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Log of the China trip (Blog) by Janice Hatt

Friday, 16 September - Beijing

The flight was less-bothersome than I had anticipated. Air Canada certainly took care of us. Clearing the Beijing Airport was fairly easy though long, and we had our first Chinese bathroom lesson - toilet paper is outside the stalls so you have to take it in with you. Otherwise - OH, OH! Our national escort, Michelle, met us after we cleared all the customs and immigration hurdles and led us to a bus for the long, long ride to the Beijing International Hotel.

It's a lovely hotel with comfortable rooms, near the train station, After about 45 minutes to freshen up, we were back on the bus for the trip to a restaurant for dinner. Everyone was almost too tired to eat and the food was strange, but we enjoyed it - Larry and I managed the whole thing with chopsticks, and those flat [ china ] soup spoons. That'll keep our consumption down [ Oh yeh!, I've learned to use the "shovelling" technique ]


Click For All Pictures Day 1: Tian'amen Sq. Forbidden City, Peking Opera

ClickPic: View from our window in hotel ]

ClickPic: View from our window in hotel ]




Saturday, 17 September - Beijing

This was the day of "Cathy Wilkes Long March" [ Mao ] established communist China with a long many-year march across China on with his followers on foot ] - we walked and walked! We also have one member of the group - Betsy - already on the disabled list. Breakfast at the hotel was great. Semi-western. Then into the bus and off to Tian'anmen Square. The first real lesson of the day was how great are the distances in Beijing. We took some time getting close to the Square, then had a long walk including an underpass to get to the Square itself.

Betsy tripped and fell badly in the underpass, hitting her head and injuring her hip. After some time, she bravely decided to continue, with a person supporting her on each side. By an hour or so later though, it was clear she couldn't continue, so our escort brought her back to the hotel [ we have 2 escorts, a national one, Michelle, and a local Beijing one, Vyvian,...the later took care of us then ].






Betsy has now been to hospital and back, and will have xrays on Monday. They suspect a broken hip. Meanwhile, we had been swarmed by street vendors and most of us bought hats, postcards, souvenir books, silk purses, kites, etc. -- at wildly divergent prices! It's clear that bargaining is very much in order. Never pay more than half the original asking price. One hat vendor actually lifted Dave Wilkes' baseball cap! Tian'anmen Square really is as huge as it seemed when we watched events unfold years ago. Mao's mausoleum attracts many domestic tourists, but we skipped that long lineup and just enjoyed the sun and warmth outside.









Preparations for Beijing 2008 Olympics are underway, with the countdown clock visible from the Square.




Preparation for China's National Day on Oct 1st are also going on - bleachers block a lot of the Square. From there we continued to the Forbidden City, which is just across the street. By then a couple more people had decided it was too much walking and had headed back to the taxi area, with plans to meet us afterward. The trek under the street and through a maze of turns lost us one more person. When we couldn't find her in the designated 20 minutes, we continued on. Cathy said "she's very resourceful, don't worry", but we all did. When we reached the exit, there she was, calmly waiting for us! Phew! We all have little cards in our name tag holders that give taxi instructions in Mandarin to our hotel, so we're not really able to become totally lost.

The Forbidden City, like most things of importance around Beijing, is being renovated and restored for 2008. It's really huge, with a series of courtyards leading finally to the Emperor's residence. The glazed tiles, carvings, etc. are beautiful, but there are very few artifacts, and many people pushing and jostling for a glimpse of the rooms through doorways and windows.

The garden was the best part, though there were few flowers, just ancient trees and pebbled mosaic walkways. Leaving the Forbidden City, we walked several blocks to the bus pick-up area, swarmed by more vendors, and several beggars displaying deformities and injuries hoping for handouts. At the bus stop, Heather got a wonderful shoulder and neck massage from a street masseuse. By the time the bus picked us up we were very much behind schedule, so very hungry for lunch, which was another 45-minute drive away. Never go out without snacks in your bags!


After lunch we visited a pearl gallery. Freshwater pearls are a local commodity and this huge place had all kinds of jewellery made from these and other stones. We had an amusing intro to the fresh-water oyster and its products.


Next was to be the Summer Palace, but it was unexpectedly closed ( along with the Great Wall ) for some visiting dignitaries, so we switched around our schedule and drove for over an hour to get to the Temple of Heaven. It's a long walk too, so several people opted out of that visit. It was interesting, but by then we were pretty much dazed by the whole trek. Also beautiful woods to walk through.




Back to the bus and off for a delicious meal, then on to the Peking Opera performance. Many people slept through much of it, but the last 20 minutes or so was a stunning juggling/acrobatic performance that we all enjoyed. [ fortunately I was awakened by the excitement and didn't miss the good part ].




We were all happy to return to the hotel, though most of us are still not sleeping well. Heather told us she was talking to some other Canadians who asked if we were the group with the guy who lost his passport, and did he find it? [ ...ahh, internationally famous already! ]. At dinner Dave W said something to Larry about his passport and Cathy said "hey, he got it back: where's your hat?!".



[ClickPic: Jan at Tian'anmen Sq ]

[ClickPic: Jan, Dave & M-E - Tian'anment Sq

[ClickPic: Jan - Mao Mausoleum

[ClickPic: Jan with Vyvian & Michelle

[ClickPic: Beijing 2008 Olympic Countdown ]

[ClickPic: Jan under Chairman Mao - Tian'anmen Sq

[ClickPic: Jan,Larry - Tian'anmen Sq

[ClickPic: J in Forbidden City

[ClickPic:Forbidden City

[ClickPic:Forbidden City - Lion guarding

[ClickPic: Jan in Forbidden City

[ClickPic: Forbidden City

[ClickPic: Emperor's throne in Forbidden City

[ClickPic: Emperess's bed in Forbidden City

ClickPic: The Temple of Heaven

[ClickPic: The Temple of Heaven gate

[ClickPic: Acrobats at the Peking Opera



Click For All Pictures Day 1: Tian'amen Sq. Forbidden City, Peking Opera



Sunday, 18 September - Beijing

What a great day! We attended a church service at a church with an untranslatable name, where we were made so very welcome! When we arrived we were given headphones for simultaneous translation of the service, English hymn books and Bibles. Then we were introduced and sang "Go now in peace" and I presented a Tansley Peace candle to the minister.  After the service we chatted with several bilingual parishioners. Last week Condelesa Rice attended a service there. It was very moving to be singing hymns in two languages, but in harmony. Just lovely. We all felt great afterwards.




We ate lunch in our room - Cup-A-Soup and peanut butter on crackers [ with D & M-E ]. Then in the afternoon we took a rickshaw tour through the Hutong area - what fun that was! [the Hutong is the 600 year old house area where people live in courtyard-connected bungalows]. Although at one point neither Larry nor I could stand the driver's struggle to get up a hill, so we jumped out and pushed. I hope he didn't loose face over that! We rode around a little lake and through tiny streets, then visited in a couple of the tiny houses.


The residents love their communal way of life, though the younger people prefer new condos. Now we're relaxing before heading out to try and find a "hot-pot" restaurant.



(...later) We found the place and what fun we had! I'd never choose "Hot-Pot" as what I'd want for food, but the process was a riot. There were 10 of us, so we got a private room.




We didn't know how much to order, so just went blindly. The uncooked food comes beatifully displayed on plates, and large cauldrons of boiling water are on the table [the core of the cauldron is a chimney stack of burning charcoal]



The waitress finally took over the cooking process and then soon the fishing out and serving. At the end, Lizzie said "We're from CANADA - CA-NA-DA - Oh Canada, our home ... We all joined in to the tremendous amusement of the giggling waitress. Would you recognize the Chinese national anthem if you heard it? On the way back to the hotel we passed a street musician and wildly encouraged his rendition of Blowin' in the Wind - bizarre lyrics and all.


[ClickPic: Our rickshaw driver getting instructions from our Hutong guide

[ClickPic: Jan & Larry in rickshaw, pic by driver

[ClickPic: Lake and shops

[ClickPic: Lake and boats

[ClickPic: our rickshaw parade

[ClickPic: Hutong market

[ClickPic: Hutong home visit

[ClickPic: Hutong home

[ClickPic: the resident also displayed Tai Chi swordsmanship

[ClickPic: evening view from our room, the hot pot restaurant is down a street directly across

[ClickPic: at the hotpot dinner


 All Pictures Day2:Hutong Tour, Hot Pot Restaurant