), then a good nosh. The opening party toured the exhibition stands. Then a gang of us went 10 pin bowling downstairs, 14 or so, I was the lowest scorer (27 from 10 games), Neil (British Council) the best, he's keen! Then a Singapore Sling in the bar, pack and bed.
Wednesday 12th April 1995
20 days gone, 4 days to go. Settled the bill 09h30. Paid HK$ 30 for last night's bowling. 10h00 to 16h00-- BTEE in the Grand Angel Hotel floor 3. A surprising number of people, 160 total. My translator Jenny? was very good, and is coming to Manchester this summer. She will phone to be invited over. Lunch downstairs with "Bristol", paid cask HK$ 50. 16h30 hotel bus go to Jiuzhou Pier, only 8 minutes to the pier. 17h00 depart by hydrofoil (Michael organised the luggage) to Shenzhen by high speed catamaran, took 1h05. Rough-ish sea. At one point he asked "half the English party to move to the other side, we are listing". Then coach to Oriental Regent Hotel (40 minutes), Financial Centre Building, tel 86-755-224-7000 fax 86-755-224-7390. We are in suites at the same price as a room. Evening free. I went for a quick walk, then meal with David Napier. Hassle over paying, they wouldn't let us sign for it, but took us to reception to get us a visitor's card. The hotel is seething with prostitutes, and their madame on the first floor (and others cruising in the lifts). I lent my mains adaptor to David UEA for his laptop. Cash left HK$ 70 plus what I changed later 1195 = HK$ 1260 total.
Thursday 13th April 1995
21 days gone, 3 days to go. Weekly malaria pill 5. Breakfast 07h30 floor 3. 09h15 coach departs, Michael stood out the front and directed the traffic to avoid a silly jam. Visit to Shenzhen University, looks the same as 4 years ago, the trees are bigger. We saw various electrical labs, one "CASE Tools" lab, I spotted a mistake in a student program! 12h00 lunch at University, Chinese, good choice, eel, fish, goose feet, etc. Visit to the "Ghost house" / "folk museum" full of way out sculptures by a visiting professor, with a few ancient Chinese items like beds. Very strange. Mr Hodge (see below) joined us, he's boring. 14h30 visit to a computer company making disk heads, video read heads and PC boards, all in clean rooms; 300 girls aged 17 working eight hour shifts at a microscope, they all give up after 3 years. Notice on the wall "Don't discuss grievances or company policy". Then to ACTIC Computers, making concrete process control software, yawn. Only 30 minutes for 18h00 depart for visit to theme park "Window of the World", HK$ 80. Small to life size models of the world's wonders. Welcome by the boss, then to the Brussels and Amsterdam bit (full size buildings) and a burger bar for a quick meal; Michael paid for the meal, we settled up later. Then watched an amazing international dance show, Chinese and Russians performing Indian, Thai, Spanish, Russian, Music hall etc. A pity their outfits didn't match. Live band for the Russian bit included 3 accordions and 1 bass balalaika. Then we watched a large volcano erupt, very realistic, noisy, flames, red illuminated liquid flowing down the side. Then a ride round the monorail viewing buildings of the world. Local Hong Kong bound lorry drivers blocked the customs post near here, lots of lorries queuing.
Friday 14th April 1995 *** 22 days gone, 2 days to go. Lobby 08h15 for 08h30 dress stands. My translator is Zachariah ("call me Zacc") from Shenzhen University. I finished dressing by 09h30 and went for a short walk to the local shops, nothing inspired me to buy. There was a public sentencing outside, crowds of school children bussed in to watch, lots of police and soldiers. 11h00 Opening ceremony Mr J Hodge, Minister at British Embassy Beijing (he's a complete burk, no wonder we get a bad reputation), and Vice-Mayor of Shenzhen Government. Speeches and silk ribbon cutting (5 guests between 6 girls holding one long ribbon). 11h30 Cocktail reception, good nosh in the second floor cafe. 13h00 to 18h30-- BTEE, Shenzhen Theatre, pretty busy, I had to keep back some publicity for tomorrow. 18h30 mission de- briefing, just a chat about how it has gone, 343 people through. Then shower and pack, I tried to launder today's shirt to give Joy less washing "Sorry we cannot honour your urgency". 9 of us (John Gowar Bristol [very respectable, first time to China], me, David Lidgate Napier [very tall and thin, 3 week old daughter], Hertfordshire, Norman U Central Lancashire, Perry Belfast [always smokes, always cynical, must be living in Belfast that does it], Brian South Bank [slow, hasn't yet decided when he's going home] and Dieter Holloway [Austrian]. Eat in the restaurant, most had buffet + beer, I also had mau-tie, everyone had a smell.
Saturday 15th April 1995 *** 23 days gone, 1 day to go. Check out 08h30 after breakfast. I left my luggage with them. 10h00 to 16h00-- BTEE, no break for lunch, Zacc and the others had pre-packed lunch. More through than yesterday. We got rid of most of our stuff, Zacc made sure that everyone who came through the door took a Nottingham pack with then. Back to the hotel, check out the luggage, and change in the gents (where a chap lives all day, turns on the tap, squirts the soap, turns the tap off and gives you a towel). That's more comfortable. 17h15 Bus back into Hong Kong airport (it goes on to the LukKwok for others), slow because of racing at ShaTin. We had to unload and re-load the luggage at both borders (leaving China and entering Hong Kong). Airport for 19h30, bought Tiger Balm, MauTie and whisky. Eat and rest in the luxury lounge. Depart Hong Kong 22h15 on BA32 with Winston from Kent, but he's in cheap class. Watches back 7 hours.
Sunday 16th April 1995
24 days all gone. Not much sleep in the night. Arrive LHR 05h15, very quick (business class!) off the plane and pick up luggage. I went to the business class lounge and went out to look for Don and Joy every 15 minutes. They were there by 06h00, wonderful. Home for a leisurely breakfast.
After all my work trips to China, I decided it was time to visit my much-loved country of China with Joy as a special for her 60th birthday. And we preceded that with a visit to our friends Julia and Teng (who had lived next door to us in number 25 while he was studying for a PhD in law) in Taiwan.
Thursday 19th October 1995
We flew to Taiwan on Cathay Pacific, change at Hong Kong. Cathay planes have this television that shows you where you are, the speed and height, distance yet to go and expected time of arrival; it adds to my interest during the flight. But the planes and service are not generally as good as Singapore Airlines. We were scheduled to arrive HK at 14h00 (the usual good view while landing), just in time for loos and a walk up and down (good to stretch the legs after a 12 hour flight), depart 15h00 Cathay Pacific CX350 (the changeover would have been a close call if the inbound flight had been late) on a 1011 Tri-Star, and arrived at Taipei Taiwan 16h25. Very slow immigration checks, the queue we chose was slow because of a learner member of staff being taught the job, and double checking absolutely everything. (There's no visa necessary for temporary British.) [My guide book says Taiwan temperature at this time max 27, min 19, rain 7 days per month, actual temperature was warm 28 and raining heavily and windy as we landed, typhoon "Ward" was heading this way but has calmed down. The population of Taiwan is 20 million, the island is length 400 km, 1/5 the area of the UK.]. It got dark just as we arrived. Teng was waiting for us, we changed £ 100 to NT$ 4160 [£ 1 = NT$ 42 "New Taiwan Dollar", we'll divide everything by 40 to get an approximate cost] at the airport bank. Airport bus number 2 (Teng bought the tickets NT$ 110 = £ 3 each), it took 45 minutes to reach downtown (we had to fasten our seat belts on the bus). We got off at Taipei Railway Station, then a 10 minute walk (I was glad I had my luggage in a back pack, Teng carried Joy's big case) to our hotel, the YMCA, behind the Hilton (so we are "next to the best hotel" says Teng), room 601. Julia was waiting in our room. A huge welcome bouquet of flowers was delivered, with a greeting from them! (They eventually took the bouquet when we left, it was still in good condition.) Off to a meal on the 44th floor of the new tower building 5 minutes walk away, with a view over the town. It was a very fishy meal (Joy eat most of it, not the jelly fish or much squid), Julia and Teng are Buddhist and eat veggie, Julia and Teng paid. We bought two bottles of water on the way back, NT$ 30 = 75p each for our emergency supplies if we are out walking in the heat. Teng had brought an email he'd got from the new mathematics secretary in Nottingham offering to fax me some voting papers for the head of department post, all remarkably democratic. Teng will email her tomorrow with the YMCA hotel's fax number.
My new back pack bought recently from Barrie, very expensive, very good, turns into one huge back pack, or (adjust a few zips and straps) a suitcase, or (adjust some more) a shoulder bag, or (undo one long zip) a big back pack plus a small separate "day back pack", wonderful. It impresses all the airport people when I turn up with one rucksack and it changes miraculously into a suitcase for the aircraft hold and a small rucksac for me to carry on.
Friday 20th October 1995
Slept well on and off! We left the air conditioning switched off all night, it was too noisy and draughty, we'd rather be a bit on the warm side. Set alarm for 07h00. Showers, the bath is only half length, is that Chinese size? YMCA breakfast is two slices of sweet white plastic toast, small pat of tasteless butter, chemical tasting jam, grot instant coffee (Joy, she can't stand it) and strong black tea (me, quite drinkable). We were collected at 08h20 for a morning "Tourist Company" tour organised by Julia and Teng, the driver introduced himself as Charles Cheung, just us two in his car. Out north west half an hour to the Kuantu Temple. It is oldest in Taiwan, both sorts, Buddhist (no alcohol, no hair, no sex) and Taoist (the good life), lots of incense burning; the temples here are more ornate round the roof edges than in the other China. Then on to Tamsui, and a fort "San Domingo" built by the Spanish in 1629, then used by the Dutch, then the English, then the Chinese, and probably the Japanese 1935 to 1945 [what no Portugese?]. The British consul's residence is behind it, built 1891 (in brick, and has withstood all earthquakes and typhoons since then), it's a posh version of our house really! Then back towards Taipei via a tourist craft shop, we bought two tee-shirts and postcards, total NT$ 700, I'm sure the guide gets a commission. Then Joy and I went to the nearby "Gala Hotel" for lunch, too much food, not enough time to finish it, NT$ 720 + 10% = 792 = £ 20. In the afternoon a "City Tour", which had about 8 people on it, so it needed a minibus, a VW just like ours. We drove past the presidential palace, no stopping permitted. Then to Chang Kai-Shek's (he died 1975) memorial hall with huge statue, combined with a new theatre and an opera, all built 1980-ish. We watched the changing of the guard, amazingly formal, the new guards (so ultra-slim) were spruced up by their companions after they had stood in position, sweat wiped off their face, trouser creases tidied. Apparently (according to Charles) Chang Kai-Shek killed 30000 opponents (mostly intellectuals, the real Taiwanese of the 5,000,000 who were there before he came fleeing from China with 12,000,000 of his supporters), imprisoned 140,000 of them for 10 years each, it was a crime not to give him his full title, Charles the guide says that they should remove his statue and put a memorial to those he killed instead. He's yet another catastrophe that USA supported. He was followed by his son, not so bad, then by a Taiwanese (still a dictator), with some sort of democracy starting 4 years ago. The first real democratic election will be 2nd December, in a month or so. Then onto the "Martyr's memorial" (a temple), more guards in chromium helmets being polished and smartened in situ! Then to the National Museum, no time to see much, but we looked at some porcelain. They claim it has the best collection of "real" Chinese historical artefacts. Then onto another Buddhist temple, then to the same tourist shop (we stayed in the VW), then the minibus driver got lost, found that he had driven to the wrong hotel, and got lost again. They're building a new railway, ordinary track in the suburbs, all on stilts in the city with stations in mid-air; it's been ready for a couple of years, but not in use, there are some safety arguments. Back to our hotel eventually 17h20. We walked at 18h00 to a veggie (Buddhist) restaurant with Julia and Teng, a wonderful veggie meal, pine kernels with seaweed, "chicken" with hot chilies (I eat all the chilies), "prawns" on toast. Then we walked to a coffee shop, and chatted looking at the photos we had brought (wedding, twins etc). A fax arrived at the hotel with my mathematics head of department voting form! [Cash left in hand NT$ 2300.]
Saturday 21st October 1995
Pickup at 08h00 by Teng, walked through a local park (watched local people exercising, doing tai-chi, ballroom dancing, dancing with chop sticks, playing board games) and on to Soochow University (City Campus, where Teng works) Computing Centre. (Soochow is a mainland city, this university was started by that part of Chang Kai-Shek's fleeing gang who came from from that part of China.) Joy joined in the first chat, but gave up and went to knit in Teng's office when we went on to Computer Science, not interesting, the university has no science or engineering except CompSci, and they remain old fashioned. I used Teng's terminal to send email to Sarah in Mathematics ("I've received the voting form"), Lois in CompSci ("Send IT blurb to Soochow", the person is Dr Ching-Ming Chao, 56, Sec 1, Kwei-Yang St, Taipei, firstname.lastname@example.org), and Neil in LTR ("Send Ceilidh blurb to Soochow"). Then I thought it more sensible to use "telnet" myself to log directly into Nottingham, no problem, 05h00 in UK, 12h00 here, I used my Nottingham machine in my office. Sluggish typing response over 6700 miles! I sent all the information to Taiwan directly. Showed Teng the use of FTP (we logged in and fetched one of my files from Nottingham). Then showed him WWW (World Wide Web), and picked up bits of information from around the world. Lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich, just cheese for Teng, back to the YMCA for 13h30 just in time to meet Julia and get on the next tour bus. Tour to Wu Lai "Aboriginal village" (Julia and Teng hadn't been there before), one hour drive in a small bus (east by south?), up into the rain forest, in a deep misty valley opposite a very high waterfall. Fairly boring "folk" dance show (no great enthusiasm), then high pressure sales pitch for their arts and crafts shop (most of the stuff wasn't made by them), then ride in a mini train down the side of the valley, and bus back to Taipei. Bought some paper Chinese decorations for Christmas, but Julia and Teng never let us pay! Early evening meal at the same veggie restaurant as last night, lovely again (asparagus, deep fried cheese). Joy said how nice the purple doilies that they used were, they immediately brought us a packet of them to take away. Then taxi (in the dark) to Lungshan temple, beautiful dragons and phoenixes on the roof, then on to the Hwashi tourist night market. Very busy, but we didn't buy anything. They were doing fairly nasty things to lots of live animals. Wandered home via the same coffee shop. Phenomenal numbers of scooters everywhere, parked all over the pavement, some driving on the pavement, some being towed away by police; be careful as you walk around.
Sunday 22nd October 1995
Lie-in! Pickup by Julia and Teng 10h30. Taxi to the National Historical Museum, went inside, found that it was the National Science Museum by mistake! Julia got a special guide to show us some of it. Tried to untangle lots of knots and metal puzzles, failed on most! Walk around the "Botanical Gardens" park (a few lotus flowers still out, an old man doing tai-chi blissfully unaware of a number looking on, another playing Japanese tunes on an erhu, and two separate bridal couples being photographed, apparently a week before the wedding, the grooms had VERY ornate embroidered jackets). Taxi to a dim-sum lunch at a huge (at least 1000 seater) restaurant; you choose from the dishes being wheeled around on trollies (or you order from a menu, the man at the next table asked for "small cake", apparently in Chinese it sounds almost the same as "large fish" which is what he got instead). Teng, of course, knows the boss! Off to the handicrafts section on floor 7 of a big store, mostly very expensive, some nice pottery, a lovely wide open blue bowl with crystalline glaze was NT$ 300000 or £ 7500. Mostly by named craftsmen. Coffee, then taxi to their place (45 minutes). It's a bungalow between blocks of flats, they've had the (small) garden completely redone. Buddhist shrine in the front room, take away his water before sunset, give him more tomorrow. Phoned Mum, 17h00 here = 09h00 in UK. Off to another veggie restaurant, this time for a fixed fee you eat as much as you can, huge selection, lovely. It had a 3D picture of a Buddha on the wall, which we showed Julia and Teng how to view. The furniture shops around (a posh suburb) here are the ultimate in bad taste. Taxi back, farewell to Julia, and pack. [Left NT$ 2300.]
Monday 23rd October 1995 Holiday visit with Joy to show her a lovely country, we went via Teng and Julia in Taiwan.
Arrive Beijing 18h05 (in the dark, 10 minutes late), met by Zong Gang (friend from SEdC = State Education Commission) and driver, changed $200 to CY (Chinese Yuan) 2561 at the airport. It's cool, we need jumpers for the first time! Car into town along the new motorway. Each time I visit China they've built another ring road round Beijing! Staying at Tianlun Dynasty Hotel, 50 Wang Fu Jing Avenue, Dong Cheng District, tel 5138888, fax 5137818, very central just east of the Forbidden City, room 833. From our window you can see the Beijing Hotel (adjoins Tiananmen Square, the hotel where Kate Adie was chased by soldiers during the Tiananmen demonstration) and the roofs of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City). Zong's phone office is 605-2507, home 886-1015 (or phone Mr Tu Yicai same office or home 594-4487). No meal, we'd eaten enough on the planes. [Book says Beijing temperature for October max 20, min 6, rain 2 days per month, s 1 = CY 12.9 (yuan), CY 1 = 8p, we'll divide CY by 10 to get pounds for simplicity.] [Cash left CY 2500 = s208.]
Tuesday 24th October 1995
Beijing day 1. Breakfast in the lobby level, CY 55, they tried to charge us more. Booked tomorrow's tour, pay in advance, twice CY 300 = £30. Depart 10h10 to walk down back streets to the "Palace Museum" ("Forbidden City", "Imperial Palace") (passed old man playing erhu and another singing), tickets CY 55 each. Wandered all around and back (lots of photos, we had to buy a new film (CY 60). Dark cold rooms, beautiful old pottery. Then down to the north end of Tiananmen Square, past the famous picture of Mao. Walk along to the Beijing Hotel, and Taxi to Tiantan Park (CY 25). Park fee CY 30 each (only CY 1.40 for locals, but that's fair). Bought a packet of crisps and two small kites (CY 30), ice creams. Walked to the Temple of Heaven, such a beautiful building. Where there were no stalls a few years ago, now there are hundreds of stalls selling everything, we bought earrings (CY 20, lost one in Hong Kong and found it again) and a tie (CY 25). On to the ceremonial mound, watched some kite flying. Taxi back for 17h00 (CY 25, he dropped us at the wrong hotel, but not too far away, so we walked on). Swam in the hotel pool. Sent fax of Maths HoD voting form to Nottingham, CY 110, expensive. Evening meal in the Chinese restaurant on floor 2, music by erhu + cymbalon, we eat beef + black bean, aubergine + nuts, spicy rice, spring roll, beer, coconut juice, toffee apple, glutinous rice balls, CY 220, quite nice. [Cash left CY 1600 = £ 133, spent CY 900 = £ 72 today.]
Wednesday 25th October 1995
Beijing day 2. Meet at tour desk 08h50 for coach trip to Great Wall and Ming Tombs, CY 300 each. 13 in the party, us + 1 Brit + 2 Germans + 3 Yanks + 4 Chinese. Stop after one hour at a huge tourist shop, bought two silk shirts (one each), CY 565 on VISA; rather expensive, but I had miscalculated the price, divided by 40 (Taiwan!) instead of 12. Still, they're nice shirts, Joy wore hers a lot on the rest of the trip. All the tourist trips seem to include visits to shopping centres! Then on to the Ming Tombs; you don't go past all the nice animal statues any more, the road avoids them. Stairs down a long way into the tomb, left annex (empty), then main tomb (emperor + two wives + chattels) and next one (thrones) and out. (At one point I was given the honour of holding the guide's tour group flag!) On to the Great Wall at Badaling (another 30 minutes), but first stop for lunch in a Chinese restaurant, it was good. We walked up the wall to the top to the left, very steep, steeper than 1 in 1, we were breathing hard by the top! Coming down the steep bit is even more frightening, almost like a precipice. It's all so commercial now, and there's another place to get to the wall, and another under construction nearby. Endless pestering sellers of books, old coins, sweat shirts, table cloths, etc. Bought two furry panda cushion covers from a stall, CY 150 = £ 12. Bus back to hotel 18h25, stopped on the way at a cloisonné factory, watched most of the process, they had a huge saleroom, we bought nothing. Showers, and then Malaysian nosh downstairs, not as good as it should be.
Thursday 26th October 1995
Beijing day 3. 09h30 Mr Tu comes here (but he was waiting in the wrong lobby). Taxi to the Summer Palace, but on the way we stopped twice to look for a sketch pad for Joy. Couldn't find one without lines. The Summer Palace is really lovely. We walked past the "Hall of Benevolence and Longevity", and the "Virtuous Harmony Court", and the "Happiness in Longevity Hall", along the "Long Corridor" (half mile walkway) with 8000 paintings, past the "Cloud Dispelling Hall". (We missed the "Perceiving the Spring Pavilion".) Mr Tu told us the stories (old Chinese legends) behind many of the paintings, they often relate to Indian legends Joy knows. Walk past the marble boat, then up the hill to the "Temple of Buddhist Fragrance" (or perhaps Virtue). Bought a bread roll and a bottle of water for lunch. Every time Joy stopped to sketch a design, crowds gathered round her! Down many steps to the lake, noticed a deciduous bark pine tree, that's unusual. Boat (shaped like a dragon) trip across to the island, and walked over the beautiful 17-arch bridge. Taxi back, and to the Ancient Astronomical Observatory. A collection of old astronomical instruments on a small remaining bit of Beijing City Wall. Various astronomic observations of comets and supernovae from Chinese observers in 1300 BC, the UK wasn't up to much at that time! Bought a mirror which reflects a picture of Buddha for CY 110, the replica old compasses, sun-dials etc were too heavy to carry. Back to the hotel for a shower and smarten up, and off for dinner 17h30 south of Tiananmen Square with Wang Yuanren (my State Education Commission friend, very high-up) and Zong Gang and Tu Yicai. This was at the oldest (1864) Roast Duck restaurant in Beijing, where Dr Wang went as a boy, when it was a wooden one storey building, Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck restaurant, No 32 Qian Men Street, tel 5112418 fax 5112105. (Wang says he can't get a driving licence, he's over 55.) Very crowded, very nice. We chose a duck, it was roast while we had the first few courses (web feet, gizzards, tripe, only the best). The roast duck was cut up while you wait, very professional. Wonderful duck, spring onion + soy sauce (with something) + pancakes with it. We had banana split at the hotel afterwards, wicked! [Paid CY 130 to Mr Tu for tickets, CY 110 for the mirror, left CY 1210 = £ 101.]
Friday 27th October 1995
Beijing day 4. Posted 9 post cards. This is to be a "Shop 'till you drop" day! 10h00 taxi to Liu Li Chang, 1 mile south of the foot of Tiananmen Square, lots of traffic jams. It's a restored old Chinese 2-storey pedestrian shopping street. Beautiful house sized buildings in grey brick and red woodwork. Wandered to the Xi (west) part first (genuine arty shops, paints, brushes, lovely silk paintings, book marks, books, postcards), and then to the Dong (east) part (more touristy, more silk paintings, mini-kites, rubbings). Plenty of purchases, mostly paid by VISA, then by another taxi to the Friendship store (2 miles east of the north end of Tiananmen Square), but stopped for a Baskin Robbins ice-cream before we started the next shopping session. A whole afternoon on the 3 floors, wonderful, everything your shopping heart could desire! Bought CDs, tee-shirts, silk material (great to buy when Joy's here), lacquer elephant, stone lions, ceramic stool. Spent half an hour having the last three shipped home, should take 10 to 12 weeks, say late January, the shop does all the customs forms etc. Evening Chinese nosh at the hotel, a drunken party disturbed the peace. Their toffee apples are great. Joy organised (she's wonderful) all our shoppings into Christmas presents to see what else we need to buy, she plans to get every Christmas present here!
Saturday 28th October 1995
Breakfast and pack (it still fits in, we obviously haven't bought enough), clear room and settle bill for 11h30. Mr Tu met us in the lobby at 12h00. Taxi to Beijing railway station, we waited in the "Foreign Passenger Waiting Hall", board the train at 13h00, depart 13h30 Train No 41, soft sleeper. 18 big coaches on the train. We were coach 10, berths 11 and 12. Sharing the cabin were a very chatty British couple Bob (Prof Robert D Adams, Mechanical Engineering at Bristol, he's off to a conference) and wife Sue / Susie, they had acres of luggage, we travel light by comparison (my rucksack, Joy's wheely-bin and one suitcase). They also had hundredweights of food, so we all had a feast. We had brought only chocolate, tea and water. We watched the view as we went past traffic jams, many houses with corn cobs drying on the roof-tops, cotton fields, cotton hanging out to dry, plywood factories, factories for concrete things, lots of brick and roof tile furnaces, some marble carving... Dark at 18h00. Crossed the Yellow River at 21h50, long long bridge. Each coach had two loos at one end, one English and one Chinese, and a hot water boiler at the other. Turned off the grot TV, and turned down the tannoy sound (but it was in English as well as Chinese). All 4 to bed 23h00. Sue snored!
Sunday 29th October 1995
A lady came and switched the lights on at 05h15, we switched them off again, 5 minutes later she came and switched them on again; she wanted to clear the bedding before we arrived at Xian! Arrive Xian 06h17, met by our guide John (they all ask us to use the English names they are given at school), straight (past the city wall, the best in the world, very high and wide, in a square about 2 miles on each side) to the Grand New World Hotel, 48 Lian Hu Lu, tel 716868, fax 719754, room 1140. Still only 06h25. Shower and a quick sleep. Xian day 1. Buffet breakfast in the hotel CY 180 + tax. We took a taxi (young female careful driver) to the Large Wild Goose (Dayan, "da" = "big" so I suppose "yan" = "goose"?) pagoda. It's a seven level square pagoda, not much decoration, a small bell on every corner. Lots of temples (and burning incense) and palaces around the base, and newly laid out gardens. Lots of local folks around, it's Sunday. The town is much less westernised than Beijing, less well dressed (less prosperous) people, more spitting, more use of hooters by car drivers, more bikes and less cars. Oodles of taxis now (when I was here before they were very scarce), very easy to find one any time; they charge using a proper meter, no arguments about the fare, it's so cheap I always tip. Walked gently past lots of tatty stalls (bought some wooden toys) to the new Shaanxi History Museum (it was in a small building near the wall when I was last here). It's a big building, Chinese Tang dynasty (fairly plain) architecture, very nice. Lots of artefacts on show, some lovely gold, silver etc animals; a pity they don't sell good replicas. Taxi to the centre of town (seething with crowds of people) and we wandered down chaotic narrow back streets to the hotel. We seemed to be moving against the tide of people; everyone was carrying kettles or quilts. Evening meal in the hotel "Food Street", sitting on stools (uncomfortable), super cheap Chinese food. Then to a show in the attached theatre, 1600 seats, the biggest in Shaanxi province. The audience started at 8, eventually rose to 38, the show was "The Soul of the Terracotta Army", lots of costumes and massed dancing (at least 41 dancers, "cast of 1000s") symbolising the story of the Terracotta warriors era.
Monday 30th October 1995
Xian day 2. All day tour to the terracotta warriors, meet 09h00 in the lobby, just us two plus our guide and the driver in a car. Passed cotton fields and cotton balls drying by the road, corn drying, pomegranate and persimmon trees. At the terracotta warriors we went first to a 360 degrees cinema of the story ("cast of 1000s", must be a Chinese speciality). Then to the old hall, "Pit No. 1", wonderful as ever. Quite amazing concept and skill, such realistic faces, such a megalomaniac who thought it necessary, so much forced labour to complete it, but so wonderful, not bad for 250 BC. Then to a new Pit 3 still being excavated (the warriors you could see were very broken), then pit 2 (small, a guard room). Bargained to buy some embroidered bags and toys in the market outside the halls. Then off to the Hot Springs and Winter Palace at Hua Qing, first lunch (fried peanuts, fried duck, lots of nice vegetable, beer, mineral water) then a tour. The palace was Chang Kai-Shek's headquarters, where he was captured by Mao (1937?) and forced to help fight the Japanese (who had taken all the north-east down to Beijing) instead of fighting Mao. Then on to a prehistoric village at Banpo, 6000 years old, a complex village with various shapes of houses, a moat, storage places. Then to a silk embroidery factory in Xian, lots of hand labour, bought a tie-die scarf (40) and two silk shirts (20 pounds). Back to the hotel for 17h00, it's packing and an early bed tonight. All the little kids have split crotch trousers to help with the necessary; it must be cold in winter! Petrol here is about CY 1.70 (14p) to CY 2.1 (18p) per litre, 1/3 of the UK price. We saw a Japanese tourist group (all groups have their leader carrying a small flag) called "Kinki Nippon Tours". [Left CY 800.]
Tuesday 31st October 1995 *** Wakeup 04h25. Depart hotel with our guide 05h30. Report airport 06h20, we gave the guide CY 100, he's been very good. Depart Xian 07h20 China NW Airlines, on a 3-rear-engined Tupolev. Breakfast on the plane = 1 roll, two bits of cake, packet of nuts, grot coffee or fizzy orange. Arrive Guilin 09h10, met by our guide Steve (or Lee Dong), nowhere near such good English as the last one; he can't understand our questions, we can't understand his English. Sign in at the Royal Garden Hotel, Yuan Jiang Road, tel 512411, fax 515051, very posh, room 7013. Guilin day 1. Lazy day, we both slept on and off till the afternoon, then a swim! The hotel pool has a bar across one end, with bar stools 6 inches below the water surface. The bar and surroundings are in a state of disrepair (piles of rubble, no changing facilities), the pool itself is well looked after. Meet Steve in the lobby 18h00, taxi to a meal (small restaurant, we had 3-vegetable soup, chicken with chestnut, vegetable like spinach, and rice, CY 100. Bought some coconut juice in a nearby store, CY 8 for 2, they are CY 12 each in hotels. Then off to the Hotel Windsor for the Ethnic Minorities Folk Dance Show (CY 60 each), a good variety of traditional dances from all over China, I joined in one accompanied by 6 sheng of different sizes. A nice lotus flower dance when each girl had 3 lotus flowers with a candle in, one in each hand, one on their head. They threw fiery balls into the audience, if you caught one you had to go up and dance on stage. Then off to watch the cormorants fishing (CY 60 each), we go along in a big boat while the fisherman and his 6 cormorants go in his boat (pole where it's shallow, paddle otherwise) alongside. They caught about 6 fish while we watched. CY 80 for the taxi for the whole night, good. Back about 22h30. [Left CY 800.]
Thursday 2nd November 1995 *** Guilin day 3. Lovely breakfast among the singing birds in the indoor garden, but the staff are so disorganised. Today is to be Guilin "City tour". Car from the China Travel Service (CY 250 = s 21 including guide for the day). First out to the "Reed Flute Cave" (15 minutes drive to the north-west), so called because they make reed flutes nearby; they were selling reed swanee whistles everywhere! We bought 5 for 1 yuan (2p each). Then the caves (CY 44 each), lots of stalactites and stalagmites, all with imaginative names. Then drive back towards town to "Underground Water Hill" otherwise known as "Wave-subduing Hill". First you walk underneath through it to look at the river the other side, then our guide Steve (he doesn't like walking) went with the driver for a big lunch while we climbed to the top to eat one banana and one orange! Hot sweaty climb. Good view, just across the Li river from the hotel. Down again, lots of persuasive pedlars but we bought nothing. Next, visit to a "Pearl factory", South China pearls are the best (they said), lots of necklaces and other mountings for sale, we bought nothing. Next, we'd asked to see some painters at work (there are 1000s of Chinese paintings for sale everywhere) he took us to a factory doing embroidery (and things made out of very fine cane work), with one painter doing painted scarves. Not too interesting, BUT they had a section making Chinese paint brushes, fascinating, the most interesting thing today, I bought some with my name engraved on them. Then on to a ceramics factory. They wouldn't show us the "throwing", it's a trade secret, I assume it's mechanised. We watched glazing, painting, firing, I correctly guessed all the temperatures they were using, 3 firings, 1050, 1280, 850 degrees. Then back to the hotel (declining a visit to a yet another factory, jade things) and a swim in the cold pool. [Left CY 100.]
Saturday 4th November 1995 Hong Kong day 1. [temp max 27, min 23, rain 6 days per month, s 1 = 11.5 HK$] [The tree outside is Bauhinia purpurea, the Hong Kong city emblem.] Breakfast 07h25, toast and coffee, they even have Grapenuts! Off by 62K bus to the local big centre (ShaTin) to look at the park and the huge shopping centre, and do some shopping for fruit, vegetables, cheese, drink; imported stuff is expensive, local is cheap. Home again, and cheese and bread lunch. Then off 13h30 by 62K bus, bought OAP "stored value" tickets for the train at HK$ 20 (half standard price), they get debited each time you use them on the railway or the underground. KCR (Kowloon Canton Railway, Kowloon is the south tip of Hong Kong mainland, Canton is up in China, I call it Guangzhou) suburban railway to the end station, Kowloon, HK$
50 left on the ticket so it cosr 20p. We walked along the front, wonderful view (although a bit hazy) across to the island. Star Ferry (boat "Golden Star") to the island, then wander along the front to the east, pause for ice cream snack. Up the world's longest escalator (800 metres, actually lots of short escalators one after the other, we stopped at one gap to look into pottery shops, lovely things there, bought cups and saucers for Karen and Angus) up to the mid-levels. Wander down the hill (separated from the traffic, down "The Conduit") to the main posh shops. Looked at buildings, the Bank of China is simple and great, the Shanghai Bank is complex (I like it, Dave doesn't, same British architect as the Pompidou centre, two huge mirrors divert sunlight into the interior), and what was the Bond Centre until he went bust (and has extensions like koala bears on the outside, I'd never noticed them before) now called the Lippo Centre. Wandered through till 18h00 to the Thai restaurant "Patang Thai" I've been to before. Lovely meal, we paid by Visa card HK$ 428. Home MTR (Mass Transit Railway, underground, very clean, we went across under the bay to the mainland), KCR (HK$
80 left on our tickets), 62K bus (HK$ 0.90), home 20h30. [Left HK$ 1370 = s 126.]
Monday 6th November 1995 Hong Kong day 3. Dave has to go to work at 08h00, and teach in the evening. Joy has a stiff neck, so we didn't rush anywhere. Joy and I wandered into the Hong Kong Poly U depart 10h55, 62K bus and KCR suburban railway to Kowloon (terminus). Walk across a pedestrian bridge to the University. The new buildings are lettered round towers joined by lines of offices etc. Dave's office is between towers F and J, on floor 6, so is room FJ632. Using his terminal I logged into Nottingham (3 o'clock in the morning there) and read my electronic mail (250 waiting, nothing looked desperately urgent) and send electronic mails to Abdullah (Malaysia) and Parv (Singapore) to confirm my arrivals. On the Internet we logged into the Daily Telegraph to read today's edition (not yet delivered in the UK, still 04h00 there) and to CNN (Cable News Network) to see their news and watch TV clips and sound clips from Israel (all free, all fetched over the net round the world). Lunch in the staff club (Joy had chicken + cashew, I had pork + noodles). When we got back to Dave's office, there was a reply waiting from my Abdullah electronic mail, he's meeting me at the airport. Dave walked us to the new adjoining block where his department is moving later this week, very impressive computer kit. Then we left Dave to do his work, we walked down to the waterside, and caught the hovercraft over to the island. Only 5 minute trip, HK$ 4.50 (40p) each, very bumpy, I think we took off once! Then we walked west (right) to the tram terminus (overshot and walked back) to catch a tram. We went to the head of the queue to make sure we got a good seat at the top deck at the front, but were still the last on, we're just too polite. Here if you don't push, you don't get anywhere! One hour 10 minute tram ride across the city past Central, past Causeway Bay to the terminus at Quarry Point, cost 11 pence each (would be less if we had demanded OAP price). Wandered to the nearest underground (MTR) station, and train to Causeway Bay, change, MTR under the sea back to Kowloon Tong, change to the KCR railway, back to ShaTin. Total rail and underground fares today 85 pence! Into ShaTin's huge shopping mall, and we found the same nice bread shop as last time, amazing. Changed two HK$ 10 notes at a machine to coins for the bus home; everywhere you need exact coins. [Dave's date of birth is 28Jan47.] [Left HK$ 780 = s 101.] *** Note-- We have seen and liked both here and in China "Cycas revoluta" (cycadacea), common name "sago palm", palm-like but not a palm, with new growth flower fruit in the middle, and palm leaves around it. Book says separate male (more like a cone) and female (flatter growth). I wonder if it would grow in the conservatory. Also I think from Louise's book that our present palm is "Phoenix roebelenii", common name "dwarf date palm".
Tuesday 7th November 1995 *** Hong Kong day 4. Dave off 08h00, we arranged to meet near Kowloon Mosque at 11h30. We left 10h25 with 62K bus, KCR train (bought 2 new OAP HK$ 20 passes), change to MTR at Kowloon Tong, change at MongKok, on to TsimShaTsui. There was a fracas on the train at Jordan which delayed us 5 minutes, everyone climbed on the seats to watch. Walked up Nathan Road, Dave was late, Joy and I wandered round various nearby shops, including China Arts and Crafts; Joy tried on various items (see below). Dave came 12h30, we went to lunch at local Oliver's (baked spud and sandwiches). Walk to Star Ferry (there's now a large luxury liner parked at the Ocean Terminal), across in cheap class (only HK$ 1.40 each), and No 1 Light Bus (HK$ 6.50) up to the Peak (top of the hill in the middle of the island, 3000 feet high?). Good views as we went up, narrow steep winding roads, various diversions to drop people off. Lots of new building at the top, a new shopping centre, new viewing platforms. And a wonderful outside fountain, flat granite slab perhaps 4 metres by 5, with 6 by 7 array of single fountains in it. They squirted in random and regular patterns (circular, linear, etc), it was great. Nearby people got soaked in the wind. Good views down over the city and Kowloon. Walked to the top of the Peak, good view south (down towards Aberdeen), good fresh air, and back. Down on the funicular (HK$ 14 each). Walked into town, hovercraft over to TsimShaTsui East (HK$ 4.50 each), and walked to Hong Kong Poly U for meal. I had sole, very nice. KCR back to ShaTin, shopped for wine, home, watched an old "Morse" program we videoed yesterday. Joy is missing an earring (new one bought at the Temple of Heaven), probably came off as she was trying things on at China Arts and Crafts. [Left HK$ 650 = s 59.]
Thursday 9th November 1995 *** Hong Kong day 6, last tourist day. Logged into Nottingham from the apartment, and checked all my electronic mail, nothing desperately important. Up and out for 10h15, bus to station, and walked up (many steep steps though woody valley) to the temple of 10000 Buddhas (lined up in small niches all over the walls, I counted at least 12000). Not kept very clean, pity. Back down to the shopping centre, ciabatta rolls at the local Oliver's (HK$ 77, chick mayo + Tikka), and time to watch the Musical fountain show at 12h25; 10 minutes of sludge music with lots of fountains and coloured lights dancing. Train to Kowloon Tong, and taxi to Angus International Import Export silk shop, floors 5 and 6, 6 FokLohTsun Road, Kowloon, 2718 2748 fax 4565. It's just under the end of the main (Kai Tak) airport runway, you go to the roof garden and then climb up an ordinary step-ladder (tied to the wall) onto the completely open roof, sloping gently, no protection at the edges. There's a loudspeaker relaying the airport and pilot's radio, you can see the runway very close, and you duck as they go over. Very interesting to listen and watch, you could see which touched down accurately. The doorbell at the bottom says "Angus International (and the cat)", notices on the stairs say "Oxygen available", "Passing through the ozone layer"; above the cat flap it says "Staff entrance". We bought 3 metres of each of 5 different silks (Visa card HK$ 55 * 3 * 5). We also bought an Angus tee-shirt and were awarded a certificate, signed by the cat. Taxi to TsimShaTsui, and into the Convention Centre for loos and a Chinese Calligraphy exhibition; a guide with bad English tried to be helpful. Walk up Nathan Road to China arts to recover Joy's lost earring (successful, they'd kept it at reception) and bought some things (pyjamas for the twins, silk padded waistcoat for Joy, Visa card HK$ 218). Into Kowloon Park, and look round the aviary. Into the Hong Kong Museum of History, lots to see, thrown out at 18h00. Walked round the garden of statues. Met Dave, and off to the "Banana plate restaurant" (banana leaves instead of plates) for Malaysian type meal, I paid (Visa card HK$ 329). [Left HK$ 270 = s 24, 100 for 2 departure taxes leaves 170 for taxis, dodgy, say 50 for me and 120 for Joy!]
Friday 10th November 1995 *** Hong Kong day 7, last day. Remember HK$ 50 departure tax each, and (I depart first) to give Joy her passport and ticket, both pretty vital for her! I said farewell to Dave after breakfast at 07h30. Morning packing, lazy session at "home", both Joy and I packed (one bra missing, was it ever found?). All Joy's luggage seemed to fit in well, she's taking most of the souvenirs and Christmas presents we've bought. Joy has been very organised (what else?) and we have Christmas presents from here for just EVERYONE on the list! Joy says that the whole holiday hasn't been as hot as I said; true, it's the onset of winter; Hong Kong is still warm enough for short sleeves in the evening. Beijing has cooled a lot since we left, with the onset of winter. I left the apartment (with a VERY big and heavy back pack [new recently from Barrie, expensive but very good], but no hand luggage at all, it's so much easier to walk around when it's all on your back) at 12h30, local bus 62K to ShaTin station, KCR to Kowloon Tong (and my OAP card is still valid, so I have it for a souvenir, HK$ 4.20 credit left, but it goes out of date in 4 weeks), and taxi to the airport (HK$ 26, I gave him 30). There for about 13h00, plenty of time, Cathay Pacific have general check-ins, not one per flight. Watched arrivals and departures, and looked for Angus International Silk Warehouse. We were on time boarding (by bus to a 747-300 plane parked way out down the runway) but late departing, 16h20 instead of 15h55. Cathay Pacific CX721 should arrive Kuala Lumpur (Subang airport, 20 km west of the city) 19h20 (Kuala Lumpur is on the same time zone as China and Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur 2532 kilometres). Bumpy journey in places, good Cathay service. Met by Abdullah + wife + latest baby in car (an old Mercedes bought in the UK I think)(they have 5 kids so far). Very heavy rain (monsoon season, expect downpour every late afternoon to mid evening, but amazingly hot! Staying at the Metro Inn, Jalan Semenyih, 43000 Kajang, Selangor Danul Ehsan, phone 03-837-5555, fax -6666. Out in the country, access to Kuala Lumpur by bus, just a small town. Durian fruit is not permitted in the hotel! TV remote control is missing, but I got "Chef" (Lenny Henry) on one channel. [Dave home from work 17h30, takes Joy for meal and then to airport for report at 21h00, depart at 23h00 on Cathay Pacific CX255.] [Left HK$ 140 = s 12.]
Thursday 18th April 1996. Chat 11h00 about China with Pro Vice Chancellor Chiplin. He turned out to be a crook, he never gave back any of my specially obtained confidential documents, intended to help the university set up its China campus. Soon afterwards the university retired him. I explained the whole Chinese education system etc to him.
Sunday 11th October 1998 Another China trip, this time just for a conference. Joy delivered me 10h10 at Broadmarsh for the 10h30 FlightLine bus at Broadmarsh. Depart for Beijing flight CA 938 on time 20h30, I'm very near the front in 12C. It's a half freighter/half passenger 747/400.
Monday 12th October 1998
Arrived early 13h20 local (early), clocks on 7 hours. Beijing is very murky as usual, too much coal powered everything. Straight through immigration, cashed with my VISA Yu1500 (exchange rate is 13.7 to the pound). Luxury taxi to the hotel Yu450, a bit expensive but very simple and comfortable. Shower and jasmine tea! The TV is fairly useless. I asked to get CNN just because it's English language, they overwrote the only other English channel with it! Wandered round the local streets, the Olympic hotel can't be far away. Evening meal just soup. About Yu1000 left.
Tuesday 13th October 1998
Slept reasonably, woke 07h00. Drizzly day, not good for wandering. Breakfast on a free ticket in the snack restaurant; help yourself, I had bacon, omelette, beans, cereal, bread+butter. Worked on the new Ceilidh. Rain drizzle dark all day; apparently Beijing has just changed from summer (20-25 degrees) to winter (12 degrees). Registered for the conference, ended up changing £210 sterling to 2870 yuan and paying in that. The proceedings weigh a ton, I've checked that our paper is in there! Taxi to LiuLiChang for some shopping. The taxi waited while I bought rubbings (VISA card for Yu480), paintings, postcards. Taxi (in pouring rain, and he got done by the police for something) home arrived 17h30. Evening meal in the 2nd floor Chinese, not thrilling but real Chinese music in the background. Left Yu700, 10 oatcakes, 12 chocolate knobs for 4.5 days left.
Wednesday 14th October 1998
Beijing conference tutorials? Skipped them. Several early phone calls which I didn't understand. Breakfast with someone from OU (he's now left them to work at Unilever). Taxi to south end of Tiananmen Square. Bright blue windy day. I walked up the square taking photos. Long queues as usual for Mau's mausoleum. Into the Palace Museum = Forbidden City, it's always lovely, Yu30. A little shopping, and a chop for Jenna. Taxi back eventually. Put in the photos, added some to my talk, and worked on Ceilidh. Evening meal = Madras curry with beer at Yu107. Thought I'd mislaid my air tickets, but I hadn't, must be tired! FAX to Hamish for Jenna at Yu80. Left Yu179 for 3.5 days, the cash machine in the lobby is out of order, luckily I have some sterling.
Thursday 15th October 1998
Opening speeches from 08h30, plenty of translation from Chinese. Invited speakers from USA, very philosophical, that seems the current vogue. Afternoon two speakers from SEdC, so I asked them about Wang YuanRen. Apparently he has retired, I think. He may phone. SEdC (another Wang) phoned me to chat more tomorrow. Lunch with the conference. Sat in on some afternoon sessions, but felt sleepy and went upstairs! Worked on Ceilidh exercises and a paper on "Quality standards for Ceilidh exercises". Posted card to Astleys Yu4.20. Cocktail party 18h30. Turned out to be a full buffet meal as well, with only very short speeches. Yu175, 7 oatcakes, 8 chocolate knobs, 2.5 days left to go.
Friday 16th October 1998
Posters in the lifts-- "Have a lot of funs"; "Except the standards, the different sort of luxury sites are available". On the TV "Please press the relative to change the program you want". Worked on new Ceilidh exercises, I've done 7 now, all fairly comprehensive. Invited speakers not desperately exciting. Checked my PowerPoint show on the projector in room B, seems OK. I'll take floppies for backup, or to do an actual Ceilidh demo. Popped out after lunch to take a few photos locally. Snoozed! Then a talk on virtual agents, unreal! Banquet 18h30. In word "scaffolding" = help and support. Waiting for the banquet, I was met by someone who knew me from Hebei University at Baoding (September 1993), see below for email. I have to remember them to Mark O'Brien at work. I sat on a table with him and only Chinese, it's useful to have cards to hand out. Entertainment of Chinese music (pippas, sheng), dance (Mongolian, lots of windmilling with yard-long wide ribbons), TaiChi with sword by an elderly professor, My Fair Lady! Lucky ticket draw prizes but not for me. Only 19 courses, included sea slug, crab. The hotel TV has CNN (poor quality), Star (grot films) and a Japanese channel with English, French, German and other news programmes in full. The Nobel Peace prizes were announced; to David Trimble and John Hume of Northern Ireland. Hume did an interview on French TV in French, good for him.
Saturday 17th October 1998
Last day of Beijing conference. To the room at 08h15 to check out the equipment there. My talk 09h00 - 09h30 Room B. Small audience, but time for the talk and a demo, I thought it was OK. Lunch included fried duck, with onions and pancakes, I'm glad I've had some before I leave. Afternoon talk on Confucius's legacy to education, I may pick up some useful quotes. Closing ceremony 16h00 with "best paper awards", thanks to everyone, much plugging of next year at Chiba near Tokyo Japan. Started packing, the conference proceedings in 2 volumes weigh a ton!
Sunday 18th October 1998 *** Phoned home 06h30 = 23h30 there, chat to Hamish & Joy about the last 2 nights gigs. All was well there. The call was easy on the BT charge card, let's hope no-one was listening to the pin code. Paid up at the desk 08h30 (there were queues) and changed US$20 to CY161 for airport tax (?50, ?80) and taxi (?80, ?120). Hotel shop for souvenirs, paid US$60. CY335 left. Packed last items, nearly forgot the Berghaus! Return from Beijing China; leave hotel 09h25, took an hour. We passed dozens of wedding convoys, with a leading black limousine with a model bride and groom on the bonnet, plus flowers and balloons. Taxi CY120. Departure tax CY90. Waited with a French girl by the check in from 11h00 to 12h10; utter chaos all round, no sign of queuing! The 40 minutes to get through immigration, behind the line people waved numbers of flights leaving, and forced their people to the front of the melee. Flight CA 937 depart 14h10. Arrive Heathrow on time at 18h00, clocks back 7 hours. Finished my book just as we landed. FlightLine bus departs 19h25 but actually 20h02, arrives Nottingham 23h20. Shared a taxi with Alain (ex International student's president) who lives round the corner. Home wide awake, tidied, watched TV, made love, then put the bin out and locked up everywhere.
This was a trip organised by ex-student Bill Lou. He had been a major in the Taiwanese army, and arranged an invitation for me to set up the Ceilidh computer learning and marking system at the National Military Defence College NMDC there, and help them convert it to work in Mandarin.
Sunday 6th December 1998
I flew in from Singapore, and was met at the airport by Bill Lou and programmer Wendy. We were driven by the chauffeur to the college, a 40 minutes drive. Everyone salutes you here, armed guards at the gate, soldiers lazing at the side of the road leap to attention, everywhere. I have my private servant "batman" David. I'm told that I have the rank of general, and I understand once a general, always a general. I will remember that. My week's program is all worked out already, very busy but that's OK. 19h00 by my miliary chauffeur and car with Bill to town, we were dropped at a central store, up to their restaurant, and Julia and Teng were waiting. Happy greeting! The meal tonight was on them. Wonderful warm welcome, I delivered our and Fiona and Martin's presents, they gave us a set of 6 CDs of Chinese music (Reader's Digest!). Back to my "home" at the college at 22h00. My batman had prepared a bedtime snack. An endless stream of slaves came to cure the computer which they had installed in my room, which failed to work!.
Monday 7th December 1998
I was awoken at 06h00 by trumpet calls around the college, I suppose that's the military system. Breakfast was at 7.30, prepared by David (a cardboard mug of sweet milky tea plus a ham sandwich). My military chauffeur wanted to drive me to the computing centre on campus, but when I said I'd walk, he insisted on following me in the car in case I got tired. I spent the morning with Wendy Lin from 08h30, helping with Ceilidh installation on their computer system. We cured her 2 main problems, student registration into the system and choosing a password now works, and compiling programs now works. After lunch at 14h25 I met Commandant 2-star General Shuai in his office. Then at 15h00 they help a pompous meeting for a signing ceremony, we both signed a document to let them have Ceilidh (they already have it, it's free anyway), and to certify everlasting love and links between them and the University of Nottingham. I don't remember my university ever knowing about this link! Then my first talk, one hour duration, I think it went OK. My personal chauffeur drove 17h30 for 18h00 at an officers' club in the city, hosted by General Shuai, with senior people from the college, all the local generals, and staff from the department, for a 12 course dinner. I had to karaoke first, the only English song I recognised was "Danny Boy", but the words come up on the screen anyway! Lots of toasts, "Gambai" = "bottoms up", lots of local liquor. We have to toast each person and empty the glass individually, that's a lot of toasts and a lot of liquor. I quoted my Tang dynasty poem by Wang Bo as a thank you, they were impressed. Stopped at a "Giant" bike shop on the way back, they are very cheap here, they had mine at 2/3 of my price, and an electric powered one (for Joy? £400, Giant and Chrysler joint project) and a better one than mine for £1350. Home 22h00.
Tuesday 8th December 1998
Phoned Joy again 06h30 = 22h30. Chinese breakfast, sweet spicy cake in a pancake and sweet soya milk. Morning with Wendy again, she was coming 07h30 but I said not till 08h30! More work on Chinese Ceilidh. Charlie Wu came, he wants to get some practice at setting exercises. Off 10h25 with Bill and Eric Wen to a tea house in the nearby hills. They got lost twice, but we found a restaurant up among the mountains with superb view. First a big meal (for 4 of us including our driver), chicken, mussel, shrimp, pork. We were the only ones in the place, but apparently it's busy at weekends. Then there was a formal Chinese tea ceremony. First heat it, then throw away the first cup, then smell it, and then at last pour some into another cup, drink it. Very ceremonial, the girl was Miss Lee. She said they had just picked their winter crop of tea leaves of the tea bushes (grown here on every available bit of land). Then in the afternoon 14h15 we visited Cheng Chi University to discuss distance CAI. Dr Wen-Ching Kiou (head of computing centre) showed me their IBM "Learning Zone" system, I demonstrated old and new Ceilidh off the laptop. Back to NMDC at 17h00 with Charlie Wu & Wendy to develop some real exercises in Mandarin. In the evening 19h00 I was picked up (always the military car) for 19h30 dinner, Bill is tonight's host, with Teng and Julia (and Bill's staff and some ex-Nottingham students.
Wednesday 9th December 1998
Up 06h30, breakfast (soya milk & dumplings) arrived 07h30, Wendy arrived to start work 08h0. Different driver today. Pickup 09h00 by Dr Eric Wen (programme manager for my visit) with David and Wendy to visit Taipei Information Exhibition, chatted to IBM there about their "Palace Museum Digital Library" (I have CDs of it). Visited the Apple stand to poke fun at the staff there, then on the Fujifilm stand, there are some nice new cameras now, £400 for better than mine, £700 for a super one. Local Cantonese cheap lunch, then off to the Palace Museum. First to an exhibition of Picasso, crowded, the best was "Three ladies under a tree" all browns. Then into the main museum for paintings by Chinese artist Chang. Afterwards round the pottery/porcelain galleries, and the jade gallery. Famous exhibits are jade looking like pork, a jade spinach & grasshopper, and a carved peach nut. We saw various parades by the party of the outgoing (just lost the election) mayor of Taipei, all driving in lorries and pickup trucks round the streets with loudspeakers and music and flags. On to 18h00 Italian restaurant, Bill and our regular driver were late arriving. I had steak and gorgonzola. Then on to a street market, cuddly puppies and kittens for sale!Then a 45 minute drive home for 22h25.
Thursday 10th December 1998
Breakfast 07h30 with hot red bean drink, egg dumplings, I still think the second day's breakfast was the best. Wendy 08h00. Morning 09h30 talk to their postgrad students. It was my "Ceilidh Security" talk, and then demos of old and new Ceilidhs. Then to a local bank to turn my money and airfare repayment into a sterling transfer to our Barclay's current account in Nottingham, £1781 total, should arrive in 3 days. Lunch in a local cheap Cantonese, included sea anemone as well as pork, chicken, duck. Back for a brief rest. In the afternoon (in a minibus, new driver, the other car was not available) to Chiao Tung University at Hsingchu with Dr Wen to their "Distance Learning Centre". Director is Frances Su, very good. They were TV filming a lecture on Finance, badly given (I said so, Su agreed!). Then I gave a demonstration of old and new Ceilidh, she was very interested and asked all the right questions. ["TANet" = Taiwan Academic Network.] Home 17h30, depart 19h00 for evening meal with Bill to a Chinese style steak restaurant "Wang's Steak". Fixed price, bread + pate, soup covered in pastry, lump of rib steak (marinated for 2 days, lots of herbs, very tender), fruit etc. Home 22h30, Bill brought a bag with his presents that I take home to his family, I started packing.
Friday 11th December 1998
Wendy 08h00, perhaps with Charlie Wu for final chat on Chinese Ceilidh. I told Charlie about the possible problems in searching for regular expressions in Chinese, he understood the question. It should be OK, it's just that every Chinese character is represented in the computer by two alpha characters. He's bright, I've told Wendy to go to him with her problems, not me. Morning with Dr Alexi Kho (Ted Marston student who went on to UMIST) and with the DMC personnel officer for a tourist morning in their equivalent of Stoke-on-Trent, the pottery town, Ying Ko, . First to a artist potter Mr Wang, of-so-beautiful pots and ceramic paintings (slabs of clay 2 feet by 4 feet in nice glazes), he showed us a TV video of him. One shop had 20 wheels for school children and adults to practise on, great. I didn't buy anything. Then to a another tea-house restaurant in the hills, really really lovely. Second hand crafty shop downstairs, and one indoors room (15 people?) and one outdoors on a terrace with roof (it was raining). The view up the forested valley was lovely, so was the lunch. Home for 13h30 to pack. Bill came and chatted, and insisted I take a video of the film Titanic. Depart with Bill and Wendy 15h15. Taipei SQ871 check-in 16h00 (it was a friend of Wendy's, she got me a good seat), depart 18h00, arrive Singapore 22h20 a bit late. Quick transit, I left the camera on the plane and had to go back for it, and left my book in the lounge. What a brain! Depart Singapore SQ322 supposedly 23h15; actually 23h25 because there is a strong back wind, and we must arrive on time. Parv is on the same flight! No he's not, he's got to stay to sort out his tax. Yes, perhaps he is...., no he wasn't. 13 hours.
Saturday 12th December 1998
Arrived Heathrow 05h10. I caught the new "Heathrow Express" to terminal 4, not as posh as I expected, just like a new underground train, not like the foreign airport rapid trains.
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This copy edited Thursday 07-Jan-2021