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Marg and I first went to China way back in 1987 after working in Germany for a year, on being offered the Executive Sous Chef position at the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel, a 1000 room hotel located not far from the center of the city. As we had put in a good years work, it was time to take a few days break on our way and so we holidayed in Bucharest in Romania while it was still under communist control. An interesting time there and it was well worth while visiting the place before it became “free” again, but those stories will wait for another day. We crossed the Himalayan Mountains on their Tarom Airlines and had a great view of the mountains going over, before touching down in Beijing in the middle of a dust storm! On the flight through we had an empty hull as the business and first class section, - just nothing there at all, - but the best omelette I have ever had on an airline for breakfast and fantastic views of the Himalayas as we crossed over! As it turned out, a lot of my colleagues from the Brisbane Sheraton were also at the Great Wall Sheraton when I arrived, so it became a very friendly sort of place with a high number of Australians to socialize with.

We spent just over two years in Beijing before transferring to Bali in Indonesia, and I was Executive Chef after Tianamen Square with Marg working in the Australian Consulate. A good time for us, enjoying the chill blue skies of winter and the dust storms and heat of summer, but also meeting some great people who were all trying to get foot holds into China. Not too easy in that regard and we know a few people who got their fingers burnt along the way. Beijing has quite a few attractions in the city or just out of it. There is one photo of me on the Great Wall in Chefs uniform, when the Sheraton did the first outdoor catering on this section that had opened. But we also did caterings and sight seeing in the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs, the Forbidden City and of course, more of the Wall. It was from Beijing that I left on a 10 days trip with another friend traveling around China by train and by plane. 21 hours to Xian to see the terracotta warriors, another 18 to Chengdu, then onto Kunming to see the Stone Forest and across to Guilin and the Li River, which is very spectacular! In Beijing we used to walk down wide, empty streets during the day and the evenings, with hardly a car in sight, and taxis could not be hailed from the street, but only from the Hotels. There were always guards around, but they were pleasant and a little shy of us in some ways, but you could walk anywhere and you were always the center of attention when venturing into the shopping centers of that time. It was a time of being in a shop and seeing the goods you wanted on the shelf, but being told “mayo” or not available, even though you could see the item two feet way. It was also the time of only one shop at the Lido Holiday Inn having the basics and getting all our supplies like toothpaste and deodorants on our trips into Hong Kong every four months. Beijing was a hardship posting then, so the salary was good and the Rest and Recreation leaves every four months meant that Marg and I looked around Korea, Taiwan, Macao, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. We got to know Hong Kong very well during this time, got to know Beijing and enjoyed the expatriate life that we had there. Barbecues on a Sunday at the Sheraton gardens, a tight knit community of Chefs as there were only a few international Hotels operating and the Palace Hotel opened while we were there, the Lufthansa Center was still being built, along with the new Traders and Shangri-la Hotels, which had its windows shot out during June 1997, and still today has different coloured glass in the replacements! We could walk along the airport road on a narrow two-lane road, where today there are large turnpikes and six lane highways, so China has changed a bit, and we are glad that we saw it when we did.