Who would go to China just to see a rock concert? – Daily room

Yes, I’m a bit of a jerk. I traveled 30 hours each way – halfway around the world – to attend a Bob Dylan concert in China.

As usual, Dylan scrambled the words and spoke little to the public, nevertheless I achieved my goal of seeing this old hippie in a communist country.

This year for the Olympics, we’re not watching those little snippets that I love so much detailing the culture, heritage and people of the host country like US networks have shown in the past. Seems like it’s all sport to me.

So please catch up and allow me to describe what I experienced during my April 2011 visit to China.

Every good road trip is about food.

Our Beijing guide told us that there is not a single fortune cookie in all of China. It’s an American thing. And we have not at all failed to read our fortune.

The meals were spectacular. They call it food there, not “Chinese food” as we call it.

I enjoyed a simple and perfect meal of just rice, peppers, onions and chicken fried in a wok. The meal was not overdone, the key was the light seasoning which struck a nerve.

My boyfriend and I were regularly teased and even punched in the guts for our weight. We were apparently the fattest people in the country and the locals were quick to point that out.

My ex-pat buddy, a teacher in Shanghai, said the Chinese are gaining weight as fast food, rather than rice-based meals, creeps into their diets. I saw a ton of KFC, Papa John’s and several McDonald’s.

On a trickier subject, most bathrooms I saw in 2011 contained nothing more than a simple hole in the floor. You would see people walking around with toilet paper as it is usually not provided. Don’t forget the PT!

The government controls the money and the prices are deflated. You can take a taxi for a few dollars and there is no tip. My host asked me not to tip after a one hour $12 visit to the masseuse. I was told that service employees might get used to it and ask for tips in the future.

I like to visit markets when I travel. Funny thing, I hate shopping here at home. In China, they mix things up with “wet markets”. No thanks. I don’t want to buy my fish or turtle dinner while it’s still wriggling or swimming.

Oh my god, when in Beijing, I indulged in snake, which, sorry to say, tastes like chicken. The cockroach tasted like dirt and the scorpions tasted like plastic and the batter they were fried in.

Overcoming the language barrier is difficult in China but not impossible. Almost no one speaks English. I often found my voice rising when I was frustrated, when what I thought was my very descriptive sign language was not understood.

I carried a guidebook that wrote down the names of places in Chinese and English. I simply pointed to the Chinese version to let the driver know where I wanted to go. Upon arrival, I picked up a business card with my hotel name and address written in Chinese.

Chinese people who speak a little English want to practice it. Many have taken on Anglo-Saxon names. A woman in the subway was called “Mary”. She didn’t tell me her first name.

Our guide was well versed, very descriptive and seemingly reading from a script while describing an attraction, but when asked a simple question we received a blank stare and she was generally puzzled.

No words can describe the Great Wall. We went up there by chairlift. One hour from Beijing, the wall sways and meanders along a high ridge in a magnificent mountain range. It has been breached by invading armies more than once. So utilitarian, so huge and set in such a beautiful setting, visiting is a monster experience.

There are 1.5 billion Chinese, of whom about 25 million live in Shanghai Municipality and 22 million in Beijing. The roughly 1,000-mile, mostly rural high-speed train ride between Shanghai and Beijing is an eye-opener. You see a hundred miles of workers lying in rice cakes, then you suddenly arrive at a train station in a bustling city of millions. Trains, like everything else, are almost always on time.

The most popular car in China in 2011 was surprisingly a Buick. They were everywhere. And beware, the government often drives around in unmarked Audis. As you can imagine, with so many people, the drivers in the city are a lot crazier than those in Atlanta, LA or DC. I would never attempt to drive in Shanghai.

Designated bike paths are everywhere and the streets are crowded with those exercising. Bicycles help make the Chinese, with these rice meals, healthier. We saw a female acrobat riding a bike with about 20 people perched on her shoulders during a show. Why and how?

The Chinese are very proud. They love American culture, but are so nationalistic. Apartments with a view of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics site are renting more than apartments on the other side of the buildings.

Most Chinese citizens, from any rural or urban areas of China, make some sort of pilgrimage to the capital city of Beijing at least once in their lifetime.

Hilariously, each member of the group wears the same identical cap. Surely there is no problem finding the right tour guide there?

The classical architecture is magnificent. The boldness of the Forbidden City and the blank slate that is Tiananmen Square sweeten the soul.

And then you have some of the tallest, most amazing and most creative skyscrapers in the world in Shanghai, home to the third tallest building in the world.

Because of pollution, and not wanting to tan, the Chinese wore masks, and even white gloves, long before COVID.

I’ve lost some weight since 2011 and Dylan is still on tour. Maybe I’ll go back to China. This time, I’m not going to stick too much to that?

No. Probably not.

Bill Rettew is a Chester County native and weekly columnist. He really ate a crunchy scorpion and really liked it. The best way to reach him is at brettew@dailylocal.com