From afar they’d look like a patchwork quilt—a moving mass of coats, jackets, caps, scarves, sarees where every shade of the colour palette gets a fair representation. When within range, the group reveals, amidst an inevitably unruly din, an animated bunch of men and women of all ages, with a gaggle of gurgling children in tow: the unmistakable sight of Bengali travellers. After having scoured and ploughed through the sub-continent for generations (resulting in, among other things, an admirable body of travel literature that goes back 150 years), the inveterate Bengali tourist, middle class in origin, behaviour and purchasing power, has been looking further afield—to Bangkok, Singapore and Malaysia. Now, they have dared to peer round the corner and look farther east. It is China that has swum into their ken.
From posing for a family selfie with the Terracotta soldiers in their underground mausoleum in Xi’an, a day spent ogling glitzy Shanghai, or tucking into a succulently tender Peking Duck in Beijing, even a Chinese New Year’s feast in Kunming—the Middle Kingdom is the new siren enticing a group forever stricken with wanderlust.