High Road to China

Today’s Post by Ken MacAdams

While solidly anchored in the land of sleep, a new, foreign noise crept in; a man riding by on his bicycle in the darkness outside our apartment, radio blaring, sharing his Asian music with the world. Now awake, I turned grinning to Mary and said, “We’re in China, honey!”

Recently, I wrote a series of posts on my blitz visit to Amsterdam. Today, I’m in China, and this is no blitz! I’m doing the ‘expat’ thing and living here in China. I’ll be writing this series to give you an insiders view of what it’s like to be living in a foreign land like a local.

As part of introducing you to China, I’ll spend a few moments telling you about the ‘expat’ entry process. Visiting China requires a visa; I have a multiple re-entry tourist visa valid for 10 years. I’m allowed 60 days in the country, from the arrival date stamp in my passport, until I depart. China is strict about monitoring immigration; there are consequences for overstaying your visit. Arriving solo (not part of a tour group), I have 72 hours to register with the police in the precinct where I’ll be living. Because the local police speak little if any English, I bring the necessary paperwork, Passport, our lease agreement, the landlords ID. Usually the process flows smoothly, and I’m sent off with a smile! With the exception of businessmen, most visiting foreigners arrive with a tour group. When the group checks in to their first (and subsequent) hotels, the hotel requires your passport, so your movement in the country is documented.

The city where we’re living is the ancient city of Xi’an. It’s located in the center of the Peoples Republic of China. The famed Silk Road originated here, where merchandise, tea, and spices flowed westward, and goods from Europe came to Asia. It’s home to the renowned Terra Cotta Warriors. Xi’an is the only remaining city in China to have the original ancient wall in place, ringing the old part of the city and dividing it from the modern urban sprawl. Xi’an is a major stop for most tour groups, of both national and international origin. In future entries, I’ll be sharing with you a slice of life, a glimpse of day to day existence so different, often so foreign to me, yet so normal to these people! Welcome to China!  

In my previous travels here, I’ve packed my professional DSLR. The weight of the body, lens, charger, becomes daunting in day-to-day movement. I returned with a lighter, more compact kit. Micro Four Thirds seemed to be the best choice but would it return image quality worthy of my stock photo inventory? I’m quite confident after several months of traveling and using my Panasonic Lumix G85, both for events and travel photography, that I won’t be sacrificing image quality for the sake of weight.

Because of the smaller footprint of the camera body, I was able to switch to a smaller camera backpack. Besides the camera body, I carry a second lens, the Lumix G 35–100mm f/2.8 OIS. I keep a Panasonic Battery Grip affixed to the camera with spare battery loaded. While that adds a few ounces of weight, I find the combination fits my hands well. I keep a Lumix 12–60mm Power OIS lens, which I use as my ‘go to’ lens, affixed in normal use. This combination is half the weight of my previous set up.

The above image was taken on a grueling hike in the HueShan mountains, east of Xi’an. The hiking trail is on the top of the ridge, with shear drop-offs on either side. Not for the faint of heart, yet it was an incredibly beautiful area of peaks and valleys.

Follow along as I take you on an enticing journey through time, from ancient to modern day China!