In September 1985, my mother asked me to accompany her for a visit to China. I asked her why she did not want to go with my dad, and she replied that my father had already visited China few times. I agreed, knowing that it would be an uphill task, as my mother was already in her seventies, full of illnesses, and could not walk much. The trip was planned in such a way that it must be short, probably 7 to 9 days, more flying, and to cover Guangzhou, Beijing and Guilin – all her favourite destinations. The only tour available was conducted by Chan Bros. The itinerary was: Singapore/Hong Kong/Guangzhou/Beijing/Guilin/Guangzhou/HK/Singapore.
It was a brave attempt. I forgot that so far I myself had not flown outside Singapore, hence a rookie traveller, and to look after my sick mother, her heavy luggage, and medicines was something like mission impossible. Furthermore, a few years before this trip, my mother had heart-murmurs in UK, which short-circuited my father’s planned trip to Europe, and subsequently they travelled to Ireland to see my restaurant-owner cousin instead.
To make a long story short, my mother enjoyed every minute of her trip despite her physical and medical constraints. Everywhere we went, she would either sit in the bus, stay in the hotel, or sit near the entrance of the tourist spot, doing very little walking. For example, at the Forbidden City, she sat near the entrance of ‘wu men’ the spot where the emperor ordered the execution of prisoners. She could not walk much, but making friends was her top priority.
Luckily we had the company of one Mr Kwan who brought along his family comprising of his wife, daughter (a cute toddler of about four years old) and his mother-in-law. This adorable little girl used to ask me: “Uncle where do you stay?” I replied, “In AMK”. She asked again: “Where is AMK?” I replied: “I don’t know.” She retorted: “How can you don’t know?” The bantering went on. This little girl had great stamina, climbing the Great Wall with ease. In hotels and restaurants, all the waitresses, on seeing her, wanted to hug her, calling her “bao bao”.
In Guangzhou, we went to a restaurant called Tai SamYuen, the eating place my grandma used to recall with fondness. But I found the food of this Chinatown-like restaurant to be so-so. Mr Kwan bought some boxes of moon-cakes, costing about 15 Renminbi per box, equivalent to about S$3 per box; very cheap. I pleaded with my mother not to buy more things as I could not cope with the burden anymore. All in all, I found the Forbidden City and Great Wall an eye-opener, Guangzhou a nostalgic farming land of my ancestors, Guilin indeed a scenic place of great beauty and Hong Kong just enough time to pass by.
This was the only time my mother visited the land of her ancestors which made her very happy, but at the same time many complaints, because of her poor physical condition. She passed away in July 2000, a year before my father’s demise. Well, for me, an impossible mission had become possible. Thank goodness nothing serious happened during the trip. I am pleased that I did something for her that satisfied her life-long wish.
A Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.
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