A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Blakei

The Summer Palace

On a not-so-summer like day...

rain 64 °F

After exploring the marvels of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, as well as experiencing the simple pleasures of lunch in a Beijing hutong household, and a visit to a 4th grade class room just the day before, this day was at a disadvantage from the start. On the 13th, we had rain, drizzle and haze to start the day; a bit ironic for a visit to the summer palace. In spite of that, the summer palace was incredible. Built in 1420 and rebuilt after the British burned it down in the late 1800s, it is a “must visit”. It was rebuilt by the reigning empress in the 1800s who spent money designated for the Chinese Navy for this spectacular palace. Larger in sq km than the forbidden city, (though mostly lake) the palace is opulent by Chinese standards and fabulous details and colors abound. We walked in on foot and took a boat out – which should give you some sense of the scale. We climbed hundreds of steps to the top of the Buddhist temple that sits atop the palace. The view was gray and rainy – but you could imagine an empress years ago looking across her dynasty from the temple.
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We went to lunch in a cafeteria style restaurant where a mostly “minority” clientele hung out – a Muslim neighborhood as our guide called it. In most of the places we’ve been eating meals. We’re the only light “European” faces in the place or for that matter the neighborhood. This is one of the real treats of having a great guide with an intimate knowledge of Beijing neighborhoods. By the way – all the things you’ve heard about Beijing food being awful is wrong. We’ve been impressed every night by the variety, quality and the great tastes.
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We also visited a soho-esque area called “798” art space which is where the Beijing artists hang out. We saw some excellent work and some fantastic talent. We could have spent more time there but the kids …. the kids found some walls to jump off of, if that does a reasonable job of explaining what they thought of the place….. We finished the night with a visit to a kung-fu theatre that was part Broadway performance and part martial arts spectacular. It was a fun show chronicling the growth of a young boy as he transforms into a man in a Buddhist monastery. The athletes in the show did things that make my body hurt just thinking about it. Breaking stones over their heads, laying on spears, and swords performing incredible acrobatics. Ouch.
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Posted by Blakei 17:37 Archived in China Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Acclimatizing to Beijing

A walking and skating tour… ?

sunny

It’s our first full day in Beijing and we wanted this day to be about acclimatization – not “touring of sites”. So today we started our family workout regimen, ate a healthy breakfast, and familiarized ourselves with the immediate area around the hotel. Parker and Griffin rode skateboards for about a 5 kilometer perimeter behind our hotel and did tricks on sidewalks while Carol and I watched passersby gawking, pointing and in some cases, taking pictures. It was cool to bring a little bit of California with us to Beijing and it was appreciated with smiles and waves. We also found some pretty fun little skate spots - one right next to the hotel. We had dinner with some good friends from Beijing, Harry Shum, his wife Ka Yan and their kids Matthew and Michael. Griffin was so tired and time zone wacked that he fell asleep at the table and was covered by the wait staff with a blanket.
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Posted by Blakei 04:38 Archived in China Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Arriving in Beijing

You can stay awake – you can stay awake…

semi-overcast 70 °F

Our flight to Beijing was “uneventful”. It’s the best you can hope for in today’s airline industry. We were lucky enough to get free upgrades to business class – so the kids got to sit in the top of the 747 with reclining seats. It didn’t help them sleep. “We’re so excited we just can’t sleep!”… so about one hour before we land, the kids are sound asleep and we have to wake them. Ugh. Walk of the living dead.

Short waits in immigration, baggage claim, and customs, then we pour through frosted glass doors into a noisy mass of Chinese faces, lined up along our entry walkway. Outstretched arms hold hand drawn placards, with western names awkwardly scribbled. We spot our names, held by a smiling bespectacled woman. We introduce ourselves – she is Rebecca and she loves Griffin. We are chopped liver. Arm-in- arm Griffin and Rebecca walk toward the garage and the cell-phone summoned Van. We load our bags into the large (and I mean large) white van and are off to the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Beijing. We pass things that are eastern and unfamiliar, western and recognizable, all seen through the “fog” as Rebecca referred to it. There is such contrast – even though the haze that reminded me of Los Angeles’ fine air quality in 1968.

We arrive at the hotel and we are assigned to a room that I have stayed in a few times before. It’s a great room with a living area and two bedrooms and it will be a great place to hang out for the next 8 days and get accustomed to living out of suitcases. We drove with Rebecca to a “local” restaurant and the kids did an admirable job staying awake through the spinning of the large lazy-susan, looking engaged in the conversation and simultaneously horrified by the unrecognizable food as it passed before them. It was like strange food roulette. Foreshadowing for 35 dinners in China? The lazy-susan slowed and all of our eyes became glassy and a bit empty as we ran headlong into the 16 hour time-zone change. On the drive back to the hotel, our necks went limp, and our eyes shut – awakening for a brief “dead man walking” lobby slog to the elevator and eventually… our beds… o-u-t.

Posted by Blakei 18:26 Archived in China Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The best bags money can buy...

Ogio (pronounced oh-jee-oh)

sunny 0 °F

OgioOrgio.jpgYou want your bags to last right? You want to be able stuff them full of clothes, boards, helmets, computers and cameras, right? And most of all, you want to be able to immediately identify them the minute they hit a baggage carousel, right? The folks at Ogio helped us pick these out and I swear to you that these 9800's could store our entire house. These bags, and for that matter, every bag Ogio produces are beyond sturdy, and very intelligently designed. When you see a traveler carrying an Ogio bag, you'll know two things about them. One, that they appreciate great value and quality, and two, they must be really smart :-) Also, thanks to the folks at Ogio we were able to get their loudest and juciest color, and embroider our trip Logo (yep we actually have one) and initials on the bags. Worry no more about some unruly thief trying to claim one of these bags as their own. These bags are da’ bomb!

Quick update on those bags after slogging them all the way to Beijing... they are so big that we exceeded the airline's maximum weight by roughly 20 to 30 lbs - per bag. We even over stuffed our backpacks. Yep, we could have packed lighter, but after loading 9 months of clothes and books, etc.. we couldn't imagine packing less. I guess we have crappy imaginations, because we are now reluctantly trying to jettison clothes and other stuff like a conflicted mother sending her first child off to college, when she really wants his bedroom for her own office.

Posted by Blakei 10:53 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (3)

The Itinerary...

Maybe we should call this the warp tour.....?

sunny 0 °F

So what should our first blog entry be? Hmmmmm…. how ‘bout our itinerary, so you can get an idea of just how crazy-sick this trip will be. I don’t mean crazy-sick in the “please hospitalize us and put us on lithium immediately” way. I mean it in the – “it’s so ridiculous that we’re having trouble wrapping our heads around it” way… So here is the itinerary so far…

Beijing, China: 10/9/2007 – 10/19/2007
Xining, China: 10/20/2007 – 10/21/2007
Lhasa, Tibet: 10/22/2007 – 10/26/2007
Chengdu, China: 10/27/2007 – 10/28/2007
Jiu Zhai, Gou, China: 10/29/2007 – 10/30/2007
Lijiang , China: 10/31/2007 – 11/3/2007
Shanghai, China: 11/4/2007 – 11/7/2007
Hong Kong, China: 11/8/2007 – 11/11/2007
Sydney, Australia: 11/12/2007 – 11/19/2007
Melbourne, Australia: 11/20/2007 – 11/25/2007
Herron Island, Great Barrier Reef: 11/26/2007 – 11/30/2007
Noosa, Australia: 12/1/2007 – 1/3/2008
Auckland, New Zealand: 1/4/2008 – 1/6/2008
New Zealand, North Island: (camper van) 1/7/2008 – 1/20/2008
New Zealand, South Island: (camper van) 1/21/2008 – 2/2/2008
Christchurch, New Zealand: 2/3/2008 – 2/4/2008
Ghana, Africa (maybe Kenya too): 2/5/2008 – 3/4/2008
Johannesburg, South Africa: 3/5/2008 – 3/7/2008
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe & Zambia: 3/8/2008 – 3/10/2008
Okavango Delta & the Kalahari Desert, Botswana: 3/11/2008 – 3/24/2008
Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa: 3/25/2008 – 4/09/2008
Istanbul, Turkey: 4/10/2008 – 4/17/2008
Lucca Italy (and all over Italy by train): 4/18/2008 – 5/09/2008
Other parts of Europe TBD: 5/10/2008 – 6/14/2008 .. ?

This is our best guess (and bookings) so far…. but I suppose something could lead us off this path… We're leaving the the rest of our European travel unscheduled for now....

Posted by Blakei 11:16 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (1)

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