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Trip report; Beijing, Xian and Kuala Lumpur

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Oct 5th, 2018, 10:42 PM
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Trip report; Beijing, Xian and Kuala Lumpur

My wife finally retired 9/10. 9/12 we were off to Beijing. After UAL had a huge though brief price drop we purchased RT biz tickets for their Polaris class service. The prices had been around $8800.00 so our first option was a 5* carrier Hainan for around $5400.00. However by the time we booked UAL was down to about $5300.00 while Hainan had climbed to about $5700.00 so we decided on UAL to get the points and because their flight times were very good. Both legs were NS and left their respective airports around noonish so no much to think about.

The Polaris lounge at ORD far exceeds the United Club. There is a much better selection of food and higher end liquor. Its a quantum improvement. Our 12.5 hr. flight went pretty fast really. The IFE was pretty good, food was good though I found the 2-4-2 configuration a bit cramped and there could have been more storage space but aside form that it went well. The lie flat seats were roomy enough. As for on board service UAL does not measure up to the 5* carriers we have flown including ANA, Asiana and Thai as a 4* carrier. Sorry not even close. There was a bit of a snag on our return with of all people the lead FA but that will come later.

So arrival in PEK! Wow! Huge airport first of all. There was a long walk to get to the entry process. First you have to scan your passport and fingerprints at auto stations, get a confirmation slip and then onto a tram for a 3-4 min ride to get your baggage. After that its immigration where your passport is examined, etc. Then its into another line to have your bags x rayed, then finally out. So we headed for a taxi only to be met by I suppose you would cal them gypsy cab drivers who try to sell you a ride basically one of your kidneys. No thanks. We finally get to the cab stand and show the lady there our hotel address, pay and off we go. Here I learned what became a common theme here. Have the name of your destination in Chinese. I had this on my phone so ok no problem but unless you speak Chinese its a problem.

So into the cab we go and hit traffic. This was around 4pm BTW. And man I mean traffic and more traffic. Along the way the driver pulls over and by the look on his face and sense of urgency he had I did not need for him to translate per his phone what he had to do. Man the guy just had to go. So off he went. nature was calling.

About an hour later we arrived at our hotel, the Nuo Beijing in the Wangfujing area. This was a former Raffles property and is now connected to its younger sib the Hotel Beijing where the driver dropped us off at. No worries they are connected so its a short walk to our section. Time for a shower as it was a bit warm and really more humid. Our room was of course older but had a lot of room, high ceilings, a nice chandelier and a nice BR.

Time for dinner so we tried the hotel restaurant in our older section. You can use the new addition too BTW. Well this was interesting. We were in the lower level with like just us and the wait staff with basically no one speaking English.Ok life is an adventure. It felt weird really. It was not very plush to say the least. So we got seated and perused the menu and wow so began some lost in translation moments. Some items translated to English included "wet bacteria lips", "church burning beef" and my fav "fried marinated horse glue" Yep this is what it said. Well I prefer my horse glue steamed thank you. Better texture.

Our meal was Chinese food which was actually pretty good really. However the bar selection was limited. Very limited. Oh well a cold beer

So this it for day one. We booked all private tours with English speaking guides to begin the following day in the afternoon for a half day tour. We wanted bit of time to settle in first.

More to come. Stay tuned!

Last edited by jacketwatch; Oct 5th, 2018 at 10:47 PM.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 04:12 AM
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This is our guide Leo.


Us outside an entrance to a hutong


Sue by he bedroom in this hutong


Clothing in this particular hutong


The drum tower.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 04:22 AM
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After climbing those stairs this ride was most welcome.
We called our guide "Leo" who met us at our hotel with a driver right on time. I arranged these tours thru my TA who has connections to contractors practically world wide. This guy was from a group called Palace International. We had a half day tour starting the the afternoon of day two Sept. 14th. We went to a hutong, stopped by a tea house and climbed 108! steep steps to the top of the drum tower above to hear the demonstration. Well about when I stopped panting it began. Drum and bell towers were in many olden Chinese cities. The drums would beat to signal the city gates were open and bang on the hour. When the city gates were to close the bell tower took over and rang on the hour. Interesting. Indeed.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 04:27 AM
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Narrow hutong streets. One funny thing is many of the cars had square pieces of wood in front of their wheels. Hmm. Why? Leo told me it was to prevent dogs from relieving themselves on your tires. . Also home had concrete markers on their entrances to mark their rank. If it was a drum then it meant you were in the military, a book then you were a civil servant, a dragon you were royalty and so on.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 04:30 AM
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Ancient water clock.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 06:50 AM
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Nice start to your report. I'm following along.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 07:21 AM
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Looking forward to more. However, looks like that hutong was glammed up for tourists. Maybe when originally built and lived in by one extended family they might have dressed like that, but when I visited one in 2001 it was more plebeian with multiple families living in poor conditions.
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Oct 6th, 2018, 08:02 AM
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Probably.
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Oct 7th, 2018, 09:14 AM
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Day 3 Sept. 15th. Long day for us. Leo met us at 0800 and it was a short walk to Tiananmen Square. Along the way I was surprised to see id checks for locals but none for us. Oh well. We got to this historic site and Leo gave us some history of it. Then it was on to the Forbidden City basically across the street. I saw a documentary about this place. it was built to have well over 9k rook but under 10k as it was thought heaven had 10 k rooms. It was massive and we walked a great deal. Then it was on to the Temple of Heaven. This too was amazing. Sites like these are why we went to China.

This involved quite a bit of walking so we then went for a quick break in a park where we saw people doing a zumba-like class. Looked like fun.

The it was on to lunch which was part of the package. This was a place where locals go and I was surprised to see the rooms were separate. Hmm. We were in one room with a table that sat around 10 people. I must saw the decor was rather dingy and the meal included two mains, beef and chicken, a veggie dish and rice. It was really pretty good though lacking in ambiance to say the least.

After this Leo wanted to take us to a silk factory but were were rather tired. It was humid and we had walked a lot but he convinced us a short stop would be ok. We gave this place a look and decided to leave probably sooner than he had hoped. He seemed a bit pouty about this and that attitude would manifest during his next tour in two days. He seemed to just take off and we finally met him at the car. In retrospect it seems he anticipated we would buy something but we were just tired and wanted to get back. See the pics below.

Last edited by jacketwatch; Oct 7th, 2018 at 09:57 AM.
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Oct 7th, 2018, 09:20 AM
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Tiananmen square



Into the Forbidden City


Mao monument

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Oct 7th, 2018, 09:34 AM
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Looks you had fun in Beijing. Looking forward to more.
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Oct 7th, 2018, 09:57 AM
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Thank you.Will do
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Oct 7th, 2018, 10:03 AM
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Shopping ops are one way guides make money. If you don't want them you should say so up front. It's impossible to avoid them on most group tours, but should be possible on private tours. Likewise meals in good places, your guide got an incentive to deliver you to that restaurant.
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Oct 7th, 2018, 10:11 AM
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Aah..Mrs & Mr JW on the roll again. Great. I'm sitting in Istanbul after a lovely week on the island of Samos, following you. Great pics. Pl give us all details. Looking forward.
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Oct 7th, 2018, 11:02 AM
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Iíve got some interesting details coming. Enjoy Istanbul too. We were there in 2011 and 12, loved it. How is it now?
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Oct 7th, 2018, 05:57 PM
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Lovely to hear about you trip JW, please continue...
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Oct 8th, 2018, 02:22 AM
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Looking forward to your "interesting details."
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Oct 8th, 2018, 05:44 AM
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Kathie there’s a few. It will be a longish report.
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Oct 9th, 2018, 09:59 AM
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Istanbul was as wonderful as I had left behind 10 yrs ago . The once Byzantine empire now cloaked in Ottoman grandeur .Its always charming, endearing & enigmatic. I spent barely 2 days enroute to Samos via Kusadasi .
a little greek island on the west coast of Turkey.
Authentic laidback Agean charm. Ate and drank myself silly on the Samos Muscat.
That"s another story.
An old Chinese proverb:
'One learns more from travelling a thousand miles than from reading a thousand scrolls.'
....for now shall follow yours..😊
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Oct 10th, 2018, 10:04 AM
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Hi jacketwatch

I am coming late to this site.

I loved all the pictures as I was just there in May-June of this year.

Thank you for the extra pictures you sent me via e-mail.

Continuing having a good time......now on to Xian,,,,,,,,,,,, but wait , how about a few pictures of the Wall in Beijing !!

Keep me posted how you are doing , both on this Trip Report and via e-mail
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