30 years ago today on January 26, 1989, I first set foot in China.
I followed the backpacker’s trail of the day. Hongkong, Guangzhou, Yangshuo, Yunnan, Leshan, Chengdu, Xi’an, Beijing. I still let Lonely Planet dictate my travel routes. In fact, coming across their first China guidebook in a guesthouse in Indonesia a few months before had made me come to China in the first place.
It wasn’t easy. It was a struggle to get a ticket for a bus or train, a bed in a hotel. The towns were mostly drab and grey. It was frustrating at times, but fascination won out big time, fascination with the masses of people, the endless bus and train journeys, the size of Beijing and its boulevards and monuments, the curiosity of the people.
Little could I know that I would return to the country countless times. That I would visit countless places, known at first, off the beaten track later. That I would be a tour leader in China. That I would circle the globe several times, distance-wise, on Chinese hard sleeper trains. That I would one day learn the language. That I would live in Kunming.
Nor could I imagine the enormous changes that would come to China. Who could?
It has been a special ride. It still is.