Posts Tagged ‘travel to China’

Bullet Train from Beijing to Hangzhou

May 5, 2018

Well, dear reader, I feel a bit remiss in my previous blog at having posted such gloomy photos of the Great Wall – we did go on a rainy day, but why not experience the Great Wall in bright sunshine! The views at the Mutianyu section of the wall are magnificent – why have a rainy experience when you can have a sunny one! Click on this link if you’d like a Great Wall brighter day experience. You’re welcome. Ha.

So now it’s Saturday, April 14 – we say ‘good-bye’ to Beijing and catch the bullet train to Hangzhou – a city 760 miles south-southeast, near Shanghai.

Victor arranges a driver to take us to the train station. You all have your tickets? Yes! Good – we’ve arrived at the station.

Beijing South Railway Station

Now what? Just a bit hesitant to enter the crowds. Where’s the bathroom? We can’t lose each other!

“I need coffee” Eric says.

Look at your ticket and find our gate

Train ticket to Hangzhou

Yeah, right. Help, Victor!

Sooooo – which train is ours?

Just stay attached to Steph and Victor – get in this line!

Don’t want to lose Eric. Whew! He’s behind us…

Down to the trains now … Which one is ours??

Follow Victor!

Yay! We’ve boarded the bullet train. Business class! (Thank you, Victor.) Now we can relax!

Kick back for the next 4 hours!

I snap a few photos of the landscape flying past us at 180 mph.

So does, Eric. “My photos are better, Eric.” (Which they usually aren’t.)

We pass a lot of coal plants!

It’s incredible to see China’s investment in ‘infrastructure’ – tearing down the old, building the new.

Out with the old!

In with the new!

Here is a one-minute video I took to give you an idea of the landscape. High rise apartment cities rise up out of the landscape like mushroom colonies.

Do you notice how quiet the ride is? Riding the bullet train is a pleasurable experience.

Oh goody! We’re being served lunch!


Oh, looks healthy. Some sort of fish, and pork, with a garnish, and rice …


A sad, out of sorts fish, staring right up at me that I get to have a conversation with.

He has a bone to pick with me? Oh, lots of bones – little tiny bones. Now I do like fish, but do I have to see the whole fish, head and all, stare the animal in the face while I’m eating it? I’m just not used to this kind of thing. Fillet the meat off the body, please, cloak it in breading, come on! I don’t want to see the whole animal I’m actually eating. Especially the head!

We’ve arrived in Hangzhou now. Yay!

Hangzhou train station

How old is this station? It looks brand new.

Wonder what that mural says?

A driver has met us – how nice! Thank you, Victor!

Follow the driver!

It’s at least an hour drive to our hotel, the Shangri-La,

Shangri-La Hotel in Hangzhou

which sits right on the main attraction in Hangzhou: West Lake. Here, I’ll give you a glimpse of it:

West Lake in Hangzhou

Basically the most beautiful lake you could ever imagine. We’ll be exploring this area over the next couple of days. You want to come along?

Beijing, China: The Great Wall

May 3, 2018

Part 2 of our recent China trip:

Our party of 5 Americans, Victor and Steph, Eric, David and I, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday Jan 11, for a 2-week visit to China. We are on our own, following our own itinerary, with Victor as our guide. Yesterday, January 12, we visited the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing. We are only staying 3 nights in Beijing, so today, our last full day, come rain or shine, we are visiting the Great Wall.

The Great Wall is the longest man-made structure ever built – a system of many walls built over 2000 years, from the 5th century BC to the 17th century AD. (Check out this wiki-link site on the Great Wall.) Especially famous is the wall built in 220-206 BC by Qin She Huang, the first emperor of China, to defend against invading barbarians. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. It has been estimated by some authors that hundreds of thousands, possibly up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Little of that wall remains today.

Over the dynasties the Great Wall was eroded, built, rebuilt and extended many times. The latest construction took place in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the length was then over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles). This is the wall often referred to when we talk about the Great Wall.

The Wall in its entirety spans 13,000 miles across northern China, snaking over deserts, hills and plains.

To conclude this history lesson (ha!) click on this short, fun, Youtube video on the Great Wall. And no, you can’t see the Great Wall from the moon!

Despite impressive battlements, the wall ultimately proved ineffective; it was breached in the 13th century by the Mongols and then in the 17th century by the Manchu.

Much of the existing wall that was built during the Ming Dynasty has crumbled and is still unrestored, but the sections of the Great Wall around Beijing have been frequently renovated and are regularly visited by tourists today.

Here’s a photo showing you the path of the Great Wall.

There are several sites you can visit on the Great Wall that are within an 1-2 hour drive from Beijing. The Badaling Great Wall is the most visited and famous stretch of the Wall, the first section to be opened to the public in the People’s Republic of China. It’s the destination for tour buses and is typically swarming with tourists, about an easy hour-drive from Beijing. No! We want something more remote!

So, on Friday January 13, Victor lines up a driver for the day to take us to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 80 km or a 1 1/2 hour drive from Beijing. It happens to be raining today, unfortunately, but for us to see the Great Wall it’s now or never. The Mutianyu section is a bit more remote than Badaling, and we’ve heard, a lot less crowded. There is also a strenuous hike involved – it takes about an hour to hike up to the wall from the parking lot.

We have arrived now, and started our ascent to the wall:

Starting up!

The signs are written in Chinese and English!

Half way up there is a small concession stand. Probably does a fantastic business on a hot day…

The concession stand – not to be confused with Eric and his pink umbrella

You can also ride a cable car up, and/or take the toboggan down:

Take the toboggan down!

The wall looms above us now!

We’re on top of the wall now! Good news is, we practically have the whole Wall to ourselves. Bad news, too much fog to enjoy the magnificent views…

We peeked into this building – barracks, where you could see the humble bunking accommodations. The officer’s bed had an area underneath it where you could light a fire to keep the bed warm!


From the watchtowers, guards could survey the surrounding land.

Victor, Steph and David

This section of the Great Wall is connected with Juyongguan Pass in the west and Gubeikou Gateway in the east:

Built mainly with granite, the wall here is 7-8 meters high and the top is 4-5 meters wide. Some of the steps are a little skewed:

Heading back down now …

Down, and down, and down …

David, Steph, Eric, Victor

Walking toward the parking area now. The rain sure put a damper on the crowds!

Any hungry customers out there?

I snapped a couple of photos on the drive back to our hotel in Beijing.

Rush hour gridlock getting home

Well, there certainly was a lot in Beijing we didn’t see. The Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, The National Museum of China, the Beijing Zoo, to name a few. So many restaurants and shopping, although we did eat dinner at a superb restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel, where we enjoyed a fine serving of Peking Duck:

The Da Dong Restaurant

There was also a huge underground shopping mall underneath our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Beijing. Here, we just got off the elevator:

Underground mall underneath our hotel

We enjoyed dinner at a nice restaurant in the underground mall, as well, where Eric began to get a pretty good grip on eating with chopsticks:

Way to go, Eric

Time to call it a day. Get a good night’s sleep!

Tomorrow we travel 760 miles on the bullet train to Hangzhou!

2018 Trip to China – Beijing!

April 29, 2018

David and I just returned from a 2-week trip to China. How could I not blog about it? We flew from Idaho Falls to Seattle to Beijing, leaving Monday, April 9, returning this past Monday, April 23. We traveled with my sister Stephanie and husband Victor, and my brother Eric. We didn’t go as part of a tour, we planned our trip itinerary with Victor, who is Chinese. Victor was born in mainland China but his family moved to Taiwan when he was a young child (fleeing the mainland during the 1949 revolution when Mao Zedong came to power). Victor grew up in Taiwan, and then Hong Kong for 3 years before immigrating to the United States to attend college when he was 18 years old. He has lived in America ever since, becoming a US citizen.

What to see of China in two weeks? Beijing, of course. From there …. how about we hop on a bullet train to Hangzhou? Then a flight to Guilin. From Guilin, over to Hong Kong by bullet train and subway. Three nights in each city! Here is a map of China from the Fodor’s China travel book:

Map of Mainland China

And a map of the eastern half of China, to show you the destination cities on our itinerary – starting in Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou (near Shanghai), then Guilin, then Hong Kong, a total distance of nearly 2000 miles.

Eastern half of China – Destination cities – from Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou, Guilin, and Hong Kong

You want to come along? (!!) I’ve taken hundreds of photos (?? – maybe. I stopped counting) Don’t really know how these blogs will shake out – just thought I’d start at the beginning of our trip and see where the photos take us! Are you ready? Fasten your seatbelt!

Monday, Jan 9 – 3pm: Fly from Idaho Falls, to Salt Lake City, to Seattle, Washington.

4:23 pm – We have landed in Salt Lake. Navigating through the terminal now to our next gate – to board our flight to Seattle:

SLC terminal – which way do we go?

I have never seen the airport this busy!

5:18 pm – flying over the Great Salt Lake:

Great Salt Lake

At 6:47 we fly past Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the Cascades and in the state of Washington. It is located 54 miles (87 km) south-southeast of Seattle:

Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains

6:55 pm – Descending for a landing in Seattle:


We (David, Eric and I and Steph and Victor) spend the night in a motel near the airport in Seattle. Steph and Vic arrive in Seattle close to midnight from Boston. Get a good night’s sleep! We all fly to Beijing tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 10: Our flight from Seattle to Bejing leaves about 4pm. Arrives in Bejing on Wednesday, 6:25 pm. 26 hours later! Okay, but it’s 15 hours later in Bejing so… the flight is only about 11 hours. We arrive at the Seattle airport in plenty of time. With carry-on bags only! (We decided we never wanted to be separated from our bags, especially on the flights in China…) Hey, grab a newspaper before we board!:

Colorful, anyway.

You suppose I could learn to read Chinese during our 11-hour flight? (Never mind. Victor has informed me that the newspaper is actually Korean…) Mostly we passengers ate, read a bit, and then tried to sleep. I was cranky at the end of the flight from all the times I looked over at everyone around me, seemingly snoozing away, as I lay there bright-eyed, counting sheep. It’s best to lay there and at least pretend you’re sleeping, because you just might drift off, but you have to at least avert your mind from thinking about how many hours of the flight you still have ahead of you…

Wednesday April 11- 6:30pm: Alas, we’ve landed in Beijing! Victor has a driver waiting for us at the airport, (Yay!) who finds us immediately and delivers us to our motel near the city center, the Grand Hyatt Beijing. Very nice. Hard to capture in a photo – here’s my attempt:

Grand Hyatt, Beijing

The best thing about the Grand Hyatt is its location – it lies within walking distance of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. They also serve a wonderful breakfast buffet, so large, in fact, that on our first morning Steph, Victor, David and I pass on it and order breakfast a la carte. And then proceed to watch Eric eat the breakfast buffet. “Think you have enough to eat, Eric?”

You even found a banana?

I recognized a lot of the food on his plate. But what were those white blobs with with black polka dots?

‘Dragon fruit’ says Eric. Okay, so the next two mornings we all spring for the breakfast buffet.

Thursday, April 12 – 10am – After Eric’s huge breakfast, we head out on foot toward the Forbidden City. Bejing is surprisingly clean, modern, new, and safe.

Building in Beijing city center

Although, you should carry your passport with you where ever you go, particularly if you need to purchase tickets – admittance to a landmark or museum or transportation… We had to show our passports to get into the Forbidden City. I took a lot of photos of the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing, but honestly, they all look similar. The Forbidden City was constructed from 1406-1420 (600 years ago!) by 100,000 skilled artisans and up to a million laborers as the palace of the Ming Emperors of China. The complex consists of 980 buildings over 180 acres, the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. The complex served as the Imperial Palace for 500 years, home to 23 Ming and Qing Emperors, until the dynastic system crumbled in 1911. (See the Oscar-winning movie “The Last Emperor” for the story of the last Emperor of China – with fantastic footage of the Forbidden City and the history of the last Emperor’s overthrow in 1911 and the rise of the New Republic of China till the Last Emperor’s death in 1967.)

Fodor’s China travel book has a great photo of the Forbidden City. (Okay, so I took a photo of their photo, thank you, Fodors) It gives you an idea what a huge complex it is:

The Forbidden City – picture from Fodor’s

Another travel book (which I had cut apart) has a nice photo of the layout of Forbidden City – which I’m including, just so you can understand how large it is. See all the entrances and exits? Our plan was to enter the complex from the back and come out the front that overlooks Tiananmen Square.

Admittedly, photo is a bit tacky

We are entering now…

Steph and Vic lead the way

Since 2012 the Forbidden City has seen an average of 15 million visitors annually.

Pairs of lions guard the entrances of halls.

The public was not allowed to enter any of the buildings. Mostly we moved with the crowds, had to wait in the hoards just to get a peek inside the palaces.

At some point we exited, with the movement of the crowd, thinking we’d be facing Tiananmen Square.

But, hey! Where were we? We had come out one of the side exits, but darned if we knew which one. Hey there’s a moat! Does that help orient us?

Luckily Victor speaks Chinese and could ask a guard where we were and how to get to Tiananmen Square. Oh! So it’s a long walk … Dang! Suddenly, out of nowhere two drivers pull up beside us. Now I don’t know what you call the rigs they were driving. David, Eric and I piled into the back of one and Steph and Vic in the other. We soared off into the traffic, back onto the sidewalk then swerved back into the street, weaving in and out of traffic, down alleyways, alongside buses; the ride was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, luckily we were going too fast to process it. I captured photos along the way … Mostly of Eric, because he was facing us in the rig.

Down the alley!

Watch out for that bus!!

Our driver was whizzing faster than Steph and Vic’s and at some point we lost them. Imagine our relief when they finally pulled up behind us!

Whew! We’re all still alive!

Sure enough, we were dropped off a block from Tiananmen Square. We are walking to it now and I just happened to capture this video.

We are so exhausted by the time we get to Tiananmen Square we look at it from across the street and pose for photos. In this photo of us you see the main front entrance to the Forbidden City in the background, the entrance we thought we were coming out of.

Eric, Steph, Victor, David, Jody

As I said, we were across the street from Tiananmen Square. Hard to believe this is the best photo I have of Tiananmen Square:

Worst photo ever of Tiananmen Square

– there was so much traffic it looked too exhausting at this point to actually cross the street to get on the square. So this is the closest we, dear reader, will get to it.

I took a couple more photos of Beijing on our walk back to the hotel.

There. I bet at this point, you’re a little exhausted too! Our first full day in Beijing. Yeah, well, get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we visit the Great Wall.