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tower Jul 12th, 2006 07:53 AM

Sea Urchin...mucho thanks for the update on Xian and the GW...yes, seems that times have changed drastically. After a month in China, we figured that our daily costs were less than $10 over and above the tour charge of less than $2000...couldn't get in without a tour and Chinese guide in the early 80's. By the way, the optional tour to the Wall was $5 per person including lunch!! Restaurant eating was never more than a few dollars per...and that included those delicious 20 course meals at some of the hosting commuunes!

TravGirl...keep it coming...what a report!! Thank you, thank you! What you're doing for the kids is priceless!
Stu T.

LCBoniti Jul 12th, 2006 10:41 AM

A foot massage - I groan with envy!

Interesting observations about the difficulties of making a living in China and their industriousness. We take so much for granted. Travel is the best way to change that IMO! Again, a priceless experience for your children.

travelgirl2 Jul 13th, 2006 11:47 AM

Day 14 – Beijing City Tour

Jane Yeo ( comes to our apartment at 9:00 am. We sit and discuss our list of places we’d like to go. Since we only have one day, it will be a busy day. First, we have to visit the PANDAS AT THE ZOO. DS2 loves animals and this is what he wants to see in Beijing. Jane has a driver and an air conditioned van waiting outside, so we zoom across town to the zoo. She quickly gets the tickets and leads us directly to the pandas. It is a Saturday morning, so there are lots of families visiting the zoo. It is quite crowded, so we have to learn how to follow Jane, who is amazing as she stealthily slips through the crowd.

Next, we make a brief stop at Carrefour, which is right next to the zoo. It is very crowded, even more than our previous visit. While everyone waits in the van, Jane leads me right to a sunglass rack. We order the sunglasses, go to the register to pay (change is not made for 100 yuans, so Jane lends me 40 yuans) and then go back to the sunglass area to pick up the glasses. The clerk has removed the packaging, wiped them clean and given me a pouch for them. As we leave, we spot the van and slide open the door. The van is empty inside and the driver is surprised by the intrusion. Obviously, this is not our van, since we are expecting to see DH, DS1 and DS2. We keep looking and eventually find our driver and my family. By the way, our driver (Mr. Li) is very good natured and we immediately like him, although we can’t communicate with him at all.

Our next stop is the SUMMER PALACE. There is a huge man-made lake in the garden area. We walk and walk and take a boat across the lake. This was my favorite stop on the tour. Jane explained the significance of what we were seeing. It was nice to see all the families there. There were just a few other Westerners, so again we are asked to pose for pictures.

As an aside, people everywhere seem especially intrigued with DS1 and DS2. Maybe it is because they are boys and there are 2 of them. I think that most Chinese families in the city still have only 1 child and it seems that people are very happy to have boys. In fact, someone we met on a different day who admired our boys told us that when his wife had a girl, his friends told him they were sorry. Another person admiring the boys sadly told us that they had a girl. I told them that in the US, it doesn’t really matter whether you have a boy or a girl. They were somewhat incredulous. I could tell they were really thinking about that.

After the Summer Palace, Jane takes us to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, she runs into a market and purchases bottled water and Pepsi. The restaurant is GOULIN. It is huge and has table after table of Chinese people enjoying lunch. She orders kung pao chicken (spicy with peanuts), iron beef, garlic eggplant, roast whole chicken, spicy whole fish and fried rice. Everything is delicious and we also enjoy sitting down to rest. There is a lazy Susan at the center of our round table and we spin it around to serve the food. She also orders a bottle of Sprite and 6 glasses. Then, we are free to drink our water and Pepsi also. This is surprising to me, as bringing your own drinks would be frowned upon in the US. We enjoyed visiting this restaurant with Jane, since we would never have been able to do this without her. Everything is in Chinese, I doubt if anyone speaks English, and we are the only Westerners here among the 200 or so people here.

Our next stop is the money museum, something like the MUSEUM OF CHINA NUMISMATICS (or Currency). It is right next to Tiananmenn Square. This is where DS1 wants to go. He has a keen interest in coins and history. We have read that there are people outside the museum, selling old coins. He is disappointed to find no one selling old coins. We breeze through the museum and rush over to the FORBIDDEN CITY.

We race across Tiananmenn Square, as Jane explains various things to us. As it is nearing 4 pm, when the last tickets are sold, I ask Jane if she wants to go on ahead and get the tickets and we will meet here there. She readily agrees and speeds off. She is very energetic. We get to the gate at 3:55 pm and meet up with Jane. We go through the vast palaces, etc. of the Forbidden City. It is very interesting. Courtyard after courtyard, with huge buildings, separated by fancy gates. The place is huge.

At one point, we start to go into one area and a worker basically slams the door in Jane’s face. She politely asks him if we can come in for a few minutes. She points out that it is still early and we have paid for the tickets. He is mad and yells at her. Even in Chinese, I can tell that he is being very rude. He yells and yells. Eventually, Jane yells back at him. Then, he pushes her. I can’t believe it. Jane steps inside the door and tells us to come in. The man is still yelling, now at us, “No, no”. Jane is yelling to us, “Come in, no problem.” People are stopped and staring at all of us. DH, DS1, DS2 and I are suspended for a moment, not sure what to do. Finally, Jane grabs my wrist and pulls me inside the door. It is like jumping off of a huge cliff, I’m not sure what will happen. DS1, DS2 and DH pause for a moment and, when nothing happens, they follow me in. We take a quick spin around and then go to leave, making sure we are not the last ones. But, the man has blocked the door with a large rock and seems to be threatening not to let us leave. After some more yelling, the man moves the rock, Jane opens the door and we are free. We continue our tour of the Forbidden City.

As we walk to the meeting place for the driver, DH makes the mistake of looking for 2 seconds at a vendor’s plastic dragon. The vendor follows us for about 10 minutes. We are relieved to finally shake him. Jane asks us where we want to go next. We debate going to a market, but it is after 5 pm and we have been moving fast all day.

So, we go back to the hotel. According to DS1’s pedometer, we have walked 12 miles today. We are all full from lunch and too tired for dinner. Everyone else goes to the pool and I go to sleep early.

We liked Jane. She took care of us all day, answering all of our questions. She knows her way around and we are able to do much more with her and the driver than if on our own, in a much less stressful way. And, she is smart and spunky, qualities which I admire.

missypie Jul 13th, 2006 12:18 PM

WOW! How much did you tip Jane for fighting her way into the room in the Forbidden City???!!!

I had lunch yesterday with a former colleague who just returned from Beijing. He is working with a US chidrens' home to try to facilitate adoptions. As he was in several Chinese orphanages, I asked whether he noticed a lot more girls than boys. He said that he was looking for that, but that it was about 50-50. He did say that most of the kids in the orphanages would be classified here as "special needs."

tower Jul 13th, 2006 01:21 PM

TravGirl: Got to know more about Jane Yeo...what is her typical rate for a full day as you describe.
Stu T.

travelgirl2 Jul 15th, 2006 03:02 AM

Stu - Generally, the guides in China seem to charge about fifty per person. Not sure if there is a minimum. We had 4 people. Some charged less for the kids, some didn't. All day, admissions, lunch, van and driver seemed to be included. We liked them a lot, so we tipped also.

travelgirl2 Jul 15th, 2006 03:03 AM

That's fifty u.s.

SandyBrit Jul 15th, 2006 04:31 AM

travelgirl2 - Your ability to adjust to your situation and quickly arrange tours is impressive.

The incident at The Forbiddden City must have been a little scary.

You mentioned walking 12 miles a day without a word of complaint from any of your family.

This is a trip of a liftime and we get to share. Thank you.


marigross Jul 15th, 2006 04:50 AM

tagging for future reading...

BostonGal Jul 16th, 2006 07:23 AM

I'm so happy I found this thread! travelgirl2, this report is amazing!

travelgirl2 Jul 16th, 2006 11:32 AM

Thanks, guys.

Missypie - that is interesting about the orphanages. A friend of mine is waiting for her referral to adopt a child from China. I, too, assumed that it would probably be a girl.

travelgirl2 Jul 16th, 2006 11:38 AM

SandyBrit - I admit that it crossed our minds to bail out before the Forbidden City. Especially as we were practically running to get there in time. But we stuck with it and were so glad we did.

travelgirl2 Jul 16th, 2006 12:37 PM

Day 15 – Flight to Xian

We had arranged with Jane to have Mr. Li take us by minivan to the Beijing airport for 200 yuan (about $25). This is still pretty steep, but a big improvement over the 500 yuan we paid from the airport. He is right on time and it is a comfortable ride.

We are flying HAINAN AIRLINES. We have no problem checking in with our 3 paper tickets and 1 electronic ticket. I had been slightly concerned about flying a Chinese airline. The flight turns out to be fine. I am surprised to find it is more than half filled with tourists, mostly English-speaking.

We are only flying from Beijing to Xian in order to see the TERRACOTTA WARRIORS. We will stay for just one night, tour the next day and then take the overnight train (16 hours) to Shanghai. I hope this detour turns out to be worth the trouble and money it took to get here. A friend told me that we couldn’t go to China without seeing the warriors. Fodor’s posters also said that they felt it was a worthwhile trip.

When we arrive in Xian, we get our luggage and head out to the waiting area for drivers. We are looking for Clarence Guo ([email protected] or [email protected] or , who will be picking us up from the airport. We search the drivers holding signs. We see a little boy, holding a sign with our name on it. I point to it and wave to him. He waves back and waits until we walk out of the holding area. He says “follow me, please”. So we do. We are all exchanging looks, wondering what is going on. My boys are wondering too, since he is even younger than they are. The little boy takes us to the elevator and says “wait here for a moment, please”. He is so cute as he holds out his hand to indicate we should stop our cart and wait for the elevator. We go outside and he checks his cell phone. A few minutes later, a van pulls up and a man gets out to help us with our luggage. This is Clarence and the little boy is his son. His little girl is also in the van with him. The kids are adorable. We talk with them on the way. The little girl comes in the back to sit between DH and DS2.

While talking with Clarence, we decide to see a show tonight with Chinese dancing from the Tang dynasty. He books the dinner show for us and tells us he will come to the hotel later and take us to the show.

We check in to the GRAND HYATT XIAN. The lobby seems nice. We are staying on the Executive floor, so that we can hang out in the lounge and have a quick breakfast the next morning. The Executive Lounge is very nice. It is comfortable and spacious. This is where they send us to check in. When we arrive, they bring us some cold drinks.

We have 2 rooms here. The rooms have the best set-up we’ve had in any hotel yet. They are interconnecting, with 1 king bed and 2 twin beds. Perfect for us. The rooms are a little dark and tired though. Not too bad, just not great.

The staff at the hotel is very nice and helpful. The woman at the front desk doesn’t even laugh at me when I try to exchange 1000 leftover Japanese Yen into Chinese Yuan. I think I am going to get about $80, but I’ve miscalculated and it is only about $8. When she tries to explain it to me, I can only think of the exchange to dollars and then back to yuan. She is very patient. I go get a few British pounds and also some Euros and exchange them also. In China, we’ve found it easy to exchange cash or traveler’s checks at the hotel desks. I wish we’d brought a little more cash with us. We had $300 in traveler’s checks in case of emergency, but we ended up exchanging them at hotels in China, rather than try to find an ATM, although I don’t think it would have been that difficult to find an ATM.

Soon, Clarence picks us up and takes us to a dinner theater to see the TANG DYNASTY CHINESE DANCING SHOW. We are not excited by dinner. It consists of tons of types of dumplings. They keep bringing them and bringing them. Everything is okay, but it is clearly banquet style food for a lot of people. The show is about an hour. It is enjoyable, but we know it is for the tourists. Afterward, we take a taxi back to the hotel and go right to sleep. We have planned a busy day of touring tomorrow.

LoveItaly Jul 16th, 2006 01:03 PM

The TerraCotta Warriors, that is one thing I have always wanted to see travelgirl although Asia in general has not really called to me. I can hardly wait to read your trip report viewing them. And just wanted to say "hello" and a thank you for sharing your family's fantastic and interesting trip with all of us. A safe, happy and beautiful continued journey is wished for you and your dear family!

moolyn Jul 16th, 2006 01:15 PM

Travelgirl, I'm still following your wonderful, ongoing report. Thanks so much for taking time from your travels to share!

SeaUrchin Jul 16th, 2006 01:38 PM

Hi, still enjoying and hanging on every word.

I stayed at that same hotel and one night decided to go to the beauty shop for a shampoo. It stands out to me because the girl was so sweet and proceeded to use a whole bottle of shampoo on my dry hair, gave me a wonderful head and neck massage and then we walked over to the sink rinse off the shampoo.

May hair felt like silk!!

I can't wait until you reach the warriors. I was amazed, hope you are too!

crefloors Jul 16th, 2006 01:51 PM

This is really terrific. I saw some of the TerraCotta Warriors and other figures from the tomb at the De Young Museum in SF several years ago. It was a wonderful exhibit. How lucky you are to actually be there. Loving your adventure.

LoveItaly Jul 16th, 2006 02:56 PM

Well crefloors, how in heavens name did I miss that exhibition in SF? I must have been on a trip I guess. How dissapointing.

LowCountryIslander Jul 16th, 2006 03:36 PM


Still enjoying your thread. My first trip to Asia (Hong Kong) in 2004 got me thinking about seeing mainland China and reading your report has brought those thoughts up again. I may have to move mainland China up on my "places to visit" list!

Can't wait to hear about the warriors! :)

Solangemom Jul 16th, 2006 04:43 PM

What a great report!

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