Archive for the 'In China' Category

Sampan Ride Mista?

September 08th, 2007 | Category: In China

We arrived safely in Hong Kong yesterday after a 3 hour plane ride from Beijing.¬† After an easy cruise through Customs, we met up with Joan, our CCAI rep in HK.¬†¬† We could not find her to begin with, but found out that we had been looking in the wrong place.¬† In any case, she took us to our hotel, the Regal Riverside in Sha Tin which is in the New Territories.¬† It is NOT in any way regal!¬†¬† We were totally spoiled in Beijing but we are here in HK for only two nights and less than 48 hours total, so we’re OK with it.¬† Apparently, there is an huge aviation expo for commercial and private planes in Kowloon so the hotel that is normally reserved for CCAI families would have been too costly.¬†¬† Oh, well!

Kurt has just blurted out “Do you know that in less than 24 hours, we’ll be parents!”¬† I have actually been thinking the same thing all day today.¬† It is a somewhat daunting prospect, but we are both ready.¬† We just don’t know exactly what to expect, especially to begin with.

For our last full day alone, we took a tour of Hong Kong.¬† It was like going on a school trip, everyone following the teacher, or in this case, our CCAI rep, Patrick.¬† Boy, can Patrick talk!¬† He did do a good job of pointing out all of the sights.¬† We were driven from Sha Tin to Kowloon and¬† our first stop was at Victoria Peak.¬† We didn’t take the cable car up this time.¬† We went straight to the top in the buses.¬† Since the morning was a little overcast, our photos were not as spectacular as they could have been, but it was still a very impressive sight from up there.¬† So many very tall buildings!¬† Actually, Hong Kong boasts the world’s 3rd largest building which we had a great view of from the top of Victoria Peak.¬† We left our tour group behind for a few seconds and went to the top of the the tram car building so that we could get an even better view.

From there, we went to see the largest floating restaurant in the world, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.  I had been there years before with my family, so it was fun to see it again.  To get there, we took a sampan ride which was great for a couple of reasons.  Being so close to the everyday lives of the fishermen was fabulous.   Also, we were able to meet a number of the other families we are travelling with.  The views from the sampan were impressive as well.  So far, this has been the best part of the day.

Next, we visited the the ubiquitous jewellry store.  They had a tour of how the jewellry was made and then we were herded into the store.  So many people in there, not just with our tour groups.  We both felt quite privileged that we had been able to tour the jade factory on our own in Beijing because it was a much better tour and description of how the jade is processed from start to finish.

From there, we were driven to Stanley Market which was originally set up for the colonists back in the 1800s so that they could purchase items without travelling far from their homes.   The market today is buzzing with activity and there are a lot of stalls and a lot of bargains ready for the taking.

By the time we had taken all of that in, it was about 1:30pm, so we drove back to Kowloon to have a Dim Sum lunch near the Regal Hotel Kowloon.  Delicious!   Then it was back to the Regal Hotel Riverside in Sha Tin for some time on-line Рour first decent chance since Beijing.  It sounds like we will try to see the fireworks and laser show in Kowloon later on this evening.

Less than 24 hours to go!¬† The anticipation is amazing.¬† We’re almost there, little Madison!


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Just stopping by.

September 07th, 2007 | Category: In China

Well, we arrived in Hong Kong safe and sound, we will only be here for a little over 24 hours, so our next post will be just after we receive Madison on Sunday. Hong Kong is drizzly, humid and foggy. We were spoiled by the accommodations in Beijing as the hotel we are in was more than likely a hipster spot in 1981, but not so much now. Our rep here in HK tells us that their usual spot for CCAI families was too pricey just now due to an aviation forum here in HK that has booked almost all the space in Kowloon. We will write more when we can, look for new photo’s and a monumentous post come Sunday (China time).

Love to All!!!

Kurt & Kelly 


Bye Bye Beijing………….

September 06th, 2007 | Category: In China

Well today was our final full day in Beijing. We started out with a trip to the Summer Palace (about one hour away) and what a spectacle it is. We were told by our guide Lisa that while the physical size of the Forbidden City was more impressive, the Summer Palace was much more impressive in terms of the natural setting and ones ability to get “close” to the relics themselves. She was once again correct. The Summer Palace was originally built during the Jin dynasty (1115) and was passed along between feuding Imperical parties until it was destroyed (mostly) by the Anglo-French forces in 1888. It was restored by the Emperor Guangxu (Qin) as a gift to his Emperess (Dowager Cixi) in 1890 and remained in her control until 1911. The many buildings, Temples, and gardens of the Summer Palace are framed by two main geographical entities. The first is Longevity Hill, and the second is Lake Kunming. Both are quite stunning. The Palace is also home to the longest single corridor known to man. The “Long Corridor” as it is called is just over 3/4 of a mile long, and leads from the “back garden” to the entrance of the Temple of the 24 Handed Buddha, or “incense Buddha” at the base of longevity hill. The Temple itself is quite remarkable, and like the “Long Corridor” has exquisite handpainted beams and posts all along the climb to the top where the Buddha is located. All of the painted scenes on the corridor, and subsequent staircases (long and winding) depict the four seasons and those special civil and military officials that made up the royal court. All of the paint is covered in a lacquered wax, which must be difficult to keep in prime form. We climbed to the top, payed our respects and then took in the scenery from the top. The view was very impressive. On a side note, watching the “locals” in front of the deity was almost moving in some ways. The reverance for which they hold their relics and said relics symbolism is impressive. It is something that both Kelly and I have taken note of. That impression is one that always seems to come about when one leaves our great nation. We have a proud history in the USA, but not like this. It’s not a knock on us, just an acknowledgement that there are things and places out there that everyone should at some point consider seeing or experiencing. (off the box of Tide now)

The rest of our day was spent resting back at the hotel and generally organizing ourselves for the next segment (hello re-packing) of this journey. Tomorrow morning we are off to Hong Kong (early!!!) to join the rest of the travel group from our agency. While both of us are very ready for that, we are also thankful for all we have seen and experienced so far here in Beijing. We were blessed with a tremendous guide by the name of Lisa (whose card reads “Helen”) who always had the best contacts, and was always on top of every detail. Just wake-up, walk out the hotel door and Lisa takes care of the rest. She was a godsend. This is an amazing city, and we only saw an extremely small slice of it. Some keen observations though………. Chinese people are extremely friendly, but also not afraid of anything that we could tell of. Family here means everything, not only in the historical sense, but in daily life it is the one and only priority. That it is present in almost every interaction you have with these kind folks speaks volumes. Everyday we saw children playing with their families, and grandparents being escorted about by children or grandchildren. I know, I know, its a cultural thing, but its also nice to see it, and see it so prevalently. To think of driving a car here is to court certain mental duress. It took us a good two full days to get used to the constant dodging and weaving of people, cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians that fill (and I do mean fill) the city streets and large “rings” that surround this fine city. It was only today that we stopped flinching while riding in our mini-bus. Seriously, why there are traffic signals here makes no sense at all. No one pays them any mind, police drive normal speeds with their lights flashing at all times, generally just waving as you pass, or they pass you. No one “locks” up their bicycles(nice!!) but why would you need to? Everyone pretty much has the same bike anyhow. Circa 1968. With the brake(s) tied with a piece of string or wire. Unless your someone seriously connected, or important at some level, no one dresses like it matters, “Friday business casual” would be formal here. All men wear slip on dress shoes, for everything (construction workers, police, soldiers, I mean everybody). Not a “dig”, just an observation. Personally, I think its soooooo cool to not be hung up on all the crap we seem to take soooo seriously at home. Its a law here that every 200 meters there must be a park or garden of some kind along the road way. Every two hours a person starts to sweep the median and curbs in an attempt to keep trash and dust to a minimum. They are paid for this by the government, but it is a law. People line up single file in rows for the buses and subway here, everyone seems to get along. One more thing about that zany ass traffic, not once did we see an accident, not once, and we covered alot of ground in getting to all the sites we saw. The food is awesome, the service precise and yes, they love KFC big time. The Olympic preparations permeate every level here. There are infomercials on the local TV that inform the residents to try to learn at least 100 English words by next August in an attempt to be more welcoming to the visiting hordes that will most assuredly be coming. The same infomercials also stress being more aware of visitors and to try to not cut in line (happens everywhere you go) or spit along the roadside and side walks (also an everyday occurrance). This booming economy means sky cranes are everywhere, just everywhere. Want job security??? be a crane operator in Beijing. Well its starting to just sound like a “rant” now, so I better stop. Suffice to say, this fine city has made quite an impression on both of us.

3 days to go, before we see our Madison for the first time in person, and hold her in our arms. We could not be more excited, time to roll on to the “The Kong”.

BTW……….lots too see in the photo’s section, we split up the Beijing galleries, and now they are in their respective days according to when the shots were taken. there is plenty to see, enjoy!!

Good night, and Xie Xie from Beijing.



Just another brick in the wall.

September 05th, 2007 | Category: In China

Pink Floyd’s 1980 hit album made the above phrase famous, but the Chinese of the Qin (Ch’in) and Ming dynasties had them beat solid about 700 years B.C. Today we climbed a section of the Great Wall, and an impressive structure it is. It was originally built for two purposes, to protect the emperor’s agricultural investments, and protect his people from the warring Hun’s who always seemed to be invading. It averages 25-30 feet in height, and is anywhere from 9-27 feet thick in certain spots. Overall its length is approx. 4 thousand miles long, and is the only man-made structure visible from Earths orbit. The thing that surprised both of us initially is how steep the path was, we climbed for just over an hour and probably covered about a mile and one half in total distance. The steps are inconsistent in their size. You can get about 5 or 6 in a row that are the same, but then the next couple you encounter are offset in their rise and depth, this can make things tricky coming back down for sure. It was also surprising to see the type of footwear people had on to climb/walk along the wall. We saw more people in heels, and sandals, slip on flat shoes than one would expect. Tourists and locals alike. One thing is for sure, as hard as it was to walk/climb, it must have been sheer hell building it. How hard it was to get the brick and stone up those mountain sides, one can only imagine.

Prior to our visit to the Wall, we went to a Jade factory just outside Beijing. The tour included seeing all the different kinds of Jade in their natural state, and then observing the processes to take the natural product to finished goods. One of the cool things of having the guide all to yourself is all the personal attention and photo access they give you. Working out well, thank you very much. We learned about the importance of transparency in terms of determining value, and that multiple colors within a piece is very valuable. Of course, with this being our 9th wedding anniversary today, I coerced Kelly into a beautiful bangle that she will (according to Chinese tradition) pass along to Madison on her wedding day. Always worn on the left wrist, it leads directly to your heart. We had another killer lunch at a “local” establishment, and then went to see how Cloisonne enameling is done. This tour gave each of us a whole new appreciation for the process to make these incredible vases and display pieces. All design work on these pieces is done strictly by hand and without any “pattern” being laid over the piece being made. Individual strands of copper wire are shaped and glued on the copper pot freehand. All the enamel coloring is taken from a group of minerals that are natural, and can only be found in China. A typical piece that would hold an arrangement of flowers takes 7-8 days to go from start to finish.

After lunch we went to the Ming Tomb’s to walk the “Sacred Way”. This mosouleum to 13 Ming Emperors and their Empresses covers over 40 square kilometers and the path connecting them is known as the “Sacred Way”. One section of the “Way” contains 18 pairs of stone human and animal figures. Some are military, or civil officials, while some of the other figures are lions, griffons and such. These figures are enormous in size, and are shown both standing and in repose. The area was originally constructed starting in 1409.

Tonite we ventured out for more of the Beijing nightlife, Opera. The Beijing Opera was something that we both wanted to see, but were unsure what to expect. We thought there would be some singing of course, and there was, but there was also some Kung-Fu, acrobatic pieces and some really good acting as well. In Chinese Opera, much of the story can be told with the colors painted on the artists faces as well as their cotumes, and body language toward one another. Lisa once again secured top-notch seats, front row, and we watched the performance with two Irish couples and enjoyed Jasmine Tea and traditional Chinese snacks and cakes. A small assortmnt of fresh Peaches were also on the table for us to share, Peaches are very significant in Chinese traditions as they promote longevity and ward off evil spirits and ghosts.

We have many, many new photo’s to post, and I will be doing that tomorrow once we return from the Summer palace, in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I am just to wiped out just now to do it, but tomorrow I promise!!



Staying in queue makes me civilization, Taking turns makes me happy.

September 04th, 2007 | Category: In China

Yep, that about sums up the first full day in Beijing. That was the phrase we saw as we took our seats at the Beijing acrobatic theatre, It got our attention as well. Do not quite know how to describe all we saw today, you could use the word “incredible”, “inspiring” would also get some play. I have been a pretty lucky guy all things considered. I have been fortunate enough to travel a fair portion of this earth, seen some interesting things and met some incredible people. Nothing though, has been like this. Both Kelly and myself tried to come up with comparitive parallels at dinner tonite (Peking Duck, the right way), could not do it. Nada, zip, nothing. So lets just recap what we did, and see what comes of it huh?

We started with a killer breakfast here at the hotel, more than either of us expected. Seeing as we have our breakfast included in our nightly rate, we kinda expected the standard continental things. Fresh fruit, some cereals, juice……etc. Not even close. There are no fewer than about 40 different items. Eggs any which way possible, lots of Bacon (Hans would love this) ham, sausage, tons of pastry, lots of fruit(melons in colors I have never seen), cereals, and plenty of Asian inspired dishes. It was impressive. Lisa our Beijing rep from CCAI collected us at 9 am sharp, and we proceeded to Tiananmen Square. While I still have somewhat vivid images from the television pictures of the uprising in May of 1989, seeing the Square in person was quite a sight. The sheer enormity of it is the most obvious thing (1 mile long x 1/2 mile wide). It is the only public square in the world that can hold 1 million people at one time. The square is framed by many structures well known to all Chinese people. The great hall of the people, Chairman Mao’s museum, the Tiananmen rostrum (where Mao’s portrait hangs outside) and many more. Lisa tells us that coming to Beijing, and having your photo taken before the rostrum, is for Chinese people akin to going to Mecca for Muslims. At least once in your life. So, being the good little tourists we are, we took the opportunity to do the same. From there we proceeded to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was originally constructed for the imperial families of the Qing and Ming dynasties. It is now a world heritage site, and it made quite an impression on both of us. It was built in the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing. It is also extremely large in scale, it covers over 720,000 square meters, and contains over 800 original wooden structures containing more than 9,000 rooms. The imperial gardens and emperors temple were the most impressive facilities, but all of it was impressive.

From there we had a great lunch at the Wu Ha-Ha Hotel, a nice restaurant frequented by the locals, for about 80 Yuan ($12 USD) we had more food than you could eat with 6 people. Tofu, fried rice, a Chicken dish (kinda Kung-Pao) and sauted/fried Cabbage. There was also a soup that we loved but could not figure out what was in it. It contained a vegetable that looked like green beans, but was gelatinous when you got it on your tongue, kinda a sweet taste as well. Then it was off to the Hutong district (old, walled city, neighborhoods and alleys) This is a modern (far from it actually) Alice in Wonderland type experience. Thank god for the guide (rickshaw driver!!!). We went in sooooo many different directions, down sooo many alley’s and back ways that we were constantly thinking that we would never get out before dark. Ultimately, our guide led us to a home that has been occupied by the same family for over 500 years. The current resident invited us in for Tea, and we accepted. She was lovely, asked us all kinds of questions and wanted our impressions of Beijing. After visiting for a half hour or so, we were off. It was at this time that I decided to have some fun. Instead of the guide driving the rickshaw, I took over and put him in the backseat. he did not mind, Kelly freaked out a little as the traffic here makes Rome or Mexico look tame. Kelly was in the rickshaw travelling behind me, she was accompanied by our rep Lisa, they got some good video from along side, and in front of me as I pedalled along a very busy street. Needless to say many of the locals found this quite humorous (the anglo, pedalling the local) and it turned many a tourist head as well. Upon return to the rickshaw stand I was offered a job for $10.00 USD a day and all the Kung Pao I can handle. Jim, I have a new employer (just kidding, but it was fun!!). We also found some time to stop at the world reknowned silk market here in Beijing. So beautiful. 5 yards of chocolate brown in our posession, as well as some very nice pillowcases Kelly found. Just amazing what those worms can do.

Our second to last stop was the acrobatic show. Crazy, just flat out crazy what these people were doing. Now I know that Cirque du Soleil has some freaky stuff, but I am convinced that this is where they get not only some of their members, but also most of their inspiration. We saw things I was convinced are not possible to do with the human form. Just not possible . All of these folks are capable of the “Alabama Crab Dangle” if ya know what I mean. Sick, just sick. I was not moved to want to learn gymnastics, just pay a higher fee to witness this spectacle. They better be getting paid well, because thats just flat out crazy. Dinner tonite was at one of the most famous spots in Beijing for Duck. It was outstanding. Roasted whole and sliced table side, it was quite the experience. Accompanied with thinly sliced dried pork, Mu-Shu crepes, sauce, sweet and sour pork, baby bok choy and portabella mushroom slices sauteed just right. Washed down with a great jasmine tea. Perfect.

Well, Kelly is already snoozing, I am knackered, and tomorrow is Great Wall, and Ming Tombs, followed by Beijing Opera at night. Sounds like a big day, I’m off to sleep.

Remember……………Staying in queue makes me civilization, taking turns makes me happy.



Sleepless in Beijing

September 03rd, 2007 | Category: In China

Our flights here went very smoothly.  From Denver to San Francisco was easy.   We then walked around to the connecting flight and boarded almost immediately.  There were four movies and three meals on that flight which was just over 12 hours total.  We flew around the Alaskan coastline, over Russia, just south of Siberia, and then to Beijing, China.   It was nice because we had a row of three seats to ourselves all the way here so there was space to move around.  I hope that will be true of our flights back to the States when we have Madison with us!

It’s almost 4am in Beijing on September 4th and I think I can officially say that I have jetlag. After 5 glorious hours of sleep, I woke up at 1am local time and cannot sleep any more. Kurt was up briefly at 1:30am but is now back to sleep. There were still a few cars, taxis, and pedestrians going down the road outside the hotel about an hour ago but it has slowed down considerably from earlier in the evening. When we went for our walk along the shopping district around 6:00pm last night, it was almost traffic chaos. Even when you do cross on a green light, chances are that drivers won’t stop. Since the locals were being visibly cautious, we just followed along with their example. It was fun seeing the shopping district but I really enjoyed seeing all of the people and out-of-the-ordinary street vendors that Kurt has already mentioned. Most of the vendors know how to say “hello lady and hello mister” so that they can grab your attention.


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Ni Hao from Beijing, PRC

September 03rd, 2007 | Category: In China

Well, after a “quick” 15 hours in the air, here we are in Beijing. We arrived no worse for the wear (but certainly tired) at approx. 2:30 pm local time on Monday the 3rd. Our CCAI Beijing rep Lisa was just outside the customs door as we exited, and had a vehicle waiting to whisk us to our hotel, which is in the heart of the city. Lisa really had gotten ahead of the game, she not only has our schedule laid out for the next 3 days (sightseeing) but also had already coordinated our hotel so as we checked in, all we had to do was collect our room keys and head up stairs. What tremendous customer service. She will also spend the next 3 days as our interperter and guide. So cool. Tomorrow’s highlights will include Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and a rickshaw tour of the Hutong areas of “Old Beijing”. If we still have our “legs” then we also have the opportunity for a Chinese acrobatic performance tomorrow night.

After purchasing some bottled water, we took a quick look around the area near here at the hotel. Nice hotel BTW. We checked out the Wufangjin shopping district, crazy, like the Mall of America, on steroids. So much stuff. our favorite sightings included many street vendors with all sorts of “official” Coach, Polo, Levi’s, and numerous other name brand items. We also saw a number of food stalls that had all sorts of fruits and vegetables on skewers, as well as all kinds of bugs, and beetles, as well as scorpions, and sea horses. I am going back with the camera tomorrow, as you need to see this to believe it. We then came back to the hotel, had a great dinner, and Kelly is already tucked in, and slumbering away – a great idea for me as well. So much more to share after tomorrow’s touring around.

Our best to everyone!!



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