This is the second article in a series about my plan to visit China. To read the first article go here.
*** Update*** I returned to the Chinese Embassy in NYC today and picked-up my 10 year visa!
One of my Chinese friends, who is too shy to post a comment on the blog, offered an old and very interesting Chinese proverb;
“One should be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, and die in Luzhou.” I was really fascinated by this comment and asked for an explanation. While I understand the bit about “eating in Guangzhou”, because the Cantonese are famous for eating many curious things. In fact, another famous Chinese saying helps to explain that phenomenon; “Cantonese will eat anything with wings, except an airplane, anything with legs, except a table!” This saying lets you know that you are in for some real surprises when dining in the Cantonese way. So, here is the explanation about the other cities; “Born in Suzhou” because many famous people, especially ancient poets were born in Suzhou, and if someone can be born there, he or she may have potential talents to become a celebrity. “Live in Hangzhou” or “Wear in Hangzhou” means the living environment is the best of China. Hangzhou is known for the beautiful West Lake, and also its silk and embroidery. “Die in Luzhou” so that one can have a coffin made with the supreme quality wood from the region.
All of the Chinese students with whom I have shared the above comment seem to concur. That little bit of anecdotal information is but another indication to me that China is far too intricate to fairly experience in only one visit. The depth of history, the peculiarity (for an occidental) of the customs & culture, the complexity of the food are other contributing factors. The geography of the country is another. The realization that one visit would be insufficient to even scratch the surface. It is sort of like telling someone from China that if you travel to New York City, Washington, D.C., The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Los Angeles you will see the United States. Impossible! Going to five places in a country as large as the U.S. or China introduces the traveler to only a small view of the country. Hence, I plan to make this trip the first of several….more on that as developments unfold.
The process for visa application for an American to visit China is the most complex that I have seen. If you are not booked with a guided tour service the starting requirement is a letter of invitation from your host. I felt it was too much of an imposition to ask any of my students, but one of my business contacts has drafted a very gracious letter of invitation and for that I am deeply grateful. Additionally, the Chinese authorities require a copy of your general itinerary including all hotel reservations and transportation arrangements. At this point, all of this has been arranged and the only thing I need to finalize my visa application is to submit the paperwork and attend the interview. Recently, the U.S. agreed to terms for a 10 year visa for Chinese citizens to visit the U.S. I am hopeful that the restrictions and lengthy application process will improve for U.S. travelers going to China. I will be asking about this when I speak with the interviewer.
With the exception of those travelers coming from areas affected by Japanese Encephalitis, there are no vaccination requirements . I won’t be stopping in Japan so that will not apply to me. I took care of the hepatitis A & B vaccinations prior to my Philippines trip in 2010. Those are lifetime vaccinations.
So, the itinerary has been finalized and reservations have been made for hotels and air travel. Most of my travel within China will be via high-speed rail. I am looking forward to experiencing this mode of travel.
Here is the plan; Arrive Beijing airport 4/1/15 – My plan is to visit the Great Wall, see the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and tour around the Hutong. 4 days to accomplish this should be doable….even accounting for some jet-lag slowing me down a bit.
4/4 in the afternoon (or perhaps early on the 5th) take the train to Ji’Nan visit with my group of students there and sight see. Due to the fact that I currently have such a large number of students concentrated in the city of Ji’Nan, I want to spend time to meet as many of the team as possible.
I am eager to meet as many of my students as possible, but I also understand that it is simply impossible to reserve time for every student. Please let me know if you wish to get together while I am traveling. I can give you my number and perhaps we can arrange a meet-up. Keep in mind that I intend to return and if we don’t meet this time we will have opportunities in the future.
In closing, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all who have offered suggestions about places to see and things to do on my upcoming visit to China.
I’ll be seeing you soon!