I studied Chinese in high school, all the way to year 12, though I barely remember any now. I’ve eaten with chopsticks since I was a kid. I just remember chopsticks being in the cutlery drawer with everything else, like the little cake forks you use to eat cake. They’ve always just been there.
I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times, either as a 3 or 4 day stop over going to or from somewhere else, or for around a week with the school band, I played the bass clarinet. But I had never made it to mainland China.
Dad had been interested in going for years. Dad convinced mum to go by organising the trip through an agent with dedicated guides and drivers each day to take us around.
On our second day in Chiang Mai my sister organised for a Thai cooking lesson. We were picked up from the hotel in a songthaew (or สี่ล้อ / S̄ī̀ l̂x – four wheels). The car did a lap of Chiang Mai picking up other groups are other hotels.
One group got in the back with us. Michael started talking with them and we soon found out they were a family from France, and their father was Greek. They then got on like a house on fire for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day I had breakfast in the hotel and waited for Alex and his wife, Lyn, to meet me before we headed out for the day. I got a message saying they were going to be a bit late, so I should head out in the morning first and they’ll meet me a little later at the hotel, so I went for a wander.
I had an early start today, a very early start. I had to catch the first train out of Shinjuku going to the airport for my whirlwind trip to Seoul, Korea. To make getting around easier I arranged to leave my suitcase at the hotel in Tokyo, and just take a backpack with me.
There were two day trips we planned to do from Tokyo while we were there. One to see Mt Fuji (but not go to Mt Fuji) and one to the north to Nikko National park. We thought that we should be able to do the Mt Fuji trip ourselves on the trains, but the Nikko one would have been a little more complicated, and decided to get a guided coach tour for that. The tour group did hotel pickups from Shinjuku, but not ours. I’m not surprised I wouldn’t want to try and get a coach through the tiny street it was on. I rang them up to confirm the pickup location at Shinjuku Station, the hotel phones didn’t dial external numbers so I used Hangouts on my phone.
The probable with going to eat with more than one person is the endless procession from place to place because no one is willing to commit. Those that know this know you eat at the first place no one has any strong feelings against. A “Yeah, I guess” should be considered a roaring endorsement and the location settled.
After a rather busy morning at the Taj Mahal we still had the rest of the day in Agra. After an awkward breakfast where we were asked how it was going several times between mouthfuls we met back with the guide and headed off. On the way to Agra Fort he said they had a place to show us that wouldn’t take too long. We had specified in the contract with the travel agent that we never wanted to be taken to any markets or other random places that we didn’t already agree to. With some annoyance we proceeded onto a place where they make marble goods with inlaid stone, some thing we had seen a fair bit of at the Taj Mahal.
Day 5 started with my parents’ friends, Howard and Jill who live in Mussoorie, meeting us in the hotel. They had come down from Dehradun on an overnight train. We went downstairs for breakfast and to catch up. Howard and Jill work at an international school in Mussoorie, Woodstock. They have lived in India for quite a number of years starting in the 90’s and raised a family here. Both speak a little both of Hindi and Howard can converse quite happily in Bengali for hours with anyone he has just met. He will just walk up to someone and start a conversation.