Travel Website Logo
Travel Journal
Dan Walker’s Travel Website
Travel Photos

Travel Journal

Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Thursday, July 05, 2012 16:43:28

CHINA 2012: 11 - Beijing & back to Victoria

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 1,145 km (712 mi) flight from Qiqihar to Beijing arrived ahead of schedule. Friend Lifeng Liu met us and took us to the beautiful Bamboo Garden Hotel, located in the old section of the city. The hotel grounds were the estate of an important minister of the Qing Dynasty in the late 19th and early 20th century. Once settled we walked through the old section to the lake that stretches through Beijing to the Imperial Palace. Here the road is lined with expensive residences and a number of restaurants. Lunch was Middle Eastern food with a Chinese twist. The old city is not like the ones in the south - it is a largely residential area in the old style, with each doorway opening onto six or so small residences crammed together. It is a protected area where no high rise buildings are permitted. Later in the afternoon we took a taxi to the embassy district, where I had read there was a lively bar street and a village for shopping. In Beijing it is not possible to call a taxi, only to flag them down on the street, a process that took half an hour. The village is a collection of tall buildings with outlets from every top designer known. It is a place to spend thousands of dollars on dresses and hundreds per pair of shoes. The bar street was a letdown - the map showed a pedestrian street but it was actually half a dozen seedy looking bars on a traffic clogged street facing the upscale shopping district. We had a beer and retreated to the hotel for a few more. The hotel bar is handily located at the foot of the stairs to our room.

Friday, June 29, 2012

We took advantage of a day with no planned activity to have a late breakfast before catching a cab to the electronics district. We were lucky, within 15 minutes a taxi dropped someone off nearby and we dashed over and climbed in. Lifeng warned us to be careful buying in this area, and she was right about the hustle. Marilynn knew exactly which camera she wanted to buy and the price on the internet, so we soon found ourselves being processed in a tall building full of everything electronic. There were loads of outlets selling Canon and everything else. For the special camera Marilynn wants we were escorted upstairs to a room full of seats with tables between them, each equipped with a calculator. Marilynn tested out the camera and we came close on the price but left when they wouldn't come down further. We walked a block before going into another Canon outlet. We were offered a lower price than the one we were willing to pay, but to get the camera we had to go to the same place we had just walked out of. The buildings are connected with walkways, and individual outlets all come back to the same controlling point. They wouldn't sell for the price we were offered, but after considerable discussion they came down to our price, but only for cash and we didn't have enough - we'd planned to use a credit card, so it was another retreat, this time to find a taxi back to the hotel.

In the evening we went through the procedure of flagging down a taxi again, this time for a 45 minute ride to the Da Dong Peking Duck Restaurant, located near the Regent Hotel where we stayed while our Rolls was in the Rolls Royce showroom. The restaurant occupies the entire 5th floor of a super upscale shopping centre, and the meal was beyond amazing. Lifeng was there, and so was James (our guide when we drove the Rolls across China) with his three year old daughter, who, though shy, was well behaved. Lifeng very kindly drove us back to the hotel where we had a beer before bed. A note on tipping. The Chinese tip tour guides, local guides, drivers, and possibly hotel employees helping take luggage to the room; however it is not customary in restaurants or taxis, which would explain why tips in restaurants were often refused.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Today dawned sunny and hot. We took a walk to find a shopping area in the old city that Marilynn spotted when we were with Lifeng, but we got thoroughly lost. When we eventually found the area I settled into a restaurant to drink beer while Marilynn prowled though the shops. Eventually we returned to the hotel to rest - the walk had been a few miles. In the evening, to get to the theatre where we were to meet Lifeng and her 14 year old son for a Kung Fu show, we decided to try the subway, as there is a station about two blocks from the hotel. It was cheap (about 30 cents), clean, fast and efficient. Signs were in English and Chinese with arrows to clearly indicated train directions and where to stand. An electric rickshaw got us from the station to the theatre a few blocks away. Once Lifeng and her son arrived she spotted an excellent restaurant for a couple of beer and a great meal. The Kung Fu show was good, with lots of history, drumming, dancing, and kung fu moves. We said goodbye to Lifeng and her son after the performance, and hope to meet them again next year if they can arrange a layover in Vancouver. He starts school in Ottawa in September. We are very grateful for all Lifeng has done to make this trip special. We each took a bicycle rickshaw back to the station and had fun as they raced each other. The subway was standing room only, as it was coming, but a couple of young people stood up to give us their seats. I guess there are some advantages to getting old!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This sunny morning we decided to find another of the "pedestrian" shopping streets shown on the map. We successfully navigated the subway to the centre of the area, but found a major 6 lane road lined by tall buildings with some very modern shops and no pedestrian street. So much for trusting the map! It was baking hot and humid; we went into huge stores just to cool off. The idea was to have lunch, but there were no restaurants to be found - this must be the only area of the city without them! After walking a couple of blocks on one side of the street and back on the other we decided to take our wringing wet bodies back to known territory. The air-conditioned subway was a great relief. At our home station we took the wrong exit, surfacing beside a river facing three restaurants across the bridge where the beer was cold and lunch was good. On the way to our hotel we stopped in a small place for another cold beer. We had been paying 20 Yuan for small beer at the hotel, but here a large beer was 4 Yuan and the food looked great. It is a shame we didn't discover the place sooner! We'd left the luggage at reception this morning, and booked a car to the airport hotel for 4 PM, but we were back 1 ½ hours early. The receptionist phoned around and found a driver and car to take us earlier. Our last hotel of the trip was the very nice CITIC Hotel located very close to the airport. The street was/lined with two story shops that looked very much like a high street in a British town, so Marilynn shopped while I had a beer at a local pub. When I went to take a photo I realized I'd left my camera in the car. I called the hotel, and they left a message for the driver. We went for a well earned foot massage in the hotel spa, which cost exactly the amount of Chinese money we had left. While in process I received a call from the driver to say he had my camera - he arrived just after the massage ended. After a couple of 2 for 1 beer at the happy hour bar in the hotel we headed to the room for an early night - we were booked on a 5:30 AM shuttle to get our 7:10 AM flight to Shanghai. It was then we discovered the air conditioning in the room didn't work - it has exactly the same fancy system that was in the upscale hotel in Changchun that didn't work either. Workmen dispatched by reception set the temperature control to 14 C (57F) and proclaimed the system operational. It wasn't - it maintained a temperature of 27 C (81 F) all night, thus lots of sweat and little sleep.

Monday, July 2, 2012

We were in the lobby for our 5:30 AM departure when we were informed by a young employee that the first shuttle was 6 AM. When I told him a 5:30 departure was arranged when the booking was made, and confirmed when we checked in, he got real attitude and pushed their printed schedule at me, claiming that I should know that had always been 6 AM. I lost it and threw the schedule in his face. A young lady, who I assume was the supervisor and who had been in tears trying to deal with another guest with problems earlier, came over to say she had ordered a car and driver for us and that it would arrive in a few minutes. After one of my better glares at the snotty nosed kid with attitude we left. There were no problems with the flights - the one from Beijing arrived in Shanghai about 25 minutes late, after being delayed on the runway for takeoff, but it didn't matter as we had a 3 hour layover. Customs, immigration, and security were quick, polite, and efficient. The flight from Shanghai to Vancouver was good, and arrived ahead of schedule in lots of time for the last flight, a short hope to Victoria. We'll be here for a month.