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.
|Thursday, June 26, 2014 13:25:21|
CHINA 2014: 1 To Beijing
It seems China is tightening even further its grip on incoming and outgoing communications and media. For computers, gmail and Yahoo are both blocked, shutting me down completely - a problem I didn't have on any of my 11 previous trips. A friend set up a Chinese email address for me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and it has been OK for sending and receiving regular email, but when I tried to send the journal transmission was delayed for more than 12 hours, and when received was completely scrambled. My sent copy is fine. Instead of journals while we go, I'll send these out one by one once back in Victoria, where we will spend the next month.
This trip is a 10th birthday present for granddaughter Sela Piercy who lives in Victoria, Canada. Marilynn and I flew to Victoria, then spent a week visiting and getting things ready for the trip before being driven to the ferry to Vancouver by Sela's parents. We took a taxi to the airport in Vancouver where we had appointments to apply for Nexus passes the immigration and customs pre-clearance card that allows holders to bypass long lines in the US and Canada.
Once done we took the Sky Train & Sea Bus in Vancouver to a restaurant on Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, where we had dinner and wandered around killing time before out 1:30 AM flight. Back at the airport we checked in and passed a few hours in the comfortable lounge. The flight left on time, had good food and drink service, plus flat beds for sleeping. Sela loved the idea of sleeping in a sky high bed! The flight arrived in Shanghai half an hour early at 4:30 AM Shanghai time, however our flight to Beijing didn't leave until 9:30 AM.
James picked us up at the Beijing airport. We first met him at the Mongolian border when we drove the Rolls around the world - he escorted us for the entire trip through China, then headed home after we shipped the car to Vancouver from Shanghai. We have met various times since. He now has his own travel business doing guided trekking tours on different parts of the Great Wall. Anyone having that in mind should contact Jame's email at email@example.com or phone his cel phone at 0086-139113-61736 - he will do a great job.
We were driven to the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel, located in one of the traditional hutongs (old style neighbourhoods) in Beijing. It is a beautifully renovated old one story building with courtyards and meandering hallways richly decorated in the traditional Chinese style but with all modern conveniences such as free wifi, great bathrooms and comfortable beds. James gave us a time to shower and regroup before we were driven to the home of Lifeng Lui and her husband, picking up his wife and young daughter Lulu en route.
I first met Lifeng in 2007 as well, after being told by many officials that there was no way to get the Rolls car into China from Mongolia. She was recommended by the organizer of the Peking to Paris Auto race and was able to arrange everything including having James meet us. Lifeng has become a close family friend, having met our family in Victoria last year with her 15 year old son Hongyi, and again in Costa Rica earlier this year when they spent a couple of weeks with us. Hongyi is going to school in Ottawa, Canada. If China is in your travel plans, Lifeng is in charge of incoming tourism for CSITS (China Sea International Travel Service) and can be contacted at email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 0086-10-5876-6940. She has put together many China itineraries for us, and they have been excellent in every way.
At Lifeng's home we met her husband for the first time and found we shared the enjoyment of beer - a good start Her niece was there - she told us Lifeng had spent 3 days putting together the most amazing banquet of Chinese food I have ever experienced. We ate until we could barely move! After dinner we walked along a landscaped stream in the complex, taking shelter in a pavilion when a thunder shower poured down rain. That was fun, as there was an opportunity to talk to other residents of the complex also taking cover, and for Sela and Lulu to play. All and all, it was a great night, but by the time we were driven back to the hotel we were wiped out.
Monday, June 23, 2014
After a good night's sleep and breakfast James picked up Marilynn & Sela to go to the Forbidden City, however entry was forbidden today. The plan was for me to catch up with them for lunch, having been through the Forbidden City before, but they returned to the hotel to collect me early for a hike through the Summer Palace of the emperors, which was also the main palace of the dowager empress. We walked for miles through the compound before taking a ferry across the man made lake on the way back. Sela was feeling like a rock star, as many Chinese people asked to take her photo or to have her pose in a photo with them.
Sela is very keen on the vast variety of food she has experienced here, and has mastered the use of chop sticks. We leave most meals stuffed, however today's lunch was soon walked off when we explored the large Temple of Heaven complex under a very hot sun. We chose not to visit the Olympic Village, instead going back to the hotel. Lifeng joined us for a walk and a good dinner at a neighbourhood restaurant. One of the things I really enjoy in China is that tipping is not expected in restaurants.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
This morning we drove a couple of hours into the mountains to take a cable car up to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The views were spectacular as the wall, which follows the top ridge of the mountains, can be seen climbing peaks miles away - what an amazing feat of construction. This sections was built in the 1400s, but renovated about 100 years ago. Of the three locations where Marilynn & I have walked on the wall, this was the most amazing. It is also much less crowded than sections closer to Beijing.
Marilynn and I were exhausted by the time we had hiked up and down along the wall past 4 of the guard towers, so opted out of the next section of 500 steep steps, however Sela and James made it. By the time we returned to the car we were pretty done it! We had a good lunch at a restaurant serving the local speciality of fresh trout before going back to the hotel to clean up. We've been blessed with great weather, and even the pollution level of Beijing has been low enough to see blue skies.
In the evening we went to the Beijing Chaoyang Theatre for an acrobatic show with a wide variety of dazzling stunts that included bicycles, squirrel cage type wheels and a large sphere which at one time had 8 motorcycles inside going fast enough to go up and over the inside of the sphere while dodging each other with split second timing. By the time we got to bed there was no need to be rocked to sleep!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
As entry to the Forbidden City was permitted today, we did the routine that was planned for Monday, giving me time to catch up on work needed for the office in San Jose, writing, etc. A drawback is that both gmail and yahoo are blocked in China for computers, even though they can be accessed on cell phones and ipads. This is a great inconvenience to many tourists and business visitors, including me. In spite of its appearance of openness, all media, including electronic, in China is very tightly controlled by the government. James set up an account for me on the Chinese internet provider 163, which will let me send and receive emails, but it is not easy for me to use as there is no English and a lot of pop-up ads which can be confusing.
After a delicious hot pot lunch we drove to a hutong (neighbourhood) very near to where Marilynn and I stayed two years ago to do a tour by bicycle rickshaw, including a visit to a house in the area. Back at the hotel James stayed with us to give me more lessons on the Chinese internet site.
From there we were driven to DaDong Peking Duck Restaurant, a tradition with us on each visit. We were joined by Jame's wife, his daughter and Lifeng. Lifeng ordered a superb duck meal with wine Like most upscale restaurants it was impossible to purchase Chinese wine, only imported. The Chinese still prefer to buy almost everything imported, although we prefer local wine.
In talking with James, he mentioned that it is now possible for foreigners to rent a car in China. A Chinese driver's license is still required, but foreign license holders can purchase Chinese licenses at the Shanghai or Beijing airport.