I received an email with a strange subject line.
The subject line had Chinese characters in it.
I was pretty sure that it was some spam email.
I would have almost deleted it that day.
If I had deleted that email, I would have missed the greatest adventure of my life.
The Chinese characters you see about means “Invitation” in English.
It was an invitation from the Chinese government to visit their annual Motorcycle convention called CIMA Motor 2009.
I just stared at the email with disbelief.
You might be wondering – why did the Chinese government invite me?
I was wondering the same, moments after I opened the email.
It almost looked too good to be true.
I was being invited as a journalist representing India for Motorcycles.
They wanted me to travel to a strange city in China called Chongqing (pronounced Cho-chen).
Chongqing is an industrial city focused on motorcycle manufacturing and tourism is not allowed there. No one can visit that city easily.
They wanted me to visit a motocross race, a motorcycle factory, a motorcycle exhibition and test ride their motorcycles.
All I had to do in return for them was to blog about it.
Even my family did not take me seriously.
I was just 21, was not comfortable travelling to a foreign country where English is not the primary language.
What if I got lost in China?
It looked tempting to pass on that opportunity, but I was determined to experience China.
It was my blog which has given me this amazing opportunity.
A blog that was started as a hobby.
I ran this WordPress blog called BikeAdvice.in which had a few hundred articles about Indian motorcycles.
I was a small blogger compared to the others in the industry. There were big publications about motorcycles that had monthly print magazines.
I was still shocked by the email, but also excited about the possibility of traveling to China as a journalist.
And at the same time I was also not trying to get too excited much because if the trip doesn’t happen, I would be disappointed.
I replied to the email accepting the invitation still not entirely believing that it could be true. But I had to take the leap.
I told them I wanted a round-trip ticket from Chennai to Chongqing and I wanted a 5-star hotel accommodation.
And for both, they replied yes and sent me the tickets right away.
I checked the flight numbers and realized that it was actually true!
They were not kidding.
This was a REAL once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
But there was one more problem. I had to get a special business Visa for this. It was a journalist Visa and I couldn’t get it through the local travel agents.
All the tourism agents put up their hands in the last minute. With only a few days remaining for my trip, I wanted to give one last try.
I visited the Chinese embassy in Delhi myself and applied for the Visa. I had to put up a fight with HDFC Bank for not issuing me a Demand Draft without a cheque.
Just 1 day before my trip, I got the Visa stamped on my Passport. It was an amazing feeling. I was thinking that I was gonna lose the opportunity. Then I jumped with joy.
I boarded the flight next day at Chennai. Went to Kuala Lumpur, then went to Guangzhou in China and from there took a connecting flight to Chongqing.
I checked in to my hotel room at Carlton and couldn’t wait for the next day to begin.
The next day morning, I met leading motorcycle journalists from many other countries.
There were 13 different journalists from 13 different countries.
Journalists from USA, Canada, Spain, France and Australia were some of the most important people there.
I had an opportunity to have a talk with Kevin, the Editor-in-Chief of Motorcycle.com, the world’s oldest and biggest motorcycle website.