My earliest recollection of seeing China was back in 1984 at Hong Kong's border point at Lok Ma Chau. Right in the distance was Shenzhen whilst in the foreground was farmland and fields.
My actual first trip into China was in 1987 on board a train from Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong to Guangzhou. The city then was beginning to develop and China's first five star hotel, The White Swan, was newly opened. Back then it was rare for foreigners to travel to China and yet I was interested to see the comparison with Hong Kong.
I remember seeing a bendy bus for the first time (two buses joined together with a rubber membrane). I remember said bus stopping in the street and people on board gawping at me as I stared back.
I spent 48 hours in the city and had to use Foreign Exchange Currency notes (because foreigners weren't allowed to use the Yuan) to pay for food and drink (of course I did this in the hotel I was staying).
Since then I've visited China approximately 80 times and only twice for work; peak period of travel was in 2010 with weekly visits to buy house stuff. Traveled in on an Easter Monday when crowds were thin in the morning only to combat masses of people going back to Hong Kong in the evening. Made worse because I was carrying a carpet and a nice bathroom cabinet from IKEA.
Each trip to China now is a different experience from the time before with a trip every five or six months. My usual trip is to Shunde just three hours from Hong Kong by coach and on a very fast and newish road bypassing Shenzhen airport.
The first time I made this journey, the highway was being built so it was smaller roads through nondescript villages and towns. Bits of highway had been completed so the road would go from a two lane to four and back to two. Of course this created a bottleneck with drivers not giving way which of course led to the inevitable collision between our coach and a car.
Six months later we go to Shunde and I'm dreading the journey. But, the highway had been completed and so the journey was less exciting...The pace of development in China continues to stagger especially when it comes to infrastructure. For example, the route we took to Shunde changed three or four times as new, faster roads were built shortening the travel time. Or, the addition of concrete columns alongside the road and six months later, our bus gets passed by a high speed train.
My ever growing places visited in China:
• Daya Bay
• Shilin Yi
I reckon I've done almost 80 visits to China over the years with only two being for business.