Christmas in China

What does one do on Christmas day when at the beach?  Go to the beach of course!  It was going to be a long day, we had plans at Yalong Bay (a little swim and sun time) followed by (another) party thrown by Winston.  Winston was showing some yachts at the yacht show and had invited us to come down to the marina, but the lure of the beach was too great and we passed on his offer.  Before heading out for our long day, we stopped at one of the beach front restaurants for some breakfast.

Every time I went to a sea food restaurant in China, it was much of the same wherein all of the fish (and or other live animals offered for eating) were displayed in some sort of fish tank.  You walk with the restaurant proprietor, select your fish, she kills it and takes it to the back for cooking.  I captured the two photos (above and below) to show what the sidewalk in front of most of these restaurants looks like.  You can see that there is a wide variety of fish including eels and all sorts of other “exotic” fish, snails, clams, starfish, cuttlefish, crabs, lobsters and pretty much anything else you can find “alive” in the ocean.

I finally found the polarized lens for the camera and was able to capture the ocean view in a photo that actually looks like what it did to the naked eye.  The ocean in Hainain is actually quite beautiful and the white sand beaches make for a beautiful baby blue color near the shore that fades to a deep blue azure further out to sea.

Winston was throwing another party and invited us to attend.  It was located on the top floor of a local (and popular) restaurant located near his businesses.  I believe that the yacht show was a success and he had a sale or two and was entertaining some dignitaries from Beijing, some business leaders, some customers, a few friends, and of course Anya and I.  In the photo above, we are seated next to an official from the Chinese Olympic Committee (left) and a professor from the University in Beijing (middle).  Her field of academic interest was about maritime trade and history and her thesis was based on the life and exploits of the most famous Chinese mariner of all time, Zheng He.

She started to explain who Zheng He was when I said, “He’s China’s greatest mariner; he sailed all over the Pacific, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and sailed to the west many times setting up Chinese colonies everywhere he went.”  She looked surprised and said, “You know Zheng He then?”  I replied that I had and told her that I had recently read a book about him and the author made an analysis that Zheng He’s colonies that he set up in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, in Thailand and even in India and Africa have made business for modern Chinese merchants easier as they have other Chinese merchants in foreign markets to trade with.  She said that this was the thesis of her graduate paper and that this view had come to be accepted in Chinese academia.  She then made the comment (refering to my knowledge of Zheng He) saying, “I’m impressed.”  Right then, Anya said, “So am I.”  I basked in the acknowlegement for a moment, content that I had chosen History as my major.

Some of the other guests included business leaders and a golf pro who teaches golf (primarily to Chinese tourists) at a resort in Korea (photo above, front row right in blue Hawaii shirt).  Our gold pro was good fun telling us all kinds of stories about his work at the resort, about British and American tourists and of course stories about his Chinese clientele.

Winston brough cases of wine and we tasted and tasted, he and Anya explaining to the table the differences in taste or aroma for each particular wine.  We tried some sparkling wines, desert wines, red and white, and there seemed to be no end to the flowing bottles.  In no time everyone was laughing and having a fun time joking and telling stories.

At one point, the Olympic official asked Anya and I our opinion of China and the Chinese people.  We told him how impressed we were with the Chinese people’s generosity and grace.  He and the other guests seemed quite proud to hear such appreciation for China from western visitors.  We toasted to China and he and the the other guests toasted to friendship and our visit.

Of all the Christmas days I remember since I was a little boy, this day will certainly stand out as one of the most memorable Christmas days of all.


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Godfather’s party

Our original plan was for a two-day visit to Guilin with one overnight.  Curry and Erica had a prior engagement and we were going to go back to Yangshuo while they attended a family party.  Never leave it past the Chinese to surprise you with their hospitality; when Curry’s family heard that we were guests in town, we were invited to come to the party as well.

As we sat in a western style coffee shop, Curry and Erica filled us in on all the details.  Anya and I had invited them so that they could try an Irish Coffee.  Erica did not care for the Irish Coffee but did fall in love with the chocolate mocha.  This was Erica and Curry’s first time with western or European style coffee and we ordered one of everything on the menu.  It was fun watching their reactions as they tried different coffees.

Curry’s Godfather had just purchased a new home and he was having a party to celebrate.  As Curry and Erica explained the details of the party and the customs involved – gift giving – etc., we listened with great curiosity.  “You must never give shoes as a gift, this is a great insult.”  “Hmm…. I thought to myself, make a mental note, no shoes as gifts…”  Erica continued, “And you should never give a watch as a gift.”  When asked why, she explained that a watch signified time and that by giving a watch, you might be implying that the person will die.  This is also bad luck.

“So, what is a good gift?”  I asked to which Erica replied, “Oh, cash is always good.”  She went on to explain that cash is given in a small red envelope.  “How much does one give?”  Erica further explained that the amount given varies depending on how rich you are, how well you know the person, their social standing, and the importance of the occasion.  A marriage gift would be larger than a house warming gift and a 50 year birthday gift larger than say 47 years.

While we sipped our coffee, Curry said that he would run to the “red envelope store” to get an envelope for his gift to the Godfather.  I guess they have a shop that specializes in making these envelopes.  We said that we would like to give a gift as well and Curry agreed to get us an envelope also.  Apparently, the envelope has the gift giver and recipient’s name on it and some greeting or wish of good luck.  After Curry brought out envelope back, I snapped a photo of it (above).

When we arrived, all of the guests buzzed around us like we were rock stars.  Curry and Erica had pulled a rabbit out of the hat by bringing along some westerners to the party and everyone wanted to come over and greet us and learn more about us and to find out why we were at the party.  The Godfather’s family was so nice to us and everyone made us feel so at home.  A large party room on the second floor of a restaurant was reserved for the party and we made our way there and were seated at one of the large tables.  I asked Curry to pose with his Godfather so that I could capture a photo.

Godfather spared no expense and had two massive tables covered in food.  We ate and ate and drank and then ate some more.  Toasts were ongoing and the table kept rotating and we pulled from each dish as it passed by in continuous movement.  I cannot even begin to remember all of the different dishes and exotic appetizers.  The food was wonderful and everyone talked and laughed and ate.

Eventually, we all posed for photos as two dozen cameras were passed around and everyone had a few on their own cameras.  It was a beautiful night spent with a beautiful family and I was so happy to have been invited into their world and have one of their special nights shared with me.

Later, Godfather ordered more  wine (watch out for the rice wine – it is strong!) and toasts were made again and again.  If someone yells out “Gan-bey,” be careful, that means “bottoms up!” and you have to finish the whole glass!

Just when I thought the part was over, I was told that we were heading to the second phase of the party – to see Godfather’s new house (the cause for the celebration).  We captured a group shot heading down the stairway back into the main hall of the restaurant.

As we walked out of the private party room to the main hall of the restaurant, everyone looked up – westerners are not too common in Guilin and we received a lot of stares.  I shot a pic of the restaurant and included it so that you can see what a typical Saturday night at a popular restaurant in China looks like.


Stories, posts, reports, photos, videos and all other content on this site is copyright protected © and is the property of Scott Traveler unless otherwise indicated, all rights reserved. Content on this site may not be reproduced without permission from Scott Traveler. My contact information can be found on the home page.

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