Saturday, September 3, 2011

Touring China

In May, the Helton-Thomas Duo ( completed its second recital and master class tour of China. This year we performed recitals and presented master classes in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Beijing.  Concert repertoire for this tour was taken from our CD which we recorded soon after our return home.

The food is amazing.  During my first trip to China, every day for ten days I was treated to magnificent meals (banquets, really) for both lunch and dinner. I was stunned by the tremendous variety of foods; we went to a Szechuan restaurant, a Hunan restaurant, a Hot Pot restaurant, a Beijing Duck restaurant, and many more. Each one was radically different from the others. In fact, it was five days (ten restaurants) before I even saw one dish repeated. The contrast with what we call Chinese Restaurants in the US couldn’t have been more striking. 

After three visits to China (2007, 2010, 2011) I have become a more adventurous eater.  Some of the more exotic foods I have tried have included: snake, duck gizzard, calmari, kiwi juice, abalone, dragon fruit, sea cucumber, duck lung, and a number of things I could not even identify.  I even liked a lot of it (the kiwi juice was amazing; snake, quite tasty)!

The cities are huge.  Beijing is a city of 30 million people.  Forty-five minutes away by train is Tianjin, a city of 8 million people.   Okay, so it was a bullet train that cruised at 355 km/hr (220 mi/hr), but many people, so near each other.  And when you are in the city on foot, you quickly learn that the maps make things look quite close together when they really are not. A good pair of walking shoes is indispensable!

Jet lag.  It seems that most people can adapt to the 12-hour difference in time pretty well when travelling from the US to China.  The difficult part is adjusting to the time change when flying from China to the US.  It has taken me two weeks or more to get back to normal after one of these trips.

The people are nice. Everyone we met in China was very gracious and generous toward us.  Everything from their smiling faces as they welcomed us in airports and train stations, to the lavish welcome dinners with friends, to their attentiveness in master classes and concerts, and the genuine interest shown in our experiences and opinions, displayed the genuine warmth and good-heartedness of everyone we met.

We're looking forward to our next visit in 2012!!