A Travellerspoint blog

Great Day at the Great Wall

Awesome Sight!

sunny

Beijing_July_7_296.jpg8:30 a.m. pickup to head out to the Great Wall. Partly cloudy with some haze, or is it pollution? Hot and humid again. First stop is the Olympic Center to see the Bird’s Nest (the main venue). When you watch the Olympics in August, you’ll see why it is called that. We could not get very close as there is still a lot of construction going on. It is hard to imagine that they will be ready in less than month!

On to a jade showroom, where we found some interesting things, including a jade bangle for Maryann - something that is customary for women in China to wear on their left side - close to your heart. Then another hour drive to the section of the Great Wall through very beautiful countryside populated with farms and fruit groves. There are 3 different sites near Beijing, but this was the best view of a large segment of the Wall, although the furthest away. The good news is that is was not very crowded. The bad news was that it entailed a major hike just to get to the gondola that would take us up to the wall. The gondola looked exactly like the one we use at Keystone when skiing. The wall here is on ridge lines that run across the mountainous region, so we have to go up a steep section to get to the wall, which is why we had to do the gondola. The walk up to the gondola was steep, but the most annoying part was the myriad of aggressive goods hawkers selling t-shirts for $1, postcards, and assorted other junk. Unlike what you might expect in the US at a major historical sight, there are no people to provide tours or historical perspectives or construction insights. You are on your own: take a look and be awed, which we were. The wall goes on for many miles in either direction, up and down, curving, turning, as far as your eyes can see - just like you’ve probably seen in pictures. It was an astounding sight and maintained in good condtion, given its antiquity.

We then headed to a restaurant nearby for lunch. The tour provided the menu, which turned out to be a large variety of often unknown foods that could have fed 10. Not sure what they were thinking. After a several hour drive back to our hotel in central Beijing, we rest, shop, then try to find a restaurant that we could actually determine what we are eating (without a guide, this time). Most have English subtitles so we know the basic food we are getting, but what we would get are parts of the animal that we don’t really want to eat. We settle on 3 dishes, one beef, one shrimp and one fried rice. Turns out to be way too much food – more six, but the total bill with a couple of beers and tip is only about $45.

Tonight, we are packing up for an early flight to Guilin in Southern China and our NEXT advenure.

Posted by mpbtravel 09:02 Archived in China Comments (0)

Rare Sunny Day in Beijing

A hot walk through history!

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We awaken at 4 am on Sunday, the wakeup time moving by about a ½ hour every day. Not our choice, our brain’s choice. We also note that there is blue sky, what a treat. Turns out to be sunny all day, but hot and humid.
We start at Tiananmen Sq. Vast, stark, hard, little vegetation, tens of thousands of people, many with umbrellas (to keep the sun off). Chairman Mao looks down from the huge portrait on the first gate. Next on the stop is the The Forbidden City which is massive, in square area, size of buildings and number of buildings (9900). A large and deep moat surrounds it all, the largest palace in the world. It takes all morning to get through it all.
Our guide takes us to a local noodle house for lunch. Not a lot of other westerners in there, and few on the wait staff speak English. Noisy, crowded, busy, bench seats, a local experience. Our guide orders a number of dishes. Maryann, who was planning on subsisting on powerbars, scarfs down a noodle bowl with veggies and a soy sauce, which she finds delicious, but which Peter finds icky in taste. Our guide says Maryann is more Chinese than Peter. Ouch! Somebody reading this look up Chinese Haw juice (which we drank) and let us know what it is. We couldn’t come up with a comparable fruit juice to match this. Sort of cherry like, but not exactly.
Desserts are very strange. One had a white mushroom with dates, another was a bean curd cube that had the most unusual texture I’ve ever eaten. Peter was still able to consume too much, as a plate of battered shrimp went fast.
On to a pearl factory where Maryann finds something she likes. Then to the Temple of Heaven. This is in a large park, while charging admissions, that is frequented by many locals who buy season passes. This is Sunday, so a large number of older citizens are dancing to boombox music, singing, dancing with fans. Sort of like street musicians but done for fun, not money. These performances are not allowed in the temple area, which is another large ornate structure devoted to the 4 seasons.
It’s now 3 pm and we are both beat. Nap time. We later meet up the Jana and Dave and go to a local Japanese restaurant that our guide suggests. Good food, but another adventure with no English speaking staff but subtitles on the menu. We then head the famous Chinese Opera, which turns out to be 3 different performances, one musical with traditional Chinese instruments, and the other 2 highly costumed actors and actresses performing what we would consider melodrama. The plots are strange, the acting somewhat over the top, but in a setting where each performer has completely painted faces. The first involved a nun that escapes here nunnery to find a boat to chase over her love! The second was a plot about the Buddha requesting that the evil monkey be killed. A number of acrobatic fight scenes ensue.
Ended the night with a farewell and a wish for smooth travels to Jana and Dave who leave for Katmandu tomorrow and a 2 week trek.

Posted by mpbtravel 16:39 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Peter's Perspective

Insights on Beijing- Day 2

rain

Beijing_July_5th_055.jpgAmerican style breakfast available at the Marriot courtyard gives us a chance to get an omelet, bacon and eggs. Finished with Starbucks nearby. OK, time to stop looking for American stuff and start doing Chinese. The lunch at a Chinese family’s home was a true adventure. Kung pao chicken! Plus assorted pork and veggie dishes, dumplings. Not bad! And homemade. The kung fu night show was a spectacular athletic martial arts show. Not seeing a lot of Americans here at this time, but you can pick them out of the crowd when they do show up, or some are getting really good at blending in. Did meet some Australians and heard some Italians and Germans. Lots of thin people here. Major vices: smoking and not wearing seat belts! The Marriott is modern, but the light switches take some getting used to. They also use the card in the slot approach to turn on the lights. Take your door card and all your devices that are charging suddenly turn off and do not charge. We did find a few not so modern toilets, if you catch my drift, while out sightseeing. Bring tp in your day bag!

Posted by mpbtravel 17:05 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing Hutong

Touring the Hutong neighborhood and samplying life in Beijing

rain 85 °F

Beijing_July_5th_058.jpgFirst full day in Beijing was rich with cultural experiences. After awakening very early (still adjusting to time), we discovered a favorite of Maryann’s – Starbucks! Nice, easy latte start to the day. Learned, too, that a downpour the night before had all but shut down Beijing airport (which would likely have prevented us from arriving on our previously scheduled flight). Light rain all day today cooled it down to a very comfortable (but still humid) 85-degrees.

We spent the morning touring the Hutong, which is the old neighborhood where mostly older people live today. It is being restored in its historic style so reflects some dilapidated structures. Rickshaws (the only place they are legal) carried us through the narrow alley ways. We climbed to the top of the Drum Tower which was a former royal fortress-like building overlooking the town where they still beat drums to announce the time. We climbed 69 stairs – which doesn’t sound like much except that each step was nearly a foot high! We also stopped in to one of the tiny courtyard homes of a retired archeologist to see how they live. The highlight was lunch at a neighboring courtyard where we sampled home-made dishes of wonderful food in the kitchen of a local family. She showed us how to make the delicious dumplings that we enjoyed eating. Back in the rickshaw to our car which then took us to the Lama Temple. The next hour, we delved into the history of the two types of Buddhism (Central and Lama)and toured countless temples where locals worshipped the various Buddhas with incense. Yes, Alex, we were surrounded by DOZENS of Buddhas (including one that was 5 stories tall)! The next stop was the Silk Factory where we were educated on the art of making silk and even helped stretech silk for a quilt! Yes, we also got to purchase silk items at the factory. A short rest before our last activitiy today – attending a Chinese martial arts performance, a spectacular theatrical kung fu show with a plot.

And today we met up with Jana and Dave - our Colorado neighbors in Beijing! More when we have dinner tomorrow.

Posted by mpbtravel 17:59 Archived in China Comments (0)

Sally and Mr. Yan

"Fun-Ying" (Welcome to Beijing)

semi-overcast 0 °F

To_China_010.jpgArrived Friday July 4 in Beijing to intense heat and humidity as promised. The airport is huge and spectacularly designed. It size looms larger than anything I have ever seen. We were met by our guide, Ms. Zhang Hong. As is common for Chinese that learn English and start dealing with westerners, she picked an English name, Sally. She started learning English in 6th grade, and said that she got better recently by watching 4 seasons of “Desperate Housewives.” The US still exports something to the rest of the world!
Sally finds our driver Mr. Yan, who does not speak much English. On to the hotel in a Dodge minivan (OK, so maybe 2 things we export) which is a modern urban setting adjoining a large shopping center. Surprisingly, traffic was not bad in this notoriously gridlocked city of 20 million people. People pretty much looked and dressed the same as in any big city. We crashed by about 7 p.m. China time! And we found a note this morning from our Colorado friends, Jana and Dave, whom we will meet up with soon.

Posted by mpbtravel 16:03 Archived in China Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Airborn & Jetlagged

getting there!

Our travel day began like any other - NOT. Up at 3:30 a.m., on the plane by 6 and in San Francisco by 7:30. Once in SFO, we made our way to the international terminal to find that we could use our Clear Card (yes, Alex, FINALLY). CLEAR is a pre-screening you pay a fee for faster access to security. Our traveling son, Alex, uses it all the time. Kind of space age … scanned my irises in my eyes to verify my identity. Then a “concierge” ushers you through.
We ended up having one of those out of body experiences called “good customer service” … by an airline, no less! We had the privilege of settling into the United Red Carpet Club to await our flight since we were upgraded to business class. While I hunkered down to get some work done during the 4 hour wait for our flight, Peter actually paid attention to the monitor and noticed a flight to Beijing. Our original flight was scheduled for Hong Kong, then China Air which would get us into Beijing after midnight. He had the wild idea to check to see if we could get on the direct flight to Beijing. My response? “Oh no, no way they would ever do that.” I reluctantly made my way to the agent. Even she shook her head as she started to explore it. Well, to our surprise, 3 agents conspired together to make the switch for us! Fortunately, we did that crazy carry-it-all-on game (we could not have switched if we had checked luggage) so could actually be booked on the direct flight from SFO to Beijing! It left earlier and would get us to Beijing by 2:20 p.m. (vs. midnight)! We gained over 9 hours!
We settled into our nice seats on the upper deck of the Boeing 747. The seats fully recline, feet up, large amount of space, access to your own screen. Which made it easier to travel on a 13 hour flight! We tried an herbal remedy called “No Jet Lag” that our traveling friend, Janelle, recommended. Don’t know if that helped (or just our exhaustion from getting ready for this trip), but both Peter and I slept soundly.

Posted by mpbtravel 14:52 Archived in China Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Day Before Departure

Last Minute ...

Well, as Peter, Paul and Mary sang the lyrics written by John Denver (but this time Peter is going, too!):

All my bags are packed
Im ready to go
Im standin here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin
Its early morn
The taxis waitin
Hes blowin his horn
Already Im so lonesome
I could die

But, Im leavin on a jet plane
Dont know when Ill be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

We travel all the time, but this trip has a few more jitters and "stuff" to do. Got Chinese Yuan currency and it was called "exotic." Still hear customs in China is a challenge so we may spend the entire time in the Hong Kong airport terminal (remember Tom Hanks' movie - Terminal)? Gotta finish up some work, packing, and spend a few minutes with Alex who is jetting back from LA about the time we leave, and then head out at 4 a.m.

We have arranged in Beijing to meet our neighbors! Jana (Haas from Hunter's point graduated with Drew) and husband Dave Krohne are backpacking around the world (neat, huh?). They happen to be in Beijing when we are so we are getting together! Talk about small world!

Great sunny, "dry" day here in Colorado Springs. Checked weather.com and it is 90s with 90% humidity were we are headed. Gotta finish up and stash a whole lot of energy bars in the bag as we continue to hear "interesting" stories of food served in China. Have a great 4th of July to our US friends!

Posted by mpbtravel 08:34 Archived in China Tagged preparation Comments (1)

Packing

Complete trial pack!

We did a complete pack today just to make sure we could get everything into 2 carry-ons. Here's a picture of Peter's 2 bags, 1 rolling bag and 1 new Tumi backback. These 2 include everything, well, except for the PowerBars he plans to include (got to have something readily available to eat just in case).

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We are taking a 747 over, and this plane typically has a lot of overhead space. Hopefully there will be enough overhead for both, but we managed to get an upgrade to business class, in the upper deck no less, a section neither of us has ever been in. A lot fewer seats in the upper deck, 2 seats on each side, but less overhead due to the curvature of the the plane.

We do not have a lot of time in Hong Kong to get through customs and catch our next flight to Beijing, so having carry-on bags will allow us to go right to customs rather than waiting for bags to come off the plane, which can often take a while.

Just in case you think we are a little light on clothing, these bags have 4 shirts, 2 pants, 4 pr socks, 1 pr shoes, assorted other clothing and toiletries, plus a computer, camera, books, noise cancelling headphones, and other stuff. We have to wash clothing every few days, or use the laundry service at the hotels, but that will allow us to go light. The new mantra is: take half as many clothes and twice as much money! This is the first time we have tried this, so we are entering a new approach to traveling.

A good source of info is www.onebag.com that includes info on how and what to pack. In fact, onebag.com and rick steves (www.ricksteves.com) both advocate 1 bag, total! We are still at 2, so we a ways to go with those super light travelers.
Peter

Posted by mpbtravel 18:33 Archived in China Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

China - Itinerary

4 Days To Departure

Our plans for our trip:

TRIP DETAILS

1 Jul04/08 1DBL, Beijing: Marriott Courtyard
AIR: Hong Kong-Beijing Confirmed flight CA116 ( economy class , 07:45pm - 11:00pm )

2 Jul05/08 1DBL, Beijing: Marriott Courtyard
GROUND: Beijing: Hutong village & Local Family ( Confirmed half day tour to Hutong Area
GROUND: Beijing: Lunch Confirmed lunch in local family
GROUND: Beijing: Dinner at leisure Confirmed

3 Jul06/08 1DBL, Beijing: Marriott Courtyard
GROUND: Beijing: Tiananmen, Forbidden, Temple of Confirmed full day tour to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven & Lama Temple
GROUND: Beijing: Lunch Confirmed lunch at Old Noodle King restaurant near temple of heaven
GROUND: Beijing: Dinner at leisure Confirmed
GROUND: Beijing: Peking Opera Confirmed

4 Jul07/08 1DBL, Beijing: Marriott Courtyard
GROUND: Beijing: Great Wall MuTianYu and Ming To Confirmed full day tour to Great Wall Mutianyu section
GROUND: Beijing: Lunch Confirmed lunch at Xinshuangquan Restaurant near Great Wall

5 Jul08/08 1DBL, Guilin: Sheraton GROUND: Beijing: Airport xfer Confirmed
GROUND: Guilin: Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Confirmed half day tour to Reed Flute Cave only
AIR: Beijing-Guilin Confirmed flight CA1311 ( economy class, 07:15am-10:20am )

6 Jul09/08 1DBL, Yangshuo: Magnolia Hotel
GROUND: Guilin: Li River Cruise Confirmed full day tour
GROUND: Guilin: Lunch Confirmed lunch on board Li River Cruise with 2 glasses of local soft drinks
GROUND: Yangshuo: Dinner at leisure Confirmed

7 Jul10/08 1DBL, Yangshuo: Magnolia Hotel
GROUND: Yangshuo: Half-Day Bike Tour w Deluxe lu Confirmed half day tour, lunch at local restaurant
GROUND: Yangshuo: Dinner at leisure Confirmed
GROUND: Yangshuo: Liu San Jie Show Deluxe Seat Confirmed

8 Jul11/08 Depart (B) Pending
AIR: Guilin-Canton Confirmed flight ZH9638 ( economy class, 09:40am-10:50am )

Maryann - working ...
9. Canton (really Guangzhou) - arrive July 11
stay at Ritz Carleton
depart morning of July 15 by train to Hong Kong

10. Hong Kong - arrive July 15
stay at Conrad Hilton
depart noon July 18 through Los Angeles to Colorado Springs (arrive ~ 3 p.m.)

Posted by mpbtravel 12:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

FINALLY, getting ready to go!

China Bound

Finally, our trip to China is coming together. The work with Maryann's client to finalize the business portion has been long and complicated. Taking 19 business people to China and planning all aspects of the trip takes a great deal of patience and creativity.

We leave on July 3rd, miss most of the 4th of July, and end up in Beijing (we hope) late on July 4th. We took a chance on an economy flight and upgraded so hope to have some comfort on the way there. We are staying at the Marriot Courtyard (American hotels for some convenience and English).

Our tour is with Kensington and begins in ancient Beijing. Sprinkled with a few business meetings, the trip will include seeing the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, an opera, a visit to a home, and many miles of China. We head to Guillan next to see exquisite terrain, take a bicycle ride, and float down the river to Yangshou. Here, we stay at a Sheraton and then a Chinese Hotel. We will experience theater and a cooking class there.

We head to Guanzhou and Hong Kong where Maryann goes to work 7x24 while Peter tours the industrial site of the former city of Canton, China. We have one more touring day together in Hong Kong with work colleagues Lisa, Nigel, and Andrea - and then back to the U.S.

We understand it will be hot so we are selecting clothes and planning to travel light (carry on only).

Countdown? 18 days to departure!

Posted by mpbtravel 21:18 Archived in China Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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