The First Day in Beijing

After a night in the train, we arrived at the Beijing West train station and into the chaos. The train rid was OK, the kids loved it. We took the soft sleep class, the highest, and it is indeed quite comfortable and very clean.
At the train station it took us a bit of time to find the information desk and taxi queue but once we managed to find it, what a queue. It took us 45 min. to get on a taxi and be on our way to the hotel. The taxi rid took us via one of the main avenues of Beijing which is very impressive, wide, clean, with new buildings all along. We passed Tienanmen square and I knew we were closed to the hotel so I called them to ask that they direct the taxi driver. This was a smart move as the hotel is located in a hutong that is quite difficult to find. For those who don’t know, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences.Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan
to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another.
The hotel is a peaceful place for backpack travelers. It is isolated from the city noises but 5 min. from the forbidden city and the city center. It is absolutely delightful with 12 rooms and a courtyard where we had our first, and best, breakfast in China so far.
After resting a bit, we walked to the Jingshan Park from which there is a beautiful view of the forbidden city and the surroundings and from there to the Baha’i garden, another peaceful place. In between we stopped for lunch in another hutong where we had the best wanton soup ever. In the Baha’i garden we took an electric boat for 4 and visited the garden on the water.
We ended the day in Grandma’s Restaurant after the kids demanded burgers and pizzas. This is a cute western restaurant just across the hotel who serves delicious, huge, burgers.

Tomorrow is dedicated to the forbidden city, we will go back in time and spend some time with the last emperor.

Cheers,

Les Dellus

The Forbidden City

Today was dedicated to the forbidden city. Since we arrived in China, every day brought its lot of amazing places and each time we told ourselves this is the most beautiful place we have ever seen. The forbidden city is another highlight of this trip and it is difficult to describe how beautiful it is. We spent most of the day walking around the alleys, visiting as many emperors, empresses and concubines palaces and houses. The city is in mint conditions and holds many museums and interesting places. The treasures of the Ming and Qing dynasties are amazing. We saw a beautiful Ming vase, coming directly from the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie.
By the end of the visit we couldn’t go out of the city because the Russians president, Dmitry Medvedev, who is visiting China, was coming to see the forbidden city. After 30 min. they finally agreed to let us go. For a short moment we thought we’re going to sleep in the emperor bed but that didn’t happen.
After getting some rest in our nice hotel, we decided to get dinner and what a better place if not the night food market. Now, you have to see it to believe it. This is a 200 m long line of stands, each serving the most bizarre food. We saw skewers (shipouding) of snakes, cockroaches, seahorses, scorpions, silkworms, and all possible parts of an animal. We tasted some of it but even I was reluctant to taste scorpions and snakes.
From there we continued to the most exclusive street of Beijing. We have never seen such wealth in any of the western countries we know. In this street alone we saw few places selling the most exclusive brands like Van Cleef and Arpels, Omega, Rolex, Channel, Dior, you name it. It was full of people, some buying, some, like us, looking with amazement at the mix of communism and capitalism leaving together peacefully. This was a nice end of a busy day.

Tomorrow is Giant Panda day.

Kisses from Beijing,

Les Dellus

The Giant Panda is so cute

Today we paid a visit to GP (Giant Panda). He lives in the Beijing zoo in a few pavilions and it is definitively a cute animal. The zoo has 8 – 10 giant pandas that sleep and eat most of the day. We were lucky to see a few moving and could take some nice pictures.
The zoo itself is located in a large park that is very well maintained. Some parts of the zoo are quite old and would need some refurbishment. The zoo has 2 beautiful Siberian white tigers but they are in a very old building, in ugly cages and it is a pity to see them like this.
There is a brand new and huge aquarium but we didn’t have the time to visit it. We have to leave something for next time.
After the zoo we planned to visit the summer palace but we were too tired so we decided to visit instead the Temple of Heaven. The temple is located in a large park in the south of Beijing and it is beautiful. We noticed that all the parks, temples, and generally speaking all the places of interest are extremely well maintained. It is often in contrast with the surroundings that can look really bad.
Before visiting the temple we stopped for lunch in the first restaurant we found after quite a long walk and if we were not so hungry we would never have stopped there. Of course there was no menu in English but at least there were pictures so we picked a few dishes and it ended up being a very good meal that costs us 87 yuan or 50 shekel for 4. The paradox in China is that if you eat in a western restaurant you risk getting some severe stomach pain but if you eat in the street or some ****** Chinese restaurant you get nothing.
After lunch, on our way to the temple, we stopped by the pearl market because we needed some clean toilets. By the way, some public toilets in Beijing follow the strict rules of communism, everything is shared, no separations between the booths, just a few holes in the floor and everyone does it with everyone.
Now, the pearl market is something you have to see to believe (I’ve said that many times already, I know). The ground, first ad second floors has nothing to do with pearls, they are a huge fake market. You can find any fake in the world you want from iPhone to Lacoste polo shirts. The third and forth floors are the pearl market and you can find there any type, color, and shape of pearls you want. We are still not clear is they are fake or real, we will ask at the hotel.
Finally we got the Temple of Heaven and spent there the rest of the day. The best is to look at the pictures as it is difficult to describe by words.
We ended the day in front of a delicious Beijing roasted duck and a local beer. Life is good…

Tomorrow we go the summer palace, this time for good.

Love from Beijing,

Les Dellus

The Summer Palace Day

What a day! the emperors of China really had a good taste and good life. We spent the entire day visiting the summer palace which is actually a huge park with a lake, forest, temples and palaces at every corner. Like every other park, temple or palace, it is extremely well maintained and clean. It was a pleasure walking along the paved trails in the forest and finding here and there a beautiful retreat that really brings the Zen out of you. The view from the Buddha temple on the top of the hill was great and gave a good understand of the size of the summer palace and what the emperors and empresses enjoyed during their stay there.
On the other side of the hill there is a reconstitution of a street along a canal from south China. That place is very touristic but cute and full of small shops. We stopped there for lunch and it was very relaxing.
After lunch we took a walk in the forest, actually, more a wood with paved trails, and found the most beautiful place called the Garden of Harmonious Interests. All the names are like that in the summer palace, you have the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the Natural Affinity of Water and Trees, the Realm of Multitudinious Fragrance.
We ended the tour on the south lake island and the Hall of Embracing the Universe.

Tomorrow is the Great Wall day and stay tuned for a surprise.

Love from the Clear and Peaceful Dellus family.

The Great Wall

Today we went back in time, about 40 years, ridding Chinese made sidecars from the culture revolution to the Great Wall.
Four sidecars with drivers took us in the morning from our hotel for the rid of our life. It started by crossing Beijing to the north, stopping every once in a while to let the engines colling and visiting some amazing places like Chateau Lafitte, a copy of the real Chateau Lafitte in France with some additions from old Rome and a golf course around. This is a fancy hotel for rich Chinese people and when you enter the property, you really feel like in France. We continued our way to a very nice Buddha temple hidden in the mountains, which we would never have seen without the sidecars.
From there we continued for a short rid to the start of the Great Wall walk. It started in a small village and you really have to know it to find it. The advantage of this part of the Great Wall is that it is totally unknown to tourists. We were there alone, not a single Chinese or foreign tourist to see, not a single souvenir shop, it was us and the Great Wall.
The climb is steep and takes about 45 min, which makes us wonder how the hell they built this wall. It goes up and down the mountain without any care for the angle and location. Some parts are really scary, almost 45 deg angle, with and without stairs.
The view from the top is breathtaking. You can see the Great Wall continuing its sinuous way to the mountain top, far, far away. This was a good time to stop for a real French picnic with Rosé wine, baguette, cold meat and a few other goodies. Everything was perfect, we were alone with our guide Yves, French food, beautiful view of the Great Wall, it was so good that we didn’t want to go and we stayed there for like 2 hours. Finally we had to let go and descend back to reality. The descend was a lot of fun, it was so steep that we could simulate the scene from the movie Matrix when they bent backward to avoid bullets, see the pictures.
We got back in our sidecars that were waiting for us on the other side and started our rid back to Beijing. This time it was dark and we could experience driving in the dark in China. Trust me, it is scary. We entered Beijing from the north and went to the Olympic stadium for a short visit of the complex. Both the stadium and the Aquatics Center were illuminated and looked great. It was a perfect ending for a beautiful day.
We are approaching the end of the trip, tomorrow is the China national day and we will go to the Tienanmen square to see some fireworks maybe and do some last minute shopping in the Pearl Market.

The Great Wall rocks!

Les Dellus

China 2010

That’s it, this is the end of the trip and we are quite sad to leave Beijing and China. We had a terrific stay and saw the most beautiful places in the world, we will remember this trip forever.

We spent the last day shopping at the Pearl Market and it was a lot of fun. For those who don’t know, this is the largest fake market of Beijing. We bought plenty and bargained a lot. We were able to cut the prices by 3, I think this is a pretty good achievement. Of course, we don’t foul ourselves, the sellers still did a pretty good profit on us. The last item we bought, a leather bag for Ella, was the funniest. It was priced 1100 yuan, which of course is grossly inflated. We wanted 350 yuan and the seller would not agree so we walked away. An hour later, as we were leaving the market, the lady with the bag ran behind us proposing it at 450 yuan. We settled down at 400 yuan and took the bag.
We also bought some nice pearls and earrings but it is more difficult to bargain for these items. Because we did our homework regarding pearls quality, we gained some credit from the sales lady. You have to know that there are two types of pearls, freshwater and saltwater. The freshwater are less good and these are the ones on display. The first question we asked was if they have saltwater pearls and they immediately took out from a cardboard the better pearls. The funny thing is that they don’t try to cheat about the quality, they only “cheat” on the price. After picking the pearls we wanted and some earrings, we started bargaining on the price. We managed to cut it by half, which seemed to be a decent price, for us a least.
We ended the day visiting the Tienanmen square and since it is October 1, the national holiday of China, a zillion of peoples were walking around, watching two giant screens displaying last year military parade and talking pictures. As we were ready to go back to our hotel, a live broadcast of the China philharmonic orchestra started on the giant screens. We sat down in front of them and listen to Brahms, Offenbach, Strauss, Khachaturian and more. It was a magical moment, sitting on Tienanmen square, listening to classical music, with Mao watching over behind us, quite surrealistic but a perfect ending for this beautiful trip.
Tomorrow, Air France will take us back to reality, and we expect to be at home around midnight.
We already miss China but we also miss Dana and Noam, so I guess it’s time to go.

Love and kisses from China,

Les Dellus