First Stop in China – Beijing!

Arriving at the Hotel

We just left Kyoto, Japan after staying in a true Japanese home for a week. This was the third stop on our trip through the Asian continent. I wanted to see Beijing before the start of the Olympics and wanted to find places to send executives on incentive travel.

The trip, however, wasn’t without its first bumps. Annie wasn’t feeling very well during the flight and we were told that when you get off the airplane, there are special machines that read your body temperature. We all drank cold water before we got off to make sure we wouldn’t be held back for any reason – just in case!

Right when we stepped off the airplane, a man was holding a sign that read Grand Hyatt Beijing, (Mr. Penny Fleming. Not Mrs. Penny, but Mr. – too funny!). It was a really amazing experience and made us feel like VIPs. We had a grand escort to a nice car with tinted windows and bottled waters by the seats. The appointed driver treated us like royalty. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we were amazed at how big and beautiful the hotel was and we were immediately greeted by hotel officials to take us to the executive floor.

First, we had a one room mini-suite and there were only two beds, so we had to order a roll-away bed every night. But the head official of marketing said that would be a big problem and very uncomfortable, so she upgraded us to a two bedroom suite with a kitchen, a big living room and 3 TVs!  When we were comfortable and unpacked, we went downstairs to explore the hotel. We were told that they had the best swimming pool in Beijing, and when we saw it, we couldn’t believe our luck.

The hotel had an underground huge pool with trees and plants to make it look like a tropical oasis. This is the best place to be after a day of tours.  There were people from all over the world in that hotel and all the rooms were filled. When we were walking around we must have heard 20 different languages being spoken.

A Walk Down to the Market

We ended up dining in the main dining room that first evening, and the selection overwhelmed our senses. There were pigs and Peking duck hanging and the array of food was over the top. We tried some very interesting foods. Everything was arranged on the plates as if it were artwork. After our dinner we walked downtown to the food and street market. It was very different from the markets we experienced in calm Japan. There were tons of people yelling at you and following you down the street trying to sell you things and people eating things I have never seen before or thought were edible. At one stand, I saw a man selling starfish, gizzards, cockroaches, crickets, sea-horse, and scorpion. The scorpion was still moving on the stick.

Historic Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall

The next day, we met our tour guide that we had set up while we were in the states with the help of Hima Singh, who owns Asia Pacific Adventures.  She arranged for us to have a private guide for us everyday while we were in China. Our guide for Beijing was Crystal and our first stop was to walk the historic Tiananmen Square covering over 100 acres.

We then went to the Forbidden City, the palatial former residence of the emperors.  It was really nice but really crowded. The whole city has 9999 rooms because the emperor believed there were 10000 rooms in heaven. He put one room less for the respect for the gods. To get an idea of how many rooms there were, consider this: if a newborn baby lives in one room one day then changes to the next room every day, he will go through all the rooms by the time he turns 27 years old!

While we were walking around the palace someone came up to us and said they want to take a photo of Michael and Annie.  Both Michael and Annie looked liked Barbie and Ken and soon they were asked to take pictures and sign autographs. This was funny but it got out of hand so they had to wear hats to continue the tour.

Our guide Crystal took us to lunch at a gourmet Chinese restaurant. It was very good with very bizarre cuisine, but we all liked it. We are glad we did not ask her what we were eating though! After lunch, we took a rickshaw ride thought the old city of Beijing called The Hutongs. The people who lived in these homes have lived here their whole life and the home is handed down from generation to generation.  Their homes were modest and poor, but they seemed to be very happy.

We next went to the well-known Temple of Heaven. It is the biggest and most beautiful temple in China. The colors of the temples were very vibrant and had a lot of exquisite detail. Afterwards, we wanted to go shopping to one of the merchant malls in the city so Crystal took us to the infamous Pearl Market. I saw people selling fake iPods, designer jeans and jewelry. When we walked down one aisle, the people were yelling at us like crazy and jerked us to their stand trying to tell us something. It was really scary when they touched us so Crystal taught us how to say don’t touch me in Chinese. It was really helpful. When we were looking at True Religion jeans the girl offered 150 U.S. dollars for the pair of jeans and as we were trying to walk away, the price started to drop constantly but we ignored her. When we accidentally went by her again, she yelled “take them! 20 dolla Madame 20 dolla!” At that moment we knew those jeans had to be fake.

Later in the evening we went to see the famous Peking acrobat show.  Next day, we went to the section of the Great Wall called the Juyongguan section.  Annie and Michael went to the fourth tower on the steep side and I went half way. The view was amazing! To think we were on the Great Wall of China. Then we went to the summer palace. The summer palace was very pretty and had a lot of gold buildings. Then the next day, we said goodbye to Crystal and flew to Xi’an.

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