Old Sep 22, 15, 9:26 pm
  #31  
olafman
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Programs: AA2MM PLT, Marriott Plat
Posts: 956
Part 8: Beijing, china

After all the ordeal of getting into China, I was so happy to be back in Beijing. My first visit was in 1987 when I spent three weeks backpacking through China. It was a very different place back then. Beijing barely had any tall buildings. It was much less accustomed to foriegners and I remember sneaking into a luxury hotel to use their bathrooms. We stayed at a “tourist” hotel on the outskirts of town for about $5 a day for our own room with bath. It was full of a young, backpacking crowd who were the early adventurers into China. Three years later I was back with work and I saw a noticeable difference.

It now had been 25 years since my 1990 visit and I was really shocked to see the amazing growth. I booked us into the Lee Garden Service Apartments next to The Peninsula and across from the Waldorf-Astoria. It was definitely the 5-star hotel area. For about $200 a night, we got a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with full kitchen and washer and dryer. Everything was very modern and stylish. This seemed a nice bargain after Japan’s prices. Jane and her daughter got a one-bedroom place for about $150. The best part was that it is located about 3 blocks from Beijing’s version of Times Square and walking street. The neon lights at night were just like New York.

We got in around 11:00 p.m. and were meeting our guide at 9:00 a.m. so we decided not to venture out. It had been a long, stressful day and I needed to book a ticket back to the US!

Luckily in about 20 minutes, I figured out that I could fly out of the smaller Seoul airport into Haneda to connect to my previously booked JAL 777 flight in First to San Francisco. The best part was that my old boss from Pearson now lived there and was going to be flying in the previous day from a two month stint in Jakarta. It was kismet. I would be able to have lunch with them in Seoul. It was all going to work out.

We got the team up and just had breakfast downstairs in the restaurant. It turned out to be expensive and not very good. At $20 a person, we could have done a lot better. But it was convenient and easy.

I had hired a guide to show us around for our two day visit to Beijing. I found the site on the website: http://www.utopia-asia.com/ I’ve used them successfully in the past to help me connect up with a local gay tour guide. I last used them in KL and had a great guide for the day to take us all around.

Sucer, our Beijing guide, was a delight. We really enjoyed hanging out with him. Even the kids thought he was great. For the first day, he also organized a car and driver to take us to the Great Wall and Summer Palace. Our driver was a sweet woman who had a large minivan to cart us all around. The air conditioning was the best part on this hot and humid summer day.

We drove about an hour and a half north of the center to reach our section of the wall. Sucer chose a part of the wall that he felt had fewer tourists. Sucer provided us with lots of history of China and Beijing as we journeyed out to the Great Wall. When we got there, I wanted a coffee and was shocked to pay $6 for a coffee. This wasn’t the China I visited in 1987. Our guide said that the prices were for the tourists but I couldn’t believe it.

Now caffeinated we began our walk up the famous wall. The boys as usual effortlessly ran up with the adults a bit behind. After a bit, our guide said he would wait near the bottom for us as he didn’t need to hike far up.


At the Great Wall


A damn long wall


And very steep


Hard to stand up straight


We were a little sweaty after a while


Not quite sure what the issue here is. I think that they were trying to warm me about something though.

We actually walked higher and further than I was expecting. It was a thrill for all of us to be there together. Visiting the Wall should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. Even for my third visit, it was still impressive.

I had mentioned to Sucer that I had had several bad meals at “tourist” restaurants. I asked him to pick a place that was authentic. We are all great eaters but wanted something beyond the normal tourist fare. I also said we didn’t want ANY “factory” tours. I knew all the traps.

Unfortunately, Sucer dropped us off at lunch at a large “factory” where they made cloisonné and then offered lunch at a government run restaurant. Once I saw that it was a factory, Sucer promised me we could just quickly walk through and get to lunch. If they lunch had been decent, I wouldn’t have minded but instead, it was the same tourist crap that I had been served on previous trips. I let him know afterwards that it was not what I was looking for.

For the afternoon, we toured the Summer Palace. The boys enjoyed the morbid stories of the mean queen that built the place. The palace was heaving with tourist but most of who were Chinese. I enjoyed seeing the groups of kids running around.


Our guide, Sucer, tells us about the Summer Palace


The lily pads of the Summer Palace


The Marble Boat

I asked Sucer if he could book some acrobat show seats for that night and he got us great seats at a theater about 15 minutes from our hotel. We all enjoyed the show and were all really impressed.

After the show, I tried out Uber in Beijing and saw something called People’s Uber. I did some fast researcha and it is essentially a cheap version of Uber. The 15 minute ride home only cost me 10 yuan, $1.61!!! Such a bargain. Needless to say we used Uber for the rest of the trip!


An evening acrobat show


You’ve got to love a $1.61 USD Uber ride for a 12 minute journey

That night we walked from our place over to the walking street. It was ablaze with neon lights and video screens. It was really a fun atmosphere. We headed to the famous night market for some street food and shopping. Corbin had previous said he would like to try scorpion but in the moment decided against it. Instead we stuck to prawns and a variety of dumplings and buns.


Enjoying some scorpions and millipedes at the night market

At the night market, I found a photo opportunity to play dress up in some fun Chinese costumes. These are my favorite pictures of the trip!


Corbin the Warrior


Jane and I take a photo for our new passports

The next morning we met up with Sucer and Uber’ed over to the Forbidden City. Having a guide always made getting tickets a breeze. A local guide sure is a wonderful luxury. We didn’t have to worry about anything.

That morning a friend of mine Andy from Los Angeles met up with us. He is living in Beijing for a year to help design theme parks there for their growing middle class. He had only been there two weeks so was happy to join our tour for the day.


The Forbidden City

Sucer arranged for us to have lunch at a private home in the old area of Beijing. It was fun to see these smaller more traditional house.


Eating at a family home in the old part of Beijing


Some local transport to get us around

After lunch we headed over to the Lamma Temple. Sucer was excited to show it to us as it is his favorite. We did enjoy it but we all were a little tired.

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Buying our incense

For our final meal of the trip, we treated ourselves to a Peking Duck dinner at Dadong. It was honestly one of the top 10 meals of my life. We ordered two ducks for the six of us plus a variety of other outstanding food. It was a great experience, never to be forgotten.


Our Peking Duck feast


Time for some martinis before the duck


Our duck is getting ready


We enjoyed lots of good food


Time to carve up the delectable meat


One of the best meals of my life

Our 72 hour visit to the People’s Republic of China couldn’t have gone better. I’m really glad the kids got to see China before it changes even more. I was worried about the summer pollution that I had heard so much about. Thankfully it has recently rained and it cleaned up things nicely.

It was great to see China grown up since my last visit. I was really happy to see the new middle class. They’ve had an amazing couple of decades and I hope they have considered success.

Up next, I travel from Beijing and try to get home to San Francisco.
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