In the year of 2011 was my first visit to China. Nothing too special about that but it was also the first time (and only time thus far) that my parents visited China. Through this Guest Post by my wife you learned already few basics about my dear mother. As you can imagine the whole idea of visiting China was not a dream of my mother. She was scared of the country itself, the many people, the food, the hygiene, the plane, getting lost at the airport and did I mentioned the food before? My father on the other hand was really excited about this trip. He pretty much didn’tt care at all about all the things my mother was scared of except one thing, public toilets in China. My old man is not the youngest anymore, meaning that any kind of “squatting” his pretty much impossible for him.
Everything started during spring time when we had the great idea to have our engagement dinner in China, together with the whole family. As a joke my wife suggested that I should invite my parents as well. I kinda didn’t get the joke and actually asked my parents. My mom was shocked, and said she wouldn’t even board the plane and my father wanted to know the details already on the phone. Three months later my wife and I were waiting in Xi’an for my parents to arrive at the airport and of course my parents actually arrived without any harm (just a bit exhausted).
The entire trip to China was already an adventure worth writing a very own article about. Lets just say it involved them not being able to park the car at Helsinki airport, hearing their names mentioned through the airport announcements about gates being closed, having very noisy people on the plane, arriving at Beijing and being lost, mobile phone without service and thus not being able to call us for help, not being able to ask for help as they only speak German and Finnish, a changed gate to Xi’an at Beijing airport and running all over Beijing airport…
Anyways my parents arrived during late afternoon and were welcomed by my in-laws and family friends. Already during the first evening we had a program planned for them (even though they were pretty exhausted). We visited the fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda with a short tour around the surrounding area and of course a big dinner. As you can imagine dinner time meant horror time for my dear mother and MIL was not exactly helpful in this situation either as she just piled up more food on my mothers plate. Mom ate always bravely the plate empty, without having a clue what food it was, and MIL piled up more…
During the one week in Xi’an we visited together most of the main attraction such as the Terracotta Army, the Tang Paradise, Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show, Drum and Bell Tower and also the Muslim Quarter. My parents both got a new hairstyle plus massage at a hairdresser, a full body massage (my father with cupping) and a lot of food. For my mother at least one dream got fulfilled, she got a silk shirt tailored, something which is of course also possible in Europe but usually very very expensive.
I am not sure anymore what we all ate but it was very much. The engagement dinner was interesting as we had also Camel served which I didn’t mention to my parents until the dinner was done. Otherwise it was pretty uneventful, probably due to the exact planning by my wife who had an “activity plan” done already weeks before the trip. In the end we also spent one day in Beijing and did a little sightseeing tour. Beijing has mixed feelings when I think back due to the fact that we never could get any taxi and then we a wild “black taxi” trip back to the hotel.
In the end I can say that it was a nice trip but a bit too exhausting for my parents. We had too much in the program and it all involved walking around a great deal. To make it worse it was during Juli, meaning temperatures to make the asphalt on the streets melt. Furthermore my mother couldn’t handle the air-condition and ended up getting sick in the end and suffered the last day when flying from Xi’an to Beijing. For the next time they come to China (my mother doesn’t know about her luck yet) we have planned a much more relaxing holiday for them with trips to the nearby hot springs and it will be either during spring time or during autumn to escape the hot summer.
25 thoughts on “My Parents first trip to China”
Although there are a lot of challenges, that’s cool that your parents came to visit. On the one hand retirees like to travel, on the other hand the older you are the harder it is to get used to new things (For example, being more open-minded about exotic food…)
My parents still haven’t visited, and I always recommend they do. I don’t know if I’ll ever have any engagement/wedding ceremony here but that seems to be the best way to get family to make the trip!
Well, even if its not for an egagment or wedding, there are still plenty of reasons for your parents to visit. I bet you can think of several means to convince them, afterall you are an author thus creativity shoulsnt be a problem 🙂
“…dinner time meant horror time”. Hahaha. It’s funny how your MIL and Chinese family (and my Malaysian family) too can shove down food and more food and even more food into their bottom-less pit stomachs. Your mum was very polite to eat everything heaped onto her plate. I suppose she might have thought since she was there, she might as well have a go at exotic food…
It’s great to hear that you have plenty planned for your parents should they visit China again. Their first trip wasn’t too horrific it seems, so they might want to have a few things that they want to do in China the second time round 🙂 By the way, I didn’t know engagement parties were a thing in China. In fact, I didn’t know engagement parties were a thing. Reckon I’m quite ignorant on this subject.
Oh, I dont know either if engagement parties are a thing in China or anywhere else in the world. We just thought it would be nice to have a family dinner together for that occasion 🙂
Up till that time I was myself rather ignorant of such things or related matters. Now I have a bit more insight but still get easily confused when “experts” start talking about how to celebrate their wedding or engagement
Wow. What an adventure. What is up with the camel? Ew. Is that traditional Han Chinese? What did it taste like? So many questions! 😀
I really wonder how they got the idea for camel. I do not really believe that camel is traditional Han Chinese stuff as no one else had ever tried it before. About the taste I cant say much, the amount of different spices killed pretty much the original taste so they could have given me a cucumber and proclaimed it as camel and I wouldnt notice
Wow!! I have been waiting for this post! It is so awesome that your dad was so open to trying new things and I know how he felt – I even hate using squat toilets!
My parents have never visited Taiwan yet and I don’t think they ever will. Both of my parents have the same attitude as your mom’s and I don’t believe they would be ‘polite’ when people encourage them to try new things. They are pretty much set in their ways and it is hard to get them to try something different. I have never forced the idea and whenever it is mentioned by my husband, it seems to be met with a lack of interest.
It is pretty hard to motivate people like my mother to try out new things. Usually she doesnt know about her luck until it is too late for her to escape! For example we wont tell her about the next China trip until a week before the flight I guess or even until they actually leave for the airport.
The hardest part for my parents was the hot weather. Anything over 30 degrees celsius is hard on elderly people and then they had to walk around half of the day and the rest of the day try out new food…
I agree!! I am not sure about China, but the humidity is so high in Taiwan that it sucks the energy out of everyone and add high temps to the situation, it makes it almost unbearable!
The Chinese gate in your header photo looks similar to the Chinese gate at the entrance to Yokohama Chinatown.
I have a photo of it towards the end of this post:
In case you can’t find the photo I’m talking about…it’s here:
Contrast the Chinese gate to a Japanese one:
It indeed looks similar. I think they have all over the Asian countries in “older” town areas similar gates. I have seen pictures from Thailand, Malaysia and Korea with this kind of gates. Right now I wonder what they mean, as in the case of my pictures the gate leads to a street filled with old buildings in the old city center of Xi’an
I don’t know the meaning of Chinese gates. In Yokohama, it’s just the entrance to Chinatown.
The red Japanese “torii” gates are the entrance to Japanese Shinto shrines.
My mom visited us about 3 times in the Philippines and once in Vanuatu. My dad stayed home. He said he had enough traveling during WWII. (He fought in N. Africa, Italy, France and Germany.) My mom loved seeing and eating new things, even in Vanuatu, which in some ways is quite primitive–although the bathrooms were OK. On one outing she visited an aborigine village where the women went topless and the men wore only a “penis wrapper.” Before we moved overseas, she had never been out of the US–except to Canada.
It’s a good idea that you are planning your parents’ next trip for spring or fall.
This was a funny story. It’s awesome that you’re parents were willing to fly to China on their own. even with the language barrier. My family is so use to the country side in Texas they don’t ever want to leave. Your mother was very polite to eat all the mystery food. My family loves to eat, but they have their limits. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if my parents were to meet my Chinese boyfriend’s family. There wouldn’t be a lot of room for conversation. 🙂 I hope one day my family would be willing to immerse themselves in another culture.
My mom is the worst person you can imagine when it comes to visit new places or trying out food. Whatever she doesnt know already for the past 70 years is bad! But thankfully she coped rather well in China 🙂
Probably you just need to “force” your family a bit for their own good/ luck
Hahaha. Almost sounds like my parents’ first visit to Korea. After 3 days, my mom was ready to board the plane back to Denmark. Too many people, too strange food:)
Yeah, I think Moms are very difficult to take care of in a strange country 😀
Quite an itinerary for them, I’ve never been to China, my dad is the only one in our family who has been. Quite an experience for them..
I think it gets for many people harder and harder to travel around/ to other countries as they will harder time to adjust to the timezone changes, climate, food and last but not least to the people.
We plan to invite my parents again next spring to China….
Yes, my dad no longer goes on long haul flights abroad which is quite sad as he used to be such an adventurer. He travelled to many, many places when he was a young man, now he stays in Europe or goes on cruises. But it is wonderful that he can still travel at his age as he is now in his mid eighties.
It still good that he is able to do these smaller travels in his age. My father will turn 74 next month so we want that they get one last time to China as you can never know how the health will be
Yes, it is great to do as much as they can while they still can. My mother still manages to go to Malaysia to see her relatives but she is much younger than my dad.