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fun4all4 Jul 3rd, 2006 03:08 AM

Thanks for sharing this excellent report. I have just returned from my own trip (and still have to write my own trip report), but want to follow along. Have fun! ((H))

travelgirl2 Jul 4th, 2006 01:51 AM

Yes, we are dragging around a laptop. It has come in very handy, as we are able to look up attractions, restaurants, tours, etc., in the various cities. I didn’t have time to plan everything before starting the trip, so we knew we’d be doing a lot on the fly. We paid for the connection in London. In Tokyo and Kyoto, the connection was free. We have a wireless laptop, but so far all connections have been wired in each hotel room.
-------------------------------------

Day 10 – Last Day in Kyoto

We planned to go walking on the Philosopher’s Path today. But when we woke up, we changed plans. We decided to sleep in and relax for the day. We knew that we had several days of aggressive touring ahead of us in Beijing, so one day to decompress would be good at this point. It sounds funny, but we took a day off from our vacation.

We just had one meal today. We went to one of the hotel restaurants, which served a Spanish buffet. Spanish with a Japanese influence is very interesting. It was actually okay though. And it was simple, quick and uncomplicated. Exactly what we felt like today.

DH went off to the hotel pool for a swim. (Are you getting the idea yet that he is much more energetic than the rest of us?) The hotel pool facilities here are for adults only.

The kids and I listened to music in one of our rooms and talked about our trip so far. It was a great time hanging out and being together. We talked about past and current events in Japan, China (our next stop) and the US. DS1 amazed me when I asked whether he felt a particular issue was right or wrong. I realized that he appreciates the subtleties when he said he wasn’t sure, but it was possible that something might be necessary but not right. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that… Sounds like Philosophy 101.

As we neared the end of our stay in Japan, DH and I reflected on our experiences. We felt that we needed to restrain ourselves a bit here, especially our normal noise level. We also found ourselves being more serious and not joking around as much as we usually do, as we were conscious of being conspicuous most of the time. And, we had to modify our attitudes toward time in order to be on time and not disrupt anyone’s schedule.

We found Japan to be a very polite, organized society. In many ways, it is a complete pleasure to travel here. Service is excellent. The people try to be very helpful. Everyone seems trustworthy. You never have to be on guard. Everything is meticulously clean, efficient and extremely well organized.

Finally, we packed up our stuff and got a good night’s sleep.


LCBoniti Jul 4th, 2006 09:52 AM

How wonderful that you have the time to step back and take a break. So many of us are too busy crammning in as much as we can (mostly because we don't have the luxury of time)to do this.

Do you think it was the Hiroshima visit that caused your son to think so philosophically? He sounds like a great kid!

Again, I can' thank you enough for sharing and I look forward to the next leg of your Great Adventure.

Travel well,
Linda

ceb1222 Jul 4th, 2006 12:00 PM

Bookmarking - I have to add that I think it's so great that DS1's friend (also 13?) thought to give him a pedometer!

tower Jul 4th, 2006 12:30 PM

TravelGirl...heading for Beijing and the "wall"..I might suggest that the boys will be perfectly fine if you turn them loose to maneuver along the steepest parts of the wall. It is perfectly safe for them and nowhere to get lost. When I say steep, I mean very steep inclines...(I was there during a snowstorm a number of years ago...and it was a veritable skating rink/ski slope).
I think they would appreciate being on their own to experience this part of the adventure...one of the few places it is practical to do so.

Keep it coming, TG..we're loving it!

Stu T.

missypie Jul 5th, 2006 06:38 AM

Glad you took a day to rest. I was wondering how much "down time" you had scheduled...being a tourist is very hard work!

travelgirl2 Jul 5th, 2006 08:27 AM

Thanks missypie. We are trying to schedule the major things earlier during each stay, in order to allow ourselves a rest day now and then, if we feel we need it. You are right - travelling is hard work.

travelgirl2 Jul 5th, 2006 08:43 AM

Day 11 – Flight to Beijing

We awake ridiculously early to finish packing and catch the 5:46 am train from Kyoto to Osaka Kansai airport. We are half an hour early for the train. We are the only ones on the platform. It is then that I realize that no one is really early in Japan. Everyone seems to arrive about 5-10 minutes before the appointed time, but not before.

The train to the airport has space for our luggage at the end of the compartment. I guess maybe all the airport trains have this space. We check in at the airport and then find a place for breakfast. DS1 has a traditional Japanese breakfast. We notice that among the Japanese people around us, the older people usually have a Japanese breakfast and the younger people have a Western breakfast. I am so happy to have French toast. We notice that many people in Japan try to give us Tabasco with our food. Not sure why this would be… We eat while overlooking a two-story high poster of Meg Ryan, which is a bit surreal. Our flight on Japan Air is fine and uneventful. Just the way we hope all our flights will be.

Upon arrival in Beijing, at first it seems very quiet. We get our baggage. Then, we see the gauntlet we will have to run to get out of the airport. All of the sudden, there are hordes and hordes of people lined up behind a barrier. We eventually see a man holding a sign with our name on it. I’ve arranged for a taxi with the hotel. They quoted me a rate of 500 RMB (about $62) for a minivan, which I knew was very high. But my main priority upon arrival was to easily get to our hotel and get situated, before dealing with figuring out how things work in China.

We easily check in to the Lee Garden Service Apartments. It is right next door to the Peninsula Palace Hotel. Our 2 bedroom apartment, with kitchen and living room, is pretty nice. The people at the front desk are helpful and speak some English, but we are not always able to communicate very well, so we keep the communications simple.

We decide to go for a walk. I am under the impression that the Forbidden City is very close, so we set out with a map. We walk and walk. We think we are going in the right direction, but it seems that we are walking very far. Also, people are staring at us. All around, the roads are crowded with cars, bicycles, pedestrians. Everyone is all mixed together. Bikes make turns directly in front of cars. No one stops to let pedestrians cross the street, so you just have to watch for an opening and go quickly. I am relieved when we finally get to the Forbidden City about 40 minutes later, thinking it will be more peaceful here.

But, as we go through the first gate of the Forbidden City, everyone is noticing us. I don’t see any other Westerners around. Suddenly, people hawking postcards and books and water are flocking to us. We avoid eye contact, say “No, thanks”, and keep walking. After about 10 minutes, we get to the third gate, where the tickets are sold. It is 4:00 pm and too late to buy a ticket. So, we begin the walk back out. The hawkers continue. As I finish my bottle of water, a man comes up and takes it out of my hand. He is collecting the empty bottles. Outside, we attempt to hail a taxi.

I had heard that it is important to have your destination written in Chinese for the taxi drivers. That is excellent advice. I have a card from the hotel with the name of a supermarket written on it. The first taxi we come to declines to take us. We keep walking and hail another taxi. He seems nice and agrees to take us to the Carrefour. We drive in very heavy traffic for at least 30 minutes and are getting nervous that we’ve had a miscommunication. Eventually, we arrive at the Carrefour. The fare is 33 Chinese Yuan, which is about $4. (This lets me know how much extra we paid for the ride from the airport!) As we get out, several people rush at our taxi. It is apparently difficult to get a taxi from there, which makes me wonder how we’ll do when we are all loaded down with groceries after shopping.

We go into the Carrefour and see all sorts of household products, electronics, clothes, etc. for sale. It is very crowded and it is difficult to make our way through the store, as we look for food. Once again, we are the only Westerners. No one seems to speak much English, but there are some signs in English. At the back of the store, we see a sign leading us to a motorized ramp. It is like a flat escalator, built for carts and people. The cart seems to lock into the ramp and does not roll downhill. It is very interesting and we debate whether the wheels are secured between some bumps or whether the ramp is magnetized. Downstairs is the grocery market, where we purchase bottled water and some food for breakfasts for the next 4 days. The bakery products look good, so we purchase a few things there. We also buy Nutella, which we love, but never purchase at home. The meat section is huge, with a tremendous section of raw and cooked meats. There are several meats that we have never seen. Words cannot describe it. It is amazing.

At checkout, there is some problem with the fruit, which we cannot understand. Suddenly, I remember that in Europe you have to weigh the fruit in the produce section, prior to coming to the front cash register. The lady behind us in line speaks a little English and confirms that is what we are supposed to do. DH runs back to weigh the fruit. Once everything is successfully rung up, we present our credit card. The cashier calls someone over, who arrives on roller skates and takes our card away for approval. When she returns with the approval, we are on our way.

Once outside, the flimsy plastic bags start breaking and our food starts falling out onto the ground. Holding and carrying the groceries as best as we can, we walk a block away so we can have a better chance at flagging down a taxi. One comes along right away and we put our groceries in the trunk and pile into the taxi. We go about a block and DH asks the driver to put the meter on. He speaks English pretty well and says he will do it in a minute. We chat with him a bit and he seems very nice, but we are anxious for him to turn on the meter, as we’ve heard that rides without the meter can turn into rip-offs. After another two blocks, he stops the car, gets his phone out of the trunk and proceeds to have an argument with someone over the phone, while standing outside on the sidewalk. We are totally baffled and have no choice but to wait while he is having his heated discussion.

The driver comes over to DH’s window and says he cannot take us to our hotel. He says his mother is on the phone and would like to talk to DH. He hands the phone to DH. DH listens for a while, nodding, and says “OK”. The three of us in the back seat are really curious what is going on. Afterward, DH tells us that it was the taxi driver’s mother and she said that she is sorry, but the driver cannot take us and he will find another driver to take us. It is very funny to see DH just nodding and saying OK to the driver’s mother, but he later asks us “What could I say?” The driver is very apologetic and keeps saying “I’m sorry, my mother”. So, he flags down another taxi, helps us load our groceries into the other taxi’s trunk, explains to the other driver where we are going and says he is sorry again. The other driver brings us back to the hotel. We never find out why the taxi driver’s mother didn’t want him to take us. Maybe it was too long a trip to go all the way across town? Maybe he was expected home for dinner? The boys are very amused by all this. I tell them, “See, even grownups have to listen to their mother.”

Back at the apartment, we are mentally exhausted from our day’s adventures. We are all kind of cranky, wondering how we will cope for the next few days. We order a room service dinner, which no one really eats. We are finding the change of pace and the unfamiliarity to be pretty jarring.

LoveItaly Jul 5th, 2006 09:01 AM

Oh travelgirl, what an adventure you are all having!! And the story about the taxidrivers mother is precious. That will give your dear sons an idea of how they will have to listen to you even when they are all grownup, lol.

I can imagine you were exhausted by the end of your first day in China.
Thank you so much for letting us travel along with you! Your report in priceless.

LCBoniti Jul 5th, 2006 09:03 AM

Fascinating - I am anxious to hear how you have adjusted to China!

Kristinelaine Jul 5th, 2006 09:32 AM

Thanks, travelgirl!

HappyCheesehead Jul 5th, 2006 09:40 AM

Travelgirl:

This is the most fun I have ever had with a thread. You have a way with words and for picking out the differences in cultures in a wonderous way.

Marija Jul 5th, 2006 09:43 AM

The desk staff at the Peninsula are wonderful. Try taking your questions there. Also pick up one of their "take me to" cards which have the main destinations listed. Don't miss looking at the night food market which is a couple of blocks from the Peninsula. (Make a left turn coming out of the Peninsula.)

As you see cabs are cheap so don't waste energy walking from place to place. Have a great time in China!

missypie Jul 5th, 2006 09:47 AM

The taxi driver's MOTHER told him he couldn't take you?! How incredibly bizarre!!!

Y'all are way more adventurous than I'd ever be. I wonder how many Americans tour China on their own versus a group tour? I bet the percentage is very low.

tower Jul 5th, 2006 10:44 AM

missypie:

When I first vsited China in the early days (1984), touring was the only option sensibly available...today things have changed to a point where more and more are going it alone. I plan on re-visiting next spring and we may hire a car and driver for part of the time. In '84, there were absolutely NO civilan cars...millions of bikes, though.From what I hear of China today, I'm thankful I spent a wonderful mointh there back in '84...but I'm looking forward to return.
I'm sure thankful for this most comprehensive, beautifully designed report from Trip Girl...what a time they're having!!
Stu T.

chicgeek Jul 5th, 2006 11:01 AM

Travelgirl2,

I am enjoying my trip with you so much! I was thinking how generous it is of you to take the time to post this report, but then thought of what a great journal this will be for you and your children to enjoy in the years to come.

It is great that you have your laptop with you and can write as you go, so that it doesn't all blur together when you get home.

Thank you so much. Have a great time, and keep the stories of your family's adventures coming!

Catbert Jul 5th, 2006 11:53 AM

This really is the trip of a lifetime. Thank you for dragging the laptop around!

lalachoa Jul 7th, 2006 06:58 AM

I love your trip reports! Keep writing!

missypie Jul 7th, 2006 07:04 AM

Nothing from China for a while. I hope everything is going smoothly.

LowCountryIslander Jul 7th, 2006 08:51 AM

Anticipating the next installment...:)

massagediva Jul 7th, 2006 05:20 PM

You're doing a great job of illustrating those head-scratching episodes that we'll all remember from our trips.I was in India last year,and some of the crazy things that happened there are my most treasured memories.

baby108 Jul 7th, 2006 06:30 PM

Looking forward for more. Bookmarking!

travelgirl2 Jul 8th, 2006 11:35 AM

Hi all. Just checking in. We are doing fine. Will post more hopefully tomorrow or the next day. --Travelgirl

CRAZY4TRAVEL Jul 8th, 2006 11:50 AM

I'm finding your trip report and adventure facinating. What a wonderful learning experience for your boys. I can't wait to hear how you make out in China.

SandyBrit Jul 8th, 2006 01:03 PM

travelgirl2 - Looking forward to your report on the Forbidden City.

Your detail and style of writing is like reading a good book. I was nervous for you all when the taxi driver had not turned on the meter. How amazing that his mother could speak English.

Sandy

amaclise Jul 8th, 2006 01:35 PM

Bookmark for my summer reading and vicarious travel.

Marija Jul 10th, 2006 04:39 AM

We're waiting! Hope you're enjoying China.

LCBoniti Jul 11th, 2006 07:41 AM

travelgirl -
Well, you have spoiled us with this ongoing journal and now we are missing you! I hope all is well with you. You have me a little worried since in your last China posting you did not seem to feel comfortable yet.

I hope you are able to check in with us soon.
Take care!
Linda

travelgirl2 Jul 11th, 2006 10:16 AM

Hi Linda and everyone! I am a few days behind on posting. We are currently in Santorini, where we have only an internet cafe, and you can't transfer any files. Luckily, I just realized that I had emailed my word file to myself in China, so I will be able to download the next day from my email...

travelgirl2 Jul 11th, 2006 10:21 AM

Day 12 – Beijing – Hutong Tour

We wake up early, have a leisurely breakfast in the apartment, and decide that we will have to arrange some tours of Beijing. Everyone is feeling better. We’ve decided to regard this as an adventure. But, taking taxis and touring on our own will be too stressful for us. We are apparently not as adventurous as we had imagined ourselves to be! So, we get to work booking some tours for the next few days. First, we book a Gray Line Hutong tour for this afternoon and another Gray Line tour to the Great Wall for tomorrow. And we send an email to Jane Yeo, who has been recommended by several Fodor’s posters. We hope she can show us the sights us around Beijing.

We unpack a bit, research Beijing a bit and catch up on our email for a couple of hours. We start some laundry. It is a combined washer and dryer, European style. It runs for about 3 hours, at which time we have to leave to have lunch before our afternoon tour.

We have lunch at HUANG TING Ting, in the Peninsula Palace Hotel, which is next door to our apartment. As we approach the hotel, there are two revolving doors and a man stationed at each door to push them around for you. What service!

While waiting momentarily for a table, another woman strikes up a conversation with us. I notice that her husband, who appears Western, is speaking to the hostess in Chinese. I ask him about this. He tells me that he was with the foreign service in Australia and was posted in China in the 1970’s and again in the 1980’s. He is here on a diplomatic mission to arrange scholarships for foreign students to study in China. He tells us he was a Greek and Latin professor prior to joining the foreign service. The couple is charming and it sounds like they have had an adventurous life. They tell us that Beijing has changed so much over the years that they don’t even know where things are today. I can see how this would be, as there is construction everywhere.

Huang Ting is a beautiful, serene restaurant. Fodor’s says it is arguably Beijing’s best Cantonese restaurant. We order shrimp dumplings and barbecued pork buns from the dim sum menu. Also, sautéed asparagus, beef with mango, soy marinated chicken and some fried rice. We share everything and enjoy it all. The kids really like the barbecued pork buns, beef with mango and fried rice. We give this restaurant a 9.

The service is excellent. Our jasmine tea is constantly refilled with hot water. We order a large Evian and DH receives it. We are momentarily confused, since with such fabulous service, we would expect them to pour the water. He opens the bottle and the waiter then rushes over to pour it. DH tells me he realized that it is probably a courtesy to give us the water unopened, so we can confirm that it is a fresh bottle of water. I am oblivious and thinking he is rude to have opened the water with the waiter standing right there, until he fills me in.

After lunch, we head back to the hotel. We have had airplane tickets to Xian delivered to the front desk. I’ve ordered them through www.wacts.com. There seems to be a problem with DS2’s ticket and it looks like we will be proceeding to Xian without him. The lady at the front desk tells us she will work this out and also call the airline to confirm our flights, which is necessary in China. Later, she tells us that we just have 3 paper tickets and 1 electronic ticket, which should be fine. Once back to our room, we find the load of laundry soaking wet in the washer and the door will not open. But, it is time for our tour, so we will have to deal with this later.

The Gray Line mini-bus picks us up and takes us to the hutong area. The pedicab tour is with www.hutongtour.com.cn. It costs 220 yuan per person (about $25) and there are 15 people on the tour. Jackay is a very nice guide and we are each taken, 2 to a bike, from site to site, where he describes what is going to happen and gives us a history lesson. We visit the bell tower and climb to the top, where there is a brief drum ceremony. Then, we go inside a family’s hutong and garden, where the man of the household explains their lifestyle to us. This is a very upscale hutong, with indoor plumbing, electricity and running water. He is a retired engineer and now does paper cutting. His work is simply beautiful. Our last stop is at a tea house, where we are instructed in the tea ceremony and we try oolong tea, jasmine tea, and lychee tea. We end up purchasing a lot of tea to take home. Overall, we all love this tour. It is quite varied and also allows us to relax as we are driven through the hutong neighborhoods.

When we return to the apartment, we find that the clothes are still soaking wet and we still can’t open the door. A call to the front desk brings someone to the apartment with the instructions written in English. After some fiddling by DH, the clothes are finally done a bit later. Meanwhile, I am writing on Fodors.

We want to go to FANGSHAN for dinner. It was established in 1925 by three royal chefs. It is in a lovely spot on the shore of Beihai Lake. As we are leaving in the taxi, the doorman tells us it is raining and asks if we want to take umbrellas. No, thank you, we tell him. How bad could the rain be, we think, as we are just being dropped off at the restaurant.

As we are driving to the restaurant, the sky opens up and it begins to pour. Then, the thunder and lightning begin. The driver is not quite sure where to go and he makes a call and then stops and gets out of the cab to ask someone. Eventually, he drops us off at the gate to the park. When he stops and points ahead and doesn’t drive any longer, we realize that we have to get out. We bolt through the rain and find a somewhat dry haven underneath the gate to the park. While waiting under the gate, it proceeds to get windy and soon we are pretty well drenched. We keep waiting for the rain to abate. About 10 of us are huddled together waiting. Most people have umbrellas and one guy is huddled under a box. The parking attendant goes to retrieve someone’s car and stops at a shop. He returns with umbrellas and says they are 50 yuan (about $5) each. Yes, thanks, we’ll take 4. When he returns the change, I realize he is charging us 15 yuan (about $2). I briefly wonder how much he paid for the umbrellas, but I don’t really care. That is the best $8 we have ever spent.

After about 35 minutes, we decide to walk to the restaurant. We are all very wet. DS1 is completely soaked. We head off, over a bridge and along a path next to the lake. Soon we come to a flooded area. So, this is what a flash flood looks like. The path to the restaurant has about 4 inches of water covering it. The restaurant workers lie pallets down and we skip from one to the next. There are only 4 pallets, so they are continually bringing the last one forward. Eventually, we make our way to the restaurant this way. As we arrive, everyone stares and laughs. We are laughing too. DS1 has removed his shoes and this causes lots of laughter.

The dinner is okay. We order a set menu and I think there were about 15 dishes. But, we are wet and pretty cold and miserable. We give this dinner a 7. After dinner, one of the waiters walks us all the way back, along the lake, over the bridge, through the gate, along some small streets and to the major street. The rain is a soft drizzle and the floods have disappeared. He hails a taxi for us. I am grateful, because at this point we just want to head home and take a warm shower.

Back at the apartment, DS2 slips on the wet bathroom floor, falls and skins both knees. Luckily, he is okay. We then start another load of laundry and wonder how long this load will take… DH and I reflect on the last 2 days. When we first arrived in Beijing from Japan, we were overwhelmed by the activity and the pace. Now, we are finding China to be charming and exciting.


LCBoniti Jul 11th, 2006 10:32 AM

Oh, I'm so glad to hear that! (And you are very adventuresome IMO!) I am truly enjoying your journal. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

Take care!
Linda

HappyCheesehead Jul 11th, 2006 01:11 PM

Travelgirl - from China to Santorini, how did that feel? I can imagine it seems domestic and tame in comparison to China and Japan, LOL!


tower Jul 11th, 2006 01:27 PM

Hold on a minute, Happy Cheesehead...don't jump us to Santorini..want to hear more about China..Xian, the Wall, etc etc.

So glad to have you back in touch TravelGirl...you're successfully "weathering the storm" I see.

Was in Xian 22 years ago....at that time the soldiers were in a tent-like structure...and our hotel was infested with rodents...want to hear about the chages since then. Great Wall was not at all touristy in '86...now??
Where else in China?

What a super report!!!(Have bookmarked all the other stuff...still hope to return next spring....and Japan)

Stu T.

OneWanderingJew Jul 11th, 2006 06:53 PM

I just found your report...It's wonderful! I look forward to future installments :)

SeaUrchin Jul 11th, 2006 10:31 PM

Stu, the soldiers are in a big nice building now and parts of the Wall entrances are crowded depending on where you are. I walked the length of the Wall as far as I could and I was completely alone.

Isn't this report wonderful!

maureencol Jul 12th, 2006 06:48 AM

Thanks so much for your very informative and entertaining travel report. I love to travel, as everyone else on this board! I have to do it on a budget though so I appreciate when you quote prices for things. I went on the Hutong Tour site and it looks like they also have accommodations. Do you have any idea what they charge? I don't see any rates on their website.

Keep up the great postings!

travelgirl2 Jul 12th, 2006 06:55 AM

Day 13 – Beijing – Great Wall at Mutianyu Tour

Today we take a Gray Line tour to the Great Wall. We decide to take the half day tour to Mutianya, as we’ve heard it is less crowded than Badaling. The bus picks us up at 10:30 am. We drive around Beijing and pick up other passengers. The tour guide is very funny (a comedian really) and speaks excellent English. He tells us a lot of history about the various dynasties and the wall. We make an obligatory stop to a ceramics studio. We arrive at the wall at 1:00 pm. We have about 2 hours to climb and walk on the wall.

Everyone walks through a gauntlet of vendors on the way to the cable car. The vendors are hawking t-shirts (3 for $1), drinks, souvenirs, etc. Some of the vendors’ setups are quite elaborate.

The trek to the cable car seems like it is straight up hill. We are all huffing and puffing (especially me). The cable car ride is nice. Once on the wall, it is amazing. It continues as far as the eye can see, in both directions. It has been a dream of mine to walk along the Great Wall. I can't believe we are actually here!

I'm glad we've come to this section of the wall. It is not too crowded. Our whole busload of people get to the top almost at the same time. But if you wait ten minutes to let everyone else go on ahead, you can have the wall almost to yourself. The kids have a grand old time hiking here.

We ride the cable car with a couple from Wales. DH tells them that he has noticed a ton of advertising in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, trying to attract business to Wales. The man from Wales tells us that they have had technology jobs be outsourced to cheaper countries, so they are indeed looking for new investment.

There is one enterprising vendor about 1/4 mile along the wall, selling cold water for 10 yuan (about $1.20). This is a little pricey, for waters should cost 3 or 4 yuan (maybe even less), but I am impressed at the industriousness of this vendor (and many of the people in China), so we buy some water bottles. This is a large country, full of hard-working people with lots of energy. I think their economy is going to be unstoppable in the future.

After our hike, as we exit the cable car, we again run the gauntlet of vendors. People step into our path, showing us their t-shirts. It is hard to make our way through. DS2 has no problem, pointing out to us that it is only the adults who are being mobbed.

DH stops to purchase some water and soda and beer. The purchase comes to 40 yuan. For 100 yuan, he is given change of 50 yuan plus 10 yuan. He notices that the 50 yuan looks a little funny. We had been warned that this is a popular place for passing counterfeit money, as the tourists will likely not be back and most will not notice a problem until later, if ever. DH calmly hands the 50 yuan back to the woman. She calmly gives him a different 50 yuan bill. DH looks at it and again calmly hands it back to the woman. She sighs and walks to the back of the shop and returns with a 50 yuan that looks better. We are so proud that we have not been taken advantage of!

On the long bus ride home, DS2 and I discuss the counterfeit situation. He says it is just wrong. While I agree, I also have some sympathy for people working hard to better themselves. It is tempting to get frustrated with the people who are chasing you and yelling at you to buy their products. But, if I lived in China, this is probably what I would be doing too, if it was the best way to earn a living.

I ask DS2 - what if your family was starving? Would you steal a loaf of bread? He says no. I say, but what if your family was starving and there was no other way to feed them? He says he'd get a job. I say, what if there were no jobs or the job you could get would not pay enough to feed your family? He decides that he would take half a loaf of bread and create his own job by making some crafts and selling them. It is hard for us to imagine living in a place without unlimited opportunities. This has been a good experience for the kids.

After the Great Wall tour, the guys all go for a swim at the apartment pool. I go for a foot massage. There is a massage place located between the Lee Garden Apartments and the Peninsula Hotel. I met a woman on the hutong tour who said she had a great foot massage there, so I thought I'd give it a try. Well, it was terrific. Jack was the masseuse and he was a total professional. My feet and ankles felt great afterward.

In the same location, there is also a tea shop. I had to stop and buy more tea cups and some tea. The prices, as I would expect, were much better than the official tour teahouse we were taken to the day before.

The prices in China are difficult to know how to deal with. There is the local price. Then there is the price which the foreigners are used to paying in their countries. Sometimes I knew people would charge us five, even 10, times the local rate. And it would still seem cheap to me, relative to the Western rate. But, what is fair? I decided not to stress out about it. Although at the government ceramics shop, the prices seemed high even by Western standards, so we just didn't buy anything. In general, I would pay the local price when possible (i.e. taxis for $3-4 for a 30 minute ride) and a marked up rate if it wasn't more than I was used to paying (i.e. $25 for a 45 minute ride to the airport in an air conditioned van).

That night for dinner, we went back to the Peninsula Palace Hotel and tried their restaurant JING. This restaurant had a good write-up. We went because they had a buffet and we thought that the kids would like to pick out what to eat. The food was above average for a buffet and the kids appreciated the choices. We thought the food overall was okay, but nothing special.

As we wound up another day in Beijing, we found that we were loving it. The noise. The chaos. The bustling excitement. The dust. The smog. The crowds of people. The place is totally alive!


travelgirl2 Jul 12th, 2006 07:01 AM

maureencol -I booked the hutong tour through Gray Line Tours. When we got there, it seemed that they were using the hutong tour people, since their web site was listed on the back of the pedicabs. I don't know about their accommodations.

The Gray Line Tour to the Great Wall cost 280 yuan per person (about $35).

noe847 Jul 12th, 2006 07:04 AM

I'll bet after your experiences in Japan and China that Western Europe will seem quite tame.

missypie Jul 12th, 2006 07:22 AM

A foot massage! How delightful!

You have been through so much in China, but then your reward is the Great Wall - good for you!

What are you doing with your purchases? Shipping home, or did you pack really light?


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