By Sophia Hsu
By a stroke of luck, this writer got the chance of a lifetime recently: an all inclusive tour of China. This was the first trip of its kind for the Miss NY Chinese pageant and, hopefully, not the last. For 14 days, I followed 14 semi-finalists of the 2011 Miss NY Chinese Beauty Pageant as they visited seven cities on their goodwill tour of China. And on each of those days, I got up early, went to bed late, ate three not-so-balanced meals, people watched, and listened to stories.
For the next few days, we only spent one night in each city. Shanghai was here and gone in the blink of an eye. Suzhou was an entire day outside in a heat and humidity rarely experienced in NYC. The city is truly beautiful. Known as the Venice of the East, Suzhou was more akin to a Colonial Williamsburg, where houses and gardens are kept up so that tourists can enjoy the splendor of an earlier time. Suzhou is also home to the Embroidery Institute, where students learn what was formerly a pervasive art form and is now rarely seen beyond the walls of the institute, and the Silk Museum.
Our hosts in each city showered the contestants with praise and welcomed them with open arms. We were treated to the best hotels, shown the best parts of the country, and invited to enjoy local delicacies of the highest quality. From Suzhou, we continued slightly north and mostly west to Nanjing to be on the globally- recognized dating show “Fei Cheng Wu Rao”. The girls were treated as special guest stars in the audience, with a few moments of airtime for a couple of the girls.
Nanjing gave way to Hefei in the Anhui province, a little bit more northwest into the country. We got to stay at the Lakeside Hotel Hefei
in the same building where President Hu Jintao normally stays when he is in the area. It was the most relaxed part of the trip with a handful of banquets, appearances, and four tapings at the television station of a local game show pitting beauty contestants against other beauty contestants. Luckily, the girls won three out of the four games and walked away with the majority of the prize money! Once the girls finish their obligations in Hefei, we are on a flight to Zhongshan in the southeastern province of Guangdong near Macau and Hong Kong. We are treated extremely well in Zhongshan, formerly Xiangshan or “Fragrant Mountain”, renamed in honor of Sun Yat-sen also known as Sun Zhongshan, the man considered the to be the father of modern China. Everywhere we went, we were driven around in high style in luxury import cars.
From Zhongshan, we take a short bus ride to Macau. At the most luxurious hotel of the entire trip, we only spent one evening, but oh,did we truly enjoy that one whole day! Macau is on par with Las Vegas. The complex where we stayed is of six-star caliber. It was quite lush with a casino and mall built into the facility; you could easily get lost. I actually spent some time helping our entourage get where they needed to be. I really recommend seeing Macau at least once in your lifetime. Completely exhausted, we take the ferry from Macau to Hong Kong and hop a bus to the airport to fly back to Shanghai and make our connection to New York. It was a whirlwind trip, but I wouldn’t have traded the opportunity any thing!