Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Very Interesting Experience in China - Chengdu

After a gap of a few months, I start writing again. I want to share some of my interesting travel experiences  in India and abroad.This post is about a very interesting experience in China.

This was in June 2005, my third trip to China. The trip was mainly to find a suitable JV partner for setting up a manufacturing unit in one of the newly developing provinces of China.

I was travelling from one place to another on this assignment. I always used to reach Shanghai either via KL or Singapore or Bangkok to make it cost effective. I made this trip via Singapore since I already had acquired permission from my bosses for a break in the journey to visit Singapore when I return. I went to the Singapore Embassy and applied for the Singapore Visa. I handed over my original Indian Passport for the Visa stamping, as per the procedure. They gave an acknowledgement slip, for having collected my passport. The visa stamped passport is due to be given back to me on the third day.

As per planned visits, the next day I have to leave for Chengdu, southwest of China, to visit one of the manufacturers. I got the boarding pass in Shanghai to travel to Chengdu. I showed the Xerox copy of the passport after explaining that the original passport is with the Singapore consulate. That day evening after finishing my official work, officers from the company dropped me back at the airport and asked me if I need any help, " I said, no, thanks" and bid goodbye to them as it was too early for boarding time.

About an hour before the departure of the flight, I approached the check in counter for the boarding pass. The official asked me, for the passport along with ticket. I showed him the xerox copy of the passport and the acknowledgement slip given by the Singapore consulate. He refused to issue boarding pass and called in the Security in charge. I tried to explain to the security in charge in English. But he could not understand what ever I told him. Very less people in China understand English.

I started getting butterflies in my stomach. The thoughts that crossed my mind - I don't have my original passport. What will I do, if they detain me and don't let me fly?

By then a young female officer at the security check who was watching what was going on, came to my rescue. She started explaining things to the officer in Chinese but he didn't look convinced. I guessed that she suggested him to talk to his superior. He rang up some one and talked for few minutes on the phone. He came to the check in counter and told the officer something in Chinese. The boarding pass was issued. I went through the security check and boarded the plane. I started to breath only after the flight took off to Shanghai.

Later, I learned that the Chinese government had made English, as part of the school curriculum. So that the younger generation can interact with the international business groups, when China opened up its economy to the global market.

These days, I find young students interpreting in all the business meetings, which is a welcome change in China.

What could have been my plight, if no body understood English, then?