They said it was unusual for Hong Kong…for the sun to be out so strong.
Although we’d had considerable rain the day before, we started out our second official day with rays of sun pushing clouds away. Because we would be leaving for Beijing later in the day, we were packed and ready to load into several cabs that took us to the Central train station. It was an impressive concept: We were able to check our bags for the airport at airline counters located at the train station. Tourists and visitors can then ride the train, shop and explore Hong Kong without having to lug their bags everywhere.
With a Starbucks in hand (Hong Kong is very “global”, or is it that Starbucks is “global”?!), we headed to the pier where we would meet Mr. Ronnie Chan on his yacht and tour Victoria Harbour. The yacht pulled up on time, we were greeted with a hearty welcome and as we looked around, Under Secretary of Commerce Sanchez and his staffers soon joined us (actually, we almost forgot them, but I’m hoping they don’t read this blog!).
We headed to Lamma Island, where we had a lovely breakfast in a tiny village setting, talked with the Under Secretary and Ronnie Chan about the relationship between the United States and China and potential relationships for economic growth for both countries. And then, with full stomachs, Ronnie led us on a walking tour of the island, the took us through several unique settings — through back alleys of a village, to the highest points of a mountain, past an old and active temple and a cave where soldiers hid during the war. We saw rocky terrain, lush woods, very blue waters and a nuclear power plant. We saw village women cutting up fish and construction crews standing on bamboo platforms building a theatre for an historical celebration…and somewhere behind the temple, along a string of outdoor restaurants, I located the pile of Coca Cola crates. I was the midst of contradictions, history and progress, poverty and wealth, the past and hopefully, part of the future.
During our hike, Under Secretary Sanchez and his staffers had been taken by boat to the grand opening of a section of the Hong Kong Disneyland, so we boarded the yacht again with a smaller contingent. We gathered below deck and had a spirited conversation with a couple from Israel who were friends of Ronnie’s and were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary… Ruthie and I shared pictures of our children and her grandchildren and I’m sure if we’d had more time, we would have married her grandson to my daughter!
It was late afternoon when we returned to the pier, with hugs all around and much gratitude to Ronnie for a full and eventful day, and we walked to the central train station and caught a train to the airport and headed to Beijing….
In preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China built a new, very efficient and modern “Terminal 3 in their airport, which is now the second busiest airport for passenger traffic in the world, behind Atlanta’s airport. With regard to cargo traffic, Beijing’s airport is now rated 12th in the world for cargo. And yet, with these statistics, to us, it almost seemed like the airport was empty. Perhaps it was because it was so incredibly big and there were no Olympic or event crowds coming through. That made going through Customs fairly easy, though, and I was thrilled to get the very first international stamp on my passport!
As we walked out of the airport to find our van, we were greeted by a videographer and photographer who were going to be monitoring the majority of our trip. Many of the photos I’ll add to this will come from them — by the end of the trip, we elected officials had dubbed our new young friends Barney and Ted (after the characters in “How I Met Your Mother”), and I had quite a bit of fun trying to tease them with our language barrier. [We did find that Google translate worked pretty well on our phones!]
Entering into Beijing, I found it fairly sedate. Almost stark. There was not a lot of activity on the streets, although the city was very pretty. I don’t know still if I can explain it, but the “mood” in Beijing was more reserved and hushed. We arrived at the lovely Kerry Hotel, and rested for an hour before we had dinner with the Asia Manufacturing Association. Another full day, well before dinner!
Side note: We had been told in an earlier conversation to make particular note of the Kerry Hotel toilets — they were actually bidets and had several “options” for personal comfort! Seems that the men found them quite interesting….]
Our van took us to the Temple Restaurant for our dinner with the AMA…I didn’t realize that several members of the AMA had actually ridden with us from the hotel. The restaurant was located down a long alleyway in a remote section of Beijing and in the confines of an ancient temple — the restaurant, and the renovated temple (which we viewed later) were both stunning.
A long table seated about twenty people and we were treated to our first Chinese dinner event, complete with foods we’d never tasted, many toasts and good wishes, lots of translation and the giving of gifts. It was a thrill to be able to present North Carolina pottery to our hosts!
This dinner was the start of good things to come….
Our official agenda for the day:
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Saturday May 11th -Hong Kong, Beijing
06:15 Depart for Central, bus
06:35 Flight Check-in at Hong Kong Station, Central (checked in bags for later flight)
07:30 -12:15 Boat Cruise with Mr. Ronnie Chan and Hon. Francisco J. Sanchez
Breakfast on Lama Island and Hike/Central Pier
14:00 -17:20 Flight to Beijing Flight (depart: 2:00pm; arrive: 5:20pm)
Kerry Hotel Beijing (……… )
19:00 -19:30 Daily Briefing
19:45 Depart for dinner to meet the Asian Manufacturing Association Team
20:30 Dinner at Temple Restaurant Beijing with AMA members!
22:00 Back to the hotel