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This is a question Travel

I've had guns pointed at me in many different countries, sometimes even by our own side. I've also sat on my own on a beach on a desert island, which was nice because nobody was trying to shoot me. Tell us your tales of foreign travel.

Thanks to SnowytheRabbit for the suggestion

(, Thu 18 Apr 2013, 17:43)
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As part of a "Cultural Exchange" a group of Head Teachers were invited on a trip to Zhuhai, near Macau, and then on to attend a conference in Beijing. I got lucky because someone was ill and I was available, last minute (ish - I still needed a visa). Chance of a lifetime, and one I wasn't going to pass up. I was partnered with the No.1 Primary School in Zhuhai, and boy, it was!

Schools are ranked, with the brightest children going to the best school. Teachers from all over the city came to watch these paragons of excellence deliver an Authority pre-prepared powerpoint presentation with a headset mike and lightsabre, err pointer. The teacher never moved from the front of the room, there were 55 to a class, all of whom spoke English. Yep, every one wanted to say "hello" and "thank you". The Primary school of 2,500 children (that's not a typo) all exercised at 3pm. In lines. In the school yard. One line skipped, one line waved a table tennis bat. Then they swapped. For an hour. I have to say it was a very disturbing sight.

The school bought a brand new car to drive me around the city. It was driven by the Party Official, who is the No.2 in the school, ensuring that all lessons toe the party line. We were accompanied everywhere. When we came down to breakfast, our interpreters were there (one each). We never went anywhere unaccompanied, they even stood outside the loo! When we finally hit the hotel, our cars, drivers and interpreters dropped us off. On the one night we escaped for a game of snooker with one of the interpreters we were followed, very obviously. It didn't stop us getting hammered though.

Socialist State? I don't think so. Average price of the flats around "my" school was a million. Pounds. The Head lived in a large, luxurious subsidised high rise apartment. The authorities flew her son back from Beijing for one night to meet me! The stereo in the flat was out of this world, yet the abject poverty in the city was very evident wherever you looked.

One child one family? Nope. If you're rich, you just pay the fine. There were quite a few children with siblings at the school. There are "rules" whereby a family may have more than one child, but here it was just another rule to keep the proletariat under control.

The purpose of our visit, as we eventually discovered, was to pick our brains regarding educating thinkers and leaders, there's plenty of workers, but very little initiative. Everyone knew their places.I saw one little boy, obviously autistic, struggling during the exercise class. When I enquired I was simply told "he won't be with us for much longer. It was a mistake".

Highlight? Being able to become a Hero of China, by walking six forts on the Great Wall. Being from Lincolnshire, we opted for the steep, rather than the flat bit of the Wall, as we don't see much in the way of rises out here. Sitting up on the Wall, alone, was a bit of a moment. I just sat and reflected. Well, that and the fact that I was totally knackered walking up massive gradients in 35 degree heat. And even though we were allowed "Free Time" on the Wall, we were followed.

So after all that, would I go back? Yep, like a shot. The tour's arranged for the autumn.

td/lr: Went to China, its just like Conservative England. With noodles.
(, Thu 18 Apr 2013, 19:34, 4 replies)
I got the same impression
Beijing is a huge place with a lot of poverty, but there's a hell of a lot of money too. And it's not one or two people, it's a BIG middle class. Everything about China is pretty big though.

What really surprised me about China was that it was very, very alien in a lot of ways, but I could actually see myself living there. I think as a Westerner with a good job you could have a very nice life. And it's an amazing place.
(, Thu 18 Apr 2013, 19:44, closed)
My favourite bit in China was walking in the yellow mountains and being passed by porters carrying a hundred kilos of laundry and supplies (SUPPLIES!) to the restaurant at the top.
Then paying two times their daily wage for a coffee. I do love a bit of blindingly obscene inequality, me.
(, Thu 18 Apr 2013, 20:12, closed)

If you think China is conservative, then your minders did a nice job of only letting you see the veneer. Scratch that veneer and it's rather a bit different - a lot different.

Go check out Shenzhen. It will blow your mind. Make sure you velcro your pockets shut and get ready for the world's stickiest shop assistants, and to be offered all kinds of amazing things, substances and experiences.
(, Fri 19 Apr 2013, 3:24, closed)
When my friend went back home to China
She noticed that here in The UK Lotus biscuits here are half the price that they are in China so she filled her carry on bag with boxes of the things. When they scanned her bag at the airport they asked her to open it. "Oh its biscuits, on the scanner it looked like boxes of cigars!" the security guy said "Its OK, carry on, enjoy your flight."
(, Fri 19 Apr 2013, 8:31, closed)

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