When a Wheel-Chaired Punjaban conquered China!
PammuParvinder Chawla- No it’s not what you think! I am not Cute Fair Chubby Punjabi Lady adorning a Patiala Suit or a Paranda; I am a wheel- chaired avid Solo Traveler.
As mentioned before I was just about to complete my 15 years in this world when chronic rheumatoid arthritis took over my body and years of medical consultation didn’t help me much. I am in my 30’s now but my condition hasn’t deterred me not to fulfill my bucket list. Yes, before I leave this world I have promised myself to travel across the world and meet and greet people from different walks of life. I am sure my travel stories will inspire many to travel across the world and conquer all that they desire in life.
Though Traveling has always been smooth for me; I would like to talk about my solo trip which was my first self planned trip in my automatic chair to China. I was absolutely elated. Though the people were absolutely surprised that I am going to a country where hardly anyone dares to go especially because of language barrier and I being wheel chaired might face more issues, the determination in me kept me going.
The Trip was planned when I sat down with a friend who worked for a famous travel company in India and as she knows me very well we planned the trip in a way that all my hotels were booked near to the site-seeing places and I had a pick and drop from airport to hotel and vice-versa.
I had Seoul (Korea), Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in my travel agenda. In My mind, China was a place where all the world’s technology converge as it’s the hub of manufacturing and SEZs. To my surprise when I reached there I found that the public transports were not wheelchair friendly at all and me being an economy traveler, I prefer to travel on public transport because it not only gives me budgeted travel expenses but also a convenience where I don’t have to pack my wheelchair every time I get into a cab.
Before Shanghai I visited Seoul the capital of South Korea, and a suggestion for anyone travelling there is to visit the night market there, you get first copy of all brands available across world but they seem so real. The Market starts at around 10PM and goes till about 3 AM in the night. A lively hustling bustling market gives your eyes moments of joy. If you wish to stay in a five star JW Marriot is nearby and at the same time you have an option of budgeted hotels nearby too. I chose one of the budgeted hotels and this market was about 600 meters away from my place. There’s a mall and at the street just by the side of the mall there is a fashion show which keeps on going to keep you entertained. There’s one lane in the same market which serves authentic Korean food. It serves you food like fried scorpions, snakes etc. I remember I was with few friends whom I befriended there, tasted the scorpions and said that they were really yummy as it’s the delicacy of the place. Seoul left some great memories to be cherished for life and off course share them with my readers.
Having been to Dubai a few times for long trips I had some lovely memories where on every Bus Stop I had ramps to get in and get out of the bus, whereas my experience in China was completely opposite of it. To my surprise, even the metros of the country were not wheelchair friendly. Sometimes I would get bogged down but then the deterred me would find some or the other way to get to where I want or what I want.
I always propagate” Don’t hesitate to ask for help from people around if not the first the third or fourth person will help you”. Going by this strategy of mine, even though I had language barrier I would use hand gestures for help everywhere I would get stuck. The most important thing to mention here is that Google translator doesn’t work in China , I would sometimes get help from offline translator downloaded in my mobile but that too wasn’t of much help, I could barely manage few words as they were not as effective as the Google Translator is. Despite all these glitches, I was in gratitude as I experienced that though language separated us but human emotions connected us. There were some people who went out of the way to help me out and appreciated my courage through whatever broken English they could manage to communicate with me.
My most memorable experience was visiting the “Great Wall of China” which is a wheel-chair friendly place, there are lifts to take you up and serene places where you can sit and enjoy the view and experiences the tranquility within. I felt extremely proud of myself as my dream to see the whole world and especially cover the 7 wonders of the world, was coming to fruition gradually.
Then came the terror of all experiences, my last destination was Guangzhou, a small city in China. As I was coming to the end of my trip, instead of taking an expensive radio cab, I decided to take a local cab to my hotel from the airport. With the help of the security there, I managed to get a local cab to my destined hotel and then came the surprise of my life; I was stranded in the mid-night; the hotel where I was supposed to stay was demolished. I didn’t know what to do, for a moment I was blank, the cab driver didn’t understand my language and I have no contacts there, I rang my friend, she tried getting through the officials of my travel company but no luck, I am nowhere, the cab driver is pushing me to get out and I am freezed. Then as my luck would have it, a man came, assuming to be from the demolished hotel and he guided the driver to a hotel nearby.
Pammu by that time was mentally and physically tired, she was having the worst experience hence the body reacted, my body was burning with fever and I could hardly manage to go to my room and drop dead in the bed.
My throat was dry and body had given up, the language was a barrier, my translation app has broken down, I couldn’t manage to explain the staffs that I needed medicine to get my temperature down, the tired body just helped me to sleep and get through the night somehow.
Next Morning, I wake up to be in a better mindset and a much-rested body. I got ready and straight away went to the manager of the hotel and asked him to help me out to get something to eat and have my medicine. The manager was a helpful person, he advised me to consult a doctor before I travel back to my country but giving in to my skepticism I decided not to go ahead with the advice.
With a Mac Donald’s Burger and a glass full of juice, I managed to get me going. I made calls to my friend back in India and my sister, they said that under no circumstances I am staying back anymore and they arranged my tickets back immediately. My mind was dwindling on one side my great trip to China was ending and on the other, I was little disappointed that my 10-day trip was ending abruptly and I hadn’t shopped for a single piece. I was happy and disappointed at the same time. Happy to have sailed through a difficult trip and disappointed to not have completed my 10-day long trip and returning back empty-handed.
But that wasn’t an end to my agony, the hotel facility drops me at the airport and then another story happens while checking in I discovered that my passport is missing, luckily it was there at the inquiry counter and I could manage to get it back. Then there was something else to face too, I am supposed to get off my wheelchair for it to be packed in the luggage but to add on to my agony more, my prized possession “a tripod” which I bought new thinking that the old one is too old to carry, I sat on it and it broke down. And you know what it was “MADE IN CHINA”, yeah! I know what you are thinking!
I tripped off my chair and was lying flat on the floor. So here it was Pammu, was going through the most torturous trips, she has a fever, she almost lost her passport, and she has fallen down and broken her tripod. The world seemed blurred to her at that point of time, she didn’t know what was happening to her, she is on the floor wondering what’s happening and almost similar looking faces are all around her seeping in into her mind to know if Pammu needs some help, is she alright? The staff there pulled me up and helped me sit on a stool to rest.
Pammu calms down, the flight is late by an hour, Pammu needs to go to transition point to reach her terminal and again she is bugged. The transition bus was not wheelchair friendly; the staff from one terminal leaves her in nowhere-place promising staff from another terminal would come to help her out. Pammu is by that time an experienced lady facing misery in China. Yeah, I am waiting but no one turns up, she sees the shuttle bus and starts asking for help through her hand gestures, the luck by her side the people in bus understood that she needs to get on bus and Pammu is there standing in a bus, uncomfortable and tired. She reaches her destined terminal, manages to catch her flight and is back home, tired and sick. I took almost a week to recover back from this experience but that didn’t stop me from planning another trip soon to some unknown destination and be among some unknown people.
So this was the trip which tested me in every way, and instead of deterring me to travel anymore in future, this trip taught me that Pammu can get through any difficult phase, her wheelchair is her strength and her willpower in her motivation.
Pammy’s journey actually started from there on, I am proud of myself to have never stopped myself from taking any risk and stick to my passion for travelling. After that trip I explored many countries and have become a globetrotter, my each trip motivates me to plan for another and I am sure, when you read this, you will look at every adversity as a blessing in disguise.
So guys! Stay Tuned! Many more stories will be coming out of this chole-bhature lover specky Punjabi woman soooooon…