June 5, 2011
We return to China after three years to take my wife’s parents to Changsha, their home town in Hunan province on the mainland, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We take off from SeaTac airport, on our way to Beijing for the first leg of our journey to Beijing, and Changsha. Later after the wedding celebrations, Xiaohong and I will fly on to Hong Kong, and Taipei Taiwan.
After a grueling 11 hour flight, we finally land at Beijing international airport. Beijing’s Capital Airport, as it’s also known, is an immense glass and steel structure. It’s decorated with ancient Chinese artifacts of some historical significance to Beijing.
We have to stay over a day in Beijing, so our hotel there was kind enough to provide a transport for us from the airport, which was fortunate because a nasty thunderstorm was brewing. We make it to the hotel and check-in late at night. We are very tired after our 20-something hour long travel time so it’s time to sleep and dream about our plans for tomorrow.
Next day my wife decides to buy me model airplane just like the one we flew in to Beijing. But first there is the required bargaining phase. The price is finally agreed on and so the shop keeper boxes it up.
Later we hire a driver to take us into Beijing for lunch and to see the sites. We stop for lunch at a tiny steamed bun cafe on the street. A family works in the tiny kitchen to make these delicious treats of pork, onions, and ginger. The military is doing drills in the street when we board a tour bus for the rest of the journey through Beijing. Our first stop is the National Opera House with its unique dome architecture. Traffic is a big problem in Beijing. As we travel to our next stop we gaze in awe at the skyline of downtown Beijing. Our next stop is the old CCTV building. Below it is an aquarium and a very unusual museum about Feng Shui. Lots of tourist jade dealers were there as well and that was the purpose of this stop. In the streets all around us are peasants trying to sell our tour bus everything imaginable.
On the road again. On the next stop we get a long distance view of the Olympic water cube and the birds nest. We stop in front of the famous Qinghua university and get some roasted chestnuts from one of the many street vendors there. Our last stop on our quick tour of Beijing is Yiheyuan which used to be a summer palace for the emperor is now a lake front park. Traditional wooden boats resplendent with gold and red glide across the water and can take you to see the Tower of Buddhist Incense on the opposite shore. This ancient tower and complex takes up most of the hillside. This small ornate pavilion located at the entrance to the 17 arch bridge is a venue for concerts and other gatherings. The 17 arch bridge is an imitation of the celebrated Marco Polo bridge called the Lugou Bridge in Fengtai District Beijing. From the bridge you can see Hanxu Hall and the Dragon King Temple on Nanhu Island.
We return to our hotel to get some rest before our flight the next day.
It’s a mad rush to organize luggage the next morning. We get in a hotel bus to go to the Beijing airport for our flight to Changsha. We take off for Changsha and in a few hours we’ll be greeted by old friends and family there.