China Trip Part One Beijing and Hong Kong

Dec 4-5
Up at 3:30 and off for the airport in Seattle. At 8 o'clock we were headed for San Francisco. The layover at Frisco was only and hour and had to go through security again, so when we got to the plane, it was already mostly loaded. Tammy and family were on one side of the 747 and I on the other, but we got up a few times and talked during the 12 hour flight. We flew up the west coast of N America, which was mostly cloudy. But as we flew out over the Baring Sea and Siberia, the clouds parted and I got a stunning view of those icy wastelands; how could any creature live there. Though the local time was always midday, the sun almost set over the Bearing Sea and the beautiful full moon came up in the north, then set again as we flew south. The temperature was -77F outside of our plane at that 33,000 ft.

We landed at Beijing at 4 pm their time and headed into town. This city of 17 million looks like many American cities except that when you get off into the side streets there are street venders just like Mexico. There are a large number of main streets that intersect, but with no overpasses to speed thing up. There is, of course, more emphases on getting moving and less on safety, with many horns honking. A left turn took about 10 minutes of extra time and getting in the left lane 3 blocks ahead of time. One area looked just like Time Square with a block long TV type screen located of all things overhead. Over hotel is as nice as any I have ever stayed at, with all the amenities you could as for, at a price of under $100 a night. Dinner at Pizza Hut with prices not bad for center of town. To bed at 8pm after a 24 hour day.

Dec 6
Up at 6:15 Later breakfast was great, a buffet with everything from beans and rice, salads, breads, all kinds of fruit, bacon, sausages, omelets made to order. At 9am we were off across town to see Tian Am Men Square, and all the many buildings that were the government buildings and old royal family's quarters. These 600 to 700 year old buildings were ornately beautiful and fairly well kept. Many of the names of these buildings indicate China's interest in being peaceful. Our guide stressed that China has always been interested in keeping peace with its neighbors and still is today.

Lunch was at a traditional Chinese restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner of noodles, rice, chicken, beef, and broccoli. The cost for 5 adults and 2 kids was $20.

After lunch we toured a silk making facility. We learned about the life cycle of the silk worm, and even got to see a machine that was unraveling the silk from the cocoon and twisting 8 strands to silk thread. Then we toured sales floor where we saw the most beautiful silk garments, quilts, and drapes you ever could imagine.

In the afternoon, we toured the ancient Summer Palace of the Emperors, now become a one square mile park including a huge lake. We walked the shoreline for a half a mile. The lake (now frozen and clear of snow) was lined with pagodas and 300 year old cedar trees. I would have loved to have had skates.
At 5:15 we attended the Beijing Acrobatics show. What a show, complete beautiful lighting effects and lasers. It was non-stop action; running, diving and rolls, sometimes over 6 ft rings; one bicycle with 15 girls on it stacked 3 high; the whole thing done with beautiful lighting and music; very professional.
Dinner from street vendors.

These days I get up at about 3 or 4 and work and bit, shower, eat and go back to bed an hour or two later and sleep to 6:30.

After our usual phenomenal breakfast, we are off for the Great Wall of China. Today we are with another family also about to receive their new daughter. They have two boys about Tucker and Jonah's age. On the way, we stop at a the House Of Jade. Jade is the rock used for much of the many stone carvings in China. Again we are given a background in the art by being shown artists at work carving the stone with their diamond cutters. Then we are shown into a huge sales floor where we can buy beautifully ornate Jade carvings. They sold for $10 to thousands of dollars.

Then it is off to the Great Wall of China, 4500 miles long (luckily we only will walk a few miles of it). At the bottom there are the ever-present panhandlers. Even when you don't acknowledge them in any way, they many hound you are minutes, giving you a lower and lower price on their product. This day is finally gorgeous. It is cold, about 30 degrees and windy, but completely clear. The area is mountainous resembling the mountains of California, with scattered small leafy trees. In our two mile hike we climb over 1000 ft of elevation. Wall is about 20 feet wide the stone railings on both sides. It is steep, sometimes ramped and others with stairs.
At most stops there were tourist attractions. One was a camel there you could sit on and get your picture taken. As I walked in from of him, he grabbed my mitten out of my hand. I don't know it he wanted to eat it or what, but cold as it was, I wanted it back and after a bit of a tug of war, he gave it up.

We had started fairly high in this mountainous area, and our goal was to follow the wall to the top of the mountain. As we climbed many of our group had enough and headed back, but Tim, his boys and I made it to the top. We had a light lunch up there. Jonah is a hit with the Chinese people. Many times a day he is asked to stand alone or with their children and be photographed. He doesn't seem to mind.

after our 1 ½ hour hike, we head down for lunch. Lunch is at a government owned restaurant; this also features another form of Chinese art, the making copper pots other decorations coated the ornate ceramic designs. Here fine copper wire is glued onto copper vessels, and liquid glaze is painted on using the wire as edge of the design. Next the glaze is kilned in a furnace. Finally the vessel is polished so the copper wire edging and glaze are level, and the now polished wire makes a nice outline for each part of the design. As in all these government facilities after being shown how they are made, we are shown into the huge sales floor where we may buy some of this art. Prices go as high as thousands of dollars. We are beginning to get the impression from our guide that these tours of art facilities are somewhat mandatory for him. Not that they are boring or anything, they are always interesting, but you do spend much money there. Finally we got lunch.

After that we toured a Ming Dynasty tome. More very ornate buildings set in nice gardens. I know that the gardens would be much more beautiful in the summer. On each turned up corner of the roofs of these buildings are small carving of animals, the more animals, the more important the building. This one had nine, ten would indicate perfection and no one is perfect, so nine is the max.

Finally a Duck Dinner at one of the finest. At most of these dinning facilities, you sit around a round table about 8 ft in diameter. The outer 18" is your eating area and you receive one 5" plate, one soup cup with a small ceramic ladle, and two chopsticks. Food is served family style on a round revolving platform in the center of the table. You can rotate the disk around to get whenever you want. There were no serving utensils. There are 4 to 8 food dishes with meat, vegetables, rice, and noodles. All was excellent except the fish, which was carp and tasted like mud. The roast duck was excellent. As always I was trying to get my fill of all this wonderful foods, but finding it very slow with chopsticks. The waitress saw my eating peas one at a time with chopsticks, had compassion on me, and gave me a real fork. Then things went much better. Over half the food was left over on the table.

Back at the hotel, I went for a walk to get a shake at Mc Donald's (75¢). On the way I was propositioned by 4 prostitutes, 2 mothers holds small babies asking for money, and countless other panhandlers, all in 4 blocks.

Dec 8
Travel day - We are up at 6 as usual and after our gear breakfast, we are off to the airport. We fly 1500 miles south to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is not really part of China, it was run by the UK until 1997. Now governs it self. The border crossing to china is extensive. A car licensed in one cannot drive in the other. Unlike China, you drive on the left side of the road. There are 7 million people in this 20 mile long country. Downtown is very western. If you were to take Las Vegas and San Francisco and merge them, triple the size, then populate it with people from all over the world, you have downtown Hong Kong. After dinner at an Italian restaurant, I walked the boardwalk along the bay. The bay is about a mile wide and many miles long. Las Vegas type hotels dot both side as far as the eye can see. From 8 pm to 8:15 each night. All the hotels turn on laser lights on their roofs and produce a spectacular laser light show over the bay. Mean while dinner boats and private yachts watch.

Dec 9
Up at 6 and off to breakfast. This breakfast is almost as spectacular as the last hotel. Then we were off on a bus tour of Hong Kong. We are now beginning to meet people we will be with for the rest of the two weeks. Many have little Chinese girls that they got on their last visits. We drive under the bay to Hong Kong Island. I find that the bay is really a strait between the peninsula were our hotel in and the island. The island is really nothing but a high (2000 ft) mountain. The hundreds of tall buildings (some 75 stories) are all built on the mountainsides.

We drive to the top of the mountain for a tourist view of the city. It is pretty hazy so the view is not as spectacular as it could be.
Next we drove to Typhoon Shelter, an anchorage cove tucked in a deep bay. We all got into old 25 ft junk type boats and toured the bay. We saw many local fishing boats, the largest houseboat in the world, and many modern motor yachts.
Finally we are off to the far side of the island. There the serf is come in and the is a old three mast ship anchored. We shop at the local market were prices are much lower than in the government shops in China. Finally we have lunch at traditional restaurant. You never get napkins at these restaurants, but this time they came up with forks after only a few minutes and so I got to eat my fill.

After that, we were on our own for the remainder of the day. I decided to take the historic old Star Ferry back over to the Island. To get to the ferry, I took the subway, which isn't a subway as we think of it, but a walking tunnel that allows you to walk in a tunnel and not have to fight cars, stop lights, or crowded side walks. Some even had moving ramps like at airports. Four or five blocks later, I did meet the real subway with trains, but didn't know how to use them. I came up by the Space Museum and spent a half hour there. Then to the famous old Star Ferry. These wooden ferries are about 30 years old but still carry most of the traffic across the strait. They cost 25¢. On the other side are the business district and high class stores. There are no shops on the street floor, which is for motor traffic only and no parking. The people all walk in nice completely enclosed causeways on the second floor and that is were the shops are. This city is set up to use busses and walking. It is an excellent plan.

Later I came to a park that had been converted into Santa Town. It was very festive with a huge Christmas tree, a children's parade, and carols.

Then back across the ferry and dinner at Mc Donald's.

Go On To Part Two