China – Day 6: Not quite as planned

Today is a travel day to Xi’an.  Our flight out of Beijing was schedule for 8:25, which meant we had to be on the bus at 6 am.  As the restaurant wasn’t open, then provided us with a brown bag breakfast (white bread, boiled eggs and a banana).  When we arrived at the airport, we found that due to the thunderstorm that rolled through last nightearly this morning, our flight was delayed.  The plane had actually not yet left Xi’an…  We waited at the airport for about 45 minutes and then Jack rounded us up and said they were taking us to a hotel to wait…  Apparently the government has rules that limit the amount of time they want people waiting around?

We were driven to a local hotel where they gave us breakfast (actually nothing left) and then assigned us rooms.  This was not the nice level of hotel we’d been staying at – rooms were clean, but smelled heavily of smoke and the AC was not working.  Anyway we waited there about two hours and then headed back to the airport.

Our flight finally arrived in Xi’an at around 5 o’clock.  This is a city of around 8 million people and is best known for it’s heavy industry and defense industry.  Also for growing cotton, winter wheat and corn.  We were supposed to have had lunch and visited a couple of places in the afternoon, but due to the delay our local tour guide, Yao, said we would have to head directly to the Tang Dynasty dumpling dinner & show that was scheduled.  As this was an optional excursion those not attending would then be taken to the hotel.

Dinner was supposedly around 16 rounds of various types of dumplings; pork, chicken, duck, veggie, mushroom, shrimp, etc.  Many were actually shaped like what the filling was – the duck and fish were the most identifiable.  After the show it was back to the hotel by about 9:30.

Duck Dumpling

Duck Dumpling at the Tang Dynasty dinner theater.

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China – Day 5: The Great Wall

Today we headed to the Great Wall.  We were on the bus at 8:30 again this morning and our first stop on the way out of the city was at a jade factory.  These stops would become my least favorite part of the trip.  The few minutes of introduction about the process they use for whatever we were looking at was interesting but the remainder of the hour or so we had to spend at each place was a waste of time as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t need a shopping trip!

Anyway, once that was over we were back on the bus and continued the drive north to Badaling.  We made the short walk from the bus up to the wall.  We were given about 2 hours to explore the wall before meeting back at a nearby restaurant.  Jack advised one direction up the wall was easier, but that also looked to be more crowded.  Doug and I opted to head up the steeper route and Jerry joined us about half the way to the summit.  We walked up to the fourth tower from which we had a nice view of the surrounding area.  Can’t image how they built this thing way back when.

 After lunch we headed back into the city and made a stop at the Beijing Olympic Park where we saw the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube before heading back to the hotel.  We had dinner in the western style, revolving, restaurant at the top of the hotel.  The salmon that I had was really good and the view of the city was spectacular.  Then it was back to the room to pack and get our luggage out the door for our early departure to Xi’an in the morning.

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China – Day 4: The Forbidden City

Day four is the first full day of our tour.  So this meant getting started early.  Was up at 6 o’clock, downstairs for breakfast and on the bus by 8:30.  Our first stop was another visit to Tiananmen Square.  Today our bus dropped us off near the south end of the square where we saw the old gate into the city.  Then it was a walk across the square.  As we passed Mao’s mausoleum our tour guide Jack mentioned that there was some suspicion as to whether the body on display is really Mao…  Jerry and Doug were a little disappointed to hear that since they had gone through the trouble of seeing him yesterday.

Leaving Tiananmen Square, we proceeded north into the Forbidden City which is where the Emperors ruled from.  It’s a truly massive place and I’m sure you could probably spend a couple of days touring it, but we rushed through it in about three or four hours.

From there we headed for lunch and then on to the Summer Palace.  This was another residential area for the emporer and is set on a nice little lake.  We went for a stroll along the lake and then from there it was back to the hotel for a short stop before heading to out for a Peking duck dinner and to see the Legend of Kung Fu show.  After all the walking and with perhaps a little jet lag catching up it was hard to keep my eyes open for the whole show, but I managed to do it.  Back to the hotel a little before 10 this evening.

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China – Day 3: Beijing

Woke up at 6 this morning and headed down for the buffet breakfast.  The choices covered the whole range of international options from western bacon and eggs to the Asian noodles, fried rice, and soups.  No one would go hungry here.

Our morning was free so we opted to walk down to Tiananmen Square which was about a 2km walk down the street.  Took a few pictures on the square and Jerry and Doug walked through the mausoleum to view Mao’s body.  From there it was back to the hotel for a beer and a nap.

Monument to the People's Heroes on Tiananmen Square

Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square

Later in the afternoon the tour officially began with a visit to a local freshwater pearl factory and then it was on to dinner with the whole group – 31 people in all.  We were back to the hotel around 7.  I watched some shows on my iPad while Jerry went looking for an ice cream cone at a nearby McDonald’s.

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China – Day 1-2:  On our way!

Woke up to thunder and lightning around 4:30 this morning and finally crawled out of bed about 5 o’clock. Made some oatmeal and then got showered and the last things in the suitcase. Was still raining off and on when I left the house at 7:15. Made it over to Jerry’s just after 8. Jerry’s neighbor Jackie took us to the airport. Upon check in we found our flight was delayed about 40 minutes. We met Jerry’s friends, Doug and Nanci, at the gate. The flight out of Chicago to Beijing was also delayed about the same so after about a one hour delay out of Chicago we were finally on our way by about 2pm. Our flight was on a 747 slated for retirement in the next couple of months. So being an older plane it didn’t have the up to date in seat entertainment that newer planes have. Fortunately I had my iPad loaded with shows and a few magazines to occupy the 13 hour flight. Also caught maybe an hour of sleep.

On board a 747-400 headed for Beijing!

On board a 747-400 headed for Beijing!

Due to the delay, or maybe not, we arrived in Beijing around 4pm on Wednesday afternoon along with a few other planes so it then took some time to filter through immigration, make our way through the terminal, find our bags and make our way outside. We found our local representative who directed us to our shuttle bus. Despite only being about a 17 mile drive to the hotel the driver said it would take about an hour. Well with the rush hour traffic and torrential rain that would take place it took about an hour and 45 minutes to reach the hotel. We were greeted by our tour guide for the trip, Jack Du.

Originally we had planned to explore the area a bit and find some dinner outside the hotel but Jack advised to stay in the hotel as no one outside would speak English. Turned that didn’t really make much difference as the hotel staff didn’t speak English either. After a bit of struggle we managed to order a couple of beers and some dishes to share (a barbecue platter of chicken, pork and goose and a lemon chicken dish). Neither were particularly good.

And finally with that day, one came to an end and we turned in for the night after a long day of travel. We made it!