Sunday, August 2, 2009

Beijing - Capital City and site of the 2008 Summer Olympics

Now that I have completed my teaching obligations at the University, we are free to travel outside of Xiamen. While we can't possibly see everything in China since it is such a big country, we plan to visit Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuzhen, and Hangzhou. That should take us about 2 weeks. When I got wind of a specially planned flag rising ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of communism in China on Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, we moved up our schedule to witness this historic event.

We left Xiamen this morning by plane for Beijing - arrived safely. Xiamen was really hot these past few weeks and Beijing's weather by comparison was very pleasant. We strolled the streets tonight and noticed how comfortable it was.

It is good to have contacts - this lady, my sister's contact's friend's contact was so kind to meet us at the airport.

Comfortable mass transit - high speed train - from the airport to downtown Beijing where our hotel was.

Outside of our hotel - not exactly 5 stars but it is affordable and a great location to all the sights.

Common folks live here - it is not uncommon to have several families living behind the gate - taken near our hotel.

We went to the train station to buy tickets for Shanghai - we got a nice private cabin for about $2,711 Reminibi - about US $400. We are all looking forward to taking this bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai in 4 days. In the meanwhile, we will take in the sights - Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall of China and others.

Night Shot of Beijing Railway Station - we were surprised to see some many people - they were either sitting or laying down on newspaper and cardboard outside the station, apparently waiting for their scheduled train ride.

Flag Rising Ceremony to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the founding of communism in China- this honored all the police and military forces .

We arrived at Tian'anmen Square at 4:30 am - we were certainly not the only ones - we could feel the energy and anticipation in the Square. By then, guards were already positioned strategically around the vicinity to provide crowd control for the thousands of mostly Chinese nationals streaming into the Square.

David's reporting on Tian'anmen Square

Flag Rising Ceremony - closer would have been better - yet we were glad to have this spot. A lot of Chinese nationals came later and they were vying for a spot (like ours) to view the ceremony and some pushing and jostling took place but we held our ground!

Click on this video - we were so close to the army marching by that I could literally smell them (not in a bad way - just that there were lots of them).

David in front of Chairman Mao Memorial Hall - we wanted to view Chairman Mao's preserved body but the line was way too long - it didn't help that admission was free.

Come as you are and make sure you do not visit on a Monday - Mao gets to rest and won't take visitors....

We met Mary and Kevin after the Flag-Rising Ceremony - they are from Chicago and visiting China for the first time. We thoroughly enjoyed their company!!!

In front of Zhengyang Gate on Tian'anmen Square after the flag-rising ceremony. It was only 7:30 am then.....

Outside of the Forbidden City - Mao is still revered here.

Forbidden City. Never thought we would have the opportunity to visit this amazing and historic place - one of our highlights - an unforgettable experience.

The courtyard is immense with lots of tourists - during the filming of the Last Emperor this courtyard was filled with his subjects/extras....

Another shot showing how large the courtyard is - maybe about 10 football fields....

The Emperor's Throne - don't even think about sitting there unless you are the Emperor - folklore has it that bad tidings befell those who disregarded the advice. (Hannah reached over the crowd and got this amazing shot. This picture was all we could see of this exhibit, the crowd was too deep.)

The buildings are still well preserved - glad to see the revenues from admission tickets put to good use.

The camera works fine - the haze is captured by the camera - the quality of air in Beijing is certainly not as good as in Xiamen.

Later that night.....

We met Vivien's brother, Shuang Lee while he was studying at University of Wisconsin - Madison back in 2000. His family is now in the States but Vivien and her mom were very kind and hosted us in Beijing.

Fabulous dinner with Vivien.....

This restaurant is reputed to serve the best Peking Duck in town - I love the duck platter

Grab a paper-thin pancake, a slice of duck, a dab of special duck sauce and assortment of garnishes and you got yourself a heavenly 'taco'........

For Foodies - Master Chef's artful preparation of a Peking Duck fit for royalty - oh that's us - we thoroughly enjoyed it. "This is not your father's taco wrap"......

Seafood with exquisite bean curd and broccoli

Hannah is a pro at chopsticks....

Vivian's mom came to visit us in Madison Wisconsin - back then, Hannah and David were only 5 and 3 years old and this dear lady fell inlove with them. She couldn't wait to see them again.

After dinner, we strolled over to the Bird's Nest Stadium, site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. What an unbelievable experience.

The iconic stadium....

Close up of the Bird's Nest Stadium.

Care to guess what this mystery object is?

Water Cube Close-Up. Leisurely stroll with Vivian and her mom on the grounds of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Water Cube: The colors changes constantly - blue, though, is my favorite - others are nice as well.

Cool night photo of the three ladies....

The next day we met up with Mary and Kevin (they had hired a driver and a van) and thanks to their generosity we spent a whole day exploring the Great Wall and the Summer Temple.

At the foot of the Great Wall - there are two entry points to the Great Wall - we chose this one, though farther from town, as it is less 'touristy' and crowded....

Cable Car. We took this up to the Great Wall and then walked the rest of the way.

It is an awe inspiring sight - the Great Wall covers more than 4,000 miles, going from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west.

It was a spectacular day - blue skies and nice temperatures - we were blessed to have been there that day.

I love this photo and the person next to me as well....

Them too.....

An artifact reminding us what the wall was built for. The Great Wall was begun in the 7th century B.C. when China was still divided into many small states.

Hannah and David ran out to this outpost via the arched opening - notice the mountains in the background - similar to those we have in western North Carolina.

Wouldn't you like to have a vista like this out your windows?

Hannah to the rescue - there was a grown man about to squash this butterfly but she stopped him - go girl!!!

In safe hands.....

Texting from the Great Wall: It was painless - great reception - 5 full bars. Try doing that in Montreat!!!

On the ski lift with Mary, descending from the Great Wall of China - it was a bit scary considering the height and the wind. Gerda, Kevin, Hannah, and David descended the mountain in great fashion via the Luge.

With all of us safe and sound at the foot of the Great Wall, we bought some souvenirs from the local vendors and headed for the Summer Palace.

Entrance to the Summer Palace. In 1998, UNESCO designated and listed this masterfully landscaped garden and lake on its World Heritage List. Historically, Chinese emperors would frequent this beautiful spot, using the palace as their summer 'cottage'.

One of many pavilions around the Summer Palace - great place to rest and take shelter from the oppressive heat.

Patrons can rent paddle boats on Kunming Lake for pleasure or take one of many ferries plying the lake for Longevity Hill seen in the background.

Close up of Longevity Hill towering about 200 feet.

The famous arched bridge - guess how many arches are there - 17 to be correct!

A ferry taking patrons to Longevity Hill on Kunming Lake.

It was around 5:30 pm when we completed our sightseeing at the Summer Palace. Mary was very generous and insistent about buying dinner since she felt that Hannah and David were of such help to her - she needed some aspirin while on the Great Wall, and they raced up and down the Great Wall asking patrons if they had any, and sure enough, they came across a South American couple who had some. We finally located this Singapore/Malaysian restaurant in the financial district in Beijing - sorry, by then we run out of camera battery and weren't able to take any pictures but the food was fabulous.....

The next day we visited the Temple of Heaven aka Altar of Heaven.

Courtyard of the majestic Temple of Heaven.

Stairs to the Temple of Heaven.

Close up of the Temple of Heaven.

Inside the Temple of Heaven where the Emperor worshiped the Creator.

Replicate of Oxen - used as sacrifice by the Emperor for the Creator.

Listen to Gerda as she explained the significant of the Altar of Heaven.

Gates to the Temple of Heaven.

Imperial Vault of Heaven

Inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven - I have never seen such ornate roof trusses - dragons are prized for their strength and longevity.

Exquisite roof tiles - deep cobalt blue with minute details fit for royalty - I suppose that is why you can't get them at Home Depot!

Having fun is hard work!

Before we left Beijing, we visited Regina Hwang to present my club's Rotary Banner. Banner exchanges between Rotarians, especially from overseas are both encouraged and honored.

Regula Hwang - President of the Rotary Club of Beijing, China - a mover and shaker in Beijing.

On behalf of my sponsor - Rotary Club 7670, Black Mountain, North Carolina.


  1. Hi. Glad you all get to see Beijing. How amazing.

    We're getting a new roof on the building today. Yesterday about 15 guys helped tear off the old one, and today, about 10 guys are putting on the shingles, ably led by Aaron Voigt and Roy Perry. Even Mark and Scottie Perry are helping.

    We miss you all and look forward to seeing you when you get home.

    Take care,

    Lannae Graham

  2. Pretty picture. I wish could visit China.

  3. Jeff, please tell David that among my rides this summer were a 700hp Ford GT, a 1954 Ferrari, and a Lotus Exige...but I'd prefer to tell him all about each in person! Will you be coming north soon?