We had another amazing trip to China in September 2007. It felt strange to be leaving for an overseas trip from our temporary sabbatical home in Paris, and not from our permanent home in Urbana, but it all worked out well.
The other articles about HANGZHOU are under October, 2007, so check out the date box on the lower right.
FOLLOWING THE FLAG
Hangzhou, China, Sept 2007
We’ve finally done it; been in a tour group that followed a (Yellow) Flag! An experience that validated all our preconceptions.We tend to do our own thing when we travel, but do sometimes join a very small group. Usually, we encounter large groups, the members perhaps all wearing the same color caps/T-shirts or name tags, trailing around after a leader holding a flag on a stick, a leader who raises his/her voice, trying vainly to give some information in the noisy chatter of other groups. The group straggles after the leader and we always wonder how much they actually get to see/learn. We’ve always thought, How awful! No time to stop and really look (and heaven forbid that you want to go sideways and take a picture of something else!), being at the back of the group and hearing nothing, always worrying about missing your bus or losing your group.
Well, it’s all true.
In Hangzhou, the conference arranged a Saturday excursion for all the visitors, mostly from other Asian countries, but including 4 westerners (Chris, John, Rod and I). Three busses. We were bus #2 and had to follow the yellow flag. Our leader sometimes walked quite quickly so we certainly weren’t trailing—it was more like sprinting, trying to keep up—but at other times he stopped to talk and we all milled around, hearing nothing. He often didn’t hold the flag very high, so it became a genuine issue of trying to keep him in sight. Hangzhou is a huge city and the sights were all packed that Saturday, with so many other groups following other leaders and flags that it soon became very tiring and tiresome.
Walking from one temple along the lake shore to catch a boat, we actually did lose John, but luckily a Chinese student stayed with him and got him back to the group about 3 stops further on. As we got on our boat I’d said, “Where’s John?” and they told us he was on the other boat.
Other than paying to have an individual guide (unless you happen to know a Chinese student) there didn’t seem to be any other way for foreigners to get around that part of Hangzhou, so we were caught in our group!