Visiting Beijing, China Aug 5-12 2007

I was lucky enough to get a business trip to China. The plane fare was way too high for Bob to come along (over $2000) but I had a good time even without him. Only one other guy from the US came along, we wanted to bring more folks out but it was just too expensive for the company to pay for. I lucked out and got to go.

Quick summary - Biejing is smoggy and crowded, growing at a tremendous pace. High opportunity level, huge pride in the 2008 Summer Olympics coming here. Very friendly people, everyone on the street is very nice. Driving is insane - do not try to rent a car here - all the drivers consider lanes and turn signals to be optional. Cars merging into the same lane will come within inches of each other, playing chicken until one gives up and yields. Interestingly, in an entire week we only saw one very minor fender-bender accident. The city is beautiful with tons of ancient buildings and well-preserved and well-restored artifacts. Good road infrastructure for owning a car or taking taxi's, so-so for buses, little in the way of subway or trains. In general well worth a visit, I'd come back if I could. If I came back I'd want to spend more than a week and go see some other places around Beijing too.

Trip report: We hopped the airport shuttle at 7am Sunday morning for an 11:30 flight to SanFran, short layover then a direct flight to Beijing (just under 12 hours in the air). Arrived 6pm Monday Beijing time, managed to stay up until 10pm which for me is critical to avoid jet lag.

Next day we had free to recover from jet lag (10 hours time change but neither of us had much in the way of jet lag) and Qi, our local host who took WONDERFUL care of us, provided us with a car and driver so we didn't have to deal with taxis, since neither of us spoke a word of Chinese. It was looking overcast and gloomy so we postponed the Great Wall trip till later and went to Temple of Heaven (sure enough, got rained on) and then went to the Forbidden City. Gorgeous! Qi joined us for a great dinner. I slept well after all the walking. Then we worked for a couple days.

We had one more day off on Saturday before going home, and Qi took us and her whole team to Great Wall for fun and team-building. The Great Wall is stunningly impressive. We then had an authentic chinese lunch complete with chicken feet and fish head soup :-) Earlier in the week Qi had asked us what foods we didn't want, and those were the 2 things I mentioned as being too weird or gross. Grace didn't know that and ordered them as typical Chinese cuisine. Everyone had a good laugh at me getting grossed out by the fish head, tho I did finally try the soup and it was pretty good. I just can't take eyes looking at me from my food :-)

We then headed to Summer Palace where a few more folks on Qi's team who couldn't make the morning Great Wall hike joined us for the afternoon. Gorgeous park-like area and a beautiful blue-sky day. This kind of blue sky in Beijing is supposedly pretty rare (happens a couple times a month). Man I'm spoiled from Colorado - sunny 300+ days per year here!

Sunday we had the morning free before having to leave town so Qi again gave us the same car and driver to take us around Tienenman Square, and take a pedi-cab ride around the houtongs. Way cool. Then Sunday afternoon catch a flight out, arriving Colorado Sunday evening.

Thanks Qi!

  IM001873 IM001859 IM001861 IM001863 IM001862  
  Our first sight-seeing stop was to a large park-like area with many buildings, called Temple of Heaven. This is the main temple building. We actually got to this later in the tour. The audio guide to Temple of Heaven. Pretty cool with GPS technology to know where you are, and play the appropriate info message automatically for where you are, so you can traverse the area in any order. Also shows you where you've been and won't replay an info message. Downside - sometimes I missed part of an info message and _wanted_ to be able to replay it. This sidewalk had people practicing playing these instruments, didn't catch the name for them. They played it like a recorder, covering and un-covering holes in the pipe Lots of gorgeous buildings, trees, grass...

  IM001864 IM001865 IM001866 IM001868 IM001869  
  We never did figure out what this building was, but it is pretty. These guys were playing a game with small racquets and a hackey-sack type ball But when catching and throwing the ball, they would roll it across the racquet to gently catch and throw. The guy in the forefront holds a second ball, you can see the ribbons coming off it to slow down the ball in flight.

  IM001870 IM001871 IM001872 IM001885 IM001875  
  Explanation of the Seven Star Stones. The 7 Star Stones. Interestingly, the audio guide called these the "Big Dipper Stones". Description of the Long Corridor. It was closed for renovation. Now we go inside another set of walls to get to the interior section, containing the main Temple or "Hall of Prayer". It's huge and gorgeous. Close-up

  IM001874 IM001876 IM001877 IM001878 IM001879  
  All around the main hall are other buildings, just as beautiful but long and rectangular. This one is smaller and is the "Imperial Hall of Heaven". Description of "Imperial Hall of Heaven". Inside the building Seventy-Year door and amusing description

  IM001880 IM001881 IM001882 IM001883 IM001886  
  Description of the carvings on the stairs up to the Hall of Prayer Standing at the bottom of the stairs up to Hall of Prayer The carvings are in beautiful shape, given how old they are and they are out exposed to the elements Around the hall where there are platforms instead of stairs are drain spouts for rainwater, beautifully carved like dragsons and such. Most are badly detiorated but here's one that's intact. Sorry I cut off part of this description :-(

  IM001887 IM001888 IM001890 IM001891 IM001893  
  Description of the Burning Stoves Burning Stoves I wuz here! Description of the Shed of Sactifice Description of one of the annex buildings.

  IM001884 IM001898 IM001900 IM001901 IM001902  
  East Annex Hall. This one was open, with a mini-museum inside. Section cut-away model of the central round buidling, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests More good info Back outside the area surrounding the Hall of Prayer, to the rest of the Temple of Heaven area. Description of the Danbi Bridge, which is really a raised walkway, not a bridge.

  IM001903 IM001904 IM001905 IM001906 IM001907  
  Danbi Bridge / walkway Description of the Echo Wall. We didn't try the echo part. Description of East Annex Hall East Annex Hall Inside the annex hall, notice the tablets.

  IM001908 IM001909 IM001911 IM001912 IM001913  
  Description of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Inside ceiling of the Vault of Heaven. My bad, didn't get a picture of the outside. Inside of Vault of Heaven Outer wall of Vault of Heaven, similar drain spouts, these are mostly in good shape close-up

  IM001915 IM001910 IM001914 IM001917 IM001916  
  Description of West Annex Hall West annex hall. On the left you can see someone leaning over the railing to try out the Echo Wall. Inside west annex. Similar tablets to East Annex but the tablets are different colors. Description of Heavenly Center Stone Going up to the Heavenly Center Stone

  IM001918 IM001919 IM001920 IM001921 IM001922  
  Everyone wanted the picture taken on the stone What must have been a moat around the Hall of Prayer and Vault of Heaven Now just grass, but the bridges are beautiful Here it started to rain harder so we beat feet back to the driver and lunch. Bad photo cuz it's raining but the left U-turn arrow was cool, haven't ever seen that in the US.

  IM001923 IM001924 IM001926 IM001925 IM001928  
  After lunch, still drizzling, heading to the Forbidden City. This is where the Emperor used to live. The common people were not allowed in, hence the name Forbidden City. Just across the square, lots of tourist stuff for sale Imposing buildings! We're heading in... Just inside the wall, a terrace, and 5 bridges across a small river.

  IM001929 IM001934 IM001930 IM001931 IM001932  
  The main building in the middle (on the left) is being renovated. Close-up of the main building, the terraces, stairs, and gargoyles are just beautiful. Looking back at the entrance. The top part is a museum. We climb up to the top part of the entrance building, where they're showing drawings from Belgium. Looking out towards the bridges and middle building. The left side of the open area, the bridges are all off-screen to the right. The left buildings is where we go to next, every one is a mini-museum with lots of cool relics.

  IM001936 IM001937 IM001942 IM001941 IM001943  
  Pretty cool staircase! The relics are pretty neat too Musical Instruments Description of ancient calculator - 1600's! Bad photo of the calculator Gorgeous! This is a "Tripod Painted-enamel Incense Burner"

  IM001940 IM001945 IM001946 IM001948 IM001949  
  Unfortunately after this the rooms had "no cameras" signs. Lots of renovation going on, we're guessing in preparation for the expected influx of tourists for the August 2008 Olympics here in Beijing. Didn't figure out what the building in the center is, but it's pretty :-) To the right is the building just inside the entrance under reconstruction. To the left is the Hall of Preserved Harmony. Inside this pretty building. Description of Hall of Preserved Harmony

  IM001950 IM001952 IM001955 IM001953 IM001954  
  Inside the Hall of Preserved Harmony Better view from the center. On the other side of Hall of Preserved Harmony, looking right looking center looking left. The Forbidden City is just huge!

  IM001957 IM001956 IM001959 IM001960 IM001958  
  Moving forward and looking back up at the backside of the Hall of Preserved Harmony, the stairs have another carving. Not as big as at the Temple of Heaven, but the biggest in the Forbidden City. Description of the carving. Moving on, the next building had these lions guarding the entrance.

  IM001961 IM001962 IM001963 IM001964 IM001965  
  This place just goes on and on! Huge ?cauldrons?, similar to the Burning Stoves at the Temple of Heaven. Sun dial! Gorgeous statues

  IM001966 IM001969 IM001976 IM001977 IM001978  
  Description of the Palace of Heavenly Purity Inside the Palace of Heavenly Purity Good reflection of me :-) The top edges of the roof line had way cool little statues. All the buildings have these. Another sundial. Now the sun is just barely out so you can see the shadow at about 8 o'clock.

  IM001979 IM001980 IM001981 IM001982 IM001983  
  Another beautiful carving leading up to the next building. This one leads into the Imperial Gardens. In the middle are 2 trees, grafted together. Great symbolism! Description of the Imperial Garden. the grafted trees

  IM001984 IM001985 IM001986 IM001987 IM001988  
  Beautiful rocks, looks volcanic Even the paths have beautiful mosaics. Everyone just walks on them. Ceiling of one of the little gazebo-style buildings inside the garden

  IM001989 IM001990 IM001991 IM001992 IM001993  
  The wood is so shiny it looks like petrified wood. Outside the exit to the forbidden city Up above the exit Changing of the guard Further outside the Forbidden City, looking back at it.

  IM001994 IM001995 IM001996 IM001997 IM001998  
  We came out the wrong exit and had to hike down the street a ways to get back to our driver. We finally got to the right spot and are heading back to the hotel. This is one of the more narrow streets in Beijing, most are 3 lanes each way. This street goes around the Forbidden City. Notice lots of bicycles. A more typical street in Beijing - 4 lanes wide plus bicycles. Lots of modern sky-scrapers. Pretty "rainbow bridge"

  IM002000 IM002001 IM002002 IM002003 IM002004  
  Tons of construction going on More sky scrapers. It's now clear skies and no clouds - the grey haze is all smog :-( Way cool buildings! Tons more cranes for construction These 2 buildings are truly leaning, and yes they will be occupied when construction is done.

  IM002005 IM002006 EX000001 EX000004 EX000003  
  Typical apartment buildings. You can see the dots of air conditioners on the luckier dwellers. Lots of modern buildings Qi took us to a restaurant for Peking duck, a specialty of Beijing. Which given Peking is another spelling and pronunciation of Beijing, makes sense :-) Here the ducks are mostly cooked, waiting to be seared in the back fireplace to roast the skin to perfection

  IM002007 IM002008 IM002009 IM002010 IM002011  
  A chef brings out our duck, here's the remnants after it's sliced. The skin is the most flavorful part. Next day, heading to work, more gorgeous buildings And more apartment buildings. We're staying at the Great Wall Sheraton. I'd highly recommend it. Anywhere that provides robes in your room is pretty cushy! No, I didn't steal one :-) Next day heading to work. There are trains here but not many. Buses are the norm.

  IM002012 IM002014 IM002015 IM002020 IM002019  
  Cute sign - no littering. Office park with lots of high-tech companies. hurrah! Pretty building with a small garden and fountains

  IM002018 IM002021 IM002022 IM002023 IM002024  
  Me and Keith Next day, back at the hotel, looking out my hotel window. Pretty garden down on the first floor, and city as far as the eye can see. Looking further left out my hotel window. This is sunshine - there are zero clouds, just smog. Next day, done with work and heading to Great Wall to sight-see. Roadside stand along the way. Entrance to this section of the Great Wall.

  IM002025 IM002026 IM002027 IM002028 IM002029  
  There be mountains here! From the parking lot, looking north-east. In the center you can see the wall on top of the hill! zoomed in We didn't go to the typical tourist section of the wall closest to Beijing (Ba???), Qi took us to Mutianyu which is further away but much less crowded and less touristy. Still, pretty touristy. Food on the right

  IM002030 IM002031 IM002032 IM002033 IM002034  
  and souvenirs everywhere! Camel heading up to give rides to the tourists Marker stone for this section of the Great Wall Sorry blurry, cool bug on Grace's wrist Toboggan - an alpine slide - how we get back down

  IM002037 IM002035 IM002036 IM002040 IM002041  
  We go up in a chair lift and get to see the slide and people coming down as we go up Some unique features of this section of the Great Wall Looking left (west). We will go that way along the wall. Notice the cable car lift part-way.

  IM002042 IM002043 IM002044 IM002045 IM002046  
  Looking back down over the chair lift to the valley below Pretty! Ming, Qi, Grace and me! Keith, Qi and me. Great backdrop!

  IM002047 IM002048 IM002049 IM002050 IM002051  
  LuoQi inside one of the tower buildings as we start to hike along the wall Short climb up to the next building. This one has a ladder up to the top (notice the person on top) Looking out of the building to the next section of wall Follow the wall to where there's a sharp left and a silver platform, that's the cable car that goes up. We're going way past that. inside one of the buildings

  IM002052 IM002053 IM002054 IM002055 IM002056  
  On the inside of the wall, steps leading down to the ground, for soldiers to get in and out, haul supplies up to the towers, etc. Qi touches the cannon. It's morning so the metal is still cool. When we return about noon, it's hot to the touch. Another building, they used to have ladders to get up top. Looking out to the right (north) to a spur of the wall. From the other side

  IM002057 IM002058 IM002059 IM002060 IM002061  
  Almost Escher-like. The wall goes up on the left, takes an unseen sharp right and goes down to the bottom right, then back up to center top. We're still heading towards the cable car station on the left At the cable car station, looking further on. On the right is a straight-up section, beyond which you can see green in the middle of the wall. That's where the restoration ends. Looking back, in the middle is a red awning where we came up on the chair lift, that's the beginning of the toboggan slide going down. Butterfly!

  IM002062 IM002063 IM002064 IM002065 IM002067  
  Gorgeous mountains surround us. Blue sky! LuoCao checks out the photo he just took LuoQi makes Grace into a ghost, hiding her face People are visible climbing the last set of steps before the end of the restored section The long hill right to left? Yup we're going up it.

  IM002068 IM002069 IM002070 IM002071 IM002073  
  enjoying the scenery Looking back about to head up. My calves were tired after this and even 2 days later they were sore. Taking a break halfway up The end of the road

  IM002072 IM002074 IM002075 IM002076 IM002077  
  You can see why - pretty broken up! Makes me appreciate the restoration that's been done to the large part we already hiked! Some tourist ignored the sign and hiked up. He was picking his way pretty slowly. Gives a good perspective on how big the rocks are and how steep that part is. rest break! looking down the steps back along the wall. The farthest-visible part is the cable car platform I think. Gorgeous!

  IM002078 IM002079 IM002080 IM002081 IM002082  
  Another section of the wall visible to the north - the square towers on the peaks are visible. me It's a beautiful blue sky day here, with a few scattered clouds Heading back, better view of the cable cars. I think the chair lift was more fun :-)

  IM002084 IM002085 IM002086 IM002087 IM002088  
  steep steps up from this corner tower up to the wall and more steep steps The good thing about blue sky is it's pretty and good lighting for photos. Bad thing it it's hot - very hot - like 100F. Really. Very humid too! Ming gives perspective to the height of the walls on each side, with the arrow slits Graffiti happens

  IM002090 IM002091 IM002092 IM002093 IM002094  
  Another butterfly. This is remarkable because in Beijing there are no insects. None. No mosquitos, but nothing else either. At most of the corner towers is a local selling water, food, etc. Many are in shady spots, others bring large umbrellas for shade. Back at the bottom, the lions here are actually blow-up, not statues. I lost my hat on the toboggan ride down so had to buy another :-), less than a dollar for a hat or t-shirt. Back in Beijing, driving by the Birds Nest Stadium - for the opening ceremonies of the summer 2008 Olympics. huge hotels being built around it

  IM002095 IM002096 IM002098 IM002101 IM002099  
  It's nearly complete and still a year away From a different angle Lots of construction of hotels and such around the stadium Close-up of the stadium, workers are visible along the top - and this is a Saturday! the aquatic center

  IM002100 IM002102 IM002103 IM002104 IM002105  
  there are no beams or steel structure here, just water and translucent encasing of the water. Pretty cool! beautiful sky scraper Now we're at the Summer Palace. This is in the middle of Beijing, comprising a lake and a palace to the right, and surrounding grounds This was the relaxation area for the Emperor, the equivalent of Camp David in the US. Now open to the public as a park.

  IM002111 IM002106 IM002107 IM002108 IM002109  
  Description of the bridge the bridge across the lake to an island in the center pavilion just before the bridge on the bridge looking back at the pavilion The carved stone lions are all unique

  IM002110 IM002157 IM002112 IM002113 IM002114  
  Description of Wenchang Tower the tower weeping willow trees abound here Lotus flowers in the water here, like lilies but taller

  IM002115 IM002116 IM002117 IM002119 IM002120  
  the flowers are shades of pink At the top middle of the photo is a round green thing that has indentations, kinda like a shower head. This the seed pod of the lotus flower, edible and popular. Description of the Long corridor

  IM002121 IM002122 IM002123 IM002124 IM002125  
  Entry to the corridor (yeah that's Keith in the middle) Every couple feet on all sides there are beautiful paintings of scenes from China's history, fables, legends, etc. Just outside the corridor is a stream with both low water lilies and the tall lotus plants The paintings are spectacular

  IM002126 IM002127 IM002128 IM002129 IM002134  
  Looking across the lake to the bridge More paintings Description of the area at the end of the Long Corridor

  IM002131 IM002132 IM002133 IM002135 IM002136  
  The tower where the Empress would pray to the Budda Interesting rocks. Each one is supposed to look like an animal from the Chinese zodiac. This is the rabbit.

  IM002137 IM002139 IM002140 IM002141 IM002142  
  me Looking back along the Long Corridor The pavement here has beautiful mosaics, much like in the Imperial Gardens in the Forbidden City.

  IM002143 IM002144 IM002145 IM002146 IM002147  
  The stone boat Truly made of stone, just for show. Beautiful wooden staircase in the middle Taking a break this place is huge and the shadows are getting long (it's getting late) so time to head back Nice cloud formation, shows the rare blue sky day we have today in Beijing

  IM002148 IM002149 IM002150 IM002152 IM002153  
  close-up looking back across the lake to the bridge. The clouds / smog layer is turning pink from the sunset Interesting space-needle type building on the left Looking back at the tower of incense (?) with the setting sun behind it little mountains visible here

  IM002154 IM002155 IM002156 IM002158 IM002159  
  a crowd gathers to watch this gentleman draw characters. I can read the upside-down 2007-08-11 (today's date) I have no clue what it says :-) but it's beautiful. [Added later: DickH says: "the characters are Dong3 Lu4 (the numbers are the tones). It's someone's name. The other writing looks to me like a treble clef in music; it certainly wasn't part of the characters. Nicely drawn." I should have added before that the vertical lines between the 2 characters were drawn last, almost as a flourish. sunset flowering bushes along the side walks

  IM002160 IM002161 IM002164 IM002165 IM002166  
  Kites! Was cool to see folks flying kites as we're about to leave the Summer Palace green pea Popsicle - sounds gross but it's pretty good! More like sugar snap peas. back on the roads, traffic cameras are everywhere typical bus - double long

  IM002167 IM002168 IM002169 IM002170 IM002171  
  occasionally we saw double-decker buses but usually just single-level ones It's Sunday and we're heading to Tiananmen Square. This building is off to the side. Tienanmen Square itself We drove all the way around it

  IM002172 IM002173 IM002174 IM002175 IM002176  
  It's simply huge Large crowds of people

  IM002177 IM002179 IM002180 IM002181 IM002215  
  Symphony building Tons of bicycles Rows of pedi-cabs Just gobs of them. Rickshaws (a guy pulling a cart, walking) we didn't see anywhere. These are bicycle cabs, very popular for tourists.

  IM002182 IM002183 IM002184 IM002185 IM002187  
  We're about to take a tour, joining a long line of pedi-cabs heading out. Hutong is the word for the area around here of small alleys (too narrow for cars) that opens up into small lakes and rivers. Pretty much you can only get there via walking or pedi-cab. the first lake the alley we're in is pretty narrow, then it opens up to wide enough for a car (in the distance)

  IM002188 IM002189 IM002190 IM002191 IM002192  
  Partway along we stopped to view an old-style Beijing Courtyard. This is 4 buildings surrounding a small shaded courtyard. Chinese Chess Views of the buildings back when. Notice the bottom left picture has two round knobs over the doorway. The number of knobs indicated the status of the family. If a boy of a 4-knob family wanted to marry a girl of a 2-knob, very difficult. Inside one of the rooms of the north building. The north building was the most desirable and thus housed the parents and grandparents. The east building where the sun rose (things grow) housed the boys. The west building where the sun sets (things shrink) housed the girls. The south building was coldest in winter, hot in summer, and housed the servants. Description of the roof tiles

  IM002193 IM002194 IM002195 IM002196 IM002197  
  Examples of the roof tiles showing how a large family might have 7 buildings with 2 courtyards in the old days. Now with the restrictions on children, most courtyards have multiple families per courtyard. Three main prosperity signs of a courtyard: 1) shade from the tree and from the grape vines, for coolness in the summer 2) fish bowl. Water was considered a sign of wealth, the Chinese word for water is very similar to the word for success.

  IM002198 IM002199 IM002200 IM002202 IM002203  
  3) pomegranates - many seeded fruit. The Chinese word for seed sounds like the word for boys and many boy children were desirable. Girl children would leave their family to go live with their husband, boy children would bring home a wife and care for their parents and grand-parents. Supposedly a typical bedroom but the TV in the opposite corner (not visible) has me wondering. Looking across the courtyard Passing by a narrow alleyway Description of the Sycee Bridge

  IM002204 IM002205 IM002207 IM002208 IM002211  
  One of the landmarks of this area little dog just lying in the alley, didn't move or even look as our driver pedaled by. We saw little dogs here and there, no big dogs.

  IM002217 IM002218 IM002216 IM002219 IM002220  
  more narrow alleys tow truck showing where cars or trolleys can go. In the middle of the blue circle is where our pedi-cab took us. Gate to the edge of the lake (bottom of the previous map)

  IM002222 IM002221 IM002223 IM002224 IM002225  
  the terrace at the edge of the lake has a series of signs for public service or public info this one is for how to perform CPR Near a bus stop, daily newspapers are posted, encouraging everyone to read and be up to date on the news sidewalk? we don't need to stinkin' sidewalk! The right-most lane is generally for bicycles, though the buses use it too.

  IM002226 IM002227 IM002229 IM002230 IM002231  
  Road workers are highly visible, and everywhere tho road construction is minimal in disruption to traffic. missed this one, wanted to get the logo "one world, one dream" on the left and the set of figures on the right representing the Olympics Tons of construction - count the cranes! nearing the airport On all the expressways, the left lane has a higher speed limit than the middle and right lanes. Here, 120 kilometers per hour in the left lane, 100 in the right and middle lanes. Wish the US would do that!

  IM002232 IM002234 IM002235 IM002236  
  Wow big plane crossing over the freeway! In the airport, one of the five "friendlies" of the Olympics All sorts of Olympic souvenirs on sale here, a year early Is there a book on Go for Bob? I have no clue :-)

To parent directory

created with igal