Friday, June 08, 2007

China bound

1985. Mao blue was the color of the day; the Mao suit the acceptable form of dress. China had just opened to travel by foreigners on their own, without a tour group.

My official interpreter in Beijing barely spoke English. I only had him for a day; the rest of the time I was on my own in a most-foreign land. 26 and alone. The only hotels open to foreigners were far from the city center; taking a taxi meant getting the hotel concierge -- who didn't speak much English either -- to write down the destination in Chinese.

How things have changed. For my upcoming trip, I corresponded with an agency in Beijing, which arranged a train ticket that will be delivered to my Beijing hotel. My flights were booked on the Internet.

In the years between, I've been back to China a half-dozen times. Each visit is a time warp -- one time backwards, to a world languishing behind the West. The next time, into a country that has leapfrogged light years into the future.

Who knows what I'll find this year? But you can come along via this blog. I'll post every day that I have Internet access.

Wednesday I take off for Shanghai, where I'll meet up with Bruce Garrison's journalism class from the University of Miami. Maybe check out some of the cutting-edge art galleries that developer-art collector Craig Robins has recommended.

In Beijing, I'll catch up on the latest plans for the 2008 Olympics.

Then I'm on the 48-hour train to Tibet, and finally, to Hong Kong, which is marking 10 years of Chinese rule.

Pass along tips and suggestions for dining, shopping and anything else I shouldn't miss. Just Click to Comment below.

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