WildChina’s guides and local partners across China are an experienced group of travel professionals. Their wealth of experience, humor, and knowledge can be easily discerned from dealing with them in person, and WildChina feels that we could bring some of this to the blog.
Gerard Shi is a Xi’an native handling tours in and around the city. Speaking with him recently, WildChina was amused and heartened by his stories. He has seen the development in Chinese tourism, and by proxy the economy over the course of his life. He began with a story from his youth: “When I was small, anyone could visit things inside the city wall.” Specifically a garden filled with 1000 year-old stone tablets was accessible to everyone, and kids would play hide and seek there. “We would play and there and nobody came and said ‘ok, you need to buy a ticket,’ but now we don’t have that freedom.” Now, he remarked, both tickets and good behavior are required.
Increasing Chinese prosperity has been both allowed and shaped by these changes. Gerard remembers being sent to market by his mother for meat and instructed “一定要肥的” (I want the fatty kind) because fatty meat also cheaply provided the cooking oil his family needed. Now he posits that the Chinese are more prosperous in general, and are “no longer starving.” On occasion, he likes to emphasize this with his tours, responding to any comments on slow service at restaurants with “I arranged this especially for you, I wanted you to have the special experience of being a starving child in China,” implying slow service is tantamount to starvation in earlier times.
He also narrated an excerpt from one of his trips that gave an interesting perspective on the travel industry and its growth in China. One summer, he led a New York dentist and his family through the city. He took them to see a few sights around town and after a few days, said goodbye to them as they embarked on the next part of their tour. As he took on another group, he noticed a similar pattern: another New York family, and the father was also a dentist. Asking out of curiosity whether they knew his last guest, he found that they were friends and arranged for them to meet when their itineraries came next to each other in Guilin.
Quoting the Chinese maxim “to meet an old friend in a distant land is like the delight of rain after a drought,” Gerard asserted that people may only come to China once, and he will do all he can to show them the best sides of the old and new China. “Seeing is believing”, he says, and his job is only done when they have seen China in the most enjoyable way possible, with an opportunity to Experience China Differently.
To learn more about our journeys to Xi’an, please visit our website or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Gerard Shi