China – 1995 – Beijing

My wife and I have always wanted to travel. Her uncles were tour guides in years past and part of her family and mine came from and still lives in England. She had lived in Italy while in the Navy and in England for a short time with family, many years ago.

Our son was fascinated by the Great Wall of China as a young boy. We often told him that we would take him to see it when he was fifteen if he was still interested. When he was fifteen, he told us that he was still interested in seeing it.

The stars had lined up properly, primarily due to the good planning of my wife, and we were able to do just that.

When we landed in Beijing the airport was quite small and looked like an army barracks. The parking lot was small and in need of repair. The country was just opening up to the world again.

Once we were settled in Beijing in a fine hotel, we could see the city as it lay outside our room. There were people riding bicycles with trailers behind them carrying all sorts of goods. We saw couches being carried on the back of bicycles along the main road.

The air looked polluted already, but our guide told us that a lot of the haze that we were seeing was just dust coming in from the Gobi Desert

There were still thousands of the typical small buildings called Siheyuans with the small alleys called hutongs that created the warrens in Beijing, but they were being quickly destroyed. The new city that would rise here would be a modern one.

Our guides were quite open with us about the fact that some people were starting to make money in real estate. One woman told us about her husband and their situation. They each had an apartment and when they married and moved in together, they rented out their now vacant apartment, but quietly so as not to be noticed. That was perhaps the sign of the beginning of what now has made a Chinese growth and development explosion possible. There were already many Mercedes on the roads all over the city.

The city was huge and very busy. On one of our first nights we went to an old theater in Beijing and saw the Chinese acrobats perform. The building was countless years old and the show was great.

We were now in Beijing and beginning our next adventure.