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What Andrea And I Did On Our Chinese Holidays

We left Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon (November 1st) and arrived in Beijing on Thursday morning. The airport was not particularly odd except for a notice advising us not to bring any Dog, Cat, Snake, Blood, Lynx or Plantseeds into the country. We haggled ferociously with a taxi driver and beat him down to what we found later was only about three times what we should have paid. Our hotel room was fine, except for the view over a building site. Apparently we have to pay a supplement to the "city development fund" for this privilege. Spent the rest of the day looking round shops.

On Saturday we saw some of the main touristy places, such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (complete with a taped English commentary from former 007 Roger Moore). We had our first encounter with the underground system; the main thing to know is that you mustn't wait for people to get off the train before you charge on. In the evening we saw Chinese Chess being played in the street (still no Go), and we went back to our room to watch some Chinese TV - which turned out to be Newcastle v Liverpool live!

On Sunday we went to Tiantan park very early to see tai qi, sword-dancing, aerobics, people playing badminton with table-tennis bats and so on. Later we met up with Feng Yun (8-dan professional) and her husband Su Hong. They very kindly showed us round Tiantan, bought us lunch, took us shopping, and then invited us back to their house for some tea. We looked through Feng Yun's photo collection which included pictures of her Cambridge visit - featuring Oliver Riordan, Alex Ridgeon etc. We also saw some photos of the previous Women's World Go championship. In one picture Rui Nawei (9-dan) is looking very happy and holding a huge cheque for $30,000 dollars while Feng Yun is looking a bit downcast and holding a cheque for $7,000 for coming second.

Su Hong and Feng Yun then treated us to dinner, which featured duck gizzards, jellyfish, 1000-year-old eggs, tripe and pig's ears. Feng Yun revealed that her main ambition is to get to 9-dan. She told us about the various places she has travelled to - Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia. She would very much like to go to France. Her favourite places in England are Kew Gardens and Bath. Su Hong is keen on football and he talked to us about Eric Cantona and Paul Gascoigne. When we got back to our hotel, we found a note in our room entirely in Chinese characters. It was very difficult to translate because it was written in very flowery and deferential language. Eventually we realised that it was telling us to pay off part of our bill or else!

On Monday we went on Feng Yun's invitation to watch the games in the first round of the BaWang professional tournament. This was held at the Qi Yuan - where professional players of Go, Chess and Chinese Chess work. The building is large and quite modern. We were asked to wait in the reception downstairs, where there was a lot of Go equipment for sale, including Go sets from £3. In other places you find Go equipment in sports departments. Then we were taken up to the playing room, which contained around 30 Go players, and also the largest demo board I have ever seen. All the top professionals were there: Ma (9-dan) was playing, and Nie (9-dan) was wandering around watching - I guess that his game had already finished. The players generally drank tea: some from cups, some from jam jars and one from a pint beer mug! There seemed to be quite a buzz around Ma's game, and we wondered if he might be losing - impossible to tell from the position on the board, but it turned out to be true. Feng Yun won her game by 1 point. We watched for about 90 minutes and then left.

On Tuesday we saw a Taoist temple and also the Beijing Opera (with English subtitles!). The following day Su Hong and Feng Yun took us to see the Great Wall. It was very kind of them to go to such trouble - especially as they had to borrow a car specially for the day. The wall was wonderful, and also surprisingly peaceful and quiet.

The following day we hired bikes and cycled off to see the Fragrant Hills and Summer Palace. My bike appeared to be called the "Flying Pigeon" and it lacked bell, lights, functioning brakes or much in the way of padding on the saddle. We spent some seven hours cycling, had a puncture repaired for about 15p, went on a rather hairy cable car ride, and saw somebody carrying a three piece suite on the back of a tricycle. Cycling in the dark was fun, as no bikes in Beijing have lights.

Before we left we wished Feng Yun good luck in her forthcoming tournament in Korea (she later won this, and is now Women's World champion). The next day we came home - and realised we had spent ten whole days in China without playing a single game of Go!

(From Tesuji 33, 1996)