A visually impaired grandmother and her ‘invisible’ tour group

Freddy Nock of Switzerland walks on a tightrope during a competition in Wulong County, Chongqing. Picture: Retuers

Freddy Nock of Switzerland walks on a tightrope during a competition in Wulong County, Chongqing. Picture: Retuers

Published Nov 5, 2023


A 10-person group, mostly made up of visually impaired people, visited a chrysanthemum exhibition in a mountain in Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, using their noses and hands to appreciate the blossoming vibrancy.

The trip was organised by 71-year-old "tour guide" Cai Meiqi, who has, since 2007, helped over 1,000 blind people travel from high mountains in Chongqing, the Great Wall in Beijing to the seaside beach in Thailand.

"Without Cai, none of this could happen," said Li Daosheng, a 65-year-old masseur who took his first trip in 2008.

Meiqi herself is visually impaired, having been born with only one eye.

With resistant efforts, she became a Chinese medicine physician. After retirement, she participated in volunteer work for the blind.

She found that besides learning money-earning skills, many people voiced a strong desire to "see" the world.

"I still remember the scene where a group of blind people encircled me and asked for help to take them out. I was so touched, so I decided to help them," said Meiqi, who has organised tours for over a decade.

Her commitment is commendable. Once Meiqi went to the airport seven times to negotiate enough seats and lower costs.

"They were so amazed. On the plane, they tasted new food and touched cups and bowls they hadn't touched before. They were also greeted by sea for the first time," said Meiqi, remembering a trip to Xiamen, a tourist city in east China's Fujian Province, in 2015.

Meiqi added that for the blind, the tour is more than just a trip. For many, it is a life-long dream, come true.

To attend one tour, Li, a heavy smoker for 38 years, quit. "Before, life was dull to me, so smoking became my diversion. Knowing that there are possibilities to go outside, I immediately stopped smoking and saved money for the trip," Li said.

Li added that although they cannot see the view, they can feel the different roads under their feet, smell the air in different places and hear the sound of new environments.

During a tour in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, Li experienced the shuttle bus in a wild zoo and still remembers how the gusts of strong wind stunned him.

"The wind was so strong that I even recorded that moment and often took out to listen after I came back," said Li.

Other than fresh experiences, Ren Jie, who joined the team in 2012, also feels grateful for the group's volunteerism. When they travel, Meiqi often gets the group to offer free massages or perform.

"Along the way, so many good-hearted people help us, so we also want to show our kindness," Meiqi said.

And their good spirit continues when the tour ends. Since an official volunteer group was established in 2015, it has paid regular visits to nursing houses, schools and construction sites.

"I could travel to many places without Cai, but Cai's group is different. We can prove that we, the blind, can contribute to society and warm others in our own way," Ren said.

Ren recalled how after the group visited a nursing house, the seniors held them firmly. "These moments are glistening memories to me," Ren said.

The group is acutely aware that Meiqi is not getting any younger. "We can't lose her," said the group members. For her part, Meiqi does not look like she will be slowing down any time soon.

"I hope I can take them to touch the world as much as possible. For the travel of life, I wish they can be seen and get recognised by more people," Meiqi said.