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A quick mileage "jog" to China (PHL-MIA-ATL-ORD-PEK-NRT-DFW, AA F/J)

A quick mileage "jog" to China (PHL-MIA-ATL-ORD-PEK-NRT-DFW, AA F/J)

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Old Mar 26, 14, 7:11 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: DFW
Programs: AA EXP, mid-tier with pretty much everyone else
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Smile A quick mileage "jog" to China (PHL-MIA-ATL-ORD-PEK-NRT-DFW, AA F/J)

(full text at http://andystravelblog.com/2014/02/26/china1/)

Part I: Planning

Ah, ChinCOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, the air quality. Anyways, China. Founded in 1986 by three brothers, the country has exploded in size dramatically, so much so that actually I’ll bet none of you are reading this because I just claimed China was founded in 1986, which is ridiculous.

Ok, China. One of the oldest countries in the world, with an exciting and palpable history spanning thousands of years. Everything about China has a hyperbolic quality to it: the MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY in the world, the FASTEST GROWING ECONOMY in the world, the AIR QUACOUGH COUGH WHEEZE COUGH…sorry, air quality again. It’s hard to wrap your head around a country of 1.6 billion people. Their “small university towns” will have millions of people and millions of college students. They’re modernizing at the fastest pace in known history, and, to put a real interesting number out there, it’s estimated there are more people in China that speak English than there are in the USA.

At times the USA and China share an uneasy friendship, but China’s doors are relatively open for American tourists and there are plenty of sites to see in an incredibly “foreign” land.


Mistake Fares
I love mistake fares this much [holds arms far apart]. It still baffles me that mistake fares are possible, but I try to take advantage of them whenever possible. In October of 2013 there was a post on the Flyertalk boards about a fare to Beijing that looked way too low. After the collective group of posters took a look at the fare, it appeared that someone had left a zero off of the fuel surcharges, so instead of $440 of surcharges there were only $44. This resulted in a fantastic $443 roundtrip airfare to China! I figured “why not?” and made a booking. I figured it’d be a good way to get started on requalifying for Executive Platinum status as well.

The only thing was, the mistake fare started from Philadelphia. I live in Dallas. Fortunately, US Airways was running some really cheap flights from DFW-PHL ($69 one way), so everything was coming together quite nicely.

Getting to China
Now, since this was going to be part trip to China and part mileage run, I had to try and maximize the routing possibilities of the fare. Starting in PHL, the routing rules were actually pretty flexible. The first flights from Philly generally take off about 6am, and I had to get to Chicago by about 5pm central time. This gave me quite a bit of leeway, which I feel like I maximized. From Philly I flew down to Miami on the first flight out. From Miami it was a short hop to Atlanta, then a reasonably long layover before a flight from Atlanta to Chicago. From Chicago it was a lovely 13 hour nonstop to Beijing.

So my outbound flight plan looked like this:



Flying out of the way a bit I know, but it was for a bigger purpose. Also, at that point I had Executive Platinum status, so all of the domestic flights were in First Class anyway.

TWOV
Chinese visas aren’t hard to get, but they do take a couple of weeks and typically require a bit of documentation in terms of where you’re staying, etc., in addition to a $140 fee. Recently, however, China introduced a Transit Without Official Visa (TWOV) program, where visitors who are transiting for less than 72-hours can go to China without a visa. In order to take advantage of this, you have to transit China on your way to a third country (for the purposes of TWOV, Hong Kong and Macau are considered not part of China). All this means is your next flight needs to be out of China and to a different country than whence you came.

I was determined to use this program, which meant I couldn’t route back the same way. I knew though, from previous trips, that American operates a great flight from Tokyo nonstop to DFW. So, I ended up using the following routing:



This routing would satisfy the Chinese officials, as I was arriving from the USA and my next flight from China was nonstop to Japan.

I like saving vacation days at work so I really try to maximize three-day weekends whenever possible. This trip would take place over the MLK Day holiday weekend in January 2014. In the spirit of a mileage run, I wasn’t going to be in China or Japan very long, so some of you will roll your eyes at trying to do China in less than 3 days, but I hope you’ll indulge me and stay tuned for a really enjoyable trip!
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Old Mar 26, 14, 7:12 am
  #2  
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(full text at http://andystravelblog.com/2014/03/17/china2/)

Part II: Getting There

So how did I get to China? Writing about it is going to make me pretty bitter, honestly. Why? When I took the trip, I had the coveted Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, entitling me to all sorts of entitlements with which I had a tremendously entitled sense of entitledment…you get the idea. Life is good flying as an Executive Platinum. March 1 was a tough day for me this year. Not for any actual reason, but March 1 is The Great Status Reset Day. Logging into my American Airlines account was far less cool on March 1.


Dang it

Flying isn’t quite as fun as a Gold, but it’s ok. I have plans and designs for earning back my EXP status as quickly as possible, for reasons I detailed in this post. I’ll detail my strategy once this report is done.

To China…I mean Philly
Anyways, I made my way to DFW Airport to catch my US Airways flight. American and US Airways have had a fairly good integration so far, with somewhat-reciprocal status benefits for their elite members. My flight was leaving out of Terminal E, but I couldn’t go to DFW and not visit the Centurion Lounge, so I made my way over to Terminal D and enjoyed a nice 15-minute shoulder and back massage. The masseuse, after starting her treatment, said “you know your back is basically one big giant knot, right? You need to go visit someone who can break through all that, we can only go so deep here.” Noted. I hopped onto the inter-terminal train and went to Terminal E. The US Airways flight was taking off from the satellite terminal, so I walked down the long tunnel underneath the tarmac to meet my flight. I wanted to change my seat to a window seat and was talking to the gate agent about it, when I casually mentioned that I hoped everything was going well with them so far, merger-wise. She abruptly responded, “Of course it is, OUR people are running the show now.” Oooooookay then.

The flight to Philly was largely uneventful. It was aboard a 737 that was built just after the Wright Brothers’s flight in 1908, I’m still amazed it stayed in one piece the entire way. Hopefully the new airline will be able to get rid of these older planes quickly.

Anyway, I arrived uneventfully at PHL and proceeded to catch my shuttle to the Microtel Inn & Suites near the airport. If you’re ever been to PHL, you know the general area that has all of the airport hotels and that one Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant that limits your options for dining. It was actually pretty late by that point, so I skipped dinner and made my way to my room. It was $79 and was exactly what you’d expect from a cheap last minute room at a hotel that has “micro” in the name of it. Small, spartan, but seemed clean enough. I got a decent nap (probably 4 hours of sleep) then awoke to begin my trip.

Almost not allowed to board
This section will serve as a friendly reminder to everyone to know your stuff and bring paperwork when necessary. I got to Philadelphia really early (4:15am, right as the desks were opening) because I wanted to leave as much time as possible for my check-in. As a reminder, I was using the Chinese TWOV (transit without official visa) program to avoid the $170 visa to China. In order to take advantage of this program, you have to enter Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou from one country and leave for another within 72 hours (and you must stay in the city as well, no traveling around China). Since my flights were scheduled USA-Beijing-Japan, I qualified. Chicago agents know this pretty well, but the PHL agents had never heard of it (which is understandable, it’s a relatively new program). They clickety-clackitied on their keyboards and called a supervisor, etc. What they were doing was searching what’s called the TIMATIC database for visa rules. It’s very important to tell them to try entering you as a transit passenger with your destination as the third country. If they input China as the destination, the TWOV program wouldn’t come up. If they entered me as a transit, it would’ve. Fortunately, I had a printout from the Chinese Embassy’s website that detailed the program, and after about 40 minutes of standing at the desk (smiling and being incredibly polite), I was given the coveted boarding passes, along with a “why the heck are you flying to Miami and Atlanta on your way to Chicago?” comment. Be nice to the check-in agents folks, they’re typically doing the best they can.

My journey to Asia, via…Miami
I was surprised that I even got TSA Pre-Check and made it through the security queue fairly quickly (it was busy that morning) and waited in the departure lounge for my first flight. Due to my (already missing it) EXP status, I was upgraded to First Class on all of my domestic legs before the international flight to Beijing. My plan was to stay awake on all of the flights, so I brought some reading material along with me. Unfortunately, I tend to read books really quickly, and actually finished the first book (Wolf of Wall Street) on the first flight.


Flight 1: PHL-MIA

The first flight was an excellent morning flight. Good crew, full flight, decent breakfast, nothing really remarkable about it but I tend to enjoy domestic First on American and find the flight attendants usually are happy to be there and want us to be happy in front of the curtain.

I arrived in Miami with about a 2 hour layover. I wandered over to the international terminal to check out the Oneworld lounge, only to find it was only open in the afternoon and evening, so I walked back to the (very nice) Admiral’s Club and…started another book.

My second flight was a regional jet (ERJ 175) from MIA-ATL. It was like the first flight, very nice in an unremarkable way.


Flight 2: MIA-ATL

Duty, by Robert Gates, had just come out and I was eager to read it. Without mentioning anything about the politics around the book, I was looking forward to it because Dr. Gates had actually handed me my diploma from Texas A&M University and I had immense respect for the man. I didn’t finish the book until recently (it’s quite a tome, over 600 pages), but found it to be incredibly fair, apolitical, and informative. I’m a bit disenchanted with the political process in America, so it was good to hear of both Democrats and Republicans that love their country very much and are doing the best they can.

I tried to catch an earlier flight from Atlanta to Chicago but was unable to. My flight to Chicago already had a really short connection and our flight was further delayed, making it a REALLY tight connection. I was too distracted and nervous to take any pictures of this flight, but managed to stay awake for the journey. I landed at Chicago and pretty much Home Aloned it over to the gate for Beijing, hoping I’d be there in enough time.

The gate and plane were still there when I arrived, panting, at the desk. The gate agent looked at me a little funny and let me know they were just about to start boarding First Class. I had made it! I didn’t have time to stop by the Flagship Lounge, but no matter, I was about to fly in Business Class to Beijing!

The big one: ORD-PEK
For those of you who don’t recall, since it’s been a bit since my planning post, I booked this trip when American had left a zero off the fuel surcharges, equating to a $440 roundtrip from Philadelphia. I was able to use a Systemwide Upgrade (one of the best benefits in the sky) to upgrade even this cheap fare to Business Class for the long flight from Chicago to Beijing. For free. That’s why Executive Platinum status is worth it.

I boarded with the First Class passengers (a benefit of status) and made my way to my seat. It was American’s older Business Class longhaul seat, which will slowly be replaced with a newer seat (already available on their 777-300ER aircraft and reviewed by Lucky here). Sure it was the old seat, but then I got some great news: the load in Business was very light that evening, and no one would be sitting next to me. Score! I had previously flown First Class and Coach on the 777-200, so it was good to finally enjoy Business Class.


AA Old Business Class

The seat was nice enough, had easy to use controls on the armrest, and reclined to a nearly-flat bed. You can see American’s new amenity kit between the seats, which contained the normal bits for a longhaul Business flight.

We boarded rather quickly (overall there was a really light load, not just in Business) and before I knew it one of the flight attendants came by and welcomed me to the flight. She was absolutely delightful the entire flight and chatted with me about where I’d be going in China, laughed at my mileage running, told me I pretty much had the run of the place on the flight since it was so empty and promised it’d be the best flight I’ve ever taken to Beijing that evening. She had such an easygoing yet professional attitude that she made it a truly memorable flight.

After we leveled off, a round of drinks came by, followed by the dinner service.



The tuna was excellent, very impressive for an appetizer in Business. Then came the Steak course.



The steak was very overcooked, but I pretty much expected that going in. The sweet potatoes were excellent, and I finished about half of the steak, saving room for The Sundae.

The flight attendant came by to offer me dessert and said “I’m supposed to offer you the cheese plate, but you seem like the type of guy who would want a sundae with pretty much everything on it.” While normally I would’ve been all “IS THAT A FAT JOKE?!” to her, she was totally kidding and I kinda did in fact want a sundae with pretty much everything on it. She listed off all the ingredients she had and sort of trailed off when she saw me simply nodding my head and I finally put on my best Ron Swanson voice and said “What I fear you heard was I would like a sundae with a lot of stuff on it. Bring me a sundae with everything on it.”

So she did.



Ice cream, strawberries, caramel, whipped cream, nuts, you name it. It was delicious. I popped a few melatonin pills, laid my seat all the way back, did some weird contortioning until I found the right position (it’s hard being in an almost lie-flat seat when you’re a stomach sleeper) and had one of the best sleeps of my life on a plane. I slept for a good 7 hours and woke up with about 3 hours remaining. The flight attendant came by and offered me some coffee while I watched some Anthony Bourdain episodes on the IFE system. Eventually, the flight attendant came by with my bre…sorry, second dinner. Due to the international date line, the flight left from Chicago at 6:10pm on Thursday and arrived in Beijing at 9:45pm on Friday. So, instead of breakfast, they offered a hybrid breakfast/dinner. By that time I was still full from the dinner, so I nibbled on it for a bit and then got ready for landing.



We touched down on time at PEK. I was nervous about the TWOV, but I showed my documentation to the immigration officer and was on my way after no more than 5 minutes. Way faster than it usually takes me to get back into my home country. Not bad, China.

I love Flyertalk. It’s one of the best travel forums in the world, and there are recommendations for just about everything you could imagine. So when I asked the China Board about a good driver, they recommended Simon to me (I didn’t want to mess with the language barrier arriving so late). I’ll share more about Simon later, but he offered a great service at a very fair price, so I hired him to drive me from the airport to the hotel and on a tour the next day.

As I left the immigration area, I saw a sign with my name on it and a smiling young man from Beijing named Simon. He could not have been nicer, welcomed me to his country, insisted on taking my bag, and we made towards the parking garage and his waiting Toyota. As we made our way into the crazy Beijing traffic, he pulled out a local cell phone and gave it to me with instructions on how to call him if I needed anything during my stay. He drove me directly to my hotel, the Red Wall Garden Hotel, which came highly recommended on TripAdvisor, for great reason.

As I made my way toward the check-in desk, Simon said he would pick me up at 8:30 the next morning for a wonderful day I’ll never forget: the Great Wall of China.
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Old Mar 26, 14, 7:22 am
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(full text and more pictures at http://andystravelblog.com/2014/03/26/china3/)

Part III: The Great Wall of China

This is one of those posts that I almost dislike writing, because I know I won’t do it justice. Let me put it into small words for you: go to the Great Wall of China. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be.

Getting there
I arrived at Beijing’s airport and was through customs by about 10:30pm local time. In the arrivals hall I was greeted warmly by Simon Xiao, the driver I hired to take me around. He was the consummate professional and his fees were very reasonable for the service provided. I could not recommend him more. His website is www.simon-service.com.

As I mentioned in my last post, Simon drove me to the Red Wall Garden Hotel, which was a fine hotel close to Tiananmen Square and Wangfujing yet very reasonably priced (I’ll cover the hotel in my next post). He dropped me off at the hotel and we arranged a time for him to pick me up the next morning to head out to the Wall.

A bit of Great Wall history
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Great Wall history. There are many great sources on the internet, so please use your Google (that sounded dirty for some reason) and research it to the degree your heart allows. I’ll hit the main points, just to catch everyone up. The wall was constructed in four main periods dating back to the Han dynasty as early as 220BC. It covers over 13000 miles of China, and literally extends into the ocean at its most easterly point. No, you can’t see it from space. Most of the pictures you see on the internet (including here) are of renovated portions of the wall. I was able to see some unrenovated portions of the wall (and you will too) and you’ll understand why it isn’t visible from space. The estimated human cost to build the wall over the centuries is well into the hundred thousands, if not millions, of souls lost. There’s simply no other construction project like it in the history of our planet. Why was it needed? Sometimes to keep invaders out, other times to keep people in. Walls are funny like that.

Back to our story
Ok enough history. Simon picked me up promptly at 8:30am and we made our way north towards the Wall. When people say they’re “visiting the Great Wall of China” they usually mean one of four sections of it. The two most popular are Badaling and Mutianyu. Badaling is the most popular (and most crowded) Wall spot, and many say it’s way too touristy to feel authentic anymore. The Mutianyu section is recommended by many because it was renovated relatively recently (1569) and is in great shape. It’s also one of the furthest from the Beijing metro area, so it’s usually not too packed with tourists. Along the way, Simon regaled me with stories of Chinese and Great Wall history. Beijing, which I learned means “North Capital” as opposed to Nanjing, “South Capital”, has all the trappings of a major city, but once the urban sprawl winds down you find yourself in rural China rather quickly.

It was about a 90 minute drive to Mutianyu village, at the foot of a cable car that takes you up to the Wall. It’s a typical tourist trap, with plenty of merchants to sell you all sorts of Wall merchandise, but we got there pretty early in the morning and a lot of the vendors hadn’t set up shop yet. In either case, nobody that was open was too pushy.


Mutianyu Village

Simon and I made our way to the cable car and took it up to the Wall. Others will choose to hike up to the Wall, and that’s their choice. I will lazily take the cable car and I will wave at them below.

So, in ignorance I must admit to something. I guess I never realized how mountainous this part of China was. I guess I knew the Great Wall wasn’t flat, but the steepness of these ascents (and the Wall itself) caught me totally off-guard. I can’t imagine being an invading force, making it through dangerous mountain passes and up steep mountain cliffs, only to face: a gigantic wall populated by angry guards with arrows pointed at you.

Ok now I’m at the Wall
Some of you are just skipping through the headers wondering when I’m getting to the part about the Great Wall, and this is it. We stepped off the cable car and onto the Great Wall of China. There’s a plaza at the cable car area where Simon took some pictures of me and had a stranger take a picture of the two of us.


Great Wall entry sign/rock

I guess the AAAAA was a rating of some sort, but to me it looked like one of those old arcade games where people could input their name next to the high scores and would just type AAAAA instead of their name.


Simon and I

Simon got quite a few more pictures of me with my camera, then he went back down to the village and set me loose on the wall by myself, reminding me where he’d be waiting in one of the parking lots for me (no rush). Astute readers probably noticed in the picture of Simon and me the elevation change in the background. Eek.

Here was the basic layout: all of the watchtowers are numbered. The cable car landed at tower 14. From there you can go left or right. Right is mostly downhill and leads to the toboggan ride back down to Mutianyu village. Seemed too easy for me, Simon said. He recommended I go left, up to Tower 23, since there wouldn’t be as many people heading that direction. He was sure to emphasize the word up, but I didn’t pay it attention as I started left.

I realized very quickly that Simon’s advice was spot on. There were few people on that section of the Wall (or the Wall in general). It was brisk and chilly, but in the sunlight and with all the uphill walking I quickly warmed up. I began walking from tower to tower, quickly lost in the history and sheer bigness of the place I was standing. The knowledge that people had been standing where I stood for thousands of years was incredible.


Surrounding mountainscape


Watchtower (I believe 15 or 16)

I loved exploring all of the towers and finding my way onto the roofs of almost every one for some more pictures. There are strict rules about taking no part of the Wall with you, and unfortunately many take this as a license to leave part of them at the Wall and carve their names into the stones. Leave the stones at rest when you go, history will appreciate you.

The first part of my journey was relatively flat, but as I made my way further west, the elevation started increasing fairly dramatically.


Eek (from a staircase)

The stairs on the Wall aren’t a consistent height, each step would be anywhere from 6 inches tall to well over a foot tall, especially once you got to the steeper stairways.


Some would call this a wall, they call it a staircase

At this point, I was breaking into a bit of a sweat. And that’s when I saw to the big stairway from Tower 19 to Tower 20 and realized how much “fun” it was going to be going up.


More eek

At Tower 19 there are vendors there selling coke, beer, water, souvenirs, everything you need (except spare calf muscles I guess). One lady in particular had an interesting sales strategy, “You want water? You fat, need water.”

The reason they’re set up at Tower 19 (which is just outside the frame at the bottom right of the above picture) is the staircase from 19 to 20. Many people don’t make it all the way up. It’s 426 steps of varying height and is quite a difficult climb. However, I wasn’t going to travel all the way to China and not climb the stairs.


Looking up the stairway

I started off pretty well, but sure enough had to stop a few times to give my legs a break. Oh my gosh. Even just going back to the memories almost made my calves cramp up. If you go, you have to climb the stairs though, you’re rewarded with an amazing view. There were more vendors on Tower 20, and I bought a bottle of water, if nothing else because I was impressed they climbed the wall every day to set up shop there. I’m no fan of the rapper Drake, but I thought the joke would be easy enough to make that I went ahead and made a little instagram video of the occasion.


Looking down on Tower 20

Most people didn’t seem to continue onward from Tower 20, because it was just more steps upward, over and over again. But, again, I’m not going to come all the way and not keep climbing. I was rewarded by being the only person making the ascent at that point. I made it all the way up to Tower 23, where a gentleman had set up yet another shop. I was incredibly impressed with this man and bought some items from him. I can’t imagine climbing that high every day.

Tower 23 marks a unique border: the end of the renovated section of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. A large portion of the Wall is in disrepair due to exposure from the elements and looters who used the granite stones for their own purposes over the years. It’s like going from back in time to back before time.


The unrenovated section

I set out past Tower 23. It turns out this path leads all the way to another section of the Wall called Jiankou and is actually a pretty popular hike (most will hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu). There was a thin path along the edge of the Wall trampled down, and I followed it over to Tower 24.


Looking out past Tower 24

You can really appreciate the rawness of the Wall at this point. You’ll notice the sides are still relatively apparent, but the walkways are pretty much gone, as is a lot of the structure of the watchtowers themselves.

I loved the contrast of renovated to raw (keep in mind when I say “renovated” I mean it’s only a few hundred years old). Simon had some other things planned for me, so I knew I needed to get back, but when I return I will do the trek from Jiankou to Mutianyu. Hiking is still very much a new thing in China, so before everyone discovers a great hike like this I want to do it.

The way back down wasn’t as much of a relief for my legs as I had hoped (especially after well over 1,000 steps on the way up and surprisingly just as many on the way down), the unevenness of the stairs really played havoc on my knees, but I made it down without falling or tearing anything. I did happen upon some Spanish speakers who were making their way up the stairs, and got a surprised laugh from them when I started a conversation in Spanish with them (most wouldn’t expect it from a white guy with a red beard). They were enjoying the Wall except for the stairs.

I took my time heading back to Tower 14 and got some more pictures. (pictures on blog)

As I neared Tower 14 and the cable car down the mountain, I stopped and took in the scenery around me. Not just the mountainscape, but families walking on the Wall together, Chinese and foreigners, all taking in the majesty of the place. The Great Wall of China was not on my bucket list, but it always should’ve been. You simply can’t understand the gravity and scale of the Wall without setting afoot its precipice. It defended dynasties from Mongol invaders and left a lasting legacy to the power of humans to create and construct, no matter the (however tragic) cost.

I will never forget my day on the Great Wall of China, it’s simply one of the most incredible places I have seen…so far.

Wrapping up
I made my way back to the cable car, rode it down to the village, and then went down Vendor Alley. There were seriously probably 50 vendors selling the exact same thing, each one standing in my way trying to peddle their wares. I’m sure some would’ve found it annoying but I had fun with it while declining their offers, they didn’t mean any harm. An Aussie and I were walking down at the same time and had an informal contest to see who could give the most ridiculous response to a vendor about why he or I couldn’t buy their stuff. It was a fantastic melee to end a peaceful morning at an amazing place.

I met Simon at the prearranged parking lot (he had been busy, as usual, coordinating more trips for clients) and we drove back to Beijing. Next on the agenda: the Summer Palace and one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.

In conclusion
Go to the Great Wall of China. Quickly. Go before even more people visit these remote places and bring the chintzy touristy attitude with them. I’ve been dancing around a word this entire post: primitive. That’s the most amazing thing about the Great Wall of China, you expect it to be primitive but end up shocked at just how advanced it was when it was constructed. It’s largely withstood the test of time and will hopefully intrigue awestruck visitors for thousands of years to come.
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Old Mar 26, 14, 10:50 am
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Wow! Wonderful photos and a great report so far!
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Old Mar 26, 14, 11:06 am
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Why not pay a visit to the southern Great Wall next time?
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Old Mar 26, 14, 1:21 pm
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The Wall is on my bucket list. Thank you for such an intriguing post and great pictures. I may not get there via business class, but I sure hope to get there somehow.
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Old Mar 27, 14, 4:57 am
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Great report! Still haven't made it to anywhere in Asia, definitely look forward to the rest!
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Old Mar 27, 14, 10:16 am
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Nice tr. Thanks for posting.
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Old Mar 27, 14, 3:45 pm
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We did the wall back in 2008. My father in law was so slow going down on the toboggan that his wife crashed into him from behind. She says it wasn't intentional

In all seriousness, you are now a great man according to the Chairman!
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Old Mar 27, 14, 6:27 pm
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This is great, and kind of funny. I did the SAME itinerary through Dallas to catch the cheap US flight to PHL. I did it twice in Jan/Feb, went to the same spot on the wall, and stayed a couple days in Beijing the first time. I'm at 80k EQMs on AA already, that was an awesome fare!

Nice pictures! Keep it coming.
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Old Mar 27, 14, 8:17 pm
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Wow! Wonderful photos and a great report so far!
Thanks flybranchen!

Why not pay a visit to the southern Great Wall next time?
I will definitely return to the Great Wall BuildingMyBento and I'm sure as the years go by more and more sections will be opened to tourism. I also really want to visit the farthest point of the wall that extends out into the ocean.

The Wall is on my bucket list. Thank you for such an intriguing post and great pictures. I may not get there via business class, but I sure hope to get there somehow.
You certainly don't need to go business class Graciecatt! I've never let coach stand in the way of a great experience (heading to IPC next weekend in coach). As far as the "somehow" just stick around FT and you'll pick up enough tips to get there much faster than you thought.

Great report! Still haven't made it to anywhere in Asia, definitely look forward to the rest!
Thanks Digital01, I was never that excited about Asia myself until I saw a Top Gear special to Vietnam, which led to my first Asia trip to Halong Bay.

Nice tr. Thanks for posting.
Thanks for reading camsean, glad you're enjoying it

We did the wall back in 2008. My father in law was so slow going down on the toboggan that his wife crashed into him from behind. She says it wasn't intentional.

In all seriousness, you are now a great man according to the Chairman!
I really need to try the toboggan next time farbster. I don't really do well with things like brakes, so I'm afraid I'd fly off the thing.

This is great, and kind of funny. I did the SAME itinerary through Dallas to catch the cheap US flight to PHL. I did it twice in Jan/Feb, went to the same spot on the wall, and stayed a couple days in Beijing the first time. I'm at 80k EQMs on AA already, that was an awesome fare!

Nice pictures! Keep it coming.
Great minds think alike denCSA. I actually had a duplicate trip booked in the middle of Chinese New Year so I ended up not taking it. Put a damper on my EXP re-qual, but a quick trip to IPC next weekend will hopefully catch me back up.
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Old Mar 27, 14, 10:33 pm
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Originally Posted by bthotugigem05 View Post



Thanks Digital01, I was never that excited about Asia myself until I saw a Top Gear special to Vietnam, which led to my first Asia trip to Halong Bay.


ha! im a huge top gear fan and their VN episode is the inspiration for a huge Vietnam(and other parts of SE asia) trip I am doing in may/june. Like you said...FT has given me the tools to do a trip like this faster than I ever thought(and in way more luxury...we are flying OZ first suites and ANA J)

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Old Mar 27, 14, 10:52 pm
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Great pics and narrative, sir. I'm looking forward to the rest.

FYI, the Mutianyu of today has all been completely restored since 1983, and this remains an ongoing effort.
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Old Mar 27, 14, 10:58 pm
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Great report so far
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Old Mar 28, 14, 8:28 pm
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Thank you sir for the visuals and enjoyed your writing style. Having made a similar trek a month ago, I'll vouch for Simon's services as well.

Like you, I couldn't believe some people found it necessary to sketch their name on the wall. What's next, they'll write their names on Simon's back seat :/

Thumbs up for a great trip report and an incredible "foreign" land!
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