China syndrome

Posted By on November 29, 2007

It’s been nine days since I returned from China and I’m still reeling from the trip. I’ve never been anyplace so foreign; glad Rich and I had a minder there, Anne Tan, a great communications person who lives in Hong Kong and is helping spread the Wyndham Hotel word.

I’ve never been so jet-lagged. I was so sleep-starved I couldn’t describe it except by analogy: I felt like I was dying of thirst. China is 13 hours ahead of Cleveland time, so flying home felt like flying back in time. We left Hong Kong at 11:20 a.m. Nov. 19 and arrived home in Newark, 15 ½ hours later, just before 2 p.m. — the same day. Two days ago, I slept normally. I finally feel human.

You can’t imagine the scale of China. People everywhere, cars all over the place (Buicks, Audis, VWs are especially popular), highways bursting, big pollution (the Beijing sun “sets” around 3 p.m.), stores and sidewalks thronged. Beijing is powerful, monumental, mystical, kind of formal; Shanghai is even bigger (it might be 25 million) but more negotiable and human; Xiamen, a virtual hamlet of only 2.5 million, is still developing and quite indigenous; and Hong Kong is a pip, a Western-feeling megalopolis of high style and friendliness. Socializing in China is very different from in the U.S.: In Beijing’s Forbidden City area, people did Tai Chi, Tai Chi with a ball, juggling, stickball, kite flying, banner competition, group singing, voice lessons, miniconcerts with traditional Chinese instruments – or simply walked, often hand-in-hand, the remarkable, 15th-century area, a place of kings (and concubines) indeed. The socializing was rich, cross-generational, non-commercial. In America, we go to malls; in China, they go to historic sites. That’s a simplification, but it’s a profound difference.

I’m beginning to put together a narrative of my trip. It will include being flimflammed in Beijing; the Temple of Heaven/Forbidden City; the Silk Street Pearl Market, a wonderful emporium of counterfeit goods; the Bund and maglev in Shanghai; searching for jade in Xiamen; shopping for jewelry and clothing in Hong Kong.

It’s good to be back in America. And good to finally get some sleep.


One Response to “China syndrome”

  1. Edward says:

    What is banner competition?

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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: