Sunday, June 28, 2015

An introduction to China, aka: "Hey Yellow Hair Lady!"

I left early Wednesday morning on flight 1622 from Boston to Dallas. Arriving early, I had just enough time to grab a snack and some pictures of our gate before boarding flight AA89 to Beijing.
Getting ready to leave!
The plane was brand new, with a very friendly flight crew (who hooked us up with a delicious Chilean white....) and interesting meals (meatballs and rice???). Our flight path took us directly over Canada, Alaska and Siberia with some stunning views of the landscape
River winding through Siberia
Mountains of Alaska

Upon arrival in Bejing at 1:40pm local time on Thursday, we were picked up by our guide Anna and driver Mr. Wong. Fighting through the traffic, I was checked into the Landmark Hotel and attempted to get some sleep. 
The following morning we hit the ground running for a tour of the Mitanyu section of the Great Wall of China. The 30 minute drive through the outskirts of Beijing offered some great views of the suburbs. This section of the Wall was breathtaking, not very crowded and very clean. Not to mention the easy ride up in the cable car and heart pumping ride down in a sled.... 

We finished up the day's touring with a boat ride through the lake in the Summer Palace. This was a great opportunity for us to witness some locals enjoying the views. 

 We grabbed some dinner Friday evening at a great restaurant called Eudora Station which had a great selection of Western Style food (and happy hour) before turning in for the night. 

Saturday was just as busy, starting with an unexpected breakfast accompanied by Linda Pearlstein, the director of Cradle of Hope, who was touring Shanxi province orphanages with our hosting director, Patrice. 

Following breakfast we were off for a visit to the Temple of Heaven. This was an eclectic study in Chinese architecture, mathematics and social interaction. The locals were out in droves, practicing Tai Chi and playing everything from card games to instruments.
Our touring continued with a loop around Tiananmen Square and some photos outside of the Forbidden City. The lines to get in were so long we never made it inside, but had a great time people watching and snapping some photos with the locals...many locals. 
Outside the Forbidden City
Grabbing some lunch at a local spot was an adventure in authentic Beijing dining- you know it is going to be an interesting meal when google translates something as "donkey rolls" which ends up being date paste in glutinous rice.... 
By far my favorite part of the day was exploring an old neighborhood or "hutong". It was bustling with shops, vendors and rickshaws and offered a glimpse into Old Beijing.
Me and my rickshaw driver
On the rickshaw tour
Most amazing stationery store
Crazy Lava drink
One of our many new Chinese admirers-15 years old and did a great job practicing her English skills with us!
After some dinner at the hotel, I was off to pack for our journey by train to Taiyuan City on Saturday. We departed the hotel the next morning at 8:30 to catch the 10:15 out of Beijing. The station was massive and organized even through the chaos of the crowds. 

Watching the Shanxi countryside fly by at 300km/h was a real treat. Our train pulled in to the spotless Taiyuan station 15 minutes early, and after some tense moments trying to find our guide we were on our way to the Wanda Vista hotel to settle in before Gotch Day tomorrow!


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