A retired couple from the United Kingdom took a trip-of-a-lifetime to visit their son in Hong Kong for his birthday by travelling all the way there using only public transport. Phil and Emma Whiting could have flown to the autonomous Chinese territory from London in just a few hours, but they opted to spend eight weeks in their 12000 miles (approx) travelling to their final destination, hopping on trains, buses, ferries, taxis, horses and a cable car to get there. They travelled through Europe, across Russia, into Mongolia and eventually into the Chinese capital of Beijing to reach Hong Kong. The aim was to reach their son Oliver, who teaches in Hong Kong, by 6 November in time for his 30th birthday. “My wife Emma, 61, took early retirement four years ago from her job as a social worker, and we have often planned a big journey like this. Our son, Oliver, is teaching in Hong Kong, and he invited us to celebrate his 30th birthday on November 6 with him. We decided it was important to us that actually travelled to get there, and that we stopped off in various places.”
Their eight-week trip took them to Berlin, Moscow, Suzdal, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Bator, Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guilin, Huangshan, Yangshuo and Xiamen. The couple then trekked through the Golden Triangle in south-east Asia, horse-riding and sleeping in yurts along the way, before arriving in China. Whiting said: “China was a place that really, really impressed me. Everything is bigger and better there than everywhere else. There is 3,000 to 4,000 years of history; of engineering projects. It’s mind-blowing. “It calls itself a communist country, but it’s actually one of the most capitalist places you could go to.” And despite relying on public transport, the couple was impressed with the speed of their journey. He added: “We were never late once, in eight weeks of travel. It was just superb.”
Phil added that the journey took the couple a year to organise. To capture their expedition Phil, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, sketched some of their most treasured memories, from a Russian Orthodox Mass to the Hong Kong races. He will now choose the best of his sketches as the basis for larger paintings, which he will work on in his Oxford studio.