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China trip report ; part one- Beijing day 1-3 of 8 days

China trip report ; part one- Beijing day 1-3 of 8 days

Sep 30th, 2008, 07:42 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 191
China trip report ; part one- Beijing day 1-3 of 8 days

First I must give a disclaimer. My husband and I are in our 50's, walkers, love transportation systems, and we are not attached to tourist sites. This trip report may bore some who are looking for some of the more traditional sites. I will probably give too much detail. If the first section does not go over well, I can moderate the level of detail as I go along.
We left on our 7th anniversary. This was my trip of a lifetime. I have been to Japan, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, but never mainland China. My husband went along because I threatened to poison his food if he didn't. He was a very reluctant participant.
We flew STl to O'hare with a slight delay. We arrived 6 minutes before boarding started for our direct flight to PEK. We did buy the Economy Plus membership for one year. I think it was $500 and it was worth every cent. We were on a plane with a 2-5-2 configuration. We had window and aisle seats which was nice because we did not have to worry about crawling over someone else for 13 + hours and there were monitors on the back of each seat to watch movies. We arrived without incident and the flight was easier than I had expected.
We collected our luggage and pretty soon the canine cop came over and sniffed my bag! I had a corned beef sandwich which we had not eaten on the airplane and I was sure it would be conviscated but the guard said, "fruit?". I said, "no, sandwich" and I mimed a sandwich. They left and my corned beef was saved.
We found the ATM and got starter money. We followed the signage to the Airport Express Train. (25 RMB) I had read the hint to sit in a backwards seat so that after the second stop the trip would be forward. It worked. We transferred to the subway system at Dongzhimen and went to our closest stop, Jianguomen. We got our of the subway, hailed a cab, who looked at our chinese directions, and vaguely pointed into the distance and refused to take us!! Oh well, we crossed the first street, fortunately we only had 21" suitcases and wheeled backpacks. So, we slogged along. I knew the hotel was within walking distance and no other taxi materialized so we continued on. My husband was not a happy man. Luckily, or brilliantly depending upon one's viewpoint, I had a photo of the hotel (Luxury Service Residence)so I could pick the building out in the distance. We arrived easily but grumpy.
The reception was great. The bellman, who was standing outside, had probably never seen two bedraggled customers walk up to his doorwith suitcases in tow. He grabbed our suitcases and twirled us through the revolving door. The desk clerk, Emily, greeted us warmly and in English. She would prove to be a great asset to our stay. She signed us in, took us directly to our apartment, showing us the facilities along the way, and invited us to the Moon Festival party on Friday night at a cafe in Beihai. We didn't really understand but who says no to a party?
We were thrilled with our apartment: living room/dining area, half bath, full kitchen downstairs, and bedroom, desk area, bathroom upstairs. My husband was enchanted with the 2 story window with a power shade. We unpacked our suitcases and got things in order. Pretty soon my husband said those dreaded words, "Just let me lay down for 20 minutes". Fortunately for me there was a 7/11 across the circle drive. I went over and bought initial provisions-water, beer, yogurt, breakfast buns, soda etc. (33RMB) I stayed up until 9PM.

Tuesday morning, we walked to WalMart after breakfast and a lazy start. I would guess it was 2 - 2.5 miles. We needed a stretch after sitting so long the day before. It took us a bit to find the WalMart. It is one block beyond the Sofitel on Jianguomenwai and one block behind it. We had a grand time looking at everything. They had fish piled on mountains of ice and alive in tanks. There were varieties which we had never seen before. We wandered and found all types of treasures. We found out the hard way that the fruit and veggies have to be weighed in the local department like in Itay. We clogged up the check out counter by having unweighed items. The clerks were very nice to us but no one spoke English. We filled up a bunch of bags and headed back to the hotel. We took our first taxi ride. Fortunately, others had warned us via the travel boards that traffic was hectic. We just didn't have a clue how hectic. Buses, taxis, bikes, cars, and pedestrians all zig in and out of each others space with millimeters to spare. We found out quickly that traffic lights seem to be suggestions rather than mandates. We arrived back at the hotel with a better sense of Beijing traffic. We took a nap and then headed out for the Silk Market which is just down the street from our location. The Silk Market reminded me a lot of the markets in Mexico. There are thousands of vendors who all have 5 seconds to impress the shopper with their goods and personal charm. "Hey Lady. Nice shoes here". "Man, see shirt? Nice!" Each one yells out their catch phrase and occasionally will try to pull on a passing customer. My husband was freaked out! This was not his cup of tea, at all. We stopped at a reader glasses booth. He picked up a pair of glasses in a hard case exactly like the pair he had in his pocket. We paid $2 at a US grovery store, the vendor asked for 120RMB! We kept walking. We did cover all the floors. We saw bus loads of tourists stream into the building running to stalls to spend money. There were dozens of buses outside with bus drivers waiting for their clients to return. The higher one climbs in the building the calmer the atmosphere becomes. On the top floor, there were dozens of pearls and jade vendors. I do not know one whip snitch about either one so I passed. I would have no idea if I was buying plastic or the real item. I had heard about the "International food court" in the basement. We went down there to check it out. It was not worth walking down the stairs to look at it. But there is a Post Office in the basement, too. We did not buy anything.
We walked to the next block and wandered through a named brand mall. Prices for items sold worldwide like Nike were the same in Beijing as St Louis. We stopped at McD's for a photo of the food board. I was really surprised at how crowded it was with Chinese and Westerners alike. It had started to rain and we happily pulled out our umbrellas that we bought earlier at WalMart and strolled on home. We had supper at home: chicken stirfry with chinese eggplant, carrot, peapods over rice. I watched the Chinese version of "I survived a Japanese Game show" until bedtime.
Wednesday morning, we walked to the subway and went to the Forbidden city. We walked around around for several hours. After the first hour, the rooftops, thrones, and the history all started to run together. I do not mean to be disrespectful. I have the same problem with other cities. I manage one room in most Palaces before I am in system overload. At that point I like watching the workers, the courtyard stone work, and all the little details. We enjoyed the FC but move on to the Park north of the FC, whose name escapes me this minute. We read that this park was built with the ground taken from digging the river to the south of the FC. Supposedly according to Feng Shui one needs a mountain/hill to the north and a river/water to the south for the proper orientation. The park charges 2 RMB. It is a beautiful park teeming with people. This is a great place to visit. We walked around for hours watching people kick around the feathered weighted thing- I never did get a name for that game-, people dancing, people doing a ribbon routine, people doing exercise programs, and people like us just walking around watching others. We ate our lunch on a bench with a woman who was making some beaded items. Some people would stop and watch her work and then say to us, "Hello. Welcome to China". One woman stopped and seemed to admonish me for something. I never could figure out if she didn't like my blue eyes, my hat, the fact that I was sitting and my husband was standing or what. I was clueless. The woman on the bench next to me, patted me. We walked to the pagoda at the top. When I thought that I was rather heroic for walking up this very long staircase on a warm afternoon a little girl about 4 years old blew by me, dancing up the stairs. So much for my effort. We left refreshed and happy. We walked around the Forbidden City through the neighborhoods. We loved watching the men in a little street side park sitting on benches talking and playing cards while their birds in cages hung in the trees, singing. We then realized we had seen several men this morning with covered cages on their bikes riding to parks. We made our way back to T square. We thought we would try to see Mao but the building is only open until 12N. So, we reverse our steps back through the square dodging umbrellas, baby strollers, photo takers, cell phone users, and thousands of other people doing what we were doing. We got on the subway again and travelled to the Dongzhimen subway to find our bus stop for the following morning. We decided to go to the Great Wall at Mutianyu using public transportation. The bus stop was directly outside exit B and we found it without any trouble so we headed home to our neighborhood. We stopped at the Bank of China to see if we could buy tickets for the Paralympics. We went in to the information desk. We asked about tickets. A guy handed us a ticket and waved at the sitting area. We sat. Pretty soon we realized that we did not know what our number sounded like in Chinese. Before long, there was a fluff up between a well dressed man and a guard. I couldn't tell who did what to whom but each were yelling and gesturing. The man who passed out the numbers came running over and stood between them while the two disputers yelled over his shoulders. The customers with us in the waiting area watched this episode with little or no interest. Finally, the guard reached for his nightstick and the numbers man sent him off to somewhere out of sight. The well dressed man continued to yell and gesture toward the direction of the now absent guard. I spied a Caucasian fellow in the crowd who had UK passports in his hand. I went over to see if he know how one recognized numbers. I learned from him that we needed passports to request tickets. We went back to our hotel. I ask Emily to write out in Chinese the type of tickets that we wanted. She opened the business center and had us buy them online. We told her we were going to the Wall the next day on a public bus. She looked worried! She wrote out our destination, instructions for the bus driver, how to buy a calling card, instructions on how to use a public phone, and the hotel phone number. Her last words wer "Call us if there is any problem". We made it an early night. Dinner was sweet and sour shrimp and vegetables with rice. We tried a couple of different funny flavored potato chips- seaweed, charcoal steak, and a funny speckled green snack called natural foodstuff with freakish sapor.
lynclarke is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 08:17 AM
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Hi Lyn - I wonder if you are referring to Beihai Park north of the Forbidden City. If so, it was also a highlight of our trip to Beijing.
colduphere is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 08:27 AM
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lyn - no such thing as too much detail, lol. Thanks for this report, which looks like it will be a good place to send people who aren't sure they can handle China on their own. Agree that the park was likely Beihai.

Which airline did you fly to Beijing, and was your hotel at 17 Jian Hua Nan Road? Did you book direct or through a service? BTW, your report would be easier to read if you had spaces between paragraphs.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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I am also enjoying your trip report. Please keep writing!

I think the park directly north of the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park.
poutine is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 08:46 AM
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Details are great! Thanks.

Was it Jingshan Park?

monicapileggi is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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Jingshan Park- Yes, that is it! My stuff is still strewn all over the dining room floor and I can't put my hand on the laminated map, yet. Thank you. Now I can go back and correct my photo files. I was calling in Feng Shui Park!
lynclarke is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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I'm thoroughly enjoying this refreshingly sensible and down-to-earth report (although I can't help but hope you're going to tackle eating out at some point).

I hope those who claim independent travel in China is difficult or impossible are taking notes.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 11:23 AM
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Am totally loving this report.

I just hope the bus to the Great Wall at Mutianyu will still be running after October 18th, since that is how I'm planning on going.

You travel very similarly to my way of traveling and the report is very timely for me.
Nywoman is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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More! More!
kudzu is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 02:03 PM
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Day 4 Thurs 9/11/08
We were up early, ate breakfast, and headed to the metro. By 0500hrs, we stood on the platform waiting for the first metro with a fellow holding a geologic type hammer. We decided he was either on his way to work or on his way to commit a hammer murder. Who knows? We found our way easily to the Dongzhimen, exit B. We walked to the bus stop. There was a hand written sign with an arrow pointing and the number "916". We figured we should go somewhere but at 0530 hrs and pitch black, it was difficult to tell where. I had a photo of the 916 bus so I showed it to a woman standing at the next bus stop. She stare at it and waved in the same general direction of the hand written arrow. So we walked that way. We found ourselves inside the Dongzhimen Long Distance bus station standing at the 916 bus sign. I had the money in my hand for the bus ticket but I still didn't know if we paid on the bus or we needed to buy a ticket before boarding. The guy behind us in the line must have understood our question, and he pointed to the bus. Ok, then. We boarded the nice big a/c bus with blue curtains along with other customers who appeared to be day workers. They scanned their passes and immediately fell asleep. There was barely a whisper heard as we zipped up an interstate-type highway. About one hour into the ride, we entered the Huai rou area. We passed the convention center which I had read about on the internet. Pretty soon, there was standing room only as bunches of school kids boarded the bus at each stop. There were kids who looked about 10 or 11 years old wearing light blue uniforms and older kids in camo uniforms. They got off at schools in town. We passed the roundabout which someone said she got off to catch the taxi but we stayed on until the end at the Huai rou coach station.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, there was an unlicensed taxi guy waiting to take us to Mutianyu. His price was high 200RMB but he was there, his car was clean, he was eager and I said "ok". He drove to the parking lot of Mutianyu with his horn blaring around every curve. With the help of the book, "we no speak", we agreed to meet him back at the lot at 1100 hrs. He showed us his license plate number (I took a photo) and I also took a photo of our driver. He stood up straight and proud. I showed him the photo and he nodded happily.

The tickets were 50 RMB for the wall, 40RMB for the cable car, and 35 RMB for the toboggan. Somehow that added up to 121 RMB each! We were the first persons walking up the hill toward the wall. None of the vendors were set up yet. The signage was pretty clear. First, one scans the entrance ticket which has a little CD inside-- I haven't even had a chance to look at the CD, yet. For the cable car, one continues to trudge up the hill. It felt like Manarola, minus the suitcase, all over again. We reached the gondola garage. The attendant put us in the first gondola of the day. On the front window there was a sign which said, "President Bill Clinton rode this cable car on ____". First, we said, "Oh sure", but then we realized none of the other gondolas had the sign!

At the top, there we were on the Great Wall. It is hard to imagine how much effort it took to build this wall. It follows the landscape up and down hills. It looked like where we entered the wall, near the middle, was the highest section. We turned left and started walking. The guards/soldiers were still walking past us to get to their posts and none of the vendors were in place yet. We had the Wall to ourselves. We took dozens of photos. At one point, we sat in the shade on one of the steps and had a snack. We went as far as we could. Beyond the point where we walked, the wall was in ruins. The workers were hanging from bamboo scaffolds on the outside face of the wall. We saw some movement below us and realized there were mules bringing suppies up the small trail to the workers. The mules would walk 30 feet, rest, walk another 30 feet, rest, until they zigzagged their way up to the work zone. If the mule chose to rest too long then the handler would switch him on the butt.

The surface we walked on was beautifully paved but the wall constantly shifts up and down. It is impossible to walk upright. Instead we were leaning forward and trudging from one watch tower to the next. There seemed to be two types of towers. One had fireplaces between the small inside rooms and the other did not. We wondered if the ones with fireplaces were for eating and sleeping. We tried to envision the wall with no surrounding trees and undergrowth. There were sharply sloped slits in the wall which we imagined would be used to dump hot oil or another nasty product on the heads of invading troops. The slope to the wall, was really sharp and steep. It would not be an easy invasion.

After we reached the end then we retraced our steps while sweating bullets back to our starting point and then beyond to where the ski lift and toboggan were located. We had opted for the toboggan. John got in the first sled and was blazing down the hill before I ever got my first butt cheek settled in. Every time he passed one of the workers who stand along the run, they were screaming through their bullhorns at him. Unfortunately, he does not speak Mandarin and so he considered it as encouragement as he continued to streak down the track. I, on the other hand, inched down the track. Every time there was a sign which said, "Slow your speed for bend ahead", I would slow to a near stop. As I passed the workers, they yelled "go, go , go". Fortunately, there was no one behind me and I could leisurely tobogan my way to the end. John was standing at the bottom with the video camera filming my paltry effort!

Our bootleg driver was waiting for us after we ran the gauntlet of vendors. Funny enough, the crowd was surging up the hill and only one vendor realized we were descending. She held up a tshirt which said, "I survived the Great Wall" and yelled, "1 US dollar!" I would have probably bought it even knowing the ink would fade and the shirt would fall apart with washing but the driver was waiting and it was 2 minutes to 11.

Our driver was waiting and smiling broadly when we returned on time. He drove us horns ablazing down to the coach center. Funny enough the 916 was waiting and we hopped onboard. This was a local bus rather than an express. We made probably 25 stops along smaller roads. It was great! We were able to see ordinary Chinese life. We saw mothers driving bicycles with small kids sitting side saddle on the bike bumper. We saw old men on bicycles with impossible loads balanced only by an act of God towering above them who looked like they could not rotate the pedals one more time. We saw bus stops along the road with no visible houses or villages for miles. We saw bicycle taxis at some of these spots ready to carry a person on a shelf mounted on the back bumper. We realized how hard some people have to work for the smallest gain. An old man got on the bus at a rural stop with a grain sack. The ticket taker told him the price and he dug into the sack and took out a Walmart type bag with his money. At one point he fell asleep and awoke with a start obviously frightened that he missed his stop. School kids were around him and reassured him that he was ok. The bus was a noisy and life filled oasis. The Chinese seemed very social and emphatic. Everyone had a conversation going with either a seatmate or on the cell phone. Everyone except the very poor seemed to have a cell phone! We almost hated to see the trip come to an end. But, end it did, right back at the Dongzhimen Long Distance Station.

We took the metro back to the hotel. Our favorite clerk, Emily, was delighted to see us. I think she privately had given us up for dead! She announced if we could master the local bus system then she had other places she could send us!! We had stopped at the 7/11 for snack stuff. I got a bun with shredded cabbage, fine noodles, and shrimp in it and another one with red plum type paste in it. John pigged out on chicken drummies from Walmart and BBQ steak chips. We took a nap.

We decided to find the hotel laundromat. The desk clerk told us the laundromat was in the basement. Then he ran down the hall to catch us and said, "You have to go into the parking garage". So, we went down the elevator and into the garage. There was a guard/attendant in the parking garage. Apparently, he doesn't see many people wandering around with dirty laundry because when we couldn't find the correct room he became very nervous. We finally saw the sign and opened the door with our hotel key to see 3 washers and 3 dryers. The guard seemed amazed.

Meanwhile, on our floor a young girl was screaming and pounding on a hotel door adjacent to ours. It looked like she had an argument with whomever lived in that room. She would pound for a while, yell a bit, and then sit on the floor and make phone calls. I walked over to the 7/11 to get a few things and told Emily about the girl. She said they would send security up to check. I went back and forth to the 7/11 and to the laundry room several times. Each time the girl was still there. Every once in a while the security guard would come by and chat. Each time the girl would refuse to move. Finally at 9 PM, 6 people showed up to have a shouting match with her and she was told to move off. Another drama resolved and we went to bed.

I am sorry about the question I missed earlier. We flew on United.

I made the reservations for the Luxury Service Residence directly through the Ascott website. (www.the-ascott.com) The same site handles the Citadines which we stayed at in Xian.

Peter N-H : I have subscribed to your webletter for the past year or so. I was afraid my report would be too plebian.
lynclarke is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 03:11 PM
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The Oriental-List? Not at all. Many there would be interested in seeing this account, too, I'm sure.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 03:42 PM
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Great to hear your trip to the Great Wall was easy to do. I laughed while reading your comments about the workers yelling at your husband with their bulhorns!

Looking forward to reading more, as I am heading to Beijing next week Thursday!

monicapileggi is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 05:58 PM
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Monica, Well, I was going to be lazy but so many people helped me find my way through China by helping me on the travel boards, that now I will feel guilty if I do not get Beijing done before you go!

Day 5, Friday 9/12/08
We were up at 0500hrs with only slight twinges in our calves. I thought we would be more uncomfortable. By the time I traipsed up and down the stairs a couple of times while serving John breakfast in bed, my legs were just fine. We left at 0715hrs to go see Mao. By the time we got to T square, the line in fromt of the Mauseleum was 4 blocks long! We knew that we could not have backpacks but when we got into line we found out that we could not have cameras in our pockets either whether or not we used them. (Which when you think about all the camera phones is pretty useless, but life is life). So we crossed the street to the Municipal Building and checked our valuables in line 9 for 5 RMB/item. We re-crossed the line and re-joined the line which was now 6 blocks long. The line passed some really great monuments which showed the Chinese in struggle against the Japanese and us, I think. I couldn't take a photo because I didn't have a camera! The work was really detailed because we could see the folds in the workers clothes and their faces were very expressive.It reminded me of the sand art we saw at the 4th of July celebration in St Louis a few years ago. We passed down the line and through the security area. I made the security archway squeal so I was hand wanded which also squealed. The guard shrugged and passed me forward. We surged up the stairs and into the mauseleum. Some people rushed over to a vendor to buy flowers and quickly ran back into line. Whether the flowers were real or not we couldn't tell. It was the week of Mao death anniversary, so maybe the flowers were real. As we entered the hall, the flowers were placed on the floor in front of a tribute wall. It was 0845hrs and the flowers were 50 feet long and one foot high. We understand that the vendor scoops up and flowers and re-sells them over and over but that may be a rumor.

We were finally at a vantage point where we could see Mao in his glass coffin. There was a light shining on his face and his body was covered in a flag/blanket. His head sort of glowed like a Disney creation. The line moved along quickly so that one only sees Mao for a minute or so. We ended up on the opposite side of the mauseleum and had to loop back around to get out valuables out of storage. When I stood in line 9 with my ticket to collect my stuff the Chinese in line dropped back and shoved me forward. I received a bunch of smiles and "Hello"s.

Next we headed off to the Olympic Green. It was a daunting process. The subway goes near the Olympic area but then the crowd is directed to a security area the size of a football field. We asked how to convert our internet reservations into tickets. No one knew but we were magically transported through lines of 1000 people and around obstructions to the next person who could not answer the question either. Ultimately we were allowed into the subway 8 to continue on. At the Olympic area we saw the birds nest and the water cube. We wandered around a bit but no one knew how to make a reservation become a ticket! One information guy thought maybe if we took the reservation to the Bank of China maybe they could help! So we gave up. There was no sense making more people uncomfortable and we did not want to start the whole process over at the stadium. We looked at the some of the rest pavillions and returned to the subway. Later, we talked to people and they were amazed that we made it to the Olympic site. Subway 8 was restricted to only ticket holders and I guess the occasional reservation holder!

As we headed back to town John had a hankering to see a real mall. We had a vague notion where the Oriental Plaza was located so we got off the metro at Dongdan, crossed over the fly-over, and found ourselves standing in front of the Oriental Plaza out of sheer luck. We stopped at McD's for a drink, bathroom stop, & a little rest. We went straight into the mall. Every expensive brand we have ever heard of had a store plus a whole lot more we didn't know about. Who knew there were Porche clothing stores!

We knew there was a food court. Food courts often worked well for us. I can have oriental while John stays with more conservative choices. Did I mention he has a onion phobia? There must be 50 - 100 restaurants in the 2 basements. Maybe I am over-estimating but not by much. John saw the word "steak" and he was immediately interested. So we went to an Aussie restaurant, Aaron's. Aaron's had lunch specials which were deeply discounted. John chose the Kobi steak 6 oz, sweet potato, mixed vegetable, and ceasar salad for 59RMB. I chose a chicken on the barbi, baked potato, mixed vegetables, ceasar salad for 29 RMB. The funny part was when he ordered the steak, the server asked, "How do you want that cooked?" John said, "rare". no comprehension. He pointed to the photo on the menu, "pink". Nope. Both were getting frustrated. I sad, "how do you cook the steak?" Another server was called over who said, "medium, ok?" Yes! we were all happy. Even funnier, the steak was served rare!

We finished lunch, the food was quite good, and the place was filled with all Chinese except for us. We went to the supermarket in the first basement. The metro (Wangfujing)connects directly into the mall as well which is really convenient. The Hyatt is above the mall.

We went home to have a nap before the Hotel sponsored Moon Festival party. As we understand it, the Moon Festival celebrates the harvest, the solstice, and the full moon. The moon becomes the symbol for wholeness, unity, fullness and therefore it represents a time to bring everyone together: family, friends, company, any "set" of people. We had seen tables of elaborate red boxes set up in towns as we came home in the bus the day before and at WalMart there was a huge display. It seemed that nearly every person on the street had a stack of 6 or 8 of these red boxes in a bag.

After a little nap, we met the other guests in the lobby. It was a funny collection of souls: A Chinese woman, her mom, and two small boys maybe 3 and 4, a couple recently assigned to Beijing for 6 months- he Spanish, She French; 3 mid to late 20's Chinese women who all worked for the same management company, A French 30 year old Finance guy, An English fellow early 50's who owns a business in Beijing, and his Chinese girlfriend, A preppie young man who was also on vacation, from London, and us. The hotel van took us to the hutong cafe. Many of the off duty staff members came to the party including our favorite, Emily.

The cafe was an odd little place most Westerners would never see. It was an old hutong house with a living room as one entered the front door through the hanging beads. The living room was set up with a couple of tables and a bar area. The back room, where our party was set up, was probably 15 x 15, at most. There was a buffet table, a guitar player on a stage, a couple of sofas, and some milling room. We were encouraged to eat and drink. The little boys were transfixed by the guitar and the fellow who was playing the guitar was extremely kind and gentle with them. Everyone mingled. Most everyone spoke English. At one point they served moon cakes, a kind of dense sugar concoction. The cafe owner's wife said no one really eats them any more. But, everyone has to share them with there immediate circle of relationships. The Beijing business owner said he had spent over $4000 for moon cakes to send to his customers. The staff announce a few games and finally the party wore down. We joined another couple to walk to the Houhai area. We stopped for a beer and conversation. It was suddenly after midnight and we hopped in a cab and headed home.
lynclarke is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 06:11 PM
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we want this detail and more....

i am loving this read...

did you never eat out at any chinese restaurants??
rhkkmk is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 06:32 PM
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Lyn, don't rush for me! I'll take what I can get. I do appreciate the details you are providing in your trip report. It's been great.

I'm off to bed, which means I can now say EIGHT more days till I fly to Beijing!!!! Woohoo!!

monicapileggi is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 03:40 AM
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I sent you a message on VT. I would appreciate hearing from you.


monicapileggi is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:24 AM
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Day 6, Sep 13,2008

We got up at 0545hrs. Initially, I planned to go to the park but the day waas bright and I decided to go to Panjiayuan Market instead. We had the desk clerk write the name and address in Chinese and a had a photo of the sign in Chinese. We hailed a cab. Now I have to give a little observation about taxi drivers in Beijing. All the drivers who we hired seemed to look at my hand written Chinese notes as if they were written in swahili. They would stare at the note, look at the reverse blank side, and then study the note again. Just when I was assured that this fellow had absolutely no idea what we wanted, he would throw the gear shift into gear and off we would go at an alarming rate barely missing persons or vehicles in the vicinity. I would consider this comment as a gross generality except it happened to us on nearly every occasion. This time the driver deposited us around the corner from the market and pantomimed our directions. I would have to say this is the next most common occurence with a taxi driver. I do not think that one ever dropped us off AT the site. Rather he would pull into a parking space and vaguely wave off into the distance. Except with one occasion, we had a photo of all of our destinations so that we could ask directions along the way if need be.

We walked around the corner and there it was. A vast array of vendors selling all things Asian. I was in heaven. We knew we were supposed to bargain but of course, we know we paid too much! It was all fun. I found the Mao watches which everyone talks about. I bought two. The asking price was 75 RMB, I paid 25 RMB each. I found some fans with scenes painted on them. The asking price was 40 RMB, I paid 12. John found military hat emblems which he liked. The asking price was 40, we eventually paid 35 for two. I do not mean to bore the reader with prices but when I was trying to figure out cost prior to the trip, I had difficulty getting the sense of prices.

The atmosphere of the Panjiayuan Market was much more laid back than the Silk Market and almost none of the vendors accosted us. My husband was finally comfortable and able to browse to his heart content. Around 1100hrs we met an English woman in the crowd who was also gaga over all the possibilities! This market made Swinderby in England look like a yard sale! John found a worry bead bracelet with little heads. Someone called them Buddhas. I don't know but I found them cheerful. The asking price was 300 RMB, we paid 90 RMB. Next was a Chinese military style hat (reproduction) for 20 RMB, and a "jade" band ring for 15 RMB for me. Like I said, I have no understanding of Jade and this ring suited me just fine. I could have bought a trunk load of stuff but those 21 inch suitcases were waiting for us back at the hotel.

We took a taxi back to the hotel. This driver looked particularly perplexed by our Chinese name and address. Just as hope was dwindling, he slammed it into gear and off we streaked. He actually deposited at the hotel door. We had lunch at home: creamed of smoked salmon with carrots, eggplant, and peapods over rice. Peapods are cheap 16 RMB per KG!! It was a nice treat. Now, I know everyone thinks this is nuts eating at home but I have a husband who can only tolerate so many changes at once. If I forced him into a restaurant three times a day for the first week he would have been cranky, to say the least. It is like with raising kids: one must pick the battles! As he adapted then we struck out more. Either way, I was in China!

In the late afternoon, we struck out for the Friendship Store. It is right around the corner from the Luxury Serviced Residence. Wow! After the Panjiayuan market the prices seemed high. John bought some Olympic wrist bands with the motto "one world, one dream" that he saw. We saw some really fabulous kites with dragons, birds, turtles, etc. We checked out prices and wandered through the store. The salespeople are trained to be hermetically sealed to your hip once you look at any item in their display cases. This made us crazy. No amount of saying, "We are just looking", will shake them off. I know they are trying to be accommodating but it made us uncomfortable.

We walked on to Ritan Park. It was the best park we had seen. Maybe it was because it was in the embassy area. It was beautiful with flowers, trees, artful rock displays, little running streams, beautiful pavillions, and old temple sites. We watched people fishing, playing cards, exercising, rock wall climbing, flying kites, playing table tennis, badmintion, picnicing, and watching, just like us. There were childrens' rides and plenty of area for children to run. We watched one little boy running around with a bare butt and just a shirt on. The father wandered along behind the little boy carrying the pants. Everyone who saw the little bare butt chided the dad and laughed. We loved watching all the people. The Chinese certainly know how to use their green spaces.

After a while, we decided to find the restaurant I had read about. We finally figured out that the restaurant was outside the park walls in the northeast corner. We found the Jenny Lou's mentioned in my directions and sure enough there was our restaurant: Xi He Ya Ju. ( phone 010 85617643, cc- yes, wetern toilet, www.xhyj.net, 1100 - 1400hrs, 1700-2200hrs, has peking duck) We went inside to the courtyard area. The menu was extensive with photos and English translations. Lo and behold, John found items that he recognized with no offending onions! We ordered batter fried shrimp, sauteed scallops and brocali, sweet and sour pork, steamed rice, and two beers Budweiser, ugh!). The food was very good. I expected the sweet and sour to be less sweet than the American Chinese version but it was not. The restaurant clientele was 90% Chinese in family groups. I had heard that the restaurant was laowai friendly so I guess I expected to see more of the local embassy people. John was starving and we (he) ate every bite. I use chopsticks but improperly because I was taught years ago by Filipino interns who were also young and did not stress technique. Technically correct or not, I got every last peapod. The bill was 290 RMB. A veritable fortune in Beijing but a great treat for us.

We walked back home with full tummies. Along the way, we watched the Chinese guards in front of every embassy. The guards had a routine. They would look straight, look right, look left,right faced, walked 10 feet, left faced, looked right, looked left, and so it goes. Each time we passed a guard we said, "Ni Hao" and each one smiled and said, "Ni hao" or "Hello". We saw embassies from Slovenia, Czech REpublic, and India. The next thing we knew we seemed to be in a fashion district. With the lights on at night, we could see the rooms on the 2nd floors of several buildings. There were rooms with large mirrors, clothes hanging on racks, and a bunch of giggling girls who burst out one of the doors laughing on the way to the metro. it was a lovely day.
lynclarke is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:10 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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hpeabody is online now  
Oct 3rd, 2008, 07:49 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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lyn -- truly enjoying your TR, the down to earth style is very much appreciated, and I had to laugh at a few comments. Obviously you have done your homework well (not everyone masterslaowai) and your easygoing manner helped you get over the occasional bumps along the road.
Shanghainese is offline  
Oct 4th, 2008, 01:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 446
Thanks Lyn, we're also leaving for Beijing in a few days so your report couldn't have come at a better time.
We're also planning on going to Mutianyu by public transport. I read somewhere that some 916 buses go directly to the wall. Is this possible & the lonely planet also says that the 980 bus also goes there.
If they don't go directly to the wall is Huairou the last stop.
Clark55 is offline  

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