While there are more important commercial space conferences in the world, the International Astronautical Congress, this year being held in Beijing, China, remains the the pre-eminant International space conference with all the major space agencies in attendance. Of course, as an Englishman aboard your correspondent tried to do his bit for international relations – though sometimes his too direct nature lets him down.
For example, to those generous fellows at the China Great Wall Industries Corporation (CGWIC) and the Chinese Academy of Launch Technology (CALT) who were kind enough, not only to invite your correspondent to their reception, but also to their rocket factory located in the environs of Beijing (Peking), your correspondent would like to apologise here and now. Your correspondent could tell they were slightly irked by his (too) many questions (sorry lads – but it comes with the territory of being a space correspondent), however they were even more askance when, having carefully put foot covers on his shoes to keep their clean room viewing gallery as dirt-free as possible, your correspondent then proceeded to drop fluff out of his pocket and dandruff off his head. This will, no doubt, be cited as the cause of the next failure of the normally very reliable Long March launch vehicle family.
Ah well, at least China’s food and water managed to get Chaiman Mao’s revenge on him. While the Peking duck (Beijing Duck?) might have been the culprit, it was more likely that it was his consumption of the local street/gallery food (which can include insects and spiders) which did the business. Any Brit thus affected by such Wonton soup poisoning who desperately wants to use a loo in such circumstances, this, a little too harsh Beijing tea house toilet door sign (below) will give he or she a heart-sinking feeling.
Other than that, Chinese people can be very kind and helpful however….especially the helpful young ladies in China Telecom who got correspondent’s mobile phone working with a Chinese simcard. Of course, there are some other beautiful Chinese ladies whose kind offers should be declined – especially those “ladies without luggage” accosting you at the lift/elevator in your hotel. Not only was the lady in question a tad too direct – she did not have any expenses receipts.